Prospective clients will ask to see your work without a doubt. Showcasing copy work is very different from showing design work – sort of. People like visuals, so there is a possibility that if your copy isn’t that hot, but the design that it’s sitting in is, they might imagine your copy is actually quite great. Consequently, this works in the reverse as well. So, if your copy is amazing, but it is presented as a Word document, a viewer might think it’s boring and poorly written. Notice that I said ‘viewer’…frequently, this is what prospects do – meaning they don’t take or have the time to read all of your precious copy. I know, I know…hard to believe!
That said, you must have a print or a web portfolio available (both if possible):
1. If you are totally new to the game and you don’t have any writing samples that you can actually showcase, make up a portfolio. I DID. Yes, yours truly had been writing forever, but save a few grant proposals, I had nothing to show when I struck out on my own – so I made it all up. I gave myself assignments and wrote ads, brochures, catalog pages, etc.
If this is your situation, write sample pieces that reflect exactly what you’d like to write professionally – pick the formats (re. website), the topics (re. the environment), the size/type of company (re. 100 employees/non-profit), etc. But vary all of your samples, even within a topic, to show the breadth of your skills. And don’t be shy about telling a prospect what you did – this takes gumption my friends – and a ton of drive, creativity and discipline. If you’re really stuck, email me and I’ll send you some assignments.
2. If you have a few choice samples, you may want to pre-package several of them to be mailed or emailed at a moment’s notice. This makes you look super prepared, and saves you a ton of time (from scrambling to put each individual packet together). Trust me on this one.
3. Assemble your print portfolio in a professional portfolio book with clear sleeve pages. This looks great and protects your work. I found mine at an art store…and I had one of my ‘artistic’ friends put it together because, like many writer types, my fine art skills are simply pathetic.
4. Your web portfolio provides people with the time to actually read your work – so make sure they can. Snapshots that work for graphic designers don’t really cover your writing samples fully. I chose to provide people with the option to open each piece as a pdf – or just to get the snapshot overview.
5. Update your portfolio (says the copywriter who has done no such thing for over a year!!!). Guilty as charged, though as of this posting, my updates should be live in a couple of weeks. As you build your portfolio, tell the world. You’ll learn and grow…show it off.
6. Always ask clients for samples of the finished product (actual print pieces and digital files). As I mentioned, your copy will look much better when it lives in a designed, glossy brochure or site than on an 8×11 piece of printer paper.
7. Remember that everything is your portfolio. While I’m talking about creating an online or a print portfolio, when you are a writer everything you write is fair game. All of your communications (email specifically), your website, your brochure, your blog, your laundry list – everything you write becomes a sample of your craft.