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Building a Writers Portfolio

July 21, 2010

Building a portfolio is an important step in becoming a successful writer. Not only is it an excellent way to showcase one’s talent and style, but it forces the writer to take their published work seriously. Opportunities for almost any job in the past have come through networks, but with the success of blogs and other such websites, it is almost foolhardy of a writer seeking to gain a higher profile not to submit to a wider range or quality sites and publications. Although generally, editor’s reviewing a prospective writer’s work, favour pieces which emulate or are written in a similar tone to what they currently publish; there are times where a range of writing is appropriate to submit in order to demonstrate a writer’s flexibility and capabilities. Its important the writer decides what types or styles of writing they wish to be publicly known as having particular skills in and to focus on these areas when submitting.

Posting articles, blogs and fiction pieces on one’s own site is a step in the right direction in accountability. However, it is easy to become deluded and detached if that writing is not then promoted or actively put in the public forums or as part of a growing writing community; seeking feedback and comments in order to improve.

If you are looking at building your portfolio either as a new writer, or one whose work examples are a little thin, here are some suggestions on places to approach with your skills.

Most organizations need people to write for their websites and newsletters. Choose the company you volunteer with carefully, following your personal interests or passions as it will make it easier for you to write about and for. Although most charities and community groups cannot pay for the work submitted, most are happy to attribute the articles to you with some even allowing a short bio or blurb underneath. This experience will add valuable samples to your portfolio and is applicable to both fiction and non-fiction works. Approach:

  • sporting clubs
  • churches
  • political groups
  • crafting groups
  • social activist groups
  • local or small businesses
  • schools
  • small cafes or restaurants
  • childcares

If you don’t already have one, start your own blog – both wordpress and blogger are easy to navigate, with both boasting great features. Early on, make the decision on whether to separate your blogging into personal and professional or keep them together. A site which specifically showcases your developing skill as a writer makes a valuable part of your portfolio.

If you have decided to expand your writing into Non Fiction, submitting focuses articles to local newspapers or small, grassroots magazines may assist in you gaining experience in their field. Many of these publications may be open in accepting short stories and poetry as well. Ensure you research the publication before submitting, so that you have a feel for current expectations and styles.

Guest Write or Regular Columnist?

Last year, I wrote a post on the benefits of submitting articles to other people’s sites or to guest write.

Certainly formulating an article which is published on a third party site can be fun, give you exposure and opportunities of networking, not to mention a boost to the ego; but what of the regular commitment of contributing to a site’s content? There are many examples of writers who have been offered publishing contracts on the basis of work in public forums and who have an established following or fan base and this is often achieved through a writer’s regular commitment to a weekly, or fortnightly post, article or story.

Becoming a regular columnist, be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly forms an excellent basis for one’s credibility as a ‘serious’ writer and professional. It’s often said that we write about things which we need to learn. This is especially true with non-fiction articles which require in depth research or thought. It is a great responsibility to have the expectation of producing thought – worthy and valuable articles; but one which is rich in self learning and growth.

Building your writing portfolio requires planning and a consistency of quality work production. Regularly contributing to a publication or site can be seen as a chore, or a journey, particularly as these roles are unpaid. With a widening audience, exposure and networking possibilities available, an opportunity to write for a third party publication has some very attractive benefits. However, in the end, it is the writer and their outcome which needs to be the driving deciding force in the direction they take in submitting and contributing to both online and hardcopy publications.

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5 Comments
  1. July 21, 2010 1:23 am

    In addition to these great tips… I suggest all writers have some kind of list of publishing credits on their websites. The list can be as simple or detail as you want it to be. If you don’t have a lot of publishing credits – consider offering a snippet of the work. If it has been published online – obviously, provide a link, or if it has been in an inprint journal or magazine, a link to the publication in question.

    What does one look like – Lily Mulholland has a great looking one http://lilymulholland.com/credits/

    Now… time to add updating my publishing credits to my hyrda-headed to-do list (thanks Paul Anderson for coining that phrase!) I’m not linking to mine as it’s too much of a mess to offer up for publication consumption (another note to self – if that’s the case – why the hell do you have it on your blog!!!)

  2. July 21, 2010 6:15 am

    Great addition there, Jodi.
    Guess I need to go find places to start writing for so I can build my own credits page.

  3. July 21, 2010 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the advice.
    I’m with John. Need to start searching for places to build my portfolio.

  4. July 23, 2010 4:11 am

    Aw, shucks, thanks Jodi :)

  5. July 25, 2010 2:14 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this, Annie. I’ve been considering branching out into non-fiction and trying to locate local newsletters to which I can contribute (obviously to start my portfolio) and this post has given me plenty of ideas. Thank you!!!!

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