For creatives in copywriting, content, communications & other digital arts.
Before you even think about pursuing a creative role, make sure your portfolio is on point. I personally didn’t realize how important my portfolio truly was until I attempted to land my first agency job.
In 2016, I thought it was enough to simply have a PDF compilation of my previous work. This included blogs, magazine articles and other technical writing documents showcasing my writing abilities. I felt as long as I could show how strong of a writer I was; via grammatically correct sentences and super accurate information, that was all employers really wanted to see, right? Wrong. Here’s why.
GOOD WRITING VS GOOD CREATIVE WRITING
The problem with writing is that everyone thinks they’re a good writer. Everyone thinks there isn’t much to it, and that it can be done at the drop of a hat. True enough, there are several writers out there who can write an accurate, grammatically correct piece of content at lightning speed with a moment’s notice.
However, there aren’t many writers out there who can translate those skills into a variety of mediums and social channels. Can they transform a 1,000-page long-form article into a witty headline? Have they thoroughly researched and vetted enough information to do so effectively?
Furthermore, do they have an imagination? Are they true wordsmiths? Can they think both technically and creatively to meet the objectives of marketing, the company’s brand standards/guidelines, reach the targeted audience and hold their attention long enough to get the message across? Afterwards, you still must consider your creative director, senior manager and/or direct manager and design team. They’ll also offer feedback and their own interpretation of said marketing objectives that you must effectively incorporate into the copy successfully.
These skills separate great creative writers from those who may simply be good writers in general. We’ll touch on developing good relationships with your designers, marketing partners, and creative leaders in a future post, so be sure to keep up with this series so you don’t miss out!
CREATE YOUR OWN CREATIVE MOCK-UPS
Another issue I had to overcome starting out was not having much of my work published via print or digitally. I had a few things out there, but most of it was literally still in Word docs. If this is the case for you, you’ll want to call on your designer friends. Or, if you have none, quickly befriend one. Preferably a good one.
If you don’t luck up with that either, hop on Fiverr, Upwork or Guru to find a qualified designer who can create some decent mock ups of your writing. Think in terms of landing pages, social copy, marketing copy with clever CTAs (call to actions), microcopy or UX copy, SEO copy, etc.
Once you’ve done this, here are some effective ways to create strong copywriting pieces for your port:
- Find brands you like who already have strong messaging/branding and use this as inspiration to create something new and fresh. You can also find brands who don’t have a strong brand/voice, and propose a creative interpretation or recommendation that could help them improve upon this. This also works for creative entrepreneurs looking to land their first clients.
- Collaboration is key, so working closely with the designer to achieve your vision is necessary. This is something you’ll be doing pretty much every day once you’re in your respective role at any company, and especially if you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, so learn as much about this process as possible. Think “big picture” as you’re developing these mock-ups and think about how everything you write will connect or align with other pieces of content in various mediums/channels within the brand. Develop messaging for a campaign or well-known event to showcase your unique approach.
- Choose a brand or industry most closely associated with an organization you’d like to work for, and revamp that particular company’s current and/or past campaign(s). A sort of “re-brand” if you will where you have complete creative control. You could even choose a competitor brand if you like. For example, I created a deck for Porsche (pictured above) for a potential job opportunity one tome and came up with headline options that spoke to a fictional campaign I’d created with the overarching message, “German legend. American dream.” I wanted to show the thinking behind the relationship between a German car company and the American public, and what that really meant. It wasn’t the best, but I was able to show how I’d approach this brand based on my own personal knowledge of the company and the brand.
- If you’re a communications, marketing or public relations professional, you’ll want to create a communications plan and detail how you’d execute the campaign. What makes sense to effectively implement, and how will you achieve results based on a clear objective?
The most important thing to remember here is to show how well you can embody someone else’s brand. Corporations especially don’t hire people to write in their own style or voice – they hire people who can accurately personify their brand in fresh and exciting ways that further amplify the brand’s presence. You’ll need to think critically and creatively. Show your thinking around the big picture and how it fits within specific goals and objectives. First, master the tone, style, and voice, and then do it better.
TAP YOUR EXISTING NETWORK
You can also work with people who may have recently started their own businesses or have independent start-up brands. Offer to help them with their web or social media presence and use it as an opportunity to help build your portfolio. Don’t ever think just because you haven’t had the opportunity to gain experience developing creative for an already established brand that you can’t still have a strong portfolio. Do what you do best – CREATE. Believe me when I say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Yes, you have to get creative. That’s the whole point. And you wouldn’t expect an employer to give you a job based on the mere assumption that you can effectively tell their brand’s story in multiple, effective ways, so you have to actually show them. Employers want to see the way you think and how you make a brand come to life. Use your portfolio to not only exemplify your capabilities as a writer or communications professional, but to also present your vision.
If you hadn’t already, you’ll want to make sure your port is made available online. While some companies still do accept PDF ports, the industry standard is have a shareable link to all your work. You can do this in one of the following ways:
- Create your own website, or if you’re on a budget like me, you can create a free Behance account, which is what I currently use.
- If you have Adobe cloud, you can even create a drag-and-drop site as part of your subscription, or pay $10/month for just the hosting site.
You want to provide a simple, frictionless way to link access your portfolio as quickly and easily as possible. Recruiters will always ask for this and most will require you have a shareable link to your port to even be considered for the job. It’s a good idea to add the link to your resume and LinkedIn account as well. Here are few extra tips when it comes to presenting your portfolio:
- Don’t shy away from bringing a hard copy of your portfolio in a nice book as well. It’s always good to have some strong print pieces to share in an interview. Your portfolio is often what determines whether or not you even get a phone interview, so use it as a teaser for employers, choosing only the best of the best of your previous work or mock-ups.
- Choose projects you can easily talk through and explain the process of how you arrived at the final version of your work. The more passionate and engaged you were with the creation of the project, the more willing you’ll be to discuss it with others, which helps them be more engaged as well. The projects you enjoyed working on the most, either official or mock-ups, are typically the best for this because you already naturally enjoy the work. Even better if you can address specific challenges or obstacles that arose during the process and relay how you overcame them to ultimately create the finished product.
The more diverse your portfolio is the better because each project comes with its own set of challenges.
GO SELL YOURSELF
Now that you have a pretty good foundation for what it takes to enter the market with a strong creative portfolio, you probably have some work to do. Please share this info with friends, family and colleagues who may be on the hunt for a new role or are currently trying to break into the industry. Reaching out to someone who’s already be working in the industry via platforms like LinkedIn is a great way to get tips and helpful advice, especially if you’re trying to lang a specific role at a specific company. Their insights are always going to be invaluable because their experience is first-hand.
Take notes and make comparisons between their work and yours, but remember to include something that shows your own unique approach and personality. Continue working on it until you feel confident in each piece you’ve included. This is major part of being able to catch the eye of potential future employers, so the more time you invest into making it the best it can possibly be, the closer you’ll be to landing your ideal creative role.
NEED HELP GETTING STARTED?
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