Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More

Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More

You’ve probably heard it’s important to have a strong online writing portfolio, and maybe you’ve thought about it putting one together. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to revisit this tool — it might be what gets you your next gig.

My site is a simple WordPress one, and I pay $26 per year for my domain name, MerylWilliamsMedia.com.

If you don’t have a domain name on lock yet, don’t wait.

My only purchasing experience has been through WordPress, but there are several sites that sell domain names, and several platforms with which to easily build a basic, great-looking site.

(Ed. note: Frequent readers know we love Bluehost!)

I’ve outlined for you the things you’ll want for your online portfolio, ranging from items you absolutely must include, to things that are pretty much gravy. I’ll also go over some general tips for the creation and maintenance of your site.

Let’s take a look:

The basic must-haves

1. An “about” page

Introduce yourself to your visitors with a photo and a few paragraphs about who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them. The tone of mine may be a little more casual than you want yours to be, and that’s fine — allow your tone to match your writing voice.

2. A contact page or form

Make it obvious how visitors can reach out to you. My site has a simple WordPress-generated contact form, typical to what you find on most sites.

It’s also important to let people know how they can hire you! If you’re a freelancer, whether or not to list your rate is a very personal choice, but at least make it clear what amazing services you offer to get the ball rolling. I have a services page to highlight my social media and personal-brand consulting.

3. Some of your best writing samples

You’ve got the visitor’s attention, so this is your time to shine. Pick the best of your most recent work and link to it. You might consider using visual elements, or you might prefer a simple list of bylines and publications.

Just make sure you’re really proud of the work you display on this page.

Nice-to-haves

1. Up-to-date info about your latest projects

I recently started a podcast and am seeking representation for my memoir, so I’ve got information on both of these projects on my site. That way, visitors see everything I’m working on, but can pick and choose which they’d like to know more about.

2. Links to your social media accounts

If you’ve got ‘em, link ‘em — Twitter, Instagram, your Facebook author page, etc.

Because I work in social media for my day job, I’ve got a separate page all about mine, but even if you just link visitors to your accounts on your “contact” page, that’s a great step forward. Editors and other potential clients want to see what you’re interested in online. If you make it easy for them to follow you on social media, they’re more likely to pay attention to you online.

3. Testimonials

Here’s a page where you can collect all the awesome things editors and clients have said about you. If you haven’t collected that feedback, it’s not too late — make a list of people you feel comfortable asking for a short, two- or three-sentence testimonial and reach out to them.

Just like with a letter of recommendation, give them plenty of time, but I bet you’ll find that editors who love working with you will be quick to respond with some kind words. Return the favor by linking their name to their portfolio or Twitter account.

4. A professionally-done head shot

You should have at least one photo on your “about” page, but if you’ve got the cash, it might be nice to spring for a professional photo shoot.

Or, find a camera-savvy friend and barter for writing services (or dinner). A clear, recent head shot can keep you recognizable in your field.

Pure gravy

1. A downloadable press kit

I don’t have one of these yet, but I’ll want one down the road for when my memoir gets published. A press kit will usually contain a press release about your book, your author bio, book information, a sample chapter, promotional images and author head shot and, if available, blurbs about your book from respected readers and reviewers.

2. A blog or newsletter signup form

If you blog or would like to, knock yourself out right here — it’s a way for visitors to see your recent writing and what interests you. However, if you don’t want to blog, don’t force yourself. It can be a lot to keep up with and distract you from your paid writing projects, unless it’s what you’re passionate about.

Instead, what I’m passionate about is the personal newsletter I send out to readers and fans, linking them to the work I’ve done in the last two weeks, along with articles and pop culture I’ve enjoyed in that time. Because of this, and because new subscribers add to my writer fan base, I have a page on my site devoted to getting new newsletter readers.

3. A multimedia experience

Again, it’s gravy, but a video introducing yourself to clients might be nice. Or, if you’re a podcaster or interested in audio projects, read and perform one of your pieces aloud and host the audio on your site. Even an attractive photo display or slideshow can help you stand out.

A few additional tips

1. Link to other parts of your site throughout

Linking to other pages within your site will make it more likely that visitors will stick around longer to see more of your work and services. My “about” page links to various pages within my site, as well as to outside articles.

2. Use a clean, simple layout

A busy-looking site can easily discourage visitors from sticking around, and you want to make sure the different areas of your site are easy to access.

3. Keep tabs on the data available to you

Check your stats to see what visitors are most interested in, and, if the information is available, how they found you. This can be done through your site host’s statistics and/or through Google Analytics.

Your portfolio is what you make it, and know that once you’ve got the basics, you can always build up the other stuff later.

Just try to keep it up to date, and review its sections once a quarter to ensure you’re always showing off your most recent and best work!

Writers, what’s in your online portfolio?

Filed Under: Blogging
Media Kit Template from Joan Stewart

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Media Kit Templates

These ready-to-use templates will help you create a Media Kit that wows journalists, bloggers, reviewers, agents, audience members, buyers—even big publishers.

13 comments

  • samuel says:

    I am thankful for your regards as a writer.I would like to ask how or way out to get requested articles from a client,or any other means to get paid after i submit my articles.

    Any of this information will be highly appreciated.

    Best

    Samuel Munyao

  • Layla Rose says:

    I love this, I’ve bookmarked it for later. I’m well on my way to adding a lot more things to my site, as well as my blog to make each of them more complete. I’m adding my published work to my blog, as well as some info about some of the current stuff I’m working on. I’ll have to do that this weekend as tonight will be focused mainly on some work that I’ve got to do for money at the moment. After all us writers gotta eat! 🙂

  • Even though I make my money as an editor and retreat presenter rather than as a freelance writer, I found myself mentally checking off elements of this list against my own website. “Check … Check …” An excellent, practical checklist!

    I would add one thing: Just as it’s good to have a professional head shot if you can, it’s good to have the samples in your writing portfolio professionally edited. It can be very affordable to get a critique on a brief piece, especially when you consider how much business you may get (or lose!) based on the quality of your portfolio.

    I wish everyone success in building a website that works for their freelancing business!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com
    epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  • Holly says:

    This is great, Meryl! I think including an introductory video is a fantastic idea. Video is such a popular form of content right now that I think it’s so important for every website to include it in some way. For me, I want my about page to be a video instead of text as I think that’ll be a much better way for my audience and clients to get to know me.

    The rest of this is great advice and would make any freelance website a brilliant one!

  • john graham says:

    Sorry … but I am obviously an odd-man-out here … very, very “out”.

    What does one use this carefully compiled and honed “portfolio” for? When? Why? How?

    I make a good-enough and successful-enough living as a writer, but I tend to leave my work to ‘speak’ for me. Arising from a fair number of years as a once-upon-a-time employed writer, working in an editorial office, I tend to believe that an editorial ‘copy-taster’ makes his (or her) ‘acceptance’ or ‘rejection’ decision on two quite straightforward bases: (a) is the piece of work any good; and (b) is it likely to please our readers if we print it?

    (From time to time there may be the odd subsidiary consideration such as “how much time is one of my team going to have to spend sub-editing this to make it useable?” Considerations like this can sometimes bowl a good piece of freelance work out.)

    But, overriding everything else, it isn’t going to make the least bit of difference to the copy-taster if a piece of freelance work has been written by King Kong, the Queen of Sheba or Humpty Dumpty …

    UNLESS IT IS CLAIMING TO BE A PIECE OF EXPERT WORK SUCH AS THE PUBLICATION HAS AN ESTABLISHED REPUTATION FOR PRINTING … when a number of the publication’s copy-tasters together may want to see some evidence that the submission is, indeed, a piece of authentic, properly expert work from someone truly with the authority and renown to author it.

    And THAT process of authentication is not going to be adequately served by a general-purpose ‘portfolio’ … no matter how tarted-up and well-laid-out it might be.

    I’m afraid I will go one further.

    Quite apart from my belief (¿experience?) that most editorial copy-tasters will make their ‘acceptance’ or ‘rejection’ decision simply on the two quite straightforward bases: (a) is the piece of work any good; and (b) is it likely to please our readers if we print it, why on earth is a very busy professional likely to want to take time out to work his (or her) way through a progression of ‘portfolios from freelancers in which the writers do no more than sing their own pretty-meaningless glossy praises?

    I think it would be quite “an average day” for many (¿most?) editorial offices to get 100 (and even 100+) pieces of freelance work in the morning’s post. That’s a real bundle of ‘portfolios’ that will serve no useful purpose.

    Sorry to be the skeleton at the feast.

    • I think, John, that you may be picturing a very narrow range of employment opportunities for writers, and not the ones the online portfolio is intended to reach.

      A publication that receives over a hundred submissions a day doesn’t generally need to go out and look for writers, but many other potential clients do, particularly businesses that need to generate content for marketing purposes. Even a company as far from the publishing industry as, say, a knob manufacturer may have a blog to fill up. Naturally, they want to look at some samples, and the easier it is for them to find them, the more likely they’ll see them.

      After that, of course, you’re right: The quality of the writing has to sell itself.

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      http://www.epiclesisconsulting.com
      http://www.epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  • Meryl, Yours was an excellent and informative article about what our writer’s portfolio should contain (despite what the self-important wet blanket above says). My writer’s website (www.Roy-stevenson.com) has most of the items you list, and I even got a few more ideas of things to add (i.e. social media links, press kit). You are to be congratulated for your helpful advice. I have also found the testimonials section to be invaluable when magazine editors are checking me out, when they’re considering commissioning one of my stories. I only put my writer’s website online after two years of freelance writing and did notice that my acceptance rate from magazine editors jumped after it went “live”. What does surprise me is how few of my fellow travel writing peers actually have portfolios/writer’s websites. When I’m on press trips, with other travel journalists, I estimate that 75% of them–or more–have no portfolio or writer’s website. How they expect an editor to take them seriously when they don’t have a website, is beyond me. Nice article, Meryl. Good for you! Roy Stevenson (www.PitchTravelWrite.com http://www.Roy-Stevenson.com)

  • Theodore says:

    I am encouraged by your tips on freelance writing, Meryl. It sparked up the writing creativity in me. The writing profession is not just about paperwork. Getting to pips thru social media can help foam it up. Thanks, dear. I think I’ll do better now.

  • Evans says:

    I am an article writer too. just less than 3months ago I launched my website http://www.evansarticles.com I have a handful of visitors and social media followers too, but I want to start earning some money with my articles probably as a freelance writer. I need help on how to go about this, especially in finding credible organizations. Thank you

  • Thank you for this very interesting and useful information and advice. All that I need as a writing freelancer are two things: well-paid job and a high-quality paper. The first one depends on the generosity of the customer, but the second only on your own abilities and mood. When I have a bad mood or need some relax I use online resume writing services that provide a really good resume. If you need it, just follow me.

  • Paige Galindo says:

    Thank you! I love this so much! I want to earn a living blogging and freelance writing. I have a website domain for my freelance business that is completely mine hosted through Bluehost. It’s not set up yet as I want to learn more and make it as professional as I can even though I am a newbie. This article showed me tips I can do for both my blog and freelance writing websites. Awesome material!

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    Such a Nice Blog. it’s very Useful to me Thank You So Much For Share with Us.

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