Freelance AdviceFreelance, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2008

A Freelance Writer’s Portfolio

PrecisionEdit

When venturing into the world of freelance writing, most writers discover that a diversified portfolio in the publishing industry is as important as it is in the financial industry. Unless you are one of those writers who is able to find your own niche and achieve instant success there, being able to write in any genre or style, anywhere, is almost vital to a freelancer's budding career. Very few writers are able to immediately break into the industry without prior experience or publishing credentials, and the easiest way to attain both of these is to write, write, write—anything and everything.

When a writer learns to mimic various styles within various genres, the possibilities for a full-time career in writing become more likely. Even if writing is a hobby, or something you are pursuing in college, having a portfolio that demonstrates a range in ability, style, and tone will only work to your advantage—regardless of your future plans. Setting up a portfolio with some of your best work in each genre helps clients and publishers to see the range of your ability, and gives them confidence that you will be able to produce the content they need, even if you have never written something exactly like it.

For most freelance writers, copywriting and sales copy is one of the easiest ways to earn a living. Therefore, examples of your ability to write this type of content are crucial as additions to your freelancer's portfolio. Copywriting can cover a range of assignments—from web site content to Blogs to informative articles—and the best copywriters must be able to research any given topic and produce quality, informative content based on that research. Therefore, having a few different examples of content on a range of topics is important.

Also, much of copywriting is keyword driven, meaning that specific keywords must be placed throughout the article or website in order to attract online traffic through search engines. While there is a fine line between too many keywords and not enough, most clients will want to see at least a 3% ratio (this means that the keywords should be at least 3% of the total word count). It might be a good idea to include one portfolio example with a higher ratio and one with a lower ratio to show that you can write effective content with varying keyword frequency.

In addition to content articles and sales copy, another facet of copywriting is the press release. A mixture of marketing strategy and engaging content, the press release shows your ability to say a lot within a few words. A well-written press release also demonstrates your ability to factor in the audience—an important skill for any writer, regardless of the genre or tone of the writing.

Technical writing encompasses everything from copywriting to how-to manuals to presentations, and your portfolio should include examples of any of your previous work in these areas. A good technical writer is one that has a thorough grasp of grammar, conciseness, and flow—all qualities that can easily translate into more creative ventures.
You should also have examples of creative writing in your portfolio, even if you plan to focus your freelance career on technical writing assignments. Creative writing allows clients to have a glimpse into your personality and drive as a writer, and tends to demonstrate more of your persona than that which is shown in your technical writing examples. Regardless of how mundane, or seemingly un-creative their projects might be, clients are aware that any writer must possess a certain degree of imagination and vision in order to produce quality work. Creative writing within your freelancer's portfolio allows them to see these things in you.

Some great creative writing additions to your portfolio would be op-ed (opposite editorial) pieces, magazine articles, creative Blogs, or short stories. Also, many clients looking for a freelance writer are interested in someone to ghostwrite a work of fiction or nonfiction for them, and will want to see your abilities on the creative front for writing a book-length manuscript. Including an example chapter in your portfolio would be a great way to show them your capabilities on this front. If possible, try to include two chapters—one for a work of fiction and one for a work of nonfiction. If you have not previously written an entire chapter, consider doing so for the sole purpose of inclusion in your freelance writer's portfolio. The opportunities for ghostwriters are, in some cases, greater than those available to copywriters, and the pay is often better as an added bonus.

As a freelance writer, your portfolio is your business card and resume wrapped into one. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your abilities, in addition to your range of skill in writing. In the same sense that presentation is key to any first impression, be sure that the items in your portfolio are impeccably edited and formatted into an easy-to-read font. You could have all the skills a client is looking for, but without the proper presentation of those skills, you could very well be overlooked.

Finally, think of your portfolio as a work in progress. When you write something that is published—be sure to include it, along with all information regarding when and where it was published. It is also a good idea to include a copy of the original article if you were published in a regional or national magazine or paper. Often, the stepping-stones into the world of publishing are the little achievements you've made along the way.
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