Creating A Portfolio: Your Objective Matters

This is a follow up to the Guide to Creating Your Writer’s Portfolio article I wrote recently.

One of the things that struck me when comparing similar personal writer’s portfolio sites is how the most well-designed all highlighted the purpose of why the site was created. In particular, I referenced Elna Cain’s post. It was a great resource in designing a website with a specific objective in mind. So what are the 4 main common purposes?

Objective: To attract clients

Your landing page, or the page the users will see the moment you land, should be your “About Us” page. Keep it short and simple. Show the reader why they should hire you immediately.

I love Elna Cain’s About page for this. She starts off with her proposition for you and goes straight into what she offers (writing as a mom dealing with twins). It’s no-nonsense and yet gives a glimpse of what her writing style might be like.

Objective: To show off best work & repository

This one is slightly trickier. It depends on quite a few questions, namely:
– Is your work offline or online or both?
– Do you have links or copies to your work if online? If offline do you have permission to upload your articles?
– How much work do you want to show?
– Do you have at least 3 pieces, preferably of variable length OR for different platforms? Otherwise, can you create three pieces that will show your versatility and ability?

As a general rule and for SEO purposes, search engines frown on having too many external links on a page. For this reason, I would recommend highlighting just a few pieces instead of linking everything you have. Plus you can also redirect people to your contact form if they would like to see more.

Alexandra Wong of BunnySprints has a great highlight of the work she’s done on her homepage. A glimpse of her work gives the reader confidence in her work and establishes her writing niche immediately, which in a world of 3-second attention spans, is essential.

Objective: Cement reputation/claim real estate

This may seem like vanity, but if you intend to do freelance seriously and you have a somewhat common name (as I do) then yes, a domain is necessary. Here’s the thing; the only name that matters is the name that you intend to introduce yourself to clients with.

So if you have a long name like say Muhammad Iqbal Abdullah Safuan or a may-be-unpronounceable Rong Zi Shan, you don’t have to get a domain that is as long as that. This is for two reasons: it’s hard for most people to remember and you don’t want a typo to send them to a malicious site (in case you get famous enough).

So stick to an easy domain. Your full name will be listed on your site anyway, so as long as you do your SEO right it’ll point back to you. Your site, especially if you don’t have a lot of work to exhibit, should consist at the minimum an About Me, Contact and Sample Writing pages. In fact, if you can stick to a schedule, then maintaining a blog should also be part of your plans.

Najua Ismail’s site is a good example of keeping it short and sweet. Her intro immediately describes her skills and has a clear call-to-action that invites users to check her work out.

Conclusion

Yes, you can decide that you want your site to have all 3 objectives, but it’s best to pick one to focus on. You can then add some flair to your website that will achieve the other two objectives.

Have additional advice? Let me know in the comments below!

[Guide] Creating a Writer’s Portfolio

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

So recently I had a chat with D about creating her portfolio. She is primarily a fiction writer, but the ideas and tips below can be applied to any writer. Having a ready-made writer’s portfolio serves two purposes:

  • Looks good on your namecard
  • Easy to show potential clients your past work
  • Bonus: Reminder that you can do great work

Making Magic Happen

Creating Your Writer’s Portfolio

The good news is that it’s 2017 and there are plenty of options for writers, but particularly for cash-strapped Malaysian writers, to showcase their work. The bad news is that there are plenty of options, which can make deciding how to showcase your work a daunting task.

Step 1: Defining Purpose

This sounds like the easiest step but you would be surprised at how many people often splutter about this. What’s the purpose of your site? Is it to:
* Find clients?
* Be a repository of your best work?
* Cement your reputation?
* Claim your internet “real estate” before someone else with a similar name does?
* Because your lecturer told you?

Each will have slightly different organisational requirements depending on your ultimate purpose. Yes, you can have multiple purposes, but all of the above is not the right answer (especially the lecturer one). So once you’ve decided, you’re ready to take the next step.

Creating Your Sitemap

Step 2: Sitemapping

I have to admit, this is my favourite part of the process. I like sitemapping because it’s putting order to chaos. It also makes you examine whether you have enough to launch or if you’ll need to create more content. I suggest creating your sitemap to fit your main purpose. This also helps in picking the best design/layout for your needs.

Choosing Your Platform

Step 3: Picking a Platform

Your platform choices are probably going to be dictated by these factors (and most likely in the following order):
– Money
– Time you can invest
– Your purpose

So what are your choices and likely investment?

Contently and other free portfolio sites:
These are specific sites dedicated to hosting portfolios. They’re like staying in a dorm. You can put up posters and decorate it how much you like, but there will be strict limits.

_Wordpress, Blogspot and other free CMS (Content Management System):_
This is more like staying in a rented apartment. You have more flexibility to do what you want but not massive renovations (unless you pay for it). Also you need to follow the platform’s TOS or they can kick you out and keep your things.

Self-Hosted:
Like owning your own landed property in the city. You can do what you want but you need to obey the laws of the city, which is usually lax enough that you can get away with a lot of things.

Step 4: Execute!

The final step is usually to do the actual work. Once you’ve identified your purpose, your platforms and the materials you need to get things done, it’s usually pretty straight-forward to get everything else into place.

Unpopular opinion: Unless you have a lot of screenshots and/or the raw HTML files, I think writers putting their works on places like Behance is a waste of time. Those sites are primarily designer-based, and it’s hard to read long-form on it.

And yes, I know, creating your portfolio is damn terrifying. It only took me oh… two years and the threat of being without a desk job for me to actually get off my ass and create this site. However, I already used places like Contently to highlight my stuff before this, and that helped in getting my mind around the content I wanted to showcase.

Creating your own portfolio site, as I mentioned earlier isn’t just about people finding you. It’s also a reminder that you, as a writer, can do good work. Work that you are happy to say “I did that.”

As long, of course, that you actually did the work.