If you’re a writer, and you want to make money with your writing, you need a portfolio. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be pretty, but it has to be a place where you can show editors, managers, and any other potential hiring entities that you have experience doing the thing you want them to pay you to do: write stuff.
When you’re a writer, your online portfolio serves as your resume for writing jobs. It’s the place you send people to show them you have the writing skills necessary to get the job done. Not every editor is going to peruse your portfolio before hiring you — some writers can send out skillfully crafted pitches that can get them the job alone. But a portfolio is a baseline tool you need to have in your arsenal because if that same editor does ask for samples of your writing, and they often do, you want to have something to show them. An online writing portfolio is also useful for companies who may be searching for writers they want to hire.
It seems reasonable enough, but so many new writers start looking for work without proof that they can do the job. We often get emails from writers asking how to get started. And when we pose the question, “What does your online writing portfolio look like?” the answer is almost always the same: I don’t have one. If you want to get hired as a writer, you need proof that you’re a writer.
Here are some good — and varied — examples of writing portfolios from writers we’ve interviewed here at CWWU:
Again, your writing portfolio doesn’t have to be complicated or covered in big bylines at major publications. It can be a blog, a static website, a Medium account, a Contently page, or even a social media platform – or maybe all of those things. You just need a place where editors and employers can see who they’re working with and, most importantly, find some samples of your writing. Once you pick your desired medium, your portfolio should clearly communicate the following five things.
1. Who you are
You need a brief bio. If someone is thinking about hiring you, they want to know who they’re working with, and an About page or a bio can conveniently include a summary of all of the below information in one place. When you pitch editors and outlets, your bio may be the first place they look, so make sure it’s written well and includes:
- Your experience. where you’ve written, even if it’s work you’ve done for free, like writing copy for a friend’s band or writing guest posts for a travel blog.
- The topics you write about (or want to write about)
- Your role. freelance writer for hire, for example. You can also include other work you do professionally. “I’m a freelance writer who also teaches high school Geography.”
- 2-3 relevant achievements. Awards, degrees, or other professional accolades that can help beef up your bio.
With the above in mind, a really basic writer bio might look like this:
“Kate Sanchez is a technical writer by day and a freelance blog writer in her spare time. She frequently covers travel and lifestyle and has written for TK and TK. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s in English.”
You can also include a fun fact or two to keep things light and give your reader a sense of your personality. If you have more to say in each section, you can elaborate and turn your bio into a full-blown About page on your website. Your bio doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Here’s a real-life short version of a writer bio that works really well.
2. What you write about
Beyond your bio, somewhere on your online writing portfolio, visitors should get a sense of what kind of topics you write about. Maybe you say this explicitly — in this example, the writer very clearly communicates that she “specializes in writing about WordPress, Social Media, and Online Marketing.” Your website headline might be your name and your title (i.e. “Ellen Mason, Digital Copywriter”)
But you can also communicate what you write about with your writing samples themselves — here’s an example.
3. Your basic writing skills
Editors want proof that you’re a writer – and preferably a good one. Make sure your website showcases your best writing clips. If you don’t have any bylines yet, take some time to write a few blog posts on topics that interest you. Get feedback from trusted friends and family members to make these writing samples really polished.
4. Other places you’ve written
Like any good resume, your portfolio should include some experience, even if it’s a guest post or work you did for free to build your portfolio in the first place. Include this in the bio, but also add some links to blog posts, articles, or other work so that visitors can both get a sense of your writing style and also see that you have experience.
5. How to contact you
Make it easy for people to find your email address or add a contact form to your website. It sounds obvious, but we’ve had to hunt down this basic info on so many writer websites.
When you pitch editors or companies your ideas or services, you need a solid platform to serve as your resumé. If you don’t have one already, here’s your homework: Build a basic online writing portfolio using the above as a guideline. Already have a portfolio? Great! Do an audit and make sure it conveys those five points.
More writing tips + resources:
Build your own writing website with Squarespace
5 FAQs About Pitching Media & Emailing Editors, Answered
Irving Ruan on Writing for the New Yorker