Creating a Professional Freelance Writing Portfolio

When you begin looking for freelance writing gigs, many clients will ask to see your writing portfolio. There are a few reasons why they want to see a professionally presented portfolio:

1. Clients need to check that you're able to write in a logical, coherent style across a few diverse topics

2. Clients also need to know what level of quality they can expect for their money

3. A portfolio showcases your abilities

4. The type of websites and publications included in your portfolio tells a potential client a lot about the type of writer you are

Your writing portfolio is one of the most important parts of building your freelance writing business. If you're not careful, a badly presented portfolio or an unprofessional attitude towards your freelance business can mean clients are by-passing your talents in favor of other writers.

Don't worry if you're still new and don't have much to add to your portfolio yet. We'll look at some ways to build your portfolio the right way as your business grows.

Let's look at building a professional freelance portfolio that will help you win those higher paying freelance jobs:

1. NEVER Include Links to Content-Producing Sites

It amazes me how many writers submit porfolios to potential clients that contain only links to their work on Helium or Associated Content or eHow. This is NOT a portfolio that represents your professional freelance writing abilities. You are admitting to your clients that you've self-published all your work on the lowest paying sites you could find rather than having the courage to submit your work to more professional markets.

Technically content sites are paying you (pitifully low amounts, but still pay), which means they're a client - but they are not a showcase of your work and definitely not a portfolio.

Most reputable clients and editors of professional writing gigs already know that the short articles on content sites are unedited, self-published work. The quality of writing is often not as high as they're searching for or willing to pay good money for. This means you'll often be overlooked for a real freelance writing gig if your portfolio contains only links to content sites like these.

2. Displaying Your Freelance Writing Portfolio

If you don't have your own website or blog, get one. Create a separate page and list the places you've been published to date. Having your own site shows potential clients and editors that you are serious about your writing business. It's also a lot more professional than directing clients over to a content-producing site.

On your portfolio page, include links to any of your published work. If you've been published in magazines or newspapers, write the name of the publication down along with the publishing date or issue number.

If you don't want the hassle of registering a domain name and figuring out how to upload website pages to it, then a blog is just fine. Don't panic if you have no paid writing credits so far. We'll work on that later.

3. Writing Samples

Showing a client a few samples of your work allows them to see your style and what level of quality they can expect. While many clients may click over to view your previously published pieces, you should also offer a few samples of your finest work on your own website somewhere.

4. Detail Your Services

Include a list of your professional freelance services on your website or blog. This is not a part of your writing portfolio, but it is a great way to show prospective clients your range of skills and abilities. It's important that your new clients understand that you're capable of writing in various styles for different specifications.

There's a lot more to freelance writing than just slapping together a few paragraphs and calling it web content. Some clients want press releases or sales pages written. Other clients want informative feature articles. Still other clients want business presentations or advertising copy written for them.

Showing a list of your available services can often lead to a client contacting you for more than they originally wanted. For example, I have one client who only wanted a little web content written. After seeing my list of services available, I now write all his press releases and advertising copy as well. This created an up-sell situation for me - which also meant more items to include on my portfolio once they were done.

Building Your Portfolio

So... what do you put in your portfolio if you haven't had anything published yet?

Your first option is your own blog or website. While this isn't paying work, it is enough to show clients that you're passionate about what you're writing and it shows your writing style at the same time.

If you have spent some time submitting articles to content-producing sites (such as those slave-labor revenue-share sites), then it's acceptable to link to a few articles on these, but only if you display one on each different topic you've written about. The moment you do have some professional, paid credits to add to your portfolio, you'll replace those content-producer links over time anyway to make sure your portfolio appears as professional as possible.

Your next option is to seek out some paying markets. Don't feel bad if you're only seeking out lower markets to start with. These can be really important while you're building your confidence. Take a look at the list of categories in the right hand column of this blog. You'll see one there that says 'paying freelance markets'. Browse through these and try your luck applying for some.

Visit plenty of real freelance writing job boards or browse the freelance guidelines databases and only aim at work that interests you or that you feel you can write comfortably.

Writing For Dollars Markets Database: http://www.writingfordollars.com/ArticlesDB.cfm

Worldwide Markets Database: http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/masearch.asp

Freelance Job Openings: http://www.freelancejobopenings.com/

Online-Writing-Jobs: http://www.online-writing-jobs.com/

Accentuate Services: http://www.accentuateservices.com/xmb/forumdisplay.php?fid=70


mkpelland said...

This is very good information, especially for the burgeoning writer who's kind of floundering. As an editor, I've gotten a lot of submissions that prove a writer isn't ready for prime time. Your advise is worthwhile. Thanks.

Gayze said...

"Visit plenty of real freelance writing job boards or browse the freelance guidelines databases and only aim at work that interests you or that you feel you can write comfortably."

That's tricky when what you feel most comfortable writing about is a bit "out there" and not something that you often find on such job boards. But I'm still looking, and know I'll land the jobs, eventually, that pay some of the bills!

Thanks again, Bianca!

(Who is trying to catch up on her blog reading/commenting today!)

Bianca Raven said...

Hmmm... when your writing is 'out there', then you go and hunt for those 'out there' markets - and even better - create your own pet market. They really do exist.

You write about mainly pet communication right? What about one of the major pet publications? We have one out here in Oz that published pet training tips and pet psychology hints. In the back they also publish pet psychic readings. Perhaps you need to suggest a new section for your column to the editor :)

Shannon said...

This was a great article Bianca. I found your blog a couple months back, and I caome back every so often to read your current posts. Have a nice day!