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How to create a killer copywriter portfolio

by Jess Thistlethwaite on

As a copywriter, your portfolio is your shop window. A place you can highlight your talents and showcase your work, it’s important if you want people to see what you can do. However, many writers, whether they’re new to copywriting or not, panic when they hear the words ‘copywriter portfolio’.

Although it doesn’t have to be a scary thought, building a copywriting portfolio and showcasing your pieces for others to view and criticise can be daunting. But it’s essential if you are to prove your skills and impress your potential clients. 

In this article, we share our tips to make sure your copywriter portfolio stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Here is how to create a copywriter portfolio.

How to create a copywriter portfolio

In just 5 key steps you can build a killer copywriter portfolio that takes you closer to landing that new project or dream role:

1. Be selective

The top myth when creating a portfolio is that you have to include everything you have ever written. This simply isn’t true. A strong copywriting portfolio emphasises quality over quantity. It should be focused, lean and represent your speciality or field.

There isn’t a single copywriter who doesn’t have a piece that is close to their heart or that they're seriously proud of. When designing your portfolio, however, think objectively. Your favourite piece isn't always your strongest. If you find yourself torn, consider the company or client you wish to impress, how big their audience (and influence) is, and whether you are able to assess the performance of that particular piece of work. Was it liked and shared? Did it generate a buzz or a discussion?

2. Be diverse

In terms of the copy you include, we advise that you choose an array of pieces to showcase your skills and talents. However, don’t just select a range of subjects, include a variety of styles too. This could be blog posts, press releases, articles, product descriptions, eBooks or research papers, to name just a few. You can also utilise a copywriting portfolio template available from various sites online. Usually, the more diverse your portfolio is, the stronger it will be.

However, if you are hoping to specialise in a specific industry, or you have specialist knowledge of a particular sector, be sure to include examples that relate to the industry in question. It’s important the pieces you select reflect the work you are applying for.

3. Make sure your work is current

Ideally, you shouldn’t include any work in your portfolio that was written over two years ago. The top pieces in your portfolio need to be what people are most likely to read, which means they need to be current and relatable.

If you aren’t sure what to include, a top tip is to create a spreadsheet of your published pieces, making sure you include titles, publication dates and relevant links. Having this for your own personal record enables you to categorise and keep track of everything you’ve accomplished.

4. Get the presentation right

It may sound odd, but getting the presentation of your copywriting portfolio right matters too. It’s also important you have both an offline and online portfolio. According to the website Copy Hackers, online copywriters are in demand. Therefore, it’s likely that the majority of your copywriting work will be for online clients, so it makes sense to have samples available on your website. It also means you can easily send a link to a potential client who asks to see your portfolio.

When it comes to your presentation folder, make sure everything’s represented neatly and clearly. Use quality paper and clear wallets to keep the pages clean and to stop them from ripping. In terms of your online portfolio, make sure it is simple to navigate and access. It’s also important that the font is easy to read and that the design highlights the copy, as opposed to any images or graphics. You need to remember you are being judged for your words, not the images you’ve chosen to include. Weblium Blog provides a list of the best online content writing portfolios, including Pressfolios, Contently and About.Me.

Some great examples of successful copywriter portfolios include those by Kathryn Slater and Gari Cruze.

5. Keep your biography short

When it comes to writing about ourselves, we are our own worst enemies. When it comes to your portfolio, the biography should summarise what you do and the skills you have. However, it’s important to keep your integrity. Don’t get over-personal, this is about your professional abilities. Instead of revealing your age, mention how many years you’ve been writing for. If you’ve had a successful copywriting career, summarise your accomplishments by focusing on the most impressive or relevant achievements. Equally important, ensure you include your current job title as well any links to your social media profiles that represent your professional brand. LinkedIn is a great example here, but your personal Facebook page may not be a great idea.

Bad spelling and grammar, as well as clichés, won’t impress. Don’t overload on buzzwords either; instead, use simple phrasing that makes an impact. And avoid self-deprecation and opt for confident language instead.

Read More: Check out our guide to essential grammar checklist for writers.

Copywriting portfolio FAQs

Here are a couple of the most common questions we hear writers asking about their writing portfolio:

How big should your copywriter portfolio be?

Typically, the number of pieces to include in your copywriting portfolio can vary, and it generally depends on your personal preference. You may feel it is better to keep it to 8-10 quality pieces, or you may prefer to provide more options (between 20 and 30).

Remember, you can easily switch pieces out of your portfolio if you feel you have something stronger later on down the line. For job applications, you should stick to a maximum of five pieces. This gives the client a good idea of your skills as a writer without boring or overwhelming them.

Do you need permission?

This is a tricky question to answer, and it isn’t something many people even consider when it comes to creating their portfolio. On one hand, it’s your work. However, once a project is signed off, the copyright for the work is transferred to the client.

To be certain, we advise asking the client’s permission to showcase the work in your portfolio, especially if you plan to publish it online. This way you’ll know for definite before you begin. The advantage is that you offer more publicity for the client, but they may not want others to know they have outsourced their marketing. 

Another alternative is to create a private portfolio which you only share with prospective leads upon request. This means you're not putting copyrighted work out into the public domain. Of course, if you create your own samples, then you don't need to worry about this (more below).

What if I don't have any samples?

If you are new to copywriting and you don’t have many pieces to showcase, creating some samples is a great starting point until you gain more experience.

Create your own brief and do the work as if you were being paid by a client. It could be anything from a blog post or pages for a website, just be sure to set yourself something you know you’ll be good at. When it comes to showing the piece of work in your portfolio, make it clear it is conceptual rather than a commission. Not only does this demonstrate great initiative, but it allows you to showcase your strengths.

If you need some help getting started, you could follow One Minute Briefs on Twitter for daily copywriting prompts. 

One final tip...

Don’t shy away from creating a killer copywriter portfolio for the fear of being judged, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your abilities and build confidence in yourself as a content creator.

Lastly, there’s just one final point to remember: don’t reveal your entire collection! Keeping clients intrigued by what else you can or have achieved can go a long way.

Image credit: Thanzi Thanzeer