Freelance life, Selling

Why creating your online portfolio is a waste of time, and worse, a damaging blow to your potential revenue growth

gardenI had an email from a student of mine recently.

She wanted to know which web platform I recommended for hosting her online portfolio.

My answer was, none of them. Not because they’re no good. Because online portfolios are a dreadful way of promoting your copywriting business.

Imagine for a moment you’re running a garden design business, instead of a copywriting business.

Garden design is fundamentally about aesthetics.

Is it beautiful?

You can talk all you want about the gardens you’ve designed and how your clients’ lives were enriched. But without pictures, it all feels a bit hollow.

Show the gardens you’ve created and potential clients can decide whether they like your ideas and your approach.

But copywriting isn’t garden design.

It is fundamentally about results, not aesthetics.

Whether someone likes your work is utterly irrelevant to whether they should hire you.

They should hire you because they believe that your copy produces results for your clients.

You cannot demonstrate that by showing pictures of your work.

All you are inviting them to do is make a snap, subjective judgement: do I like this?

They may hate it and decide you’re not the right copywriter for them.

Which would be asinine.

I have worked with clients who have told me to my face, “I hate it,” before going on to add, “but it’s not aimed at me, so it’s approved as is”.

“But if I don’t show examples of my work, how will they know I have experience/skills?” might be one response to my position.

The answer is

a) Can you prove the examples in your online portfolio are actually yours? If you can’t, what’s the point of displaying them? You could just tell them you have the experience and skills. You know, in writing.

b) Most clients arrive at a copywriter’s site expecting that said writer does, indeed, possess the relevant chops to do the job. Otherwise, why are they in business? And don’t say, “Yes, but I’m only starting out”. What? Do you want clients to fork out cash to help you build your portfolio?

Now, what to do instead.

Notice that so far I have scrupulously used the term “online portfolio”. Accent on the “online”.

It’s not a bad idea to assemble a portfolio. Just don’t stick it up on your site.

Make potential clients get in touch to see it. Then you can send them relevant examples. And you have their email address/phone number.

Or even go to see them. Face to face. IRL!

If you must have an online portfolio, then choose the three or four best-performing bits of copy you have ever written and write a story about each one, explaining what the brief was and what the results were. Like this on my agency site.

That way you provide intellectual and commercial context for the work and encourage the reader to form a rational, objective decision.

Not, “do I like it?” But “did it work”?

2 Comment(s)

  1. redwap

    Couldn’t find Pixpa? Being a photographer it is definitely one of my favourite portfolio website builder.

    19th November 2019 at 11:48 pm | Reply
    1. Andy Maslen

      Portfolios for photographers are very different from copywriters’ portfolios. Thanks for the recommend – I’m sure other freelance photographers will find that very handy. As for showing off copy – I stand by my original thoughts. Best wishes

      20th November 2019 at 8:20 am | Reply

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