5 tips to create a successful copywriting portfolio
If you have strong communication skills and enjoy writing, a career in copywriting could be a good fit for you.
Copywriters produce copy for a wide range of purposes, including printed materials, digital advertising and product packaging. They may create content for websites, businesses or local press, and often manage several clients or projects at any one time. To succeed in this area, copywriters must create content that fulfils a client’s brief and meets their needs accordingly.
Copywriters should have a well-crafted portfolio of work in order to attract new clients and advertise their services, particularly if they work in a freelance capacity. If you’re interested in building a career as a copywriter, it is essential to develop a portfolio that highlights your best work and demonstrates your writing abilities.
We’ve compiled this guide to offer you some tips on how to create a successful copywriting portfolio that presents your skills in the best possible light. Along the way, we’ll share some pearls of wisdom from award-winning writer and UAL short course tutor, Elise Valmorbida, who leads our Creative Writing Fact or Fiction Intensive Online Short Course. You may also be interested in reading about the positive power of creative writing.
1# Think about the kind of work you want to do
This may sound obvious, but it’s very important to spend some time thinking about the kind of work that appeals to you as a copywriter, as it’s this content that you’ll need to focus on presenting in your portfolio. Think about whether or not there’s a specific area that you want to specialise in, or whether there is a type of copy you particularly enjoy working on. If you enjoy writing copy for websites, for instance, try to include some examples of website projects that demonstrate your skills in this context.
Tailoring your portfolio according to your specific interests will show that you have a clear direction and area of expertise. It will also show that your portfolio has been carefully curated to appeal to a professional or specific copywriting market.
Elise suggests that it may be helpful to think of your portfolio as a ‘collection of movable parts’ rather than a fixed entity; ‘if it’s online, it’s easy for you to create different versions. Show people the work that is most likely to interest them. If it’s an in-person meeting, make sure to bring work that is beautifully designed and produced—it’s a delight to hold and explore a well-made artefact, to see the interplay between the visual and verbal elements. Show work that you’re proud of—no apologies.’
2# Be selective
Keep in mind that it is not always necessary to include every piece of writing you have produced to date. Potential clients will not always have the time to look at every sample you present, so it’s important to ensure that your portfolio features a selection of your best work. This will enable you to show your full potential as a copywriter and generate interest in your work.
‘If you have plenty of portfolio pieces to choose from, be selective’ says Elise, ‘adapt your portfolio for each situation. If the viewer is looking for a writer to create attention-grabbing names, don’t show them a hundred pages from a stolid annual report, no matter how proud you are of the word-count.’
Remember that you also don’t need to display the entirety of each writing sample in your portfolio. Short extracts or images of published web pages can be an effective way to show your range as a writer and give clients an overview of your skills.
3# Include client feedback
Client feedback can be a great way to highlight the work you have done in the past and show how you met a particular client brief. If you can, try to include any positive testimonials or feedback you have received to boost your profile and demonstrate the quality of your work.
Including client feedback can give you the edge you need to secure new clients. Again, think about the relevance of the feedback you include and don’t be tempted to display every comment or mention you’ve received if it doesn’t particularly reflect your current work or your future aims.
Think of your portfolio as a work in progress - if you haven’t received any client feedback yet, leave a space or allocate a page to add it in at a later date.
4# Develop an overview of your projects
It’s important to include an accurate description of the projects in your portfolio in order to show your writing process and explain how you resolved any issues along the way. Include a short overview of each project that addresses the main objectives and how you achieved them. Be sure to mention the outcome of the campaign and how your work added value or contributed to its success. You may not be able to do this for every project in your portfolio, but including examples of your process can be a good way to show clients how they may benefit from your knowledge.
Elise recommends varying the pitch, pace, tone and volume throughout your portfolio; ‘the first work you show should be something that has a chance of captivating your reader. After that initial engagement, they’ll be more willing to invest time and attention in the projects that follow. Remember that long-form copy takes a long time to read. End with a wow.’
5# Keep it simple
It may be tempting to spend a lot of time designing your portfolio using different visual effects or software, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s your writing skills clients are interested in, rather than your design abilities. That said, make sure you consider font choices and spacing to ensure your formatting is consistent and easy to read. Your portfolio should be clearly presented in a logical order to be accessible for audiences. Think about organising your work into subcategories, or arrange by date and subject.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, proofread your portfolio carefully to ensure you haven’t missed any mistakes. Grammatical or spelling mistakes can undermine your professionalism and put clients off, so it’s important to pay close attention to these details.
Elise stresses the importance of quality control; ‘check it and check it again. Spell-check is not enough. Ask someone else to review your work with a fresh pair of eyes. So many portfolios are marred by distracting errors—or typoos, as I like to call them. The reader would be right to wonder: what else is not right? Copy-editing isn’t as grand as The Big Idea, but it’s a signal of quality, accuracy and attention to detail.’
If you’re keen to improve your writing skills, you’ll need to practise different styles and techniques as much as possible. Take a look at our creative writing short courses to see how they could help you.