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    Building a Portfolio

    In my last column I discussed gathering a collection of clips if your aim is to write for the magazine markets. Now, I would like to focus on freelancing for other clients, such as the Mom & Pop Shop seeking a copywriter for marketing materials.

    Many businesses neither have the time, or expertise to create the necessary materials to advertise their products and services. Budget constraints, as well as the amount and frequency also make it infeasible to employ a full time copywriter. Therefore, a large number of businesses seek the services of advertising agencies, and freelancers to provide these services for them.

    Individual business needs are many. They may seek display ads, radio and television scripts, articles, media kits, newsletters, sales letters, brochures, press releases, web site content, manuals, handbooks, ghost writing, editing services...The list goes on.

    Notice I mentioned articles. Do not disregard gathering clips just because you plan on copywriting instead of writing for magazines. You would be doing yourself an injustice. I get many requests for articles from the business world. And I always keep some handy to showcase in my portfolio.

    A portfolio is the most important selling tool a freelancer can have in his or her marketing arsenal. It showcases your talent, and assures a potential client that you have what it takes to get the job done. You should include as many different samples of your work as possible, but be careful not to be redundant. A well-rounded portfolio will include every type of business writing you offer. And, it should be ready to show to a client at a moments notice. It is wise to keep two. One in a hardcopy format, such as in an attractive binder or booklet, and another saved as a computer file to show via email.

    Take care in choosing what you show to a client. Include only what you believe to be your best works. Also, ensure you have the right to show the pieces to parties other than the one you created it for. Many freelance projects are considered work-for-hire, meaning you own no rights to the piece. Once it is written, and you are paid for it, forget ever using it again. Not without permission. However, gaining permission is not that difficult. All you have to do is ask. If a client is happy with your work, most likely they will grant your request.

    Don't get discouraged if you are just starting out and don't have examples from past clients. You can use materials created for your business. Do you have a web site? What about sales letters you have written to drum up some business? Have you created a brochure to let your services be known? How about that e-book you wrote, or the column and articles you have written for free, but are published on the Internet? These are all good samples to include in your portfolio.

    If you don't have any of the above, create them! There is no written rule that your portfolio must contain only written works created for real clients. Lose yourself in a brainstorming session, and create a fictitious business or two in your mind. They can be anything from a pet sitting service to a Fortune 500 company. Once you have a clear picture in your head, write marketing materials for your ghost businesses. Create a newsletter for a phantom corporation. Write a powerful sales letter for an IT consulting firm. Draft a business plan for a startup company. Or dream up a brochure for a real estate agent. It doesn't matter that these businesses do not exist. The idea is to have material to show a client. Once you dazzle them with a few examples of your talent, you're one step closer to another paying project.

    Copyright © 2001 Jim Soos

    Jim Soos discovered writing at the age of 34, when a story refused to leave his head. Drawing on his background as a former police officer, Jim transformed his idea into a novel length police thriller. Never seeking publication, he keeps the manuscript on his desk as a reminder to his discovery of writing. Today, Jim freelances, concentrating on business writing. Specializing in website content, he also writes press releases, newsletters, articles, and offers ghost writing and editing services to businesses. Jim is a contributing writer to suite101.com, writing about his favorite topic, Alaska. He is also retained as the Public Relations writer for HomeJobsOnline.com, and as the site's senior writer for its newsletter. No stranger to rejection letters, (he collects them as a hobby), Jim may edit his novel one of these days and seek publication.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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