You, my friend, are an artist. It doesn’t matter what you write about… you create something useful or beautiful out of nothing. You cover a plain white document sheet with strategic words and phrases, with purpose.
Every artist needs a portfolio to showcase their work, either for the purpose of gaining clients, providing samples when applying to jobs, or simply to show off their work.
The Modern Portfolio
Things have changed a little bit from the days when artists of any kind toted around a black book or folder of printed work. Even writers carted binders of their best excerpts, printed on fine paper, protected in plastic.
Artists now find themselves offering a business card, rather than scheduling a viewing of that big folder of work. In many ways, this is an improvement over the out-dated methods of showing off, and in some ways we long for the more traditional ways…
Advantages of the Modern Portfolio
- Ease of showing your work to multiple people, far-away clients, and the public with the simple sharing of a web address.
- Less costly than buying a folder, binder, or album, and then filling it with expensive prints or printouts.
- Ability to display your work for the general public.
- Avoiding the need to carry your work around everywhere you go.
Disadvantages of the Modern Portfolio
- The same ease in showing off work makes it hard not to put too much into it… many article writers and artists put all their work into their portfolio, forgetting that quality is not the same as quantity. It’s better to highlight ten of your best pieces than fifty average ones.
- Many traditionalists enjoy the look and feel of a tangible portfolio, and would be more impressed with an applicant who brought them something to look over, rather than just directing them to a web address.
- With publicly accessible online portfolios, the risk of someone plagiarizing your work is much higher…especially with web content writers, it’s simple for someone to copy the work and claim it as their own.
The Modern Writer’s Portfolio
A blog writer’s portfolio is, quite simply, a blog… in just about any form. No matter what kind of platform or website you use, it is still an online collection of writing samples.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though it sounds like a “more of the same” situation.
Blogs are a writer’s best friend. They’re easy to create, easy to maintain, and easy to share. Instead of sending out writing samples to each potential client (although this is still advisable in many situations), you can direct them to a blog that has everything they might want to see.
Even for a client that requests a good old-fashioned sample of your work can be given your web address in case they are intrigued enough to want to see more.
Getting the Most from your Blog as a Portfolio
Even though blogs are simple to create and use, there are a few things you should do to make yours a good writing portfolio, and not just another personal, yet public, journal.
Be choosy about your material: Most bloggers post about anything that moves them, and the writing is sometimes stellar, but more often just average. Since their focus is on their chosen topic of the day, they don’t really put their best foot forward, even if the blog is entertaining.
If you plan to give your blog address as a writing sample, you need to treat each blog post as you would a written piece for a client. Regardless of topic, you must check your grammar and spelling, format it beautifully, and write the absolute best you can.
Edit, revise, and even recruit someone to proof your posts before you hit “publish.”
Take advantage of blog features: Be sure to categorize your blog posts, and have a menu that’s easily accessible to readers. This will help potential employers navigate quickly to the type of writing they are looking for. Make sure you have a good variety of categories, and that each one is represented by several different blog posts.
Use tags to further separate your blog posts for your client. Add a “tag cloud” to your menu bar, so that if a client is looking for SEO posts, they can just click on the tag.
Of course, this means that you have to tag your posts carefully and accurately.
Offer a variety: Even if your blog is in a specific niche, there are a few sub-categories that you can usually break it into so that your clients can find a style that fits their needs.
Your blog may be about puppies, but separate the posts… some may be humorous puppy stories, how-to articles on training them, or reports on medical conditions in dogs. The more these are broken down, the better it is for your potential client.
If you are a freelancer that picks up a variety of different writing gigs, a personal blog that doesn’t represent a niche is your absolute best friend.
Not being tied to a specific topic gives you the freedom to write about whatever you want. Review movies, tell stories, debate news, and talk about the cool craft project you just tried. The more blog posts you add about random things, the more range you show as a writer.
Then later, if you apply for a job writing about knitting, you can send the potential client a link to your craft posts knowing that your samples will better appeal to them than an unrelated sample about dogs that shows stellar writing, but not really their cup of tea.
Make it pretty: Even though you aren’t carrying around an impressive-looking leather-bound portfolio binder, you can still make your portfolio visually appealing. The more put-together your blog looks, the more your clients will stick around and read.
Choose a theme (most blog platforms have dozens of free ones) that reflects your personality and your work. Make sure it’s professional and not too flashy or “busy,” so that the appearance doesn’t overpower your words.
Format all your posts to look great (use bold, headings, bullets, and other formatting items that make an article visually appealing), and add photos to give it some interest.
Fill out the profile: Create an About Me page, fill out an author section, or create a text widget on the side that tells a bit about yourself. Help your clients get to know you, if they see you as an interesting person instead of a collection of written work, it’s easier to see themselves hiring you.
Add a picture, and give some of your credentials in the author text. Go ahead and brag about your decade of writing experience or mention what college you attended.
Keep it fresh: Sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to be re-hired by clients who were pleased with your work in the past. They will often revisit your portfolio to re-familiarize themselves with your work. If your blog hasn’t been updated in a while, they’ll notice.
It makes you look more appealing if there is a steady stream of new, fresh material… and keeps readers coming back for more, sharing your blog with friends, and “following” you, which all mean more exposure to potential clients.