The Freelancers Guide

How to create a professional online writing portfolio

Our best tips and advice on creating a beautiful, professional portfolio to showcase yourself and your work.

You've heard it time and time again: you need an online writing portfolio to prove that you're serious about writing. But to showcase the value of your work you need spend some time thinking about how to display it in a beautiful, professional portfolio. Follow these tips and the effort will pay off in no time - and who doesn't like getting paid?!

1. What's your BRAND?

A brand is a message that says 'This is me and this is what I do'. What message are you telling your audience? If you're applying to university you might want to show you're well-rounded. If you're an author you might want to sell your work. If you're a freelance writer you might want to prove you're worth hiring. Whatever it is that you're trying to achieve write it down in a few sentences I like to call a 'brand statement'. Keep referring to this statement throughout the process, adding things which strengthen your brand and discarding things that don't.

Think of a 'brand statement' that tells your audience who you are and what you do.

Who will look at my online portfolio?

Anyone who wants to know more about your work! A potential employer might read it before they interview you. If you're applying for an internship or project at university your supervisor will probably want to see what you've done. Other writers might want to look at your work for ideas and having a website that displays your best writing is great publicity. For those that want a private portfolio platforms like Journo Portfolio let you password protect your site.

Do I need to stick to one type of writing?

Not at all. If you want to sell yourself as an generalist then feel free. But if you're updating your portfolio because you have an interview coming up for a news reporting job it makes sense to tailor your portfolio the same way you would tailor your CV or resume. By organising your web portfolio into pages based on type of writing or publication you can display multiple 'brands' in a slick and professional manner.

How do I make my portfolio more professional?

Good question. Just think about what you would expect to find on the website of a big company or brand. Your brand is a lot about your individual style which is why you want a portfolio that is customisable. If your writing is meant to be entertaining you might be looking for more colourful images whereas if you write about serious topics you want to emphasise the text more by having muted images.

If you want to sell yourself as a professional writer it makes sense to have a website which is easy to find online, has clear evidence of your social media presence if people want to find out more about you, and makes it easy to contact you. That's why JournoPortfolio combines your work with your social media links, a place to upload your CV or resume, and even a contact form.

2. Choose your BEST work

You could include anything in your portfolio - blogs, articles, press releases, essays, multimedia, collaborative work - as long as it is good. Choose 10-20 pieces, enough to show your range but not so much the reader won't be able to finish them. Then display them in a logical order either by date or by type. Some things to consider when deciding what work to include:

  • A piece in a well-known publication shows that you are a professional.
  • Self-edited writing such as blogs display your true writer's voice.
  • If you're an author consider try an excerpt instead of a whole chapter because it's more digestible.
  • Is your work recent? That will show that you are active in the field and up to date.
  • Every piece of work should show a different skill: interviewing skills, unique style, or your ability to tell a story, or structure a long piece.
  • What's your brand again? You want your portfolio to give a consistent message, so if you're a generalist consider making multiple online portfolios or splitting your portfolio into clearly labelled sections to show that you don't just have breadth of experience, but that you have expertise in each field.
  • Include a biography or 'About' page to put your work in the context of your brand. It should be punchy, well-written, and adding value to your portfolio. And you'll need a link to an updated CV.
If it isn't good and it's not adding value to your portfolio, kick it out…

That's a lot to remember! So to keep organised we suggest you keep a record of your work in a database. Record the date it was published, what skills it shows, and a link or a PDF copy of your article so that it is easy to update your portfolio depending on what you're applying for.

How do I choose what to add to my web portfolio?

Get someone you trust to critique your work to help you decide what your best writing is and narrow it down depending on what your brand is.

How do I back up my work?

Try and keep a copy of your writing on your computer AND in a separate back up drive. However it is nice to keep the format of online articles so save a screenshot of what your article appears like online. Some portfolio websites will automatically save your work.

On a site like Journo Portfolio not every article you upload has to be visible on your website and you can quickly and easily change which articles are on which pages and what page you want visitors to 'land' on when they view your site. Therefore there are no excuses to not update our portfolio according to what you're trying to achieve.

3. Now BUILD your portfolio

Depending on how confident you are with web design you could build your own portfolio or use a platform that is designed with writers in mind. For a website built for writing portfolios try JournoPortfolio.

Other platforms for building websites include:

  • Wordpress
  • Contently
  • Squarespace

You can and should display your work everywhere - on LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more. Check out some great online portfolios for inspiration. If you want to make a portfolio quickly and easily it's best to find a site that specialises in portfolios, but check how easy it is to customise and edit because design is really important as you'll read below…

What is the difference between a website built for portfolios and a normal website?

Different websites have different functions, that's why what we post on LinkedIn looks very different to what we post on Facebook. It is also difficult to create a website that does exactly what you want it to do from scratch unless you know a lot about websites. If you love web design go ahead and build something amazing and unique but if you have no idea where to start a site like JournoPortfolio makes it easy to make a professional portfolio in minutes. You simply add the URL of the online articles you have written and the site displays it for you. That way you can focus on your writing and not on how to design websites!

Is it worth paying for a professional site?

It totally depends on what you're looking for. A lot of websites charge you for having your own domain - that's what appears in the address bar on your website. Having your own domain makes you look professional and you can buy a domain at any time. Some websites make you pay to get rid of advertising which makes you look professional. You should shop around and see what features you really need for your freelance career.

4. Consider DESIGN

There's no easy way to say this, but when you've made a portfolio in a rush and haven't bothered to finish it properly, people can tell. It's a shame because it is so easy to make it look clean and professional.

Spelling and grammatical mistakes are out! Read it, read it again, then come back after a few days to triple check. No excuses!

Check your links are working regularly. When writing is your business you have to get serious about it. Set a schedule to check all of your links twice a month. If you can back it up with a PDF copy in the database I suggested earlier you won't have to panic should your links stop working.

Edit the titles and excerpts of your articles to make it obvious what skills you are showing and to make them catchy. Also editing this so it matches the length of the other titles and excerpts on the page will make it look more organised.

Speaking of matching, consider changing the images if they are clashing. Whether they are photos, logos, cartoons, or whatever, make them the same and make it look pretty! Can I just talk about fonts? Play around with them so your writing is easy and enjoyable to read. At the end of the day it is your words you are trying to sell so choose a clean font with at least 14pt size and generous line spacing.

Make the focus be your words! If your background image, profile picture, or social media links are getting in the way change it to a theme that makes your work centre stage. And check your theme looks good on mobile, tablet, and desktop.

Comic sans and spelling mistakes make you look childish. Customised titles and coherent images make you look professional.

How do I make my work stand out?

There are lots of great things you can add to websites to make them look cool and fun, but I think that a professional portfolio stands out if the writing in it is good. That means getting rid of flashy bright things that you don't need and having a clean look to your online portfolio.

What font should I use?

One that is clear and easy to read, please. Look at other websites with lots of writing and which font doesn't give you a headache the most. Is it still good to read on a smartphone. Then it's probably a good choice! I would recommend a sans font that doesn't have added bits to make the writing look fancy.

5. Share, Share, Share!

You've built a beautiful portfolio and you've tweaked it so it is singing your brand message. Now get it out there! It might be a good idea to share it with family and friends on Facebook first to get feedback, but after that share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. Add links to your portfolio to your email signature, your CV, Google+, everything!

Add a contact page to your web portfolio so it is simple to get hold of you. The aim is to make it easy for people to follow you, read your work, and find your CV or resume no matter where they are. And the more people share the higher you will rank in search engines, boosting your publicity.

What are you still reading this for, get doing it!

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