Why Do I Need a Writer’s Portfolio?

ImageThe truth is, the possibilities to make money writing are so multiple that the opportunity to do so is only made confusing by the number of options.  I’ve been researching my buns away on this one and was surprised to learn that the ability to earn money isn’t limited to an elite few armed with secret knowledge or endless connections, although I’m sure that would help.  It’s during all this research that I discovered the “writer’s portfolio.”  Let me take it from the start though and tell you how it all began.  I began my quest to earn an income with my writing armed with a limited amount of knowledge.

1. I need money

2. I can write

3. People write for a living. (don’t they???)

I began my search on Craigslist and Kijiji looking to see what kind of opportunities might be out there for a person such as myself, who wanted to make some extra cash with their skills.  It turned out that Craigslist had a number of opportunities to write blog and contribute content to websites, ezines and the lot.  Some of it was paid and some of it was not but all of it added up to the same end result as being an opportunity to gain experience.

What would one do with this experience?  How would one prove said experience?  With a writers portfolio of course! which is exactly what most of the paying opportunities were asking for.  Well I definitely don’t have one of those.  So off I went on another mission with another project added to my list of things to do to help build my career as a professional writer.

I read blogs articles and searched examples of other people’s portfolios and learned that this was no small project I had set out for myself.  I also learned that I knew more then I thought but that I knew even less about what I did know about then I originally realized.  Confused yet?? You should be!  It’s sort of a “chicken and egg” scenario from where I stand and I have fun imagining that they maybe teach this stuff in courses somewhere.  Alas there’s point one again.  Being broke = no courses, but I have the internet which makes me a genius because everything you read online is true! Well…maybe not…but it can help in any case.

So I’ve read of many authors who use online portfolios, printed portfolios, as well as digital portfolios which can be handed off in the form of computer discs, or carried on a key chain in the form of a USB drive.  I could see the value and use of all forms available but found myself a little iffy on the online version.  I’m all for the idea of having a webpage to promote yourself and describe what it is you do as a writer, be it creative writing, first person and third person articles, editing, poetry, advertising, technical etc. but I’m not overly fond of putting an excessive number of examples of past work up.  I can’t explain why, maybe copyright concerns? In any event, apparently it is possible to password protect some areas of your webpage if you wish (although I’ve no idea how) which makes it more comfortable.  The printed version handed in to a prospective employer gives you the opportunity to go over it with them in person if you happen to have an interview and also allows them the chance to skim through easily.  Including a digital copy aids in their being able to forward it on to someone else or perhaps to save and read later on the go.  The USB on a keyring is kind of cool for the simple fact that you can have it all on hand at any moment.  Not sure when the occasion would come up but who knows right?

As far as content for these portfolios, it seems that almost anything goes.  If you have writing samples that pertain to what you are applying for then include them.  Definitely feel free to pick from a range of different styles as you can never be 100% sure what a prospective employer will like most.  A cover letter explaining who you are and what you do or what you’re looking to achieve is also helpful and a good place to include all your contact info.  The cleanest, clearest and most professional image is a must so if you are adding clips from printed sources, cutting them out and putting them on a page with all the source info and date, then colour copying is the best way to get a nice finished sample.

For someone just starting out like myself I discovered this wonderful thing called “spec ads.”  I don’t have a huge amount of experience writing as a job and thus most of my work is in the form of stories etc.  If I want to apply for a few jobs writing up advertisements, my opportunity to prove my capability is to come up with an ad for a company (a local company maybe? or something big like Walmart? your choice) and include it as a SPEC AD.  This gives a prospective employer a chance to evaluate a piece of work whether or not it was ever submitted or used.  It’s still an example of my ability right? just make sure you don’t forget to let them know its a spec ad.

Staples is the office supply store near me and they had an awesome selection of portfolio folder to give you some ideas for a printed version.  Absolutely search around on the web for examples of online ones though.  I’m not totally sure where I’m going with mine yet but I have no doubts that it will increase my credibility as a professional writer and my chances of landing some of those paying jobs.  If there’s anything I’ve missed please feel free to comment.  This is a learning experience for me and I welcome any tips out there!

One thing I nearly forgot that may be silly to mention would be to make sure your portfolio is absolutely FREE of any and all typos, punctuation or grammatical errors.  We all have our weaknesses and if yours is punctuation, like mine, theres nothing wrong with getting someone you trust to proof read every square inch!  Happy writing. 🙂


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