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Crafting a Writing Portfolio That Will Build You a Dedicated List Of Clients

Image credit: Pexels (Bich Tran)

“Be specific to attract your ideal client” – Wendy Nicole Anderson

So you’re finally ready to take the plunge and work as a freelance writer full time? Congratulations! You are in for an interesting and, hopefully, rewarding journey.

One thing that can save you a lot of stress, money and time is getting the right type of clients. And this is something that can happen before you even talk to a potential client. It starts with how you present your work: your portfolio.

But if you’ve never made a portfolio before, you probably have questions. How much do your clients need to know about you? How open and general can your topics be? This post will answer all that and more, and help you create the perfect portfolio to catch the ideal client.

Crafting the perfect writing portfolio can mean a huge difference in the clients you get and the money you make. It manages not only their expectations of the type and quality of your writing, but can also inform them how you work, and what you expect from them.

1. Determine Your Why

Writing is all about self-motivation. So think about what keeps you motivated. Having a clear idea of where you want to take your business from the start will help give your career a clear direction. When you have determined what drives you in your business, think about your ideal client. They should align with your goals. Who are you trying to help, and how will you help them?

2. Building A Flexible Portfolio

Specializing allows you to make more money and make a name for yourself by writing in a particular field. Choose no more than two specialties to highlight at one time.

Though specializing can help you make a name for yourself, it’s essential to keep your portfolio flexible. Ideally, you’ll always be working to find new areas of income. Some of your subspecialties may connect to your specialty, but they don’t have to.

Maybe you’ve got several years experience in finance writing, but you’ve always had an interest in travel. You could add some pieces which reflect your interest in finance, combined with a love of travel, with topics about how to invest so you can spend more time traveling. Or, you might choose to create multiple portfolios, for different client personas. Keep these small, simple, and not too disconnected from each other.

3. Getting The Details Right

Professionalism in writing means clear, concise writing, no typos, grammar, or spelling issues to worry about. Familiarize yourself with common mistakes. Brush up on your grammar and spelling and always read aloud to fix clunky sentences, repetitive words, and typos.

You want the writing in your portfolio to reflect your best. You’ll also want to spend some time thinking about templates. You need something simple and streamlined, with an easy-to-read font and layout. You’d be surprised how much design comes at the cost of quick and straightforward readability. Keep your font at least 12-point, in something simple and readable.

4. Find The Right Portfolio Service

The great thing about our online, interconnected world: it’s easy for clients to find you. There are plenty of portfolio services available to choose from, and what you choose depends on your specific needs. Here are some general considerations to help you make a decision:

You want to find a place that allows you to highlight your writing, without leaving it dull on the page. It should be easy to navigate and reflect your writing voice. If you’re a technical writer or copywriter, you might want something more streamlined or modern. If you’re a ghost blogger who writes relationship and mommy blogs, you might want something more approachable or playful.

While you’re looking for a hosting service, don’t forget to consider the practical elements. How much space will you need? How many unique emails? Will you add multimedia components? Is it easy to navigate social media, add newsletter sign-ups, and other forms of promotion? What are you willing to spend? Remember, this is a client’s first look at you, as a writer, and a business.

5. Get Personal – But Don’t Overdo It

Your portfolio’s About Me section is where you can get personal. Use a tone consistent with the pieces you select. Talk about your hobbies and interests, but be mindful of your audience. This is where you can afford to get a little more informal. But don’t get too personal.

Talk about how long you’ve been writing, but not your age. Talk about your childhood interest in an obscure topic you love writing about, but less about your childhood hopes and fears. Keep the tone positive and upbeat. But stay away from anything cutesy or quirky. Using text talk might be okay in your private messages, but the About Me on your website or portfolio is still all about what you can offer potential clients. So keep it polite, professional, and focused on your work.

6. Get Some Feedback

As a writer, you’re mainly working in a vacuum. You procure your own clients, produce your own pages, and you hit that submit button, and read all those rejection letters by yourself. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need anyone, or even that you have to go it alone.

Get some feedback. Find a mentor, or writing partner friend who can help you choose the right pieces to fit your writing goals, and the type of projects you’re looking to tackle. Get a trusted editor to check your portfolio or website before it goes live, for readability. If you have a friend who knows coding or graphic design, talk to them about how to create something simple and unique, and how to maintain it. There’s plenty of help out there when you need it.

7. Keep Updating

The most important part of being a professional writer is to remember to write! Running a business for yourself can be tough, and it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. Updating doesn’t have to mean a big overhaul every few months. Instead, take regular stock of what you’re working on, what you’re excited about, and where your goals are. Make it a habit to check in with yourself. Don’t be afraid to take pieces out of your portfolio as they’re no longer relevant to your personal goals.

8. Include Your Pricing And Terms

This is a little more controversial than other elements you might want to include. Many writers don’t like to publish their prices before they talk to a lead, as it can differ per project what they charge.

That said, being completely transparent about your pricing and terms can save you a lot of negotiation time and, if you’re like me, having to discuss that icky “money” thing. It can also ward off anyone looking for a “good deal”, and prevent any misunderstandings around payment and delivery terms.

So if possible, state your pricing and terms on your portfolio. You can offer different packages to cater to the different types of projects. And the last piece of advice on this: ask for (partial) upfront payment. It will take the sting out of worrying about getting paid after your work is done.

An excellent writing portfolio can elevate your career. It gets you the right exposure, to the right people. This is the difference between taking the jobs you actually want and scrambling to keep yourself afloat with one bad client after another. Build a portfolio that filters your leads, and start your business right with an ideal set of clients.