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Freelance Writing Guide to Create Online Portfolio

Updated on August 10, 2011

Why A Good Writing Portfolio Is Important

One of the most important things for a freelance writer to put together, whether that writer concentrates on online or offline freelance writing, or both, is your freelance portfolio. A well put together writing portfolio showing off your finest writing is going to win you more jobs than any other series of factors combined. By the same measure, a lousy or unorganized writing portfolio will cost you jobs. While a writing portfolio remains important even after you have strongly established yourself as top notch freelance writer, when you are just starting out and struggling to build a name for yourself, the writing portfolio is even more important. The quality of your sample articles in the portfolio might be what gets your foot in the door. Many companies and employers are cautious in hiring new and unfamiliar writers when experienced ones are still available, so good sample articles are a must. This hub will help you to put together a great writing portfolio. Oh, and if you're interested at all in passive or residual income, then you need to check out the keyword academy.

What's in a Writing Portfolio?

There are several important bits of information you need to have in any portfolio. The first part should be obvious: contact information. The nice thing about modern technology is you don't need to put down a home address for online work (often a general location such as "Austin, TX" will be enough).

But a phone number and e-mail address should both be included, and so should your PROFESSIONAL web page or blog. If you have a personal MySpace or Facebook account, that's great, but that's not for getting work. If these sites aren't your thing, it's pretty easy to make a good looking page on Hubpages or Squidoo. Both of these sites allow you to build web pages, and you can also earn money for doing so. Be sure to become familiar with each, as they are very different communities with different standards on how hard you can market yourself.

Aside from this, you will want 2-3 writing samples. These should be your best work, completely polished and which show just how amazing you are and why your employer can't live without you. This is also a good place to display different types of writing (such as SEO article, press release, and travel article).

And include a brief list of the styles of writing you specialize in, as well as your most impressive credentials.

Why Do I Need an Online Portfolio?


There was a time in the nineties where being familiar with computers was enough to call you a techie, and changing font colors and making fliers was sometimes enough to get a job. Not the case anymore. While there is definitely still a place for cold calling and having a printed portfolio and resume, so much work is done online that a writer without any online presence can look suspicious to a prospective employer.

An online portfolio makes it easy for you to refer a client to your best work, increases the perception that you are a professional (deserving of higher pay, I might add), and most importantly perhaps, allows random searchers to find your page and services even if they had never heard of you beforehand.

That's all found business, and most likely higher paying work then what you would find when seeking out work. That's why an online business portfolio is an absolute must.

Do You Have Clips?

Part of having a portfolio, especially if you are concentrating on breaking into print markets like magazines, is having clips. Aside from being able to point to publications where your work has been published, a freelance writer needs to save copies of every published clip you have.

Magazine articles, blurbs, main articles, even guest newspaper columns - if there's an article with your name on it, keep a copy, photocopy it, and keep these clips on hand. These are an essential part of a freelance writer's portfolio, and if you want to see your name in actual hard print, those clips will be a major part of getting a job.

Besides, if you meet face to face with someone or are asked to send clips, seeing an actual photocopied article with your name on it is far more impressive than a list of publications.

If you want more information about the need of clips for a writer's portfolio, the best resource I've found is Jenna Glatzer's book, Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer. I highly recommend this book, as it tells you all you need to know as a writer for breaking into magazine and print markets, and her advice goes over many of the things that a beginning freelance writer needs to know.

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What's This I Hear About "Stretching" Credentials?


A subject that can be really touchy is "stretching" credentials. There are a lot of ethical implications to this, though I think to some extent it's blown out of proportion. Should you ever make something up on a resume? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

Should you put your best foot forward and make yourself look as experienced as possible? Yes, you'd be an idiot not to.

The term "stretching" comes up with a scenario like one I once had while working for the University's Professor's Union in Fairbanks, Alaska, when I was in grad school. I wrote for the Professor's Union at UAF. That looked great on a resume. That also meant my pay checks were cut by the AFL-CIO, whose logo appeared on my paychecks and on the newsletters I worked on. In fact, at one point a few years ago somewhere Google had the online version cached off an AFL-CIO site, so I had no issues whatsoever with putting down AFL-CIO as one of the clients I've wrote for.

Why wouldn't I? Was the work I did for the professor's union more or less the same as the writing I said was for the AFL-CIO? Sure, but why shouldn't I take credit for both? It's hard to break into the writing market, and I'm not lying. I wrote for the AFL-CIO. I have the newsletter and paychecks to prove it. I wrote for the Alaska Professor's Union. That included more than just my articles. I have no problem claiming both: and the AFL-CIO client line alone has gotten me work.

Some call this stretching. In the world of freelance writing, getting to name the AFL-CIO as someone you wrote for (and having a newsletter with their signature to prove it) based on a 10 hour a week job you snagged at age 23 is gold. Not using it is so stupid as to be incomprehensible.

This doesn't mean you say that you worked for some company you didn't. I am strongly against lying and completely false padding, but if you end up with a writing job that has you working on the lower level of a much larger and more impressive client, then by all means make your resume and client list look as good as possible.

Modesty doesn't pay the bills. Make your resume look as good as ethically possible, and over deliver beyond new clients' expectations. That's what freelance writing is about.

Freelance Writing Portfolio Comments? Like the Hub? Leave a Comment!

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    • skellie profile image

      skellie 6 years ago from Adelaide

      I have found this hub, extremely useful. Thankyou for sharing your great tips, just what i was searching for. I will be bookmarking this one :)

      Useful and up

      Cheers skellie

    • chinemeremz profile image

      chinemeremz 7 years ago

      Hi Jerry and thanks for taking time to explain some points on freelance writing which I believe not just newbies'll find useful, but established writers too.

      On keeping a portfolio, I would add here that compiling all the articles you've written as sample with your name, clients you've worked for with paychecks if possible, a well written resume and a snapshot of a professionally written and impressive profile on reputable sites like Hubpages and xomba: then squeezing all these details in an ebook with a nice ecover, which you can easily mail to your prospective client can even make the work of keeping a portfolio much easier.

      Thanks for this info, I've learnt a thing or two from reading.

    • profile image

      jadedragon 8 years ago

      Good article on becoming a freelance writer. I think the real secret to getting work is to get published. Write online, write letters to the editor, submit to magazines, whatever it takes until you can land some paying gigs.

    • profile image

      sandra rinck 8 years ago

      So, you are a pro. writer and got lucky enough to get something that looked good on your resume, what do you suggest for a beginner.

      The only things I have ever had published were poems in a collective book and I never did get the copy and I am not really sure if it was anything to brag about.

      Other than that all I have is stuff I write online. Do you have tips on introductory freelance job finding and portfolio building?



      Ps. Is it necessary to put your phone number online? I would think with all the stuff that goes on in the world today that putting your phone number down might be bad but I could be paranoid.