When a potential client requests your work samples, does it send you into cold sweats? Showcasing your work can be intimidating; as a content copywriter, your work is on display for all to see, but having a critical eye on it is nerve wracking. Truthfully though, the job can feel like your competition comes at a dime a dozen with the boom in digital nomading and work from home, but high quality is more important than ever as published content is increasing. Your only way to gain well-paying clients is to demonstrate your exceptional skill in a portfolio.

Gaining experience

The Catch-22 of any portfolio creation is that you're building it to gain experience, but you need experience to have the content for presentation. There are a couple of options here - create some samples that aren't from actual hired jobs and present these. You can also offer your services to contacts for low prices to help them while gaining content for your own purposes. Don't offer your services for free - ever - but bargains in a mutual back-scratching arrangement are fine within limits. You might also check out some online content copywriting courses, if you're lacking the inspiration for sample works. As you work through the class, you'll create content that will be portfolio-ready.

Style diversity

You won't work on the same content in every job. Every client will request different writing styles, knowledge base, and platforms. One client may request an ebook while another wants website sales copy. Choose a few designs on a variety of topics to showcase. You can include articles and blogs, brochures and newsletters, social media, and other formats. Essentially, divide your work into categories - consider a cross-reference system too. For example, you may divide the portfolio between articles, website copy, social media, and physical print - base the sections on the work you have available of course - but within each section consider a color system or some other differentiation. This might mean yellow highlighting for creative content, red for sales, blue for SEO.

However you decide to divvy this up will depend on your work and goals, but organization is key. You'll want potential clients to find easily their own style, or if you don't have that to showcase yet, the range of your abilities.

Choosing your best

When you’re interviewing, you present yourself as best as possible to make a good impression, right? Your portfolio needs the same approach, and you need to choose the best samples to represent your work. Employers can analyze any detail and you won't know exactly what impresses each ot sets off their red flags, so you'll want to choose your best. Don't go for quantity, choose quality. Keep a minimum of five diverse pieces that demonstrate your range, craftsmanship, and skill level.

In my own case, I keep featured pieces in my portfolio, but archive all past work in a link that's provided in the portfolio. They can go down the rabbit hole if they're particularly impressed by the featured pieces, but they don't have to, and usually don't - even those who most enthusiastically hire. The ones who do are typically people who connect with my writing style and like to read, or they may be hiring for bigger jobs than the portfolio demonstrates and need more evidence of my range. The benefit of keeping a complete history available is that if it's good, when you see potential employers in the file, you know you have them on the hook, almost always.

Updating your portfolio

You'll constantly gain experience and hone your skills. In five years the portfolio that you boast today may very well mortify you! That's a good thing; it means you're growing. But as you get better and time marches on, your work will become outdated. Every couple of months, re-evaluate the content you feature in your portfolio. Is there a piece you could replace with a better fit and quality? Jump in and redo it - don't forget to keep it interesting and diverse.

A great portfolio opens the door to great jobs - ideally progressively better and better as your career takes off. Clients will look for different details, and if they are already represented in one of your works you have a much higher chance of receiving the job. It benefits both you and the client - no more gathering disorganized samples at last minute, and you have feedback to know your portfolio is already impressive (and if not - change it!), so the job will be yours in much less time with little effort.

Now you know how to make the perfect portfolio - it's up to you to cultivate the content!