The whole point is for readers and editors to get a sense of your writing.
I redesign my portfolio website every few years so that I can stay current. And each time I spend far too long selecting the best writing clips to showcase.
I figure I’ve garnered enough experience to show you how to do it right when you’re choosing writing clips of your own to showcase on your website.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Include your most recent work
As a rule, I rarely recommend including clips that are older than five years unless you also have new work to go with it. That said, I’m doing a lot less journalism than I was a few years ago and some of my favorite work is that old. So, in my portfolio, I include links to older work. As long as I still have new writing clips up as well, it balances out. At some point, however, I will phase out the old favorites as new ones replace them.
2. Include select work
This should go without saying, but unless you’ve only ever written five articles, don’t shove every writing clip you’ve got into your portfolio. It’s nice that you wrote a guest post for that popular blog, but if you want to move further up to writing for larger publications, here’s the truth: Editors don’t care.
I frequently see writers putting up entire lists of blogs they’ve contributed to, many for free, and all that does is alert editors to inexperience. Not good.
3. Include your best work
Several years ago, I wrote a piece on virginity restoration—a very serious issue in India at the time—for the Indian edition of a popular women’s magazine. I will never forgive them for the mess they made of that piece. Not only did they make the headline completely trashy, they decided it was appropriate that the art for the article be women jumping out of pink flowers. Three pages of red and pink flowers, and half-naked women surrounded by them.
Even though that magazine is a recognizable brand the world over, I will never put that writing clip in my portfolio. Other than completely misrepresenting my work and my sources, it undermined everything I stand for. I never wrote for them again.
4. Include photos and art
If you can, it’s a fantastic idea to showcase your work visually. Writers’ websites are often very text-heavy. Times have changed. No one wants to sit through 1,000-word essays about you and your work unless you’re a really popular writer or they’re huge fans.
Make it easy for your readers. Assume that your reader is someone who is tired and bored and eager to log on to Facebook. What can you do to make her want to stick around? One way is to go easy on her eyes and save her from drowning under big chunks of text.
5. Include links to entire pieces
Is your work online? If not, can you upload a pdf or showcase it in some other way that’s easy to access? You won’t find my trade magazine writing clips in my portfolio anymore because most of them aren’t online. The scans look crap, and I’d rather they not be there than look awful. Similarly, I don’t include work that isn’t available in its entirety because I don’t want to tease an editor and leave them hanging.
The whole point of your portfolio is that readers and editors get a sense of your writing. So make sure that they’re not being annoyed by teasers and leaving before they have the chance to be blown away.
A website is a work in progress, which is to say that no matter how hard you work on it, it will never be finished. Don’t worry too much about making it perfect, but make sure that when you’re updating it, you’re showcasing what you’re good at.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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