What to Include in Your Writing Portfolio When You're Just Starting Out
When you’re a writer, your work speaks for you. Some writing gigs don’t even request that you submit a cover letter or a resume, they just want to see what you can do. That’s where your online writing portfolio comes in handy. But, when you’re a student looking for a first job, a nine-to-fiver looking for a side gig, or a professional writer looking to tackle a new niche or genre, you might feel like your portfolio is a little light on relevant examples (or any examples at all).
But, you’re a writer, so building a portfolio with amazing examples is a piece of cake. Here’s what you include:
Personal blog posts
If you’re just starting out, make sure you’ve got a blog. Potential clients want to see a range of topics, how you talk about products, your voice, and how you engage with readers. If you’re looking to target a new niche, start blogging about it. Gain followers who care about that topic. With that experience, clients will be happy to bring you (and your following) on board.
Don’t get too comfortable with writing for free. It devalues the craft and makes other writers have to fight hard for fair pay. But, it is great for exposure. So here’s how to tread these waters—write for non-profits and organizations that you are deeply invested in. If you love rescue pets, write for your local animal shelter. If you care about education, volunteer to write classroom newsletters. If you are active in politics, write op-ed pieces for the local paper. Use these clips to show your range. Even better, you can use these clips to find paying jobs in niches you care about.
A career in writing is all about networking. If there are places you’d like to work or industries you’d like to cover, write profile pieces about local entrepreneurs in those fields. Practice your interview skills and ability to include storytelling aspects to journalistic pieces. Pitch these profiles to local newspapers and magazines. Even if the article doesn’t get picked up, upload it as a pdf file to your portfolio.
News aggregation sites are big players online. They hire lots of writers to stay on top of the 24-hour news cycle. Show potential clients that you’re able to synthesize sources and summarize news into succinct, interesting stories. If you’re targeting a certain niche, stick to writing about news that falls into those categories.
Social media posts
Your online persona is important to clients. They want to know that you already have a following as a writer and that your personality will draw people to read your content in their publications. Take screenshots of social media posts that target your intended niche or show that your unique style and include these images in your portfolio.
It may take a little time to build up your writing samples or begin to target a new area of expertise, but once you get started, you’ll see how simple it can be. Remember, your online portfolio speaks for you, so make sure it’s telling the world great things.
Amanda Ronan is a writer, editor, and book completion coach in Austin, Texas. She's the author of the My Brother is a Robot series for middle-grade readers, as well as the book A Fresh Look at Formative Assessment: 30 Simple English Language Arts Assessment ideas. Amanda loves puppies and vintage jewelry. She's undecided on the merits of cauliflower.