When is a writing portfolio warranted? The steps a candidate takes when applying for a job or to be considered for freelance work vary across different industries. Everyone needs a strong resume to reflect their past work history and educational background and sometimes even to provide potential employers with references to vouch for an applicant’s abilities. However, creatives like professional writers often are asked to submit a writing portfolio along with a resume to be considered for a potential job.
What Is a Writing Portfolio?
A writing portfolio is a compilation of a writer’s best work, curated and organized to be presented to potential employers as a representation of their quality and quantity of experience. Writers will include a handful of pieces along with personal contact information, a resume, and a career summary to be used as a consideration during a candidate’s application process. Portfolios can be printed or digital, but usually, they are created in both formats. The initial application process usually necessitates a digital version for online applications, and then a printed version is prepared for in-person meetings.
Crafting a Winning Writing Portfolio
A strong portfolio is critical for writers because the pieces they include provide potential employers with a sample of their capabilities and show them what they can bring to a future partnership. But the first step in creating a great portfolio lies in focusing on your writing samples.
1. Gather all of your writing samples.
Be sure to only include work that you retain the rights to. For example, if you worked on a ghostwritten piece, you have released the rights to that sample unless you have been given the express right to present it as your own, so omit any pieces that do not include your own byline or permission to be used. Your instincts may be to only review your current work, but looking at all of your past projects will help you ultimately pick the best ones later on.
2. Organize your writing portfolio.
Once you have every piece in front of you, think about how you can group the samples together. The organization should take one of three basic structures.
- Medium: To present your range of skills and versatility, organize your writing samples by medium. Group your writing samples by the type of project the job resulted from, like a blog post, a short- or long-form article, a white paper, or another medium. Once projects are grouped by medium, put each subgroup into chronological order or another structure that makes sense.
- Oldest to Newest: To show the progression of your career, organize your samples chronologically. Do your best to put your work in the order that you wrote it so you can show potential employers your growth and maturity as a writer over time. This strategy works just as well for new writers as it does for seasoned ones as long as a change in skill level is detectable over time.
- Niche: To demonstrate your niche, organize by topic or industry. Some writers specialize in more than one topic or have developed expertise in niches in one or more industries. Cluster your work into discernable groups, and then place those smaller groups into chronological or other obvious order.
3. Pick the best ones for your writing portfolio.
Narrowing down your portfolio to only the best samples is the next step. The idea of a portfolio is to present a handful of representative samples rather than to present every past project. Pick the top samples and rank the other pieces remaining based on the likelihood they could be used in future iterations of a portfolio.
Top Tip: Consider creating more than one portfolio to show off your best work for different situations. If you have extensive experience in a variety of mediums, creating a grouping of samples for each medium to swap out when the right job opportunity arises might be the best plan.
4. Design a layout of your writing portfolio that shows off your work.
Now that you have 4-8 quality writing samples, design the way that you want your potential employers to see them in the writing portfolio.
- Choose simple fonts so the writing samples take center stage in your portfolio. It should be easily readable at a glance, and your complete portfolio should not contain more than two or three different fonts across the whole project.
- Create a format that is on-brand for your writing. The overall appearance of the portfolio should feel cohesive with the types of writing you are presenting as well as match the tone of potential employers.
- Include graphic elements or photos to add interest and complement your writing pieces. Imagery can reflect the content of your writing or even be symbolic, but it should match the tone and mood of the piece.
- Make the portfolio consistent in color, design, font size, and layout. From the first line to the last, your portfolio should appear as one cohesive project. Check to make sure that each element is presented consistently so potential employers will see your eye for detail and not focus on small errors or irregularities in your work.
5. Write a professional overview of your writing portfolio.
Each writing sample should be introduced with a consistent format that provides all necessary contextual information so the reader can quickly evaluate your skills.
- Summarize each writing piece with a blurb that introduces the context of the project. Identify the goal or purpose for each piece to clarify the success of the finished piece of writing.
- Explain the scope of each piece, where it was published, and your role, especially if the piece was a collaboration.
- If your writing contributed to any key performance indices (KPIs), include the information so the reader can evaluate your effectiveness.
6. Make it personal.
Once you have organized and structured the primary contents of your writing portfolio, create a brief introduction of yourself and your personal and professional goals. As you tailor your portfolio to reflect different job opportunities, you may choose to modify the professional aspirations section.
7. Add key information to your writing portfolio.
A writing portfolio should contain everything a potential employer needs to know about you in one location in an easy-to-find spot. Place your contact information near the front of your portfolio for instant access as well as handles for all of your professional social media accounts. Either immediately following this section or after all writing samples, place a version of your resume.
8. Link print and digital portfolios.
While printed portfolios are the best bet for in-person interviews, you may have other writing pieces that demonstrate your skills. If you have created a digital portfolio to send at the start of the job application process or to have as a supplement to your print portfolio, consider including a QR code on your printed version that links to your digital portfolio.
Make Your Writing Portfolio Shine
Now that you have put together your writing portfolio, it’s time to make sure that it looks great and works for every job application or purpose.
- Target your portfolio with tailored writing selections and honed professional goals to reflect the job you want. Using on-demand printing with Dazzle Printing gives you the flexibility to pull together and print a portfolio that will wow a potential employer.
- Think streamlined and simple. Don’t include too many writing samples.
- Check and double-check for errors or formatting problems. Your portfolio should be perfect since you are a writer, so ask a few trusted professional and personal connections to look at it before you send the final copy off to the printer.
- Keep it up to date. Don’t be afraid to swap out an older piece with a new one if it is stronger or brings new depth to your portfolio collection.
- Your portfolio should represent your writing voice and should be consistent in tone throughout.
Getting Started with Your Writing Portfolio
Developing a resume and writing a cover letter are key steps in the job application process, but jobs that require honed writing skills benefit from the use of a well-curated writing portfolio that shows off a writer’s skills. Pulling together your past writing pieces and thoughtfully reviewing them will help you get started on creating a quality portfolio that will help you land your dream job. And working with a trusted printing company like Dazzle Printing means your printed portfolio will look great so your future employer can focus on your excellent writing skills and your professional approach to the job application process.