This guide covers everything you need to know for building a professional writing portfolio, and will help you if you are:
- in the freelance writing business
- a staff writer working as a full-time writer
- or working in content marketing or digital marketing
I'll first cover why you need a professional online portfolio, then dive into what makes for a great writer's portfolio and how to make the perfect portfolio, learn from a few examples of excellent portfolios, and finally round it off with a look at a portfolio page builder.
• Why you need a professional online portfolio
• Elements of a great writing portfolio
• How to create a great portfolio
• Excellent writing portfolio examples
• Why Authory is ideal for building a writing portfolio
Why do you need an excellent freelance writing portfolio?
Over the last decade, I've run an advertising agency and worked in content marketing for hundreds of clients and stakeholders. When I had to hire writers or present my own writing to potential clients, the writing portfolio was the first step in the process.
As a writer and creator, a writing portfolio allows you to do the following:
1. Present your writing
A writing portfolio allows you to present your writing skills and put your best foot forward, primarily when you've written for several different publications in numerous domains.
Your portfolio can and must coalesce all of that into a central hub where you can curate your content for the right audience.
2. Source clients and projects
It's essential to ensure that your work is showcased in the most aesthetically appealing way possible. Potential clients will likely want to look at your writing samples before hiring you.
3. Save your writing
You should be protecting your writing from disappearing forever.
I've had instances where sites have gone down, and the relevant Word doc from three computers ago was no longer accessible. On other occasions, I've found it quite inconvenient to showcase ghostwritten work to a prospect.
In both cases, an excellent online writing portfolio can back you up. (More on this later on.)
What goes into an excellent online writing portfolio?
Let's break down what makes a great portfolio. There are dozens of website and portfolio builders out there, all vying for your attention, but what makes a portfolio really stand out?
1. Should be easy to set up and use
As writers (especially freelance writers), we have to be focused on writing and networking. We need a portfolio builder that's super easy to set up and maintain. Additionally, Authory’s actual setup process is exceptionally easy and low-effort. Once you enter your email, the system automatically extracts not just your name, but also the sites on which your bylined work is currently published.
Let’s say that your pieces are published in the NY Times and The Washington Post. On feeding your email into Authory’s signup, it will automatically add “nytimes.com” and washingtonpost.com as “sources”. You don’t even have to manually have to enter your sources. Authory will even do that for you. You get an industry-best portfolio after putting in about 2 to 3 minutes of manual effort.
If you’re curious, here’s how you import online content (created by you) for your Authory portfolio.
You'll get everything you ever wrote and published in a single, accessible location. With a couple of clicks, you can add the right ones to your portfolio. No copy-pasting/manual uploading required.
2. Should look good
A portfolio showcases your best work, and it needs to look amazing. It also needs to load quickly, be searchable, navigable, and look great on any device, desktop or mobile.
As an example, let's look at Alyssa Towns Swantkoski's (Denver-based freelance writer) online portfolio on the phone:
And here's Alyssa's portfolio on the desktop:
Note how good her portfolio site looks on both desktop and mobile devices. All the content rearranges itself to appear perfect while remaining accessible and easy to view.
3. Should allow categorization
Typically, writers work for various publications and clients. And, since a prospective client is unlikely to go through work unrelated to their industry, it makes sense to share only what's relevant.
For example, let's look at Marijana's freelance writing portfolio: authory.com/MarijanaKostelac
Marijana is a content marketer who has written for different domains, all of which are on her portfolio. To organize her pieces into a topic-based structure, she showcases them in different Collections: e-commerce, creator economy, email marketing, content marketing, and video marketing. She can share each of these Collections (in isolation) so that the client only sees what she has accomplished in their chosen domain.
4. Should support different content types
Creators produce content in many formats, and a good portfolio builder should be able to accommodate them all. I know of writers who have solid social media game; they're hilarious with quips and observational humor.
Something like this could be super valuable to a particular client looking at copywriting skills as well as long-form writing.
Your portfolio should let you display content in text, audio, and video formats, as well as from different platforms like podcast sites, social media channels, and LinkedIn.
5. Should be up-to-date
Keeping your portfolio up-to-date is extremely important, as recent work is usually the most relevant to your audience. As a writer, more often than not, my portfolio site is a little dated because I am more focused on my day-to-day. But the lack of updating often negatively impacts my ability to get more work as potential clients miss out on my latest pieces.
And that's why a self-updating portfolio — a portfolio that automatically updates itself with your new work — is a game-changer.
Authory, by default, offers you a self-updating portfolio. Once you add your sources (URLs of sites where your work was published), Authory automatically updates your portfolio whenever you publish on those sites again.
6. Should back up your content
Sites go down, files go missing, and as writers, it's imperative that our writing doesn't disappear forever. I've faced this issue where work I've done for a client was taken down from their website. And I hadn't backed it up.
Authory backs up your content automatically. Just add your sources, and Authory will add everything from those sources written by you (or about you) to your Authory account.
Tips for creating the perfect writing portfolio
1. Understand your audience
You've likely catered to a wide variety of audiences as a writer. When building your portfolio, use the same processes you employ when writing — research.
But consider this: your past audience is not necessarily your portfolio's audience, which is the set of people you're showcasing your work to — potential clients, publications, editors, readers, and more. Each audience has a different profile, and hence your writing portfolio site should cater to them specifically.
If you're looking to write for the pet niche, your portfolio needs to show content for that audience — dog grooming, pet care, and why cats are so personable. If you want to write for developers, you'll be displaying content around databases, APIs, and another new JS framework this week.
Cater your portfolio to your prospective audience. Figure out what they're looking for and serve that up.
Bonus tip: A portfolio where you can show off the many different audiences you've written for is ideal. Then you can share just the relevant niche topic with prospective readers.
2. Show off quality and quantity
Conventional wisdom is to showcase just your best work. That's not the case anymore. It's far better to show the amount of work that you've done while also displaying your best.
In the past, on multiple occasions, I've selected a handful of writers from literally thousands of applications. And though I would look into a writer's best work, I would also study how much of that work they had done, in which niches they had done it, and for how long they had been doing it.
I was looking for flexibility, productivity, and staying power. A writer's job can be challenging — balancing the needs of different stakeholders while being creative — and I wanted someone who could navigate through that.
So, a balanced mix of great quality with serious quantity is essential for the perfect writing portfolio website.
3. Curate your content carefully
While building your portfolio, you must be brutal with yourself. There will be difficult choices when it comes to picking which pieces make it into your portfolio.
My advice is: pick the writing that suits your potential audience the most and leave the others under other tabs. Here's where Authory Collections become super handy. Users can leverage them to depict how much they write while flaunting only their best pieces.
I've written content for developers and marketers and ghostwritten content for agency projects. To successfully present all this in my portfolio, I'd have three separate collections and then share the specific collection with a client depending on their needs.
So, it's imperative to consider the collections you build for your portfolio — do you sort it by niche, content type, or both, or something else?
4. Make your portfolio easy to navigate
All creators should be open to receiving feedback, and as writers, I'm sure you've gotten a ton of it throughout your career. I advise asking a friend, colleague, mentor, parent, or sibling (or anyone you trust!) to review your portfolio.
If possible, observe how they navigate the site: don't prompt or help them through the process; watch if they're struggling. As with all feedback, implement what you think makes the most sense. Record your observations, go through your notes, and execute your changes.
Bonus tip: Portfolio builders with search and filter functions improve user experience because they give visitors an enhanced level of control — they can find exactly what they're looking for.
5. Ensure that your portfolio looks stunning
Since you're putting your best foot forward, your portfolio needs to be easy on the eye.
All the work that you're doing to curate and organize your portfolio is all for naught if the final product is hard to look at. Look for a solution that gives you a beautiful portfolio right off the bat.
7. Show just snippets/blurbs in your portfolio landing page
Though tempting, it isn't the best idea to parade entire articles on your portfolio's landing page. For the sake of navigation, write compelling copy in the form of blurbs or snippets to demonstrate the value of your article.
8.Use imagery to stand out
As writers, particular articles we've written may not have had any associated imagery. But if you're looking to add those pieces to your portfolio, it's highly advisable to find thumbnail pictures to go with the write-ups.
Pexels and Unsplash are free stock photo repositories where you can find copyright-free images that you can use on your portfolio. Since these are free to use, do give credit to the artist.
9. Confirm that all types of content are supported
We're often writing content for brochures, offline magazines, coffee table books, and more. Usually, these become PDFs when published, and your writing portfolio should be able to support PDFs.
Ideally, your portfolio builder should support all types of content. Some writers are particularly witty on their Twitter accounts, and others have participated in or been featured on podcasts and videos. All these formats need to be accommodated by your creative writing portfolio.
10. Be responsible for your portfolio being responsive
Your portfolio has to be responsive. In today's world, this is a no-brainer. Your client is much more likely to view your portfolio on mobile. Luckily, nearly all portfolio solutions are responsive.
Once you have chosen a responsive portfolio builder and built your portfolio, do a set of checks. Look at your portfolio on all the devices that you have lying around. See how it looks on a phone, on a tablet, on a desktop with a large screen, as well as a laptop. Check how it functions on different browsers like Chrome and Firefox.
11. Keep your portfolio up-to-date
It's vital to keep your portfolio updated as often as possible. Whenever you publish, you should update your portfolio.
That is because your most recent work will likely be the most relevant. And potential clients will want to look at your latest writing.
In all likelihood, you're also probably improving in your writing. I'd like to think that the more we work on our craft, the better we get at it. And, online writing portfolios must have your best writing.
But, keeping your portfolio updated is hard, especially with regular writing work keeping you busy. And some writers are particularly prolific, which would mean updating their portfolios weekly!
That's where a service like Authory -- that automatically updates your portfolio comes in.
I know a lot of journalists who say ‘I have to create my website’ or ‘I haven’t updated my website in years,’ and honestly, almost all of us put those things off, but Authory makes it super easy.
— Ali Latifi, Kabul-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Al Jazeera English, The LA Times, CNN, The New York Times, and more.
12. Place your contact button where everyone can see it
The whole point of the portfolio is for a target client to contact you. So, it's a good idea to have a "contact me" button that's front and center.
Most portfolio solutions allow you to build a button as a CTA (Call To Action). So it will be easy to set up, but it's something that you should not forget.
Writing samples & writing portfolio examples
Staring at an empty page when beginning the writing process is challenging. In this section, we point your attention to several writing portfolio samples of folks at the top of their fields.
They are excellent examples of what you can do with a portfolio and can work as a wonderful reference for building any writer website.
We encourage you to go through them and draw inspiration, borrowing ideas wherever possible and generally being a starting point on your journey to creating your writing portfolio.
Read More: Here's a collection of the top 12 writing portfolios
Colleen Fisher Tully
Colleen is a content writer and editor based out of Canada. She works in the health, food, cannabis, nutrition, finance, and family space. Colleen's writing portfolio: authory.com/ColleenFisherTully
As you can see, she has employed Authory's collection feature to great use by splitting her work samples into different sections. And there's also a section for older work. Authory's handy search functionality at the top of every collection makes for easy navigation.
Nick, based out of England, is the Editor-in-Chief at eeNews Europe and a freelance technology writer. Nick's writing portfolio: authory.com/NickFlaherty
Nick has opted for a more minimalist look in his portfolio, something you'll see more these days among writing portfolio sites. Earlier in the article, I spoke about adding images to spruce up the look and feel of your portfolio. Here we see a completely different approach that works due to the clean, elegant look that Authory provides.
Nick has eschewed using collections in favor of a more straightforward feel, and Authory's search functionality will serve for any navigation required. Notice that the top article has LinkedIn as a source and is an example of how a great portfolio should accommodate content from all different sources and in various formats.
Nicole is a freelance health writer based in Florida, USA. Nicole's writing portfolio: authory.com/NickyLaMarco
She has gone for a super minimalist look but, at the same time, has used thumbnail images to add that shine to her writer's portfolio.
Based out of North Carolina, Julie is a freelance writer, registered dietician, diabetes educator, lactation consultant, and business coach for registered dieticians. Julie's professional online portfolio: authory.com/JulieCunningham
For Julie's portfolio, let's highlight her "about me" section. As you can see below, she has written a comprehensive story on her career and what she can bring to the table. There's also content from different sources on her writer's website. Finally, it also has her social media links.
On the main portfolio landing page, Julie has opted for a beautiful header image that encapsulates what her writing is all about. She has also used thumbnail images to enhance the experience further and used Collections to section out her various writing pieces.
Pamela is a freelance copywriter and editor based out of California, USA, specializing in both short and long-form content. Apart from the excellent blog post samples she displays, her portfolio has a few features to take note of:
Pamela's writing portfolio: authory.com/PamelaRosen
- She has a "ghostwriting" tab, which is helpful for many writers.
- Under the "ebooks" tab, we can see this article: authory.com/PamelaRosen/Soundhound-Finding-Your-Brands-Voice-Ebook-a28ad1fe0f4c94256a355fa95644c4b20 which is an uploaded PDF and is now viewable on Authory's website forever.
Crystal Chatham Housman
Based out of California, USA, Crystal is a boots-on-the-ground visual journalist specializing in military affairs, aerospace, public safety, and volunteering. Crystal's outstanding journalism portfolio is here, among the best writer portfolio examples: authory.com/CrystalHousman
She has chosen to divide her work into various niches, but she also has a tab for "other" and a tab for "portfolio." That means when she wants to share just her portfolio, she shares the link to just the "portfolio" collection. It's an interesting take on using a portfolio builder like Authory — have different tabs for particular niches and then have a separate tab for the portfolio alone.
Rhiannon is a freelance writer from North Carolina, USA, writing on topics ranging from prematurity to parenting and mental health. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Insider, and HuffPost. Rhiannon's writing portfolio: authory.com/RhiannonGiles
Rhiannon has gone for a simple look but has shown her prolificity and personal brand through the use of Collections where she's marked out favorites in every writing niche.
Chris Pike is a sports writer based out of Perth, Australia. Chris writes on basketball, baseball, water polo, Aussie rules football, rugby, cricket, and netball! Chris' writing portfolio is here: authory.com/ChrisPike
Chris has added over 3,200 articles from 42 sources to his Authory account:
Again, Chris can easily manage a truckload of content by organizing his own portfolio into Collections (divided by sport or league). With the help of Authory's search functionality, it's effortless for a reader to find what they need.
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Jennifer is a writer and journalist based in South Carolina, USA. She works as a Smart Home reviewer for The Verge and the Home Editor at Charleston Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Wirecutter, The New York Times, Wired (UK), and more. You can find Jennifer's writing portfolio at: authory.com/JenniferPattisonTuohy
As seen below, Jennifer has gone in for a colorful yet minimalist look for her portfolio design.
Sangeeta, based out of New York, USA, is a senior writer at The Cut and New York Magazine. In the past, she has worked for Quartz, A24, Architectural Digest, and more. Sangeeta's writing portfolio is at: authory.com/SangeetaSinghKurtz
Sangeeta has employed a super-minimalist look in her professional portfolio. And that's because she mainly uses Authory as a repository for all her articles, safely backed up and automatically updated.
Read More: How to Create a PDF Portfolio & 5 Excellent PDF Portfolio Examples
Authory's Auto-Updating Portfolio — All that you've ever made kept safe and beautifully displayed
I’ve touched upon how Authory can help with creating and maintaining a portfolio earlier. Here is a more in-depth look at Authory.
What is Authory?
Authory is a self-updating online portfolio and backup service for content creators of all shapes and sizes.
With Authory, any writer can quickly create an online writing portfolio — there's no need to build your portfolio because Authory does that for you. Your portfolio looks terrific out of the box, and it takes just three minutes to set up.
Add your sources, and Authory will import all your content. The tool will scour the interwebs to find everything you've ever published — even stuff you've long forgotten! Once set up, your Authory portfolio is self-updating — there's no need for you to add more articles manually. Authory does that for you every time you publish something on one of your "source" sites..
Authory also ensures that you'll never lose a piece again, even if the original website dies.
Authory's Primary Features
Besides the automatic content importing and backup features, Authory gives you:
- Collections to organize your content into sections for easy perusal and sharing
- Social media analytics that shows you the true reach of your content (get readership/engagement numbers every 30 days)
- Search and filter functionality that lets your audience find relevant content with a keyword
- Tracking features that notify when an article of yours has been published anywhere on the internet. You can utilize Authory's Zapier integration (provided with the Professional Plan) to receive publication notifications on Slack.
- Newsletter and RSS capabilities to build your audience
Reviews of Authory
Authory has thousands of happy customers, and besides Jennifer's and Sangeeta's kind words, you can read more about what other folks had to say about Authory.
To round out your research, here are a few independent reviews of Authory: