Create or update your portfolio

By now you should have an idea what you plan to offer to potential clients, and have created or updated some pages as a starting point for your client-facing website. 

Now it’s time to create or update your portfolio. This advice works best for  writers, but any business owner can use the same principles to showcase examples of their work. 

As I’ve pointed out to everyone from educators to massage therapists to translators to motivational coaches, no matter what business you’re in, your target customers want to know you can do what you promise to do. And your portfolio is one way to do that.  

Activity 1:  Collect links or skills   

The portfolio is where you prove you can do what you say you can do.

If you are a writer, that typically means linking to your published work. (If you’re not a writer, then you can show examples of what you do, like different therapies, for example. And you can include testimonials to enhance your online authority.)

If all your work is ghostwritten, then one option I’ve used is to create another piece similar to the ghostwritten piece and publish it on my own site as an example. 

Or you could simply ask your client for permission to include a particular piece in your portfolio – this actually works; I’ve done it myself.

So, what if you’re new to freelancing/writing/blogging?

If you’re thinking about writing full-time, or writing more, the chances are you’ve written something before. Unearth this writing from wherever you have it, and see if it can serve as an example of your writing. 

If not, pick one of the areas you want to offer to clients, and write a short piece that shows off your skills.

If you are an experienced writer, collect some of the writing you’ve done that shows off the skills you want to offer to clients.

With all your pieces, be clear about how they make you look good.

For each piece, write a line or two to describe either what the piece is about or how it shows what you did for your client.

Put this together in one document – you’ll need this information for the next task.

Tool: one way to make sure you don’t miss any of your work is to set up a Google Alert for each piece you publish. This isn’t perfect, as sometimes editors change titles, but it should work for anything where the title is agreed in advance. (Non-writers, you can also set up a Google Alert for your name or brand – you never know if someone is mentioning you online.)

Not only will this help you keep track of work you need to add to your portfolio, but you can also see if people are scraping your content and file a DMCA takedown notices where needed. 


Activity 2: Create a portfolio/testimonial page on your site   

OK, now you’ve got your links together, the first step is to create a portfolio on your own site.

If you’re using WordPress or any site platform, the easiest way to do this is to create a new page. Then think about how you’re actually going to display the work.

Options for your onsite portfolio include:

  • a list of links
  • links with description
  • links with images

Check out the portfolios on some of the writers’ sites I shared previously for inspiration.

With certain WordPress themes, you can also add your content to a portfolio category for easy display.

The method I use is a WordPress plugin called RSS Aggregator. The free version helps me create this portfolio page on my site. I also create an annual portfolio post on my blog which I update throughout the year. 

It’s also a good idea to get some testimonials. I outline my method in this video I prepared for Get Paid to Write Online.

Over to you, now, to go away and create a portfolio on your own site. 


Activity 3:  Create an external portfolio   

Next, let’s look at using an external portfolio. You might be wondering why you need one of these. If you are well established with a lot of traffic, then people will find your portfolio on your site, especially if you’ve looked after SEO. But I always think more is more. 

Using an external portfolio:

  • Gives you potentially more search engine entries
  • Ensures your work is where people may be searching
  • Can even help you find work (more on that in a minute)

There are a lot of options out there, but my favorite is Contently. It makes your work look good, and it makes it easy for you to tag your pieces by type and topic. Here’s my Contently portfolio.

Today’s task is to take those same portfolio links and set up your Contently portfolio. Here’s the link where you can register.

Tips for success with Contently:

  • Update your portfolio regularly – this seems to trigger their internal editors to look and could help you get writing gigs
  • Add images to most portfolio entries
  • Edit the descriptions so they make sense
  • Use the built in tags for skills used and topics to help people who see your portfolio to segment your work

Activity 4:  Create another online portfolio   

Let’s keep it simple today: set up another portfolio site. Another place where my portfolio has helped me get writing gigs is Clearvoice, but you can also choose one of the sites here. You won’t be surprised to hear that I have portfolios on several sites. 

Activity  5: Got a portfolio already?   

If you already have a portfolio, or several portfolios, now’s the time to streamline. Go through with a fine-toothed comb. Ask:

  • Have I updated my portfolio recently?
  • Does everything in this portfolio represent work I want more of?
  • Does it show me in the best light?
  • Can I make it promote me better by including improving the entries (better description, adding an image etc)?

Then update your portfolio as needed.