To build our writing portfolio, is it more important to write in places other than our own blog (and write many) or to pick a place with reputation (and keep the standard high)?
Writing somewhere other than your own blog is critical to building a portfolio that will interest clients and editors: they all want to see that someone else has hired you first and was pleased with your work to the point of using it. No matter how good your writing skills are, no one wants to be your first client.
That said, it’s reasonable to focus on just two or three places to write when you’re first building up your portfolio. It’s best to have clips or samples from at least two different projects in your portfolio, but you don’t have to have work from a dozen different places. You may not need more than a handful of samples in your portfolio, especially if you focus on one type of writing. However, it’s best if not all your samples are from the same projector publication.
Gina Blitstein asks,
How do you get a client to be more forthcoming about articles? She knows what she wants but can’t articulate.
Clients who have trouble describing exactly what they want are a fact of freelancing life. Sometimes you get the client who has an exact word count, research materials and everything else ready for you from the start. Sometimes you get the client who wants something to market her business, but has no idea of what that something should look like.
It’s important to be prepared to ask that second type of client plenty of questions in order to work out what she wants. Sometimes, asking what the end goal she’s hoping for is a good starting point: from there, you can work backward to lay out the project’s parameters.
There is one tactic that seems to work well with some clients: I’ll ask if there are any similar articles or other projects that they’ve seen from other companies that are like what they want. While I won’t copy a project exactly, having an example can provide the starting point I need to talk to my clients.
If you have any questions about the business of freelance writing, send them my way and I’ll answer them next weekend!