Friday, July 17, 2009
by Susan Johnston
So you’ve written a couple of articles, and you watch to keep querying so you can break into bigger (and better paying) markets. How about creating an online portfolio?
Having an online portfolio boosts your Google-ability, raises credibility with editors, and makes it easy to organize writing clips without spending the time and money to send out paper copies. All of your clips will be quite literally at your fingertips, so you can just copy and paste the URL whenever you email a query to an editor.
Here's how to get started.
1. Find a web-hosting service. I chose VistaPrint because the small business package fit into my budget and offered my own domain name (which costs a bit more but creates a more professional impression than an AOL or Yahoo member page) along with several different templates so I wouldn’t have to design the website from scratch. Here are a few other options: Globat, Writing.com, Hosting4Writers, and iPowerWeb. Media Bistro also offers the Freelance Marketplace, which lets you display clips and a bio if you don’t want to design your own website.
2. Collect your clips. I keep all of my online clips bookmarked in my Delicious account for easy access. Then when I got to update my portfolio (see step #5), I can easily find my newest articles. As you're creating a writing portfolio from scratch, I think it's a good idea to collect as many pieces as you can. Once you see them all together (in a virtual computer folder or laid out in front of you), you can figure out which ones best represent your writing. I'd go for a mix of topics and lengths so that editors can see your versatility. But if you're just starting out, display what you have and you'll quickly be able to add or replace with newer clips.
3. Consider the file format. If my article is already available online, then I just type up the article name, publication, and date with a link. If it’s not available online, then I sometimes scan the article, save it as a PDF, and post a link to it. Most editors won't mind if you post your own article on your website, but some are sensitive to copyright concerns, so if there's any doubt, ask. Many editors prefer to read PDFs versus a jpeg or other photo format, because the text is sharper and the user can zoom in and out to read the article. Be careful about posting or emailing files that are too large, because they will take an eternity to load and could crash your editor’s computer. (In fact, many people caution against sending any attachments to editors, but that’s a discussion for another article.)
4. Decide how to display them. Some writers use a thumbnail of the magazine cover to show off their best clips. Others use text only so that the focus is on their writing, rather than fancy graphics. Some organize their clips according to topic (travel, business, parenting, etc.). Others use a chronological listing or divide them up by the type of publication (websites, trade magazines, consumer magazines, custom publications, etc.) All of these approaches are valid as long as they make it easy for editors to read your writing and for you to make updates.
5. Keep your clips updated. I’ve learned from experience that sometimes links change once an article gets archived, so I’m careful to check links frequently. If you're concerned about a website removing your article, you could take a screenshot and save it for your portfolio. Searching Google's cached pages is one way to bring dead web articles from the dead. In addition to weeding out bad links, another reason to refresh your list of clips is that the longer you've been writing, the more articles you'll have to be proud of. I don’t display everything I've ever written (frankly, that would be overwhelming to editors), but I do switch out articles as I get bigger bylines or juicier assignments. I think four or five articles per section is plenty.
What about you and your writing portfolio? Any tips I've missed?
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, DailyCandy.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, and many other publications. Want to know more? check out The Urban Muse or follow her on Twitter.