Do you need an online writing portfolio?

New writers often ask us whether they need to create an online writing portfolio. The answer is simple; you don’t need one, but you probably want one. However, never forget that your pitch is more important than your portfolio. Let’s take a step back and explain why. 

What is an online writing portfolio?

An online writing portfolio is literally just a collection of articles, or even a collection of links to articles you’ve written. In short, it is a signaling mechanism; It shows you can write, it shows how you write, and if you work has been published in a big publication, it shows that off too. People often host their online portfolios on Medium, WordPress, or Squarespace

How can I get published if I don’t have a portfolio?

It’s great to have a portfolio, but you don’t have to have one. Remember, the point of a portfolio is to prove you can write. Luckily, you can prove you can write in other ways. For example, you could write a killer pitch. In fact, even with an amazing portfolio, you’ll still need a killer pitch.  

For more on pitching, check out our course, Pitches That Work, with real pitches that were accepted by the New York Times and other publications.

Why pitches matter more than portfolios

Look at this from an editor’s perspective; You get so many pitches per day that you don’t have time to read them all. They’re all coming in as emails, and you might not even open all of them. Even if you do open all of them, you won’t read every single one. You might read just the first few sentences. 

Now imagine a bad pitch from a writer with a perfect online writing portfolio. The editor will never even see their website, since they’ll probably stop reading the pitch after the first few sentences. 

Now, imagine a great pitch from a writer with no experience. The editor will read the email, excited about the story. The editor will notice there are no typos, sloppy errors, and that the writer has a great story. The editor will finish the pitch excited. She will probably just hit reply and ask when the writer can get started. Perhaps, at the very end, the editor might notice the writer has no portfolio. But it won’t matter that much, because the writer has already done the most important thing:

By writing a great pitch, they’ve proven they can write. And, since the editor has read the pitch, they’re close to getting published. 

An online portfolio is a byproduct of great writing, not a goal in itself

When you’re starting out, it’s easy to worry about not having enough experience. Since you’re worried, you obsess over everything. You think you need a portfolio, a professional-looking twitter account. Then you need a better looking portfolio, or more followers. I know, because I’ve been there. 

If you’re just starting out, it’s great to have an online writing portfolio. But the best thing you can do is improve your writing with regular practice and learn the basics of writing. If you want to learn the basics, check out our flagship course, Come Write With Us. It teaches you everything you need to learn to get started freelancing. 

If you decide to create your own online portfolio, there are many great options, but we recommend most writers use Squarespace.

More writing tips + resources:

What I Learned Writing 1,000 Words A Day For A Year

5 FAQs About Pitching Media & Emailing Editors, Answered

How to write for famous publications