I recently came upon this post by Miranda Watling in the 10,000 words blog site. Her advice may seem obvious but I am constantly amazed at how often I find “professional sites” that aren’t. If you want people to know about you and see what you have done, you need to include the basics.
Recently, we covered five free sites to help journalists build an online portfolio here at 10,000 Words. The list included a good starting place with the following sites: WordPress, Cuttings.me, Pressfolios, Flavors.me and About.me.
So now you know where to build, but what do you include? This “what” is often the difference between creating an online portfolio and wanting to create one, but not having the initiative to figure out what it should be. Taking time to form a rough sketch of what you hope to accomplish and how you want to display it helps immensely in deciding which of those portfolio platforms works best for you and how much work you want to do to build and maintain it over time.
What does belong on your online portfolio? Joe Grimm of Ask The Recruiter posed this question to Marc Samson, co-founder of Pressfolios, recently in an online chat. From their discussion and my experience, here are five things your online portfolio should include:
- Your resume. If you include nothing else, you need to have a resume on your portfolio because that’s sort of the point of the site. If you prefer to manage this through a network such as LinkedIn, your portfolio should at a least include a prominent link to your résumé there. It’s also a good idea to include a generic PDF of your resume for recruiters and editors to download to share, if they’re interested. It’s worth it (if only for the SEO juice) to include a brief listing on the page of your career highlights — with links embedded to the projects or work from the positions you reference. This helps visitors understand who you are and where you’ve been.
- Work samples. What you include and how you display this work will vary by your chosen platform and type of work. If you’re a writer, you may prefer text versions of your story (but be sure to also keep PDF copies to make available to potential hiring editors). If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to include your best photos at a reasonable resolution (read: more than a thumbnail, which doesn’t show much). If you’re a designer, you’ll want to include your best layouts. If you’re a multimedia producer, you’ll want to host your own work, or at least create a sampling of them. And on and on. Keep in mind, you’ll want to keep this fresh with recent work. But also, curation is key. While you may want to include every one of the 500 stories you wrote last year or every image from that amazing breaking news event you photographed, the vast majority of people will not look at more than a few pages. Make sure you, in some way, distinguish both the type and source of content, and lead with your best work up front. It’s better to include five great stories that visitors can easily find than 500 stories where those with great ledes get swallowed by the masses. Include a variety of work as well. Chances are you don’t write only 2,000-word packages or shoot only features or breaking news. Use your portfolio to display your range in a way a resume alone can’t. An important note: If you want to link to your stories, which is acceptable, also keep a backup if your platform doesn’t do that for you. Many news sites now have paywalls, or may put one up in the future, and most only make available recent articles. The links may change, the site hosting it may disappear or the piece may go behind a paywall down the line. Know what you’re able to share, in what format and how long the link will be good for.
- A short profile of yourself. Who are you? Not who does your resume say you are, but who are you? It’s totally acceptable and desirable to show personality on your portfolio. It will make you memorable and distinguish you from the other hundreds of people with similar experience and skill levels. You’re a journalist, use your medium to tell your own story.
- Links to other social media and other websites where visitors can see your work or connect with you. You should belong to several social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and you may belong to dozens more. Include a list of these (at least the professional ones!) with links to your username or page. Make it easy for people to find and follow your work.
- Your current contact information. This seems like a no-brainer, but I see far too many portfolios with beautiful resumes and work samples but no contact information. You never know who may stumble on it and want to reach out to you about a project or job. (True story: That’s how I ended up writing for 10,000 Words.) You can include as much as you’re comfortable with, but definitely don’t leave off at least an email account you check regularly. Do not just include a form for people to submit comments; they are more restrictive than helpful, and they leave the sender wondering where the note went and if it ever reached you. If you don’t want everybody to have your email address, create a professional forwarding account from your domain or another free service, such as gmail, and forward it to an account you check regularly.
Remember, your portfolio should promote your work and give visitors a glimpse of who you are. You don’t want it to be cookie-cutter. But you want to err on the side of professionalism. If you’re worried about how it comes across remember, any online portfolio makes you easier to find and hire than no online portfolio. It’s an interactive business card, with your clips and resume, and as much depth and breadth as you’re willing to put in. Use this to your advantage!
YOUR TURN: What’s the best journalism portfolio you’ve ever come across? Or what are your favorites? Tell us on Twitter, @10000words, or in the comments below.