The Renegade Writer

How to Organize the Writing Samples on Your Writer Website

By Bree Brouwer

You’ve done it! You’ve worked your butt off sending out pitches, LOIs, and completed articles to the point that you now have writing samples and clips to show for all your effort. You know they need to go on your portfolio on your writer’s site to draw in more clients, but how exactly should you do this? Alphabetically? Chronologically? Or the famous “in order of importance?”

In general, I’ve noticed three different organization techniques used on the writer’s sites I’ve stumbled across: organization by writing type, by topic/category, or by service. You can use one or more of these organization techniques depending on what your history and goals are as a freelance writer. Let’s break each one down and look at reasons for choosing a particular technique.

1. Organization by writing type

What it is: This organization technique puts your writing samples into different sections depending on the type of writing they are, such as feature, opinion, news, interview, etc. Newspapers and magazines do this all the time. You used to do this in school when you had to write a persuasive essay as opposed to a descriptive essay.

Pros & cons: It’s super easy for editors and employers to see your ability to write a range of different types. However, if they’re looking to see just examples of your travel writing, for example, they’re going to have to look at your article titles in each section to guess which those are.

Who should use it: Though this technique is great for magazine and newspaper writers in particular, really any freelance writer can easily use this organization technique. It showcases your skills in multiple writing types which will make you seem more attractive to potential clients.

2. Organization by topic/category

What it is: Probably the most common technique I’ve found, this method organizes your writing samples according to the topic of each piece. For example, if you write a lot about travel, food, and living frugally, you would separate your samples into each of these categories.

Pros & cons: Pretty much the flip-side of organizing by writing type – you make it very easy for editors interested in those specific topics to find your work, but those interested in your writing types (such as news vs. features vs. FOBs) will have to scan through your samples and find them on their own.

Who should use it: If you want to be known as an expert specifically in your chosen topics and categories, consider using this as your main organization technique.

3. Organization by service

What it is: This is just as it sounds – your writing samples are organized according to the services you offer. This means all samples of your blog posts go under “blogs” and all newsletter copy goes under “newsletters.”

Pros & cons: It’s an excellent way for potential clients to see your expertise within in each service and figure out what you have to offer, but it makes it difficult for them to search according to writing type or topic/category.

Who should use it: This technique is especially good for writers on the more business-related end of writing, like copywriters. You might want to steer clear of this format if you don’t have a lot of services to offer, or you don’t have many examples for each yet.

There’s no one right or wrong way to organize your samples. Many freelancers combine two or more of these techniques in an hierarchical order, or go with something entirely different, like ordering samples chronologically. For example, Carol Tice’s articles and blogs sample page shows multiple levels of organization techniques. She lists the magazines or companies she’s written for followed by the writing style, under which all those samples are posted.

The best way to figure out how to organize your writing samples and clips is to study other writer sites, and then choose a technique, try it, and see if it works. Don’t be afraid to mix things up or add more techniques if needed — you can always rearrange down the road. Now go organize your writing samples so clients can find what they need from you!

How about you: Do you find one organizing technique works best for the samples on your website, or do you use a mix? Let us know in the Comments below!

Bree Brouwer is a freelance writer, blogger, and copywriter who loves investigating culture, pursuing geek enlightenment, and shopping for deals like a true Dutchwoman. Her desire is to create, discuss, and promote content worth consuming; find her on Twitter at @BreeBrouwer and at www.breebrouwer.com.

Mar 11, 2013 Advice, Marketing

17 Responses

  1. My clips are currently organized by service. I did that because it was the pattern that emerged. I think that’s a good way to decide on an organizational method, is to see how your clips naturally group.

    I have a feeling (and a hope) that I’ll have more variety in the future and will have to reorganize, or use a different method all together. It seems the more clips you get, the more important a clear organization becomes.

    Thanks for the tips.

    • Bree Brouwer says:

      Sarah,
      Service is a great way to organize and very easy to do! But yes, you may need to re-organize in the future – I found myself doing this a few times already. Just make sure you do it all in one sitting so that it’s not left hanging for a week and potential clients/editors aren’t looking at a mishmash of confusion!
      Bree

  2. Great post, Bree, and very timely for me – I’m considering splitting my service based portfolio organisation up further, like separating corporate blogging from, um, whatever is the correct term for non-corporate blogging.

    Nobody’s asked it yet here, so let me pose one of the gnarliest questions about writer portfolios: do you think there’s a maximum number of sections that a portfolio can hold before it gets overcrowded?

    • Bree Brouwer says:

      Sophie,

      I’m not a full-time freelancer yet, but from what I’ve read and understood from others is that once you’ve been going for a while and have built up a solid portfolio, you should have a more distinct direction you want to go with your freelance services.

      At this point, I’d recommend you taking a good look at your portfolio and deciding what you want to be known for. Do you have solid examples in blogging (like I’m assuming you do) more than you do in article writing for print publications? Do you want to emphasize your copywriting skills, for example? Choose only a few services you want to focus on, and delete the other examples (but keep these on hand backed up in a hard drive or online cloud in case you still get interested clients!).

      I hope that helps! :)

      Bree

      • My question is related to this subject—can you have too much in your portfolio. I write children’s books, devotions, features, WWII stories, speaking engagements, classic car stories, business profiles, travel essays, newsletter. I’ve piled samples of all of these in my current blog. I’ve known for a long time this should be sorted, but am at a loss with a WordPress website. Should I create separate pages for each? What would my blog contain then? It will be a lot of work converting it all over, but necessary.

        • Bree Brouwer says:

          Putting too many pages on your site creates the idea that you can’t organize your content into one page, so I wouldn’t recommend that! Editors also shouldn’t have to click around to several different pages to see your work. I’d recommend picking 3-4 areas where you have the MOST clips and listing these by service or genre on one page on your site. You can always mention to potential clients that you have other samples besides just those!

  3. Jenn Mattern says:

    Good breakdown Bree. I’m a blogger and business writer, so I use the service-oriented portfolio style, and it’s worked well for me over the years.

    • Bree Brouwer says:

      Have you ever found yourself needing to reorganize, even on a smaller level?
      Service-oriented portfolios are generally the most popular ones I’ve seen! They do seem to be a good choice for almost everyone.

  4. JoAnna says:

    I generally organize by prestige or those publications where I held more than just a “writer” title.

    • Bree Brouwer says:

      Prestige is not one I thought of or see often, JoAnna, but it’s a good way to gain attention fast! The only problem is you of course have to have those titles in the first place, which many freelance writers at the start don’t.

  5. Jodi Helmer says:

    Great advice.

    I’ve organized my clips several different ways since I started freelancing in 2002. In the beginning, I showcased them chronologically because I didn’t have a ton of clips — and none from “name” magazines — so it made the most sense. My current portfolio is organized by genre with separate sections for travel, health and sustainable living.

    Sophie asked about the maximum number of sections a site can hold. I limited my portfolio to three so I could show a range of work in each category (as opposed to adding more sections with fewer clips, which I think would overwhelm an editor). I’ve found that when editors are interested in my clips, they’ll ask me to email a few samples. Very few editors actually go to my site and download the articles I have posted!

    Jodi

    • This is a helpful answer to my question above—can you have too much in your portfolio. I write dozens of articles each month. It would be a lot of work to organize it all, esp. if editors are not likely to look at the website. Not sure if I should attempt to organize at this point or not even though I think my blog is a hodgepodge.

      • Bree Brouwer says:

        I still keep some of my most recent or best work on my writer’s site because sometimes I have editors ask me for a portfolio link as opposed to individual samples. Best to be prepared all around!

  6. Jodi Helmer says:

    Kayleen,
    Like you, I write dozens of articles every month. I use my portfolio to show a sample of my work, not all of it. My suggestion is to choose the pieces you’re most proud of or are the best reflection of your voice and specialities and highlight those on your site. If an editor or other potential client wants to see additional examples, you can email PDFs. It’s much easier to manage a small gallery of clips than uploading everything you write (which also takes a lot of time away from working on paying assignments)!
    Jodi

  7. […] is something that I know that I need to (re)consider: “How to Organize the Writing Samples on Your Writer Website.” Many thanks to the Renegade Writer blog for posting and urging that consideration along. (I somehow […]

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