Your writing portfolio is arguably the single most important marketing tool for generating new clients. It can also be a fast track to lost clients if done incorrectly. Because you only get a few seconds of your prospective client’s time to make that first impression, your presentation must be flawless. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you keep a crisp, clean portfolio that attracts clients and creates new writing opportunities.
1. Grammar Errors
If your occupation were anything other than writing, a grammatical error here and there would be inconsequential, but when you are trying to display your writing prowess, even a single mistake can be a complete turnoff to prospective clients. Edit your work, edit it some more, and then send it to outside eyes—friends, family or paid editors—to look it over once more. If I had to choose one single most important factor for portfolio success, it would be this one.
2. Negative Tone
I’ve had to hire writers for projects on occasion and, in the process of researching applicants, I was flabbergasted at how many portfolios contained negativity. As a professional business person, negativity is one of your biggest enemies. Don’t let bad client experiences—or life, for that matter—taint your portfolio offerings. Avoid things like, “If you [the client] do this, or don’t do this, I won’t do this,” etc., etc. Focus on the positive both you and the client can bring to the transaction.
3. Insufficient contact info
With so much emphasis on Internet safety and privacy these days, the mere idea of publicly posting a name, phone number or email can be nerve wracking. It’s always a good idea to be prudent, but remember that your portfolio is a business website and treat it accordingly. If you were shopping for a new service provider, would you choose one that had little or no contact info or would you feel more comfortable knowing you had choices for getting in touch? You can dedicate a private business line through prepaid phone carriers for surprisingly little cost.
4. No writing samples
Just as a painter would put samples of his paintings on his online portfolio, so too should an artist of words. Your prospective clients need to see what you can do and the best way to do this is with samples that showcase your best topics. I’ve been hired specifically for topics I had samples of on my site. This can go both ways—be careful to avoid putting samples up of topics you really don’t want to write about again.
5. Excessive advertising
Websites can be a great opportunity for advertising revenue, but consider the main goal of your portfolio. Do you want to make a few pennies from a pay-per-click ad, or do you want a several hundred dollar writing contract? Carefully selected and sparsely placed ads can add value to your site by giving clients options for complimentary services and products, but keep it small and be sure your clients see what you want them to see—you.
Lack of professionalism
Now I’m sorry if this has worked for you, but in my own experience looking for writers, I can say that a picture of you in your sweats on the couch is not really going to inspire a lot of confidence in your abilities. Keep your words and images professional. A personal touch is fine, even encouraged, but strike a balance between showing personality and offering too much information.
7. Ineffective design
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From choosing a website platform to choosing your best writing samples, Becoming a Freelance Writer: Create a Writing Portfolio That Wows Your Clients will get you quickly started on the path to writing success. Written by Megan Kutchman. Buy your copy at Amazon.com.
Design is not the most critical component of a writing portfolio—words are—but it needs to be considered as a part of the whole. Avoid glitzy, overdone websites in favor of something streamlined, sleek and easy to load. Remember, your client is probably very busy so slow loading times or graphic heavy sites might mean the difference between a click to your contact page and a click to another site.
Your portfolio is very important, but remember that it can be changed as needed. Don’t agonize over every detail and end up stuck. Do the best you can and make tweaks as your business grows and your needs change. Stay focused on the real reason for a portfolio, your writing, and the rest will fall into place
About the author:
Megan Kutchman is a freelance writer loving life and living free in the Pacific Northwest. She writes about her experiences as a freelance writer on her website, Freed by the Pen. Between her family, farm and friends, she stays busy and focused on the real reason for working from home—enjoying life while it is still hers to enjoy.