Working as a freelance writer often means specializing in a specific niche or industry. Before the Internet, many writers would commit to a certain industry and stick to that for the rest of their careers. With research requiring lengthy courses and reading books, learning new industries and niches was a time-consuming endeavor.
Today, writers have much of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. You can easily take courses online, read new information, and become relatively fluent in a new niche in a matter of weeks for free. That means it makes sense to branch out to write in whatever niche or industry you prefer to write in.
Whether that preference is about work availability, your interest in the topic, or some other factor is completely up to you. What is important is that you can highlight your ability to excel in that vertical as part of your portfolio, without distracting from that niche with the rest of your work.
Specialized writing profiles allow you to highlight strengths in one vertical. You can then send this when pitching organizations in that industry to strengthen your pitch. What should those profiles look like? And how much should you change a portfolio based on which niche you’re writing for?
What to include in your industry-tailored writing portfolio
Most freelance writers eventually struggle to contain their resume and portfolio to a manageable length. Recruiters increasingly want shorter, more digestible items, but many of us simply work too many jobs to condense a resume and portfolio down to a few pages and links.
Specialized writing portfolios allow you to get around that by highlighting specific items for that industry. These should include:
- A short resume tailored to the vertical. Highlight companies, big projects, and education related to that niche.
- Top clients in that niche. If you’re using a website, consider highlighting logos and brand names in one place on the page.
- Top examples of work. Try to keep it short, and assume only 2-3 portfolio examples will actually be read. You might include up to 10 pieces to show some variety, especially if the industry calls for many different types of content.
- Client references and testimonials. Ask existing or previous clients for references to use on your portfolio and showcase to potential clients. Collecting these on LinkedIn is a good way to organize and verify them.
- Don’t forget the basics. Include your contact details and website. Some freelance writers also include rates, but this doesn’t have to be on your portfolio.
How to choose which niches to focus on
Most writers start out with a single, general portfolio. This is a good portfolio to maintain, since you can pull from it depending on what you want to highlight.
As you specialize in different niches, you can tailor your portfolio to highlight key work and experience areas. For example, if you’re presenting a proposal to an eCommerce company, you want to showcase your previous eCommerce work and successes.
Tip: You can have different resumes, webpages, or even websites to highlight different niches.
So, how do you choose which verticals to invest in? Ask yourself:
- Where do you have the most experience?
- What do you like writing about?
- Where do you have the most qualifications?
- Which verticals do your largest clients work in?
In most cases, you want to choose 2 to 3 niches to specialize in. If you do more, you may be spread too thin or be seen as a generalist (and less specialized or credible for any single industry). Plus, you want your potential clients to see at a glance you know their industry, instead of them getting lost trying to find relevant articles.
Where to host your writing portfolio
There are plenty of options for hosting your writing portfolio, depending on your budget and technical skill. Some writers choose to build completely different websites to keep their portfolios separate, others make different pages for each vertical. You might also choose to use online storage solutions linked to a landing page.
If you already have a website, building different pages for each portfolio is usually the cheapest and fastest way to go. If you have a larger budget and clients looking for specific services, building a separate website will help with SEO. However, it will cost more to build and maintain.
Here are 3 hosting options for writer portfolios to choose from:
- Carrd – A free one-page responsive website builder.
- Contently – A user-friendly website builder.
- WordPress – A popular website builder with plenty of plugins. There’s also the free WordPress.com option.
Maintaining your portfolio
It’s important to maintain any portfolio you create. If you’re hosting portfolios on your website, your clients can see all of them. Try to have some relevant pieces published in each specialization at least once a quarter.
Having older writing samples from one niche could make it look like you focus on one niche over the other. Maintenance should include long-term consistency and regular updates. If you can’t commit to updating all your portfolios on a quarterly basis and contribute to everything equally, you might not need all of them.
Creative ways to customize your portfolio
If you’re sending your portfolio to customers on-demand, you can often customize your pitch by pulling relevant copy from recent jobs in the niche and pairing it with similar clients (don’t forget to include their testimonials).
Uploading content to an online portal typically requires a few minutes, so you can easily tailor the content in the portfolio based on the client, its services, and its needs.
For example, if you have an eCommerce portfolio, you could include examples of listings and marketplace ad copy. If you have an SaaS portfolio, you can show first-page search results that include a blog you wrote, or marketing copy depending on the client’s needs.
Whether or not this is sustainable depends on how you host your portfolio and how easy it is to switch out content blocks (for articles, testimonials, client logos, and other design pieces).
Your portfolio can easily be the most important factor in applying for and winning freelance work. Building specialized profiles for each industry or niche you work in will help you to succeed.