How to make a killer copywriter portfolio

If you’re trying to get a job as a copywriter (or any creative really), you need a portfolio. Think of it as your online dating profile for jobs. A good portfolio shows off your best work and has a bit of personality to it. Most importantly, it makes employers want you on their team. Without it, you’re going to be sitting at home sad and alone and dateless Monday through Friday.

Ok. So dating cliches aside, almost every copywriting job will expect you to have a portfolio website. Freelancers especially need a portfolio and need it updated frequently to show their clients that they have experience. While your portfolio should feel personal, remember that it’s not for you — it’s for the people who are looking to hire you. With that, here are some simple tips to maximize your portfolio’s potential.

Create your own branding to showcase your personality

Great work in a stale book might get you a job, but many agencies want to know that the person they’re hiring is going to fit into the culture and, more importantly, add to it. Think of your portfolio as a creative project to best reflect your personal brand. It’s more than including an ‘about me’ that shows off your personal style. It’s carefully crafting it to show who you are. If you’re a funny writer, use a headshot that shows your funny side. If you’re a thoughtful ‘writers’ writer, make sure you weave a story that shows that.

It’s also good to keep in mind that your visual elements are just as important as your writing. Remember to choose typefaces that reflect your style. Everything in your portfolio should be considered. Make sure it all also has a personal touch to it too.

Pick Your 6 Best Pieces of Work

The most important part of your portfolio is the work you feature. I recommend featuring your 6 best pieces. Too many and you’ll confuse your reader by giving them too many options. Too few and you might look inexperienced. 6 is a sweet spot number that lets you show a variety of work and writing styles. 

As you pick work, prioritize quality writing over platform. If you can write a great headline, then most creative directors can safely assume you can also write a great tweet. What’s important is showing you have great ideas and that you can write and write well.

But… what if I don’t have any work?

If you’re a student or you’re just starting out, you might not have any published work to show. That’s OK. Spec work is perfectly fine to start your portfolio. Find an art director or designer you can partner with and try to think of some interesting campaigns you can create. Look at portfolio sites of those you admire and try to mimic the types of projects they have. Lastly, avoid video. Unless you’re set up with friends who can execute professional quality shoots, it’s best to save this for the pros.

Show a variety of styles and platforms

You need to show your best work, but you also don’t want to seem like a one trick pony. As copywriters, it’s our job to be able to write in a variety of styles (funny, serious, inspirational, etc.) and in a variety of ways (headlines, long-form, editorial, social, etc.). Make sure your portfolio reflects a wide variety of types of writing. Show that you can inspire people with a headline and make them laugh with a tweet. The more of an emotional and creative journey you can take someone on, the more types of projects you’ll attract.

Craft a story for each project

Every piece you feature in your portfolio should have a description that explains what the project was and how you creatively executed it. If you’re not quite sure how to go about doing this, a great way to set this up is a simple formula: problem, insight, solution. Start by setting up the business problem (ie: the client wanted to sell more donuts), follow that up with your unique creative insight (ie: donuts are a gluttonous treat) and finalize with your execution (ie: we renamed all her donuts to have sinfully delicious names). 

Once you set up the problem and the execution, display the work in a way that it tells the story for itself. If it’s something more complicated (like an app), use short bits of copy to help guide the reader through the work.

Treat your website like another project

Your portfolio is another piece of work that shows off your skills, make sure it shows them off to the best of your ability. Carefully craft every word. Design the site to feel premium. If you’re not comfortable building websites (most of us aren’t), use a platform like Squarespace to quickly set up something that looks good. Most importantly, use every second that someone’s on your site to show off your skills. 

Finally, remember to include a link out to your LinkedIn profile, any social platforms you have a curated presence on and an email to contact you. 

Building a portfolio can feel like a lot of work, but it’s an important step to working in the industry, so good luck and put your best portfolio forward!


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