How do I Create a Writing Portfolio?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A diverse writing portfolio can open up more opportunities.
A diverse writing portfolio can open up more opportunities.

A writing portfolio is a critical tool for everyone from writers looking for jobs to students who want to graduate from creative writing programs at colleges and universities. Film and television writers, technical writers, newspaper staffers, magazine employees, and almost anyone else with a job which requires writing should maintain a writing portfolio. There are a number of ways to approach the construction of a writing portfolio so that the finished product will have a high impact.

For writers, the goal of a portfolio is to show their best work to prospective employers.
For writers, the goal of a portfolio is to show their best work to prospective employers.

Ideally, a writer will have a mixture of writing which can be included in a portfolio, such as short stories, poems, personal essays, research papers, writing clips showcasing published works such as articles in newspapers, and so forth. Writers should get into the habit of keeping copies of all of their work in both hard copy and digital form, so that they can have the necessary materials readily available, and to keep an overall record of work. It helps to index the samples a writer keeps on hand so that writers can quickly find the samples they need.

Published stories or "clips" from newspapers a person has written should be included in a portfolio.
Published stories or "clips" from newspapers a person has written should be included in a portfolio.

The first step in putting together a writing portfolio is to determine what it will be used for, so that the writing samples in the portfolio can be selected and arranged properly. Someone applying for work at a magazine, for example, might include personal essays, published clips from newspapers, and a sample of a research paper, but not poetry and short stories. Conversely, someone applying to a graduate level creative writing program would want to showcase poetry and fiction, including samples of longer works like novels. It is a good idea to customize the portfolio for the job, rather than creating a generic portfolio which may not be suited to all jobs.

Studying what kind of stories are printed in different magazines can give writers an idea of the kind of works being sought.
Studying what kind of stories are printed in different magazines can give writers an idea of the kind of works being sought.

Thanks to the advent of the digital age, many writers maintain digital portfolios, sometimes on their websites for ease of access. A writer can also create a customized portfolio for a particular purpose, such as a job application, giving the potential employer a link which will lead directly to the portfolio the writer wants the employer to see. Some writers also use their websites as generic portfolios, with links to specific types of writing so that potential employers can peruse a variety of samples. Digital portfolios can also be saved on disc or as single files which can be emailed to prospective employers.

If writing samples are required in hard copy, the writer should organize them with care and package them in a binder or document case, selecting the best samples and creating an index. The samples should be formatted so that they have a consistent appearance and feel, and they should be in large print to make them easy to read. If some of the samples consist of clips, they can be scanned or photocopied for inclusion so that the writer can keep the original, and they should be reproduced neatly so that they have a clean appearance and they are easy to read.

The goal of a portfolio is for a writer to show his or her best work to prospective employers. Portfolios can include full length pieces and excerpts, but they should be very carefully chosen, as few people reviewing a writing portfolio are going to read through everything, and therefore every piece should carry immense impact. At the end of a portfolio, a writer may want to include a list of complete publishing credits, which will allow a prospective employer to get an idea of the writer's experience and credentials.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon122290

Are there any rules to follow with showcasing writing created during employment, like copywriting or press releases? Is the writer, who created the work while employed for the employer and no longer is, required to ask permission to use the work in their portfolio, on a website, please advise.

lawnmower

italy12- I agree with you that it is very important to keep your writing portfolio updated. I created a portfolio in one of my college writing classes and then forgot about it. When an employer requested to have me bring a writing portfolio to an interview, I grabbed the one I had created in my class because I didn't have time to make a new one. The portfolio was outdated and didn't showcase my best work. Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

italy12

If you are applying for any type of a writing job, make sure that you create a portfolio before going on the interview. If you already have one, make sure it is updated. I suggest making a few copies of every article and putting them at the end of your portfolio. That way you can give writing samples to employers when you go on an interview without giving them your only hard copy.

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    • A diverse writing portfolio can open up more opportunities.
      By: Valua Vitaly
      A diverse writing portfolio can open up more opportunities.
    • For writers, the goal of a portfolio is to show their best work to prospective employers.
      By: Gandolfo Cannatella
      For writers, the goal of a portfolio is to show their best work to prospective employers.
    • Published stories or "clips" from newspapers a person has written should be included in a portfolio.
      By: stocksolutions
      Published stories or "clips" from newspapers a person has written should be included in a portfolio.
    • Studying what kind of stories are printed in different magazines can give writers an idea of the kind of works being sought.
      By: maska82
      Studying what kind of stories are printed in different magazines can give writers an idea of the kind of works being sought.