How to use your writing portfolio to apply to different types of writing jobs
I just had an email from one of our users with a very good question:
Do you have any advice or blog posts about using a writing portfolio to apply to multiple types of writing jobs?
How should my portfolio reflect this, especially when it comes to the Writing Samples and Home sections?
I know this has been a burning question for me for the last four years since I went freelance, and speaks to a challenge that many of us face, especially when we’re just starting out in the trade.
Almost every pro in the business will tell you that writers should have a “niche”. It’s good advice, but even so, niche writers still write for numerous types of media. For me, my niche is food. Sure, I write food articles for magazines and blogs, but I also do lots of writing work WITH food brands, like copywriting, web development and various other forms of consulting. How can I use one writing portfolio to reflect my vast array of experience, and then use that to apply for specific types of writing jobs?
In the past few years I’ve sent my writing portfolio to a LOT of prospective clients and editors. Some of them even gave me jobs. And enough of them gave me jobs that I actually make a living at it. So here are my top tips to our user – and any writer out there applying to different types of writing jobs – based on my experience. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on the topic, too, so feel free to add your advice in the comments!
It actually begins with your cover letter.
Whenever you apply for a job, or pitch an editor or new client, you always start with a cover letter, even if it’s just an email expressing interest. This is where you can call out your specific experiences that make you right for the gig, and also where you can point editors to specific parts of your online writing portfolio that contains information relevant to the job. My approach is to write a paragraph or two explaining myself and why I’m writing, then call out some specific samples of which I’m particularly proud. Here’s a typical closing paragraph from a cover letter which I sent to the editor of a food magazine, with a sign-off that has a link to my full writing portfolio in the signature:
I’m a freelance writer with many years experience writing about food and travel, with credits including food magazine, the Daily Telegraph. You can find a collection of recent writings on food and travel in my writing portfolio, including my latest piece from Chef Magazine, at the links below:
Use your home page.
Although you’ll be pointing people in your cover letter to specific parts of your portfolio, you still want to make sure you represent yourself well on the main landing page of your website (having done a bit of hiring myself, I always look at an applicant’s website to see how they present themself overall). Use the homepage place to summarise your range of experience. Don’t get too verbose – this is meant to be a summary. Freelance writer Carol Tice has done a good job of this on her website. You can see how I’ve tackled this on my own website at monicashaw.com.
Categorize your writing samples.
If you’re pitching an article idea on running for beginners to the editor of Women’s Health magazine, then it probably doesn’t make sense to send them a sample of your scholarly Master’s Thesis on liver glutathione homestasis (or the like). Use categories with your writing samples so that you can link specifically to the samples that are relevant. For example, I occasional write e-learning material for brands wanting to train their staff online, so I have a category for e-learning with related samples that I can use in any cover letters that I send for e-learning jobs.
Bonus feel-good tip:
This is a fast-paced world. People get that. And no one is going to raise an eyebrow if you take on different types of jobs. In fact, it’s expected. And it’s a good thing. It means you’re adaptable. Nothing’s wrong with diversifying your experience – it’s good business. Lots of people understand that, and those are the sort of people you want to work with, anyway! So don’t worry if your writing portfolio conveys a wide variety of experiences. Just make sure you point people to the right place in your portfolio when applying for jobs.