Writing Portfolio Management 101

Freelance writer typing on her laptop.

As a freelance writer, one of the most important tools you have for soliciting new clients is your portfolio. Your writing portfolio shows your skill and range as a writer and should feature your very best work. Your portfolio isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, either. It needs to be consistently managed and updated as your writing career grows, so you are always showcasing the best selection of material for the kind of work you’re trying to get.

Many new freelance writers struggle with putting together a portfolio simply because they feel like they don’t have anything to show. Many experienced freelancers find themselves so busy with actual writing work that they put off managing their portfolios. This guide will help all freelance writers tackle the hard task of portfolio management, no matter what their experience level is.

Decide why you need a portfolio.

Obviously, you need a writing portfolio to pitch your work to clients and make money as a writer. However, diving a little deeper into your reason for needing your portfolio will help you decide exactly how to build it. Think about who is going to be seeing your portfolio and what you want them to know about you. Think about what you want the portfolio to communicate to the people who are viewing it on your behalf.

For example, if you are a generalist, you may want potential clients to see you handle a range of topics competently. Provide writing samples with a variety of voices and styles, from blog posts to long-form pieces. Alternatively, if you have a writing niche, you may want potential clients to see only samples from within that niche. This will ensure that they view you as an experienced and knowledgeable expert in the field.

Consider having more than one portfolio.

Just like you may need more than one resume when you apply for jobs, based on the differences between the positions to which you are applying, so you may need more than one portfolio to help you approach different kinds of clients. This is especially true if you are targeting clients in a specialized field, such as tech, medicine, or legal. Clients in these industries will be looking for writers with the right skills to cover their complex topics. Having a portfolio that is industry-specific in these cases can be helpful, even if you have a more general portfolio that you show other clients.

Maintain a standard format throughout.

A writing portfolio shouldn’t be a disorganized collection of pieces without rhyme or reason. To be easy to read, your portfolio should have a cohesive design with standard formatting throughout. The way you decide to format it is a matter of personal preference. For example, you may want to set it up so that all of your blog post samples are together, followed by all of your articles, followed by marketing email samples, each with a tag that lists the place of publication, industry, and number of words. Organize your portfolio in a way that makes sense for the kinds of pieces you have or in a way that makes sense to you. The key is to have some kind of organizational format that you stick to throughout.

Carefully consider what not to put in your portfolio.

Not everything you write is something that should go into your portfolio. When you are a new freelance writer, it makes sense that you’re migrating every post into your portfolio. After all, you simply won’t have as many samples to use as people who have been writing for longer. Once you have built up a lot of samples, however, be harsh when you’re picking which work to include.

Obviously, your portfolio should show off your best work. Include pieces that you’re particularly proud of and pieces in well-known publications. You should also showcase work that demonstrates all of the different styles of writing you can do. If you are comfortable writing press releases, blog posts, and long-form investigative work, then put examples of your past work in those formats in your portfolio. Of course, you should only include samples of the kind of work that you want to get paid to do in your portfolio. If you write poetry as a hobby but aren’t looking to get hired as a poet, then leave those pieces out of your portfolio.

Think of your portfolio as a living, breathing thing.

As a writer, you ignore your portfolio at your peril. It needs attention from you on a regular basis. If you’re a new freelance writer, you should be updating it every time you get a new client and complete a project. As an experienced freelance writer, you should manage your portfolio at least once a week. Review what samples are in there, and consider what you can add or remove. Make adjustments based on what is happening with your freelance writing career at the moment. Even if you don’t make any changes, it’s a good policy to check your portfolio occasionally. Make it a regular part of your non-writing activities for your freelance writing business, along with sending invoices and managing your books.

The big problem many freelance writers run into is the question of where to build and store a portfolio. That’s where Writers Work comes into the picture. With your Writers Work membership, you get a range of tools to keep your profile in top condition in a format that is easy to share with your potential clients. Our document tools also make it easy to complete your projects, while our Job Finder helps you find them. Become a member of our freelance writing community today and start building your winning portfolio!

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