How to Build an Online Writing Portfolio That Dazzles Potential Clients

/ 19 min read
Eliza Frakes

Whether you've been writing professionally for years, or just decided to try your hand in the freelance world, creating a great online writing portfolio is an essential step in any writer's career.

Your portfolio is your calling card; a showcase of your best and most recent work. But there's a lot to consider: what kind of pieces should you include? How many? How do you make it stand out to potential employers?

In this article, we'll outline the steps you need to take, including which tools to use and how to make your writing portfolio shine. Whether you're a copywriter or a poet, a freelance writer or a novelist, you'll have your portfolio site up and running in no time.

What is a writing portfolio?

A writing portfolio is a collection of your best written work. Once upon a time, this would have been clippings and snippets kept in an actual folder, but thanks to the magic of the internet, writing portfolios can be hosted online and accessed by folks around the world.

Portfolios don't just exist for the fun of it. A writing portfolio demonstrates your writing ability to prospective employers. It's a way to show off topics you've written about and any sites or publications you've written for.

Writing portfolios usually consist of published work (this could be print or online) and writing samples in the niche you want to write in. A portfolio will look different based on the type of writing you do, and what stage of your career you're in.

For example, an experienced business copywriter's portfolio will be full of advertising campaigns, prestigious awards and a long client list, whereas an aspiring author will likely use creative writing samples and short stories.

💡 Tip: A common misconception is that a writing portfolio has to show off every single piece of writing you've ever done. That's not true. Your portfolio should be made up of relevant, up-to-date content that showcases your best writing.

Why is having a writing portfolio important?

A writing portfolio is a professional way for you to introduce your writing to readers, potential clients and collaborators. It lets you build a unique body of work, show off your abilities and display your writing all in one place.

Writing portfolios have two main objectives:

  • To get writing work: writers send their portfolio to potential employers to demonstrate their proficiency.
  • To create awareness: a portfolio is your online 'home', a place where people can learn more about you, and the work you've done.

How these goals manifest differs based on the type of writer you are. For example, an author might use their portfolio to showcase their books and share advice with their readers, while a blogger might just have links to recently published posts.

In addition to being a career move, compiling a portfolio can be an exercise in self-discovery. Stepping back and examining your body of work can help you to identify trends, through-lines and topics of interest you didn't previously recognise.

How to create a writing portfolio in 7 easy steps

There are tonnes of tools for creating writing portfolios out there. But it's not just a matter of uploading all your work and waiting for the job offers to roll in—there are certain best practices to follow to give your portfolio the best chance of standing out.

1. Define your writing style and goals

Your voice is what makes your writing special. It's the one thing that separates you from every other writer. So, before getting caught up in the nitty-gritty details of creating your portfolio, spend some time defining who you are as a writer.

What do you like to write about? Do you want to be a freelancer? A copywriter? An author of children's books? Is your natural inclination towards humour, or do you excel at explaining complex topics in a digestible way? Do you have a niche? Or do you want to be a generalist?

You need to be able to answer these types of questions. By understanding yourself as a writer right from the start, you can set more achievable objectives and build a killer portfolio that fits in with your broader goals.

Let's say you want to be a food writer, but you happen to have written an essay in the style of Virginia Woolf. While your essay may be an impressive read, a blog post on the best poutine in your area would likely be a better item to add to your portfolio.

💡 Tip: Beginning writers in particular can be scared of the idea of committing to a single niche. It may feel limiting, but often specialising in a specific topic or writing type can make you more successful and in demand, not less. Think about the difference between a heart surgeon and a general practitioner.

2. Gather your best writing samples

In order to curate your best work you need a selection of writing to choose from. As a rule, you'll want anywhere between 10 and 20 pieces. Too few and it's hard for people to get a true idea of your work, too many and people will feel overwhelmed.

As with most things in life, when building a writing portfolio you should value quality over quantity. One or two thought-provoking essays are going to make much more of an impact on prospective employers than 30 articles filled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

When curating your writing samples, trust your judgement. Only compare yourself against your best work. Don't hold your pieces up against each other, not every piece of writing ever published. Remember, your portfolio is a reflection of your abilities right now—you can always add pieces as you develop.

If you're just starting your writing career you might be wondering how you can build a portfolio without any published work? Show initiative by starting a blog, and reach out to companies with an offer to write free guest posts in return for a byline.

💡 Tip: Make sure your writing isn't randomly displayed. If you write in a few styles or mediums, they should be organised and categorised properly. Likewise, split professional work from any personal blogging—and put the work you're most proud of front and centre.

3. Choose a platform to host your portfolio

There are loads of sites you can use to host an online writing portfolio—from Wix and Clippings.me to Paperform and WordPress. Not all of them work in exactly the same way though, and can be split into three distinct categories:

  • Dedicated portfolio sites: Websites like Clippings.me, Journo Portfolio and Muck Rack, which allow you to set up a landing page where you can host links to your writing.
  • Website builders: Websites like WordPress and Squarespace where you can create a website of any kind, including a writing portfolio.
  • Publishing platforms: Writer websites like Medium or Substack where writers can publish content and build a community between writers and readers.

Paperform is a versatile platform that sits somewhere between a portfolio site and a website builder, and can be used to host a writing portfolio. Just build a one-page website, customise it to your liking and insert links to your work. It's the ideal choice for writers who want an easy to use interface with all the integration, automation, and customisation features you need.

We'll take a more in-depth look at each platform later in the next section. Whichever platform you choose, make sure to use a custom domain to give your portfolio a more professional appearance when sharing it online.

4. Design your portfolio

You're a writer, so the writing in your portfolio is going to be the star of the show. But as much as everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is that site design is an important part of showcasing your work.

The key is to balance professionalism and simplicity. Use fonts and colours that put legibility over aesthetics—it's not the time for your favourite calligraphy—and make sure the text is readable on both mobile and desktop devices.

Colours can be an excellent way to show off your personality, but do so carefully. No one wants to read an article with bright yellow text, or a pink background. Stay with black on white, and if you must use colour, leave it for graphics, headings, menus or buttons.

💡 Tip: Sadly, the downside of using portfolio sites like Clippings.me is that customisation features are lacking. In contrast, tools like Paperform or WordPress allow you much more control over your design.

5. Add your writing samples

Now it's time to populate your portfolio with writing samples. As we touched on previously, usually this will be a combination of links to published work and your personal writing projects (e.g. blog posts, short stories, or advertisements).

If you're linking to published work, double check that the links are active. Websites update or remove content all the time, and the last thing you need is to send a client to an amazing piece of writing that no longer exists.  

When it comes to adding your content, the process is straightforward. Just make sure your articles are easy to navigate. Some writers display their work in chronological order, some opt to include different categories or sections—either is fine, as long as the layout is clear.  

As a writer, you may have more marketable skills than you even realize. In addition to showcasing your writing, be sure to include any non-writing skills you can offer potential employers or clients on your website. Whether it's editing, translation services, or SEO mastery, don’t hesitate to let folks know what you bring to the table.

6. Create an insightful (and interesting) biography

The majority of writers include a short biography to provide further context to folks who visit their portfolio. Usually this is a brief overview of their career achievements, with some personal details to introduce the person behind the words.

A bio can be as intricate or as basic as you want. At the very least you'll want to add a bit of information about yourself—who you are, what type of writing you do,  and who you've written for. But, it doubles as an opportunity to show off your personality.

For example, look at how copywriter Al Duggan uses his bio to showcase his sense of humour, while also expressing his skills as a writer, and showing off some of the high profile publications his work has been featured in.

Screenshot from writer's website, three photos on white background(Image Source: Al Duggan)

Humour not your thing? That's fine. You might be more of a serious type, or decide to tell your entire life story. Showcase your personality in your bio so that readers and prospective clients can build a connection with you.

Most writers include their contact details below their biography. This makes sense as usually people will read your work, then go to the bio page to learn more about you, before getting in touch. Ensure your contact form is easy to locate and simple to fill out. If you don't, you'll risk losing potential clients before they get through the door.

If you use Paperform you can build a one-page website with a contact form, or embed a contact form into whatever website builder you choose to host your portfolio. There are 650+ templates to choose from to make the process easy.

7. Share your portfolio with the world

Once your portfolio website is up and running it's time to let the world know about it. Family, friends, coworkers, the barista at your local coffee shop—make sure everyone in your network knows it exists. You never know who may be interested in your writing (and word-of-mouth referrals are extremely valuable).

Some people choose only to share their portfolio when applying to writing jobs and freelance gigs. That's certainly a valid option, but you'll be surprised by the opportunities that can pop up when you share it across social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn or even linking it to your Instagram profile.

Try Paperform Now!

14 Day Free Trial, No CC Required

Online writing portfolio sites to consider

We've covered the steps to creating a professional writing portfolio. But which tool should you use to actually host it? Let's take a deeper look at the portfolio platforms writers use, so you can find the right solution for your needs.

Paperform

screenshot of the Paperform homepage(Image Source: Paperform)

💰 Pricing

  • 14-day free trial
  • Essentials: $20/mo (billed yearly)
  • Pro: $40/mo (billed yearly)
  • Agency: $135/mo (billed yearly)

👍 Pros

  • Easy to navigate, no code or web design experience required
  • 24/7 support for any troubleshooting issues
  • Fully customizable designs with loads of templates to choose from
  • 3,000+ Direct and Zapier integrations with popular apps

👎 Cons

  • Can’t be used to create multi-tab websites
  • Not ideal for writers with huge bodies of work

With Paperform you can create a streamlined online writing portfolio in minutes. It's an ideal option for professional writers who don't want the hassle that comes with designing a huge website, but require more design flexibility than existing portfolio tools provide.

Get started by building a one-page website. You can customise it to look exactly how you want—add a header, customise fonts and colours, insert videos, images and gifs, and of course, link to your writing. Lightning fast and easy to tweak to your taste, it's a clean solution for writer's who value a set and forget platform.

Thanks to our versatile tools, you can embed a contact form straight on the page, and even have the option for potential clients to book meetings with you right from your portfolio. Want more features? Our integrations empower you connect to 3,000+ of your favourite apps and automate contact, payment, or organisational processes.

If you require a really complex website, Paperform may not be the guy for you. But for busy writers looking for one app that can fulfill a variety of functions—from taking payments and making bookings to hosting your portfolio, Paperform is the answer.

Wordpress

screenshot of the WordPress homepage, blue and white background(Image Source: WordPress.org)

💰 Pricing

  • Free (but you need to pay for hosting, domain etc.)

👍 Pros

  • Reliable and popular
  • Range of options for different budgets
  • Options to customize your domain name and ad usage

👎 Cons

  • Can be difficult to navigate for beginners
  • Requires some knowledge of web design
  • Not a lot of templates specifically for online writing portfolios

WordPress is a tried and true option for people looking to create a new website, and is particularly popular with Bloggers. While it's not specifically designed for writing portfolios, WordPress' plugins and themes make almost anything possible.

One of the benefits of WordPress is that you have all the functionality of a website at your disposal. This means you can build a blog to supplement your portfolio, or have multiple pages for different part of your site (e.g. About Me, or Services pages).

WordPress powers nearly 30% of the internet. It's a great solution for writers with a basic understanding of web design, the patience to learn its tools and those who are looking for a full-scale CMS.

Squarespace

Screenshot of squarespace homepage, pink geometric background(Image Source: Squarespace)

💰 Pricing:

  • 14 day free trial
  • Personal: $12/mo (billed yearly)
  • Business: $18/mo (billed yearly)
  • Basic commerce: $26/mo (billed yearly)
  • Advanced commerce: $40/mo (billed yearly)

👍 Pros:

  • Highly customizable
  • Lots of templates to choose from
  • Modern, visual design

👎 Cons:

  • Requires some knowledge of web design to use well
  • More targeted towards online businesses
  • Pricey if you want the more advanced marketing options

Squarespace is a frontrunner in the website building landscape. Like WordPress, it's not specifically designed for writers, but it's a flexible, professional option for hosting your portfolio.

The allure of Squarespace is that it makes it easy for non-developers to build a good looking website. This makes it a good choice for writers looking to add lots of images or graphics into their portfolios (e.g. copywriters who need to display ad campaigns).

It is on the pricier end of the spectrum. But for the price you get blog capabilities, access to an array of templates and 24/7 customer support. It's safe to say that Squarespace is best suited for career writers willing to pay a premium.

Clippings.me

screenshot of clippings.me homepage(Image Source: Clippings.me)

💰 Pricing

  • Free to start
  • Premium: $9.99/mo

👍 Pros

  • Designed specifically for hosting online writing portfolios
  • Great for writers on a budget
  • Easy to use for beginners

👎 Cons

  • Not a lot of options to customize the design and look of your site
  • No integrated forms or drop down menus
  • Fewer advanced options and features

Clippings.me is a free website builder designed specifically for building a freelance writing portfolio. It allows you to build a no-frills landing page that includes a short bio, social media links and links to your writing.

When we say no-frills we mean it. Unlike most other options on this list, there are no templates and few customisation options. You can add your own display photo and cover image, but apart from that, every Clippings.me portfolio has an identical style.

The upside is that Clippings.me is free and exceedingly simple to setup, making it an appealing choice for freelance writers on a budget, or anyone who wants a portfolio that's extremely basic and doesn't take much upkeep.

Journo Portfolio

screenshot of journoportfolio homepage(Image Source: JournoPortfolio)

💰 Pricing

  • Free for the most basic option
  • Personal: $5/mo
  • Pro: $10/mo

👍 Pros

  • Entirely free option
  • Designed specifically for hosting online writing portfolios
  • Easier to use and customise than a full website

👎 Cons

  • Default domain is journoportfolio.yourname.com
  • Only a few templates available
  • Less relevant for writers who aren't journalists

Journo Portfolio is another online writing portfolio solution. It sits somewhere between a website builder and a tool like Clippings.me, with multiple layouts to choose from and customisation options to make your portfolio unique.

There's one particularly useful feature that makes Journo Portfolio a standout—the ability to grab articles by URL. Just copy the URL link, and it'll add the title, content, image and publication. This is a lifesaver for time-strapped writers who don't relish the idea of spending hours adding all their latest work.  

Like Paperform, you can embed a contact form on the page so people can get in touch with you. Journo Portfolio sites are also mobile optimised, and offer built-in analytics so you can see how many visitors your site gets.

Medium

Screenshot of the medium homepage, yellow background with black M's(Image Source: Medium)

💰 Pricing

  • Free to sign up

👍 Pros

  • Potential to get paid for your writing via the Partner Program
  • Medium community becomes your built-in readers
  • Completely free to start publishing

👎 Cons

  • Few customisation options
  • Your work will be shared among other writers work as part of the platform
  • Not designed for creating online writing portfolios

Medium is a blogging platform where writers can publish their writing to an existing audience of readers. Built by Twitter's co-founders, it's designed to present writing in an aesthetically appealing way without the need for a complex website.

While it's not intended to be used specifically as an online writing portfolio, it's used by many writers for that exact use case. By default, Medium displays your writing in a feed. You can then design a basic profile, including editing the colours, fonts and the basic layout. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it looks professional.

The interesting thing about setting up a portfolio page with Medium, is that your portfolio can second as a blog. You're able to gain followers and make money through the Partner program, which offers small payments based on your readership.

Substack

screenshot of substack homepage, phone on desk(Image Source: Substack)

💰 Pricing

  • Free to sign up
  • If you charge readers, Substack takes 10% of the revenue.

👍 Pros

  • Writer-focused, modern option for building your own community of readers
  • Gives you the opportunity to make money from sharing your writing
  • Completely free to start

👎 Cons

  • Not intended to be used as an online portfolio
  • The homepage layout is basic
  • Few customisation options

Substack is an online publishing platform that makes it easy for writers to build their own subscription newsletter. Much like Medium, it's not explicitly designed to act as a portfolio, however thanks to its easy-to-use tools, it's possible to mould it into one.

Writers have flocked to Substack over the last year, due to its creator-first mentality and easy publishing tools. While each post is automatically sent to your subscribers in a newsletter, you also have a homepage that looks and feels like a blog, which you can easily use as a portfolio.

This may be a left of field option in comparison to other tools, but Substack is a direct way to build a dedicated readership while also curating a portfolio of your best work. Draw a big enough community and you'll be able to monetise your work too.

5 Writing Portfolio Examples for Inspiration

By now you've got all the information you need to go off and create your fancy new online writing portfolio. But before you do that, let's take a look at some top notch portfolios to inspire yours.

1. Caitlin Reid — Copywriter & Journalist

Caitlin Reid's homepage, picture of ocean with text(Image Source: Caitlin Reid)

Caitlin Reid has used Clippings.me to create her writer portfolio. Her site is simple but has all the elements of a portfolio site: a short bio, links to her work, and her contact details.

She's made the most of Clippings.me's limitations by using the bio section to outline her skills and services. Below, her writing is clearly linked and organised by type (ad, copywriting and press release).

2. Helen Gebre — Copywriter

Helen Gebre's writing website, picture of a woman on slate background(Image Source: Helen Gebre)

Helen Gebre has chosen a sleek, modern Squarespace website to host her portfolio. The visuals of the site project a sense of a long-term professional, which is backed up by her comprehensive writing samples.

Note how Helen uses her 'About' page to introduce herself both as a person and a writer. She also has a 'Let's Chat' section, which has a basic contact form. The site is easy for potential employers to navigate, and her work is categorised clearly.

3. Ash Read — Editorial Director

Ash Read's homepage, man in front of trees(Image Source: Ash Read)

Ash Read's online portfolio is one to take notes from. Right on the homepage, he has a short bio introducing himself, accompanied by a clear picture and a collection of web publications that have featured his work.

Ash's writing samples are displayed in a feed in the 'Articles' tab. In the site header he's included a link to Breaking Band, a podcast series he helped produce for Buffer, which shows off his multichannel content skills. The 'Now' tab displays projects he's currently working on, which is a nice touch.

4. Devon Price — Author

Devon Price's medium page(Image Source: Devon Price)

Author Devon Price's Medium profile doubles as both a blog and a portfolio. The basic layout allows them to feature just the essentials: bio to the left, contact info above the content, and his articles in a feed to the right.

While Medium doesn't allow advanced customisation, Devon has done a good job of making a site that looks unique to him. Using the same colour in his background as he does in his profile picture is an effective way to add some personal branding.

5. David Reiss — Copywriter

David Reiss's writer's page, cartoon man waving(Image Source: David Reiss)

David Reiss manages to balance professionalism with his own personality with his engaging copywriting portfolio. The homepage features simple links arrayed to the left of screen with a sketched self-portrait on the right.

Reiss lets the work speak for itself. Each link redirects to a page with an outline of the project, followed by video and social links to each campaign (this is the way to go for copywriting). He's also put a bunch of effort into a bio that showcases his sense of humour.

Over to you

There's no shortage of tips and tricks about how to 'make it' as a writer, with many contradicting the last. One thing is certain: building a high-quality writing portfolio that shows your work is a crucial step to any writing career.

Remember that a tool is just that: a tool. It shouldn't be a chore to update your new portfolio, or give you a headache every time you try to remember how to adjust the text. Whichever tool you choose, it should work for you, and make your life easier.

Why not get started with Paperform's 14-day free trial? A beautiful writing portfolio is just the beginning. With our digital toolkit you can simplify your writing business and free up time to do what you do best—write.


About the author
Eliza Frakes
Content Writer
Eliza Frakes is a content writer at Paperform. When she’s not writing for the blog, she’s probably writing a play (or acting in one), swimming in the ocean, or taking her very cute dog on a hike.

Try Paperform Now!

14 Day Free Trial, No CC Required
paperform
How to Use Paperform to Support Your Nonprofit Work

Looking for new nonprofit management software? From collecting donations to organising events, Paper...

Eliza Frakes
23 Sep 22
productivity
A Practical Guide to Beating (and Preventing) Burnout

Tired of feeling burnt-out at work? These simple strategies can help you nip employee burnout in the...

Kat Boogaard
19 Sep 22
tutorials
How to Generate a Dropbox Direct Download Link

Need an automatic download link? You can make one with Dropbox in four steps, or use Paperform's dir...

Eliza Frakes
16 Sep 22
inspiration
7 Pre-Screening Questions to Find the Best Candidates

These 7 pre-screening questions can help you filter candidates from the start, so you can save your ...

Kat Boogaard
7 Sep 22