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.
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.
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.
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?