You’re at the point in your flourishing career that you need to spice-up your presentation. Where do you start? Follow my 10 tips to improve your freelance writer’s portfolio and impress editors who are thinking about hiring you.
1. Never place updates on the back burner.
Pay close attention to this tip as it’s crucial to your success: always update your portfolio with your latest accomplishments. If you think it’s enough to simply create a savvy, aesthetically-sound showcase and let it sit, you’re wrong. I know. It’s time consuming, and depending on if you hired a programmer or designer, updates can get costly. So, you want to have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t expect to create an online portfolio and sit-back, waiting for the gigs to start piling in. Instead, update! It’s ok to accept the fact that this is an ongoing process. In fact, the sooner you can grasp this concept, the easier and more natural it will be for you to do a weekly check-in. Like the directions suggest, lather, rinse, and repeat.
2. Four U’s, 5 W’s, and a writer walk onto a page.
At this point in your career, you don’t need anyone telling you the importance of headline writing, inverted pyramid-styled articles, and the like. For kicks and giggles, let’s have a brief refresher by mixing things up a bit. Consider your name or slogan as the “headline” of your portfolio by following the “4 U’s” of headline-writing guidelines, include a bio using the “inverted pyramid” concept (stay-tuned, I expound on this in Tip 6), and heed the “5 W’s” when you put together your work.
Ask yourself if the headline and/or slogan of your portfolio identifies some type of unique, ultra-specific, urgent, or useful direction. If so, chances are, your readers will move on to the next portion of your site. Readers may even skip ahead to the meat of your site: your published work. This is your chance to shine. Does this express who you are as a writer? Does it tell the story of what you are looking to get out of a career or gig? What about time-frame. Does it explain when you’re available? What about your whereabouts? Location, location, location! Does it answer the question of why you want to work for said publication? If your portfolio can say all that, you’ll be in high demand.
3. Don’t let your portfolio yawn.
An editor’s favorite question and often, a writer’s biggest sigh of frustration before headed back to the drawing board goes something like this, “Is your pitch new, timely and trending?” Your portfolio works the same way. This goes without saying that updates and relevancy go hand-and-hand. You can’t have one without the other. Just remember to be on the up-and-up when it comes to style, design, colors, fonts, and the like.
4. Be careful who you write for.
It’s flattering to be in high demand as a writer but don’t let it go to your head. Just because a publication is requesting your services doesn’t mean that’s the company you should work for. Sometimes, it’s ok to say “no” and lead-up to the fact that you’re just too slammed with incoming work and have to “wash your hair” that evening instead. I’m not necessarily saying play hard to get, especially if you aren’t truly “slammed with incoming work.” Sometimes, though, you need to politely say you aren’t interested. Remember, who you work for and what you produce can positively or negatively impact your image. Think of it this way. If you want to convey to the public that you are high powered, political writer capable of going undercover to find the truth about a candidate running for office, then you shouldn’t be posting articles on the difference between stilettos versus flats.
5. Overkill is underrated.
What I mean by this is that it never hurts to check-in with your site, information, etc. on a daily basis. Be sure everything is up-to-date, no discrepancies exist, and use the check-in as time to reflect on continuous improvements.
6. Sorry, I’m not buying your bio.
As promised, here’s a little insight on the inverted pyramid approach with your bio’s style, just when you thought the lecturing-scene of this article was over. Don’t worry. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn this tip is brief, to the point, and includes everything you need to know right off the bat-much like how your bio should read. Sound familiar? Resist the urge to embroider your get-to-know-me section and instead, make it short, sweet, and tasty. Keep the crucial facts up top before cascading down a lovely path with less and less importance along the way. Readers will be more apt to following and considering your content to be credible.
7. Curiosity killed your page.
Your site should illustrate your impressive background, having readers coming back for more as they peruse your work. Here’s the kicker. You never want your audience to be dumbfounded with the site’s layout, message, content, etc. that their curiosity gets the best of them and the worst of your name. In other words, if readers are having to rummage through your site’s content, trying to figure out who you are, what you do, and what the heck your name means to their publication, then your chances for writing for that publication have most likely been killed.
8. When in doubt, don’t.
What makes for a solid, effective, job-well-done portfolio makeover is confidence. Remember, not only should your work be showcased according to its accomplishments, but it also should exude your confidence and expertise along the way.
9. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
Although tons of website start-up templates and programs exist today, it may be time to turn it over to the professionals. It’s ok to ask for help. Consider having a programmer and/or designer create a site that allows your image to shine. Don’t forget to use SEO optimization to help get your name out there.
10. Up ahead: Your big break.
Think of your snazzy portfolio makeover as a chance for your next, big break. What if you were just given the chance to write for your dream magazine but had to pitch them first? You would research, prepare, and have all of your ducks in a row before sending your ideas off to the editor, right? Well, your portfolio works the same way. It’s your golden-ticket to a whole new world of opportunities. Make an effort to treat it like a big-time article.
If it’s time for a portfolio makeover, these tips may be just be the trick for landing something huge.