A writing portfolio is a critical tool for everyone from writers looking for jobs to students who want to graduate from creative writing programs at colleges and universities. Film and television writers, technical writers, newspaper staffers, magazine employees, and almost anyone else with a job which requires writing should maintain a writing portfolio. There are a number of ways to approach the construction of a writing portfolio so that the finished product will have a high impact.
Ideally, a writer will have a mixture of writing which can be included in a portfolio, such as short stories, poems, personal essays, research papers, writing clips showcasing published works such as articles in newspapers, and so forth. Writers should get into the habit of keeping copies of all of their work in both hard copy and digital form, so that they can have the necessary materials readily available, and to keep an overall record of work. It helps to index the samples a writer keeps on hand so that writers can quickly find the samples they need.
The first step in putting together a writing portfolio is to determine what it will be used for, so that the writing samples in the portfolio can be selected and arranged properly. Someone applying for work at a magazine, for example, might include personal essays, published clips from newspapers, and a sample of a research paper, but not poetry and short stories. Conversely, someone applying to a graduate level creative writing program would want to showcase poetry and fiction, including samples of longer works like novels. It is a good idea to customize the portfolio for the job, rather than creating a generic portfolio which may not be suited to all jobs.
Thanks to the advent of the digital age, many writers maintain digital portfolios, sometimes on their websites for ease of access. A writer can also create a customized portfolio for a particular purpose, such as a job application, giving the potential employer a link which will lead directly to the portfolio the writer wants the employer to see. Some writers also use their websites as generic portfolios, with links to specific types of writing so that potential employers can peruse a variety of samples. Digital portfolios can also be saved on disc or as single files which can be emailed to prospective employers.
If writing samples are required in hard copy, the writer should organize them with care and package them in a binder or document case, selecting the best samples and creating an index. The samples should be formatted so that they have a consistent appearance and feel, and they should be in large print to make them easy to read. If some of the samples consist of clips, they can be scanned or photocopied for inclusion so that the writer can keep the original, and they should be reproduced neatly so that they have a clean appearance and they are easy to read.
The goal of a portfolio is for a writer to show his or her best work to prospective employers. Portfolios can include full length pieces and excerpts, but they should be very carefully chosen, as few people reviewing a writing portfolio are going to read through everything, and therefore every piece should carry immense impact. At the end of a portfolio, a writer may want to include a list of complete publishing credits, which will allow a prospective employer to get an idea of the writer's experience and credentials.