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March 2, 2009 10:23 AM   Subscribe

What does a writing portfolio look like these days?

I'm interviewing for nonprofit jobs, many of which have a strong writing component. I also freelance for local magazines and newspapers and have just started doing web content writing. I expect to keep going in all these directions.

But I'm a little unclear as to how writers collect and present their writing today, especially when it's across formats. I'm familiar with the idea of an online portfolio, but I have a lot of work (magazine pieces, grant narratives) that are not linkable online.

What is the best way to go about collecting and presenting my writing, especially for interview purposes? Is it better to make everything into PDF format and host it on your own site as a portfolio? Or is it still worthwhile to bring hard copies to interviews?

Thanks for any perspective you can give.
posted by Miko to Work & Money (5 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Is it better to make everything into PDF format and host it on your own site as a portfolio? Or is it still worthwhile to bring hard copies to interviews?

Cover your bases and do both. Many times, when you go an interview, you may meet with people in addition to the primary interviewer, and some of those people will only be hearing about you for the first time that day. Takeaways are always good.

You don't have to bring *everything* to the interview, just a representative sample. On those materials, clearly indicate the URL of your online portfolio, and indicate that more work can be found there. Pretend you are a brand, and these materials are your product samples. Make it easy for people to test drive you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:53 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is just SO much to write about on this. I just sent you a mail.

A portfolio is a narrative and every piece should help you in preparing the narrative that you are presenting to an interviewer.

Here is what I suggest:

1) have an online AND paper portfolio. The online is more generic while the paper is interview specific;

2) Do not make a portfolio a kitchen sink. It should be focused and targeted to maybe 5-8 pieces that serve your narrative of why Miko is all that and a bag of chips;

3) Be organized and that includes a table of contents so reviewers know what they are looking at and also provide information about each piece to provide its context including your role and the impact it had;

4) I expect to see a portfolio with resume included and information telling me whose work I am reviewing;

5) Be sure to provide a leave behind as well for the committee

Oh heck, I just emailed you a checklist. This is funny, I am in process of writing a book on this.
posted by jadepearl at 11:00 AM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, that's wonderful advice.

As to "pieces" - is it best to have consistent-looking 8.5 x 11 printouts of material, or can I use items in final published form - as in the brochures and promotional pieces I have created? I think they make the most sense when seen in finished form, but are those differently-sized, loose pieces a problem?
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on March 2, 2009

As someone who occasionally hires writers, I like to see what the sample looked like before it was edited by someone else. So rather than the published piece, I actually prefer to see the copy you sent the client or editor. That gives me a sense of how much editing I might want to do if I work with you.

I don't know if your potential employers would have the same quirk. I specifically request pre-edited samples in my job ads, and the jobs are 100% writing. If your interviewers just said "writing samples" and writing is only part of the job, they'll probably be happy with the published pieces.
posted by PatoPata at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

You need to use something like these for the design pieces. In the case of a brochure you want to show front, back and interior. Do not make the rookie mistake of forcing your reviewer to dig out your stuff but layout the material for proper display.

For writing pieces you do not want to show all three hundred pages of a reference manual you wrote you but provide them with the front cover, table of contents and 2-3 very good pages so they understand what was done.

Group work is fine and expected. Just be clear about what role you played in the final piece whether as designer, editor or writer. That is why you provide context information for each piece.

One of the most common mistakes I see is where people do not design their resumes with the end reader in mind or use a god awful MS Word template. Your resume is targeted and designed to work with the material you present.
posted by jadepearl at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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