Freelance FAQ #6: How to Choose the Best Pieces For Your Portfolio


In the last episode of Freelance FAQ, I discussed why you shouldn’t use unpublished work in your portfolio, but that’s just one aspect of portfolio curation. While you don’t want to use unpublished work, you also shouldn’t use just everything you have published.

When you’re choosing pieces for your portfolio, you need to have certain factors in mind. The three big factors are quality, relevancy, and authority. Watch the video below to learn more about these, and stick around below for some extra discussion.

To illustrate these concepts, I’ll discuss how I chose pieces for my portfolio.

First of all, take a look at my portfolio. (You don’t have to read the articles––just take a peek at what pieces I’ve included.)

Here’s why I included those pieces:

1. Quality

These pieces represent my best writing, and that’s a big reason why I chose them. But to really understand this, you need to see a comparison.

Here’s one piece from my portfolio that I particularly like. It’s packed full of useful information, and I wrote it quite recently, so it reflects the skills I’ve polished over the last five years.

In comparison, here’s a piece I’ve written that I didn’t include in my portfolio. It’s not bad writing, but it doesn’t exactly match the tone I have now. I also don’t think it’s as well written as the pieces in my portfolio. Again, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t meet my current quality standards.

2. Relevancy

There are many pieces I’ve written that just aren’t relevant to my career as a writer today. As you’ve seen, I’ve developed a professional, informative tone, and I almost always use that tone no matter the topic.

However, in the past, I didn’t always use that style. Here’s an article I wrote that features a far more casual style. I use anecdotes and the first person heavily, and those elements don’t really appear in my writing anymore.

3. Authority

Other pieces I’ve written, like this one, are simply on sites that almost no one has ever heard of. I should mention that this isn’t a deal breaker––I still have articles in my portfolio that were written for smaller sites––but it’s still a factor I consider. If a piece isn’t on an authority site and doesn’t match my current style, it doesn’t make the cut.

And here’s one bonus tip: Don’t use too many pieces in your portfolio. I’ve seen portfolios with hundreds of pieces, and at that point, you’re not showcasing your absolute best work. By slimming it down, you’ll prioritize quality over quantity. I have 19 right now, and I think that’s plenty. I don’t intend to go over 20 at any point. If I want to include new pieces in my portfolio, I’ll simply remove some old ones.

Your turn: How have you selected pieces for your portfolio? We want to hear from you, so tell us in the comments below.

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