If you’re an experienced writer, it’s hard to suppress a howl of sympathy for some of the materials you see online and in other media. The unmistakable sign of other writers slogging away on hack materials really does bring out humanitarian instincts, even in writers. These things can be tacky little ditties written to some prehistoric style guide, or obviously editor-vivisected bits of prose. The amateurish “every second word a keyword” epics will get a wince out of any SEO writer, particularly if you’ve done that sort of stuff yourself.
Everybody in the business knows that these horrors are bread and butter things, bill payers, and the natural track record of early career work. No writer will hold it against other writers for the need to do these things.
- The fact is that this type of material goes precisely nowhere in upgrading your career potentials. This is very much a portfolio based trade, and if the contents of your portfolio don’t get above and beyond the low grade materials, nor will your career.
- A line does have to be drawn, and even if you’re living on “spiritual” diet of muesli and occasional writing gigs, you must upgrade your portfolio to get better contracts.
The logic of a good writer’s portfolio
There is a logic to portfolio management for writers. It’s brutal, but necessary:
Clients need quality content. Content is king, for a very good reason. It drives their business. Their users want quality information, quality writing, and something worth reading. The clients quite specifically do not want the hack stuff, and can’t use it.
If you’ve been feeling suffocated by style, usage, inept keyword management and a tendency to nitpick over every word, your instincts are in the right place, if sometimes for the wrong reasons:
- This class of material really doesn’t do much for portfolio quality, particularly if you’re competing for contracts.
- The bread and butter stuff, sadly, looks like exactly what it is, and doesn’t prove any ability to write the sort of high quality content which is in demand.
- A portfolio full of formula writing severely limits your options in terms of the contracts you can get.
Grim, but true. To develop a good professional portfolio, you must devote some time to getting out of this rut.
Escaping the hack category
The best way to create a trustworthy portfolio, ironically, is the line of least resistance for most writers- Creative original work on a preferred subject.
Good content sells, and it also improves your credentials in the process.
The method is easy enough:
- Stick to your real areas of interest and expertise where you’re strongly motivated to write.
- Publish anywhere, but preferably on a high profile or well known site.
- Publish on sites where you can get exposure. (Don’t get all shy and coy about criticism. You don’t have to agree with it, but you should understand it.)
A working portfolio that really shows what you can do. You can get a lot of good quality material up and running in a couple of months.