A Writer’s Portfolio

A portfolio is believed to be the best way to tell how talented the writer is. They are designed to be a trophy case full of past projects. To brag about companies and brands the writer knows about.

Most importantly, though, it is a way to gauge their writing abilities.

You want them to posses the ability to follow your briefs, ideals, voice and style. While this all sounds good in your head, the practicality of it is a bit off.

Brand and Company Knowledge

Knowledge of brands and companies may impress you. If the writer you are after knows about Huff Post, for example, you may be more inclined to hire them. There are over a dozen brands I know about. including:

Portfolio Brands
Some brands I know about

If I sat long enough I am sure I can think of a dozen more that I know about and have never worked for, too. Maybe one day one of these brands will hire me, but until then I can say that I know about them.

If a well known company is what impresses you and urges you to hire, though, you have to first ask yourself why that writer no longer works for said company. Shouldn’t you?

Project Types and Styles

There are a multitude of projects a writer may undertake in their career. Here are a list of some of mine.

Novels and Screenplays

These projects span multiple months and take quite a while to set up, conduct research and interviews and edit. In the end, though, the writer rarely gets credit and most have signed an NDA that prevents them from claiming credit.

If you see people posting that they wrote a specific book or script, they are probably going against their NDA, or are simply hoping you won’t notice. Either way, not really the writer you want on your team, is it?

Blogs and Articles

From listicles, to how-tos and affiliate link-stuffed articles, there are a lot of different post types out there. A writer on your team should be well versed in all of them. They should also show SEO skills, the ability to follow a brief, and write in a style that matches your specific site.

Whether you want Top-10 articles or informative articles, you aren’t going to find what you are looking for in a portfolio.


Simply put, the briefs in question didn’t come from you.

You will never see the brief that spawned that particular article and you will never know how closely it was followed. It will never be known if the writer changed their voice to match the site or how many times it needed to be edited and re-written.

The biggest issue with these types of portfolio links, though, is that they aren’t yours. Whatever it is that you are looking to add to your site is not a carbon copy of someone else’s.

Instead, you guess and hope the writer has the ability you are after.

Video and Podcast Transcripts

Another popular type of writing is a transcript or narrative script. Written out to be read by someone else, these specific types of writing must follow exactly what the client is after. No two clients want the same thing.

Reading the work or seeing the finished product of someone else will tell you nothing.

What is it You Want to Know?

The things you want to know about your potential writer are things like:

  • Can they follow instructions and read a brief?
  • Will she write original content each time?
  • Do they know the difference between an informative article and a how-to article?
  • Does he know what SEO tactics are?
  • Can they embed a link?
  • Will the writer include images, charts, graphs or other specific items?
  • How consistent is the writer with deadlines?

Luckily there are things you can do to find out quickly, easily and without a great deal of effort on your part.

First is your application process. Your questions should cover things like article types known and if the writer understands plagiarism is bad.

Second, from the answers provided you should be able to pick up the written language of the writer (or if is it native or not). Many astute clients can also tell if grammar and spelling are an issue or not.

Third, you can send a brief of your own creation for your personal site to the writer and pay them for a test run. One article, paid between 60 and 100% of your normal rate, will cover the rest of the informational gaps.

Best of all, you find out if the writer knows SEO, can embed a link, is capable of research and can write in a style that matches your needs.

Plus you never ask someone to work for free or require them to keep a portfolio of past efforts. What a win-win!

If you are ready to win, feel free to contact me for my services or to ask more questions.