How to create a writing portfolio

You’re on the job hunt, and a friend sends you the email of the managing editor at your dream company. The editor is excited to interview you after hearing such great things and asks for samples of your work. Your heart drops—you don’t have a portfolio!

If you’re a writer—or aspiring to be one—you know creating a writing portfolio is essential. Whether you’re graduating from ad school, switching industries or careers, or selling yourself as a freelancer, your writing portfolio is an essential tool to show (rather than tell) people how good you are.

Employers, clients, and even programs almost always ask for a portfolio in the selection process, whether you specialize in copywriting, blogging, UX writing, technical writing, journalism, fiction, poetry, or something else entirely. So getting a jump-start on selecting, designing, and editing your book before you start applications is a good idea.

But how do you create a writing portfolio? What should it look like? How do you select your samples? And should you make it digital or print? There’s a lot to consider when creating your portfolio, and it can seem daunting. But don’t worry! We’re here to help you get started.

What is a writing portfolio?

A writing portfolio is a collection of your best writing samples to tangibly prove yourself as a writer, editor, and marketer. Your portfolio is your best chance to show freelance clients, publishers, and hiring managers that you know your stuff. It also helps them get a sense of what kind of writing you specialize in, your style, voice, tone, and versatility, as well as any other relevant skills or services you offer.

No matter your level of experience, a strong portfolio can help you stand out from the crowd. It’s also an evolving document—it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first day (and it probably won’t be). As you grow in your profession, you can add or update samples, or even start fresh with a new portfolio if need be.

Why do you need a writing portfolio?

A portfolio has become an essential tool for any creative professional, especially when it comes to the written word. Bloggers, authors, copywriters, and storytellers can all leverage a writing portfolio to position themselves in a competitive landscape. 

Whether you’re a freelancer bidding on a gig or a UX writer applying for a job, your writing portfolio will help improve your hireability while giving prospects a taste of your personality and skill set. In almost any form of professional writing—be it billboards, emails, video ads, or social posts—having a portfolio is a requirement to even be considered.

Person writing in a notebook, planning their writing portfolio.

How to create a writing portfolio: 7 fundamental steps

The point of a portfolio is to give viewers a sense of what you can do for them. And portfolios can look very different while still getting that job done. Some of our Blurb writers have gotten hired by emailing screenshots of Facebook posts—while others have opened up professionally bound layflat photo books during interviews. Keeping in mind your end goal (selling yourself) will help ground you in this process.

Here are seven steps to help you create the perfect writing portfolio:

1. Introduce yourself

If your portfolio is your full sales pitch, think of your introduction as your elevator pitch. This sets the tone and context for your work. State your name, the type of writing you do, and any relevant background information that describes who you are.

Remember, this is a writing sample, too.  Make it unique, valuable, and memorable—and from your natural voice. This is your chance to tell your story from your point of view. Make it count.

2. Organize your writing samples

Gather up all relevant writing samples you have. These can be everything from Super Bowl ads you’ve scripted to op-eds you’ve written for your high school newspaper. And if you don’t have enough, you can create hypothetical projects for brands that exist or that you make up to showcase your skills—just make it clear they’re examples and not paid work.

Once you have all your writing samples gathered, it’s time to organize them. Keep in mind who you’re showing your work to and include the type of samples they’re most interested in. If you’re angling to carve a niche, consider grouping your work into topic or format clusters. If you’re showing off versatility, group them by medium.

Here are the top ways to organize your writing portfolio:

  • Chronologically: If you have a wide range of writing samples or a linear progression in your career, consider arranging your work chronologically and share how your skills have evolved.
  • Topic: If you specialize in particular types of writing, you could group your samples by topic. For example, you could organize your work by industry for your technical writing or trade book writing—or by sections dedicated to industries, verticals, or genres.
  • Medium: If you write for various mediums and channels, be it journalism stories, ad creative, UX writing, storytelling, or blogging, organize your work by these key pillars to help readers understand your versatility as a writer.

No matter how you organize your work, start and end with your strongest samples. Recruiters spend less than three minutes per portfolio, whereas most hiring managers spend five to 10 minutes. Either way, that’s not a lot of time. Make sure your portfolio makes a splash to start and is easily scannable.

3. Cull your writing samples

Once you’ve compiled all relevant writing samples for your portfolio, now comes the difficult task of narrowing them down. If you’re in the early stages of your career, you may not have a lot of work to distill. But for experienced writers, it’s important to whittle down your samples to showcase only your best work. 

When making the final selection of samples to include in your writing portfolio, consider the following:

  • Diversity: Depending on the structure you envision for your portfolio, consider choosing samples that capture your range and versatility as a writer. For example, creative writers might want to include a mix of short stories, screenplays, essays, or novels.
  • Relevance: Your writing samples should reflect the type of writing you want to do in the future. If you’re interested in writing for a particular publication, highlight samples that overlap with that publication’s style and tone.
  • Quality: As a rule, only include your best work when creating a writing portfolio. It can be helpful to recruit a mentor, friend, or colleague to get different perspectives on what others view as your highest-quality samples.

4. Craft your navigation

As you organize and narrow down what work samples you’d like to include, you can start identifying patterns for structuring your writing portfolio. In doing so, think about how you’d like viewers to navigate your book.

A table of contents, menu, or sections can provide guideposts for viewers to better travel through your writing portfolio and understand what it includes. In addition to thematic structure and the general flow of your portfolio, consider design elements like thumbnail images for each piece or major section. This adds a visual appeal and a touch of creativity that goes a long way in grabbing your prospective readers. Other fundamentals include:

  • Sections: If you have ample writing samples to include, divide your portfolio into sections or chapters. This will make it easier for readers to find the pieces they’re most interested in.
  • Navigation: Make sure your table of contents or website menu is simple to understand. In a digital context, you can include links to each section or piece of writing for easy navigation.
  • Design: Your portfolio should be clean, clear, concise, and easy to read. Set the mood appropriately and use a consistent font, color scheme, and design elements for your sections, headlines, and menus to make them cohesive with the rest of the portfolio.

5. Design a layout

Once you have all of your writing samples selected and organized, you’ll need to think about how to best present your work in a way that’s visually appealing and on-brand with your particular style and tone. This is where the design of your portfolio comes in. When designing your portfolio, consider the following:

  • Choose a format that’s creative yet easy to navigate. Whether creating a hardcopy portfolio or a website portfolio, you want to choose a format that aligns with your writing style and the context of your samples but also one that’s easy to navigate. Be creative but don’t let the design distract readers from your portfolio’s content. 
  • Use a clear and readable font. Make sure that the font you choose is easy to read, both in print and digitally on the screen. It’s best to stick with very simple, legible fonts that won’t distract from your writing.
  • Incorporate images or graphics. Consider adding visuals to your writing portfolio that capture the context of your work. Whether they’re symbolic photos or images that truly correspond with your samples, consider imagery that relates to your writing and engages your readers. Just be sure that they don’t detract from your copy.
  • Keep it consistent. While you want your writing portfolio to be visually engaging, you also want to ensure that it’s professional and on point with your personal brand. Often, less is more. So, avoid using too many colors or fonts, and put together a design layout that’s consistent and aligned.

6. Summarize your work

Depending on the length of your writing portfolio, it can help to provide some context for your samples—especially if you can prove your worth with impressive stats. Similar to a novel’s blurb shown on the back cover of a book, these could be short summaries that introduce individual samples, case studies that outline your business results, or thematic sections of your portfolio that add color to your writer’s journey.

Writing short summaries or blurbs of your work gives readers a sense of what they can expect from each piece of writing. While not a requirement for writing portfolios, these blurbs can help guide the overarching story behind your experience. When writing these short summaries, consider the following elements:

  • Overviews that summarize your work. You can include the genre, topic, purpose, brand, or writing style.
  • Your intentions or goals. Break down the problem you solved with your writing pieces, like whether your objective was entertaining, educating, or persuading your readers, and who the project was for.
  • The scope of the project and your role as a writer. Make sure you highlight whether your work was part of a larger publication or your own personal blog. Talk about timelines, titles, and how you contributed to any large-scale projects or group work.
  • Any key performance indicators (KPIs). Hiring managers on marketing teams will be very interested in the results of your work, like how much traffic a piece earned, how much engagement it received, or how your work led to a particular business outcome.

7. Include your resume and contact info

When using your portfolio to land your dream job, including your resume (or a version of it) is a good supplement to showcase all your experience. You could include it at the beginning or end of your portfolio. In any case, it should be easy to find and relevant to your target audience.

You’ll also want to include a way for viewers to contact you, like your professional email address or social media account. Depending on the context of your portfolio, you may even consider adding a link to your LinkedIn or Instagram profile so employers can see more information about you and easily get in touch. If you print your portfolio, add links or QR codes to your professional website or digital portfolio, too.

Person writing in a blank journal.

Tips for creating a writing portfolio that wows

Now that you’re familiar with creating a writing portfolio, several additional points are worth calling out. These are general best practices and things to consider when bringing your portfolio to life.

Quality over quantity

Less is often more, as it’s generally better to showcase a small collection of high-quality writing samples rather than inundating your readers with numerous less-than-stellar pieces. Be selective with the work you choose, and aim for a diverse range that emphasizes your strengths and genres of focus.

Know your target audience

Identify your target audience for your writing portfolio, as this can help determine the specific writing samples you include and how you organize them. Keep in mind that you should tailor your portfolio to suit the needs of your potential clients or employers. Print on demand allows you to swap in and out samples that best align with each client or employer—or you can tailor your digital portfolio with specific landing pages for each application or industry.

Keep it clean, simple, and error-free

Your writing portfolio should be easy to navigate, visually appealing, and error-free. Use a simple design and make sure your writing samples are well-organized and clearly presented. Your portfolio’s overall design layout and format will help readers digest its contents. 

And since you’re a writer, typos are usually unforgivable. Get a friend or mentor (or both!) to proof your work before you send it out.

Printed portfolio open to a two page writing sample.

Create digital and print writing portfolios

There are many pros and cons for digital and hardcopy portfolio books. While having a digital writing portfolio might be needed for digital applications and remote positions, a print version will definitely have you standing out while attending in-person meetings and interviews. Ultimately, the decision should depend on your personal preference, the needs of your target audience, and your intended usage of the portfolio.

However, we’d suggest both. You’ll need digital samples to get through the initial stage of most applications, but few things are more impressive than a perfectly bound physical portfolio in face-to-face interactions.

Keep your writing portfolio up-to-date

Your writing should always be fresh and relevant, so don’t forget to regularly update the contents of your portfolio with new pieces or achievements. Also, it’s a great idea to tailor your portfolio for each interview. Doing this will help demonstrate your interest and commitment to the company or client.

What makes a strong writing portfolio?

Certain characteristics make for standout writing portfolios. Consider these five cornerstones of strong portfolios:

  • Showcase the depth and diversity of your writing ability, including various genres and styles, to help demonstrate your versatility and range as a writer.
  • Maintain consistency in your tone and presentation throughout your portfolio, even if you showcase work with different styles for different brands.
  • Feature work most relevant to your primary target audience and the type of writing jobs you want to land in the future.
  • Choose the most engaging writing samples that reflect your style and focus, highlighting your marketable attributes and unique skillset.
  • Assemble your portfolio in a clear, cohesive, and organized manner, making it easy for readers to navigate and absorb your content.

Above all, remember that your writing portfolio reflects you and your abilities as a writer. Take the time to create something unique and memorable. We believe in you!


If you’re interested in creating a print version of your writing portfolio, Blurb offers the tools to make a professional, bookstore-quality portfolio book that will impress. 

Get started using a beautifully designed portfolio template, or create your own custom layout. Not only can you print as many books as you need on demand, but you can choose from a variety of formats, from large layflat portfolio books to smaller and more affordable options that make great leave-behinds.

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