My Adventures in Creating an Online Writing Portfolio
Written by Stacey Stevens
I had been working for the same company for 16 years when I received news that they were moving out-of-state. The move to the new location didn’t fit with my future goals, so I realized I would be entering the job market again. Sixteen years had gone by. A lot had changed.
I thumbed through old paper writing samples from years ago wondering what I was I going to do. Paper samples just weren’t relevant anymore, now that everything was online.
Then I heard about online writing portfolios that could be stored on websites, in some cases, for free. Here’s what I learned about these portfolio sites, and how I chose the right one for me.
Researching portfolio sites
Typically, when I do an internet search, I look for the top 5 or 10 of something. I did the same for portfolio sites, and found that these were the best ones.
Clippings.me is good for freelance journalists. In addition to the free writing portfolio platform, you can add yourself to a journalist directory and can upload videos and podcasts on your site.
Pressfolios is a good choice if you want to display your writing samples with graphics. This site also backs up your samples to the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
Contently is also an easy way to display your writing samples. If you are an experienced writer, you can be part of Contently’s freelance marketplace, which connects writers with companies that are looking to hire.
Journo Portfolio is a good choice if you want a visually appealing, mobile-friendly platform to display your samples. Plus, if you are a blogger, you can blog directly on the Journo Portfolio site and save yourself from managing multiple platforms.
SquareSpace is helpful if you want more control over your portfolio’s design and can pay a little to enjoy a site with more features. SquareSpace also makes it easy to create your own website, so it is useful for published authors or those who own a writing business and want to establish their brand.
To learn more about any of these sites and the pros and cons of each, you can visit Freelancers Union.
Choosing a portfolio site
After reviewing the portfolio sites, I chose Journo Portfolio because I could upload 10 types of writing projects for free. But what really sold me on Journo Portfolio was that it provided a summary area where I could write a short description of the sample, explain what role I played, and how the sample came about. Adding this context gave more meaning to each sample and allowed me to highlight the skills I used for each.
Choosing the writing samples
Most writing samples should be short (no more than 5 pages), so consider showing an excerpt of your work instead of the whole sample. Or, take one page of work and show what it looked like before and what it looked like after you worked on it.
It’s also a good idea to think about whether the companies you wrote the materials for will allow you to share them. I chose a variety of samples because I wanted to show the breadth of my experience. If your writing is specialized, you might want to narrow the scope of your samples.
I was careful to choose only those samples where I was the sole creator and owner of the piece, or where the sample was from a company that did not have restrictions on sharing it.
If your company does have policies that restrict you from sharing your writing samples, there are a few things you can do. First, if you are still with the employer, ask them for permission to release your samples outside of the company. They might have a process for doing this. If not, try replacing sensitive information with fictitious information. For example, replace the company’s name or logo with XYZ Corporation.
You might be wondering what’s considered sensitive information. According to WhatIs.com, sensitive information is any information that must be protected from unauthorized access to safeguard the privacy or security of an individual or organization. If the information can be used to identify, contact, or locate a company, client, customer, or employee, it is probably content you should replace with fictitious text.
As I created my portfolio, I encountered a few hiccups along the way. First, there was a file size limitation when uploading PDF files. In one instance, I tried uploading a full-color, multi-page newsletter, and it didn’t work. I tried again with fewer pages and it worked. I never did find out what the file size limit was, which would. have been useful to know beforehand. I also wish I would have known that Journo Portfolio uses the email address you signed up with to create the web address of your writing samples page. You can change this once you have set up your site, but if I had known ahead of time, I would have used a different email address.
A word about visuals
To give my portfolio visual appeal, I included photos for each type of writing sample. At first, I tried to pick images that reflected the type of sample I was including, but the images were so different from each other that they lacked a consistent look and feel. So I decided to use a theme of nature photos instead. Nature photos, you ask? What do they have to do with technical writing samples? They don’t. I chose them because they are pleasant to look at, and I thought that the people coming to my portfolio site might welcome something a little different. I selected images from Pixabay.com, which is an international website of high quality, public domain photos that anyone can use at any time for free. One word to the wise, though. Make sure you pick images that fall under the “Free Images” heading and not the “Sponsored Images” heading. Sponsored images typically show up at the top of the page and have a Shutterstock watermark on them. Expect to pay if you use the sponsored images.
To show you what I came up with in the end, here’s a link to my portfolio: https://xspinks.journoportfolio.com/
Stacey Stevens is a Senior Technical Writer at Boeing.