Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eight Tips For A Productive Freelance Writing Career

by Lisa Abellera

Organization and time management are a freelance writer's best friends. Freelance writers who are new to its lifestyle will love the freedom and independence. Rather than cubicle walls, freelancers can work in the outdoors, a Starbucks, library or even the beach. However supporting this lifestyle requires discipline not unlike working in the corporate world. Although you tossed that suit for sweats, you may be struggling with productivity and finding it difficult to take on more assignments. In the freelance writing world, the faster you can complete an assignment, the more money you can earn. Try these tips to create a more productive freelance writing career:

1) keep a daily notebook specifically for your freelance writing work, which may feel odd at first, especially in an age where information can be stored electronically, but studies have shown the hand and finger movements of writing activates the areas in the brain which engage in thinking, language and working memory. Write the date on the top of a page in notebook and list out tasks or "to-do's" in bullet points. Check off each task as it is completed. Add new assignments or tasks to this list throughout the day.The next morning, date a new page, write out the "to-do's" still left from the day before, and repeat the process.

2) Organize your home office workspace by eliminating clutter of scratch paper and sticky notes. Hang a white board on the wall and write on it your current and upcoming freelance writing assignments or project and their deadlines, and use your daily notebook to write down anything normally jotted down on a sticky note. A notebook with tabs works well for those freelance writers who prefer to separate their daily "to-do" list from notes on research, client discussions, appointments and other freelance writing activities.

3) Keep track of your time each day working as a freelance writer, whether your activities involve marketing your skills, corresponding with clients or actual writing. Make note of the actual time of the day you started and ended work.This seems counter to the principle of freedom in freelance writing, but it is essential to see how much of the day is spent truly working, since you are your only employee.Tracking work hours helps in gauging time spent on an assignment. If you are spending more time on a project than originally anticipated, this is telling of either project or client, and can help in calculating the hourly rate for similar writing projects or in determining whether or not to take assignments from this client in the future.

4) Work according to your natural mental state. Some freelance writers are more mentally alert in the morning and run out of steam in the afternoon, while others are barely functioning by their second cup of morning coffee and hit their stride in the afternoon. The best time to write or do tasks which require mental focus or critical thinking is when you are most mentally alert. More routine activities like reading emails, bidding on projects, researching, and invoicing should then be done when you find it difficult to dedicate your attention to filling the screen in front of you with compelling, intelligent words.

5) Plan to work while you work. Use the time after you "clock out" as a freelance writer for personal activities.When mixing work with paying house bills, walking the dog, going grocery shopping or other personal errands, it is more difficult to assess how much time is actually spent on freelance writing jobs. Also when you congregate work hours in 3-4 hour blocks, you tend to be far more productive than when having to pick up where you left off several times during the day.

6) Get out of the slippers and pajamas and get dressed. It's important to see yourself as no different than your counterparts working in cubicles under artificial light. It doesn't necessarily have to mean putting on a tie or wearing heels, but maintaining the ritual of dressing for work helps to promote a sense of value and self-respect for your freelance writing career.

7) Turn off the television and program the DVR. Television just creates another distraction for your brain to have to sort out in order to concentrate on the task at hand. For freelance writers who like having sound of the television in the background while they work, consider playing music on speakers rather than picking up that remote.

8) Get out of the house. If you don't have a separate office at home in which you can close the door from outside, non-freelance writing diversions, try working a few hours outside of the house. Do a little research and test out the different Starbucks, Peets or other local coffeehouses to determine which ones provide the best working environment for you. Besides convenience and comfort, look for Wi-Fi availability, customer density and noise levels during the hours you'll be there working.

For the freelance writer, time truly does translate into money.The more efficient use of your time and the more organized your home office is, the more productive you can be, which means a greater earning potential and better success for your freelance writing career.

Lisa Abellera is a freelance writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco. Her poetry and short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in several literary journals and in an anthology of creative travel writing. She is the cofounder of a graduate-level writers workshop group and is hard at work on her collection of short fiction. For more about the writing process and the craft of writing fiction, visit

In addition to creative writing, Lisa enjoys her work as a freelance commercial writer, where she specializing in research-based custom SEO article writing, article rewriting and quality content development for websites and blogs.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Writing Fanfiction Can Help Start Your Freelance Writing Career

By Michelle Carlbert

If you're anything like me, you've been writing fanfiction for years, enjoying the freedom it allows you to create stories involving your favorite characters and taking part in a community with other writers who give helpful feedback.

But did you know that writing fanfiction can also help you start a new career? By writing fanfiction, you are honing valuable skills that you can use as a freelance writer.

Here are some things that writing fanfiction can teach you about becoming a freelance writer.


Maybe you don't think of it this way but every time you've promised your rabid fans that the next chapter of your WIP (work in progress) was coming "in one week, I promise!" you were setting yourself a deadline. Making that deadline no matter what real life throws your way means that you've just learned one of the most important part of being a freelance writer - hitting your deadline.

Handling criticism.

When you post your fanfiction out there for the world to see, you also open yourself up to criticism. We've all had it happen - you post a story that you worked tirelessly on and suddenly someone comes up and (gasp!) dislikes it. Well guess what? Freelance writers have to deal with people like that all the time, they're called editors, and the faster you learn to deal with them the easier your freelance writing career will be. If you genuinely listen to the people who comment on your fanfiction, honestly look at what suggestions they made or why they didn't like your story and reply politely, well then you're ready to deal with an editor.

Dealing with writer's block.

Writer's block is something every writer has to deal with, whether they write fanfiction or anything else. If you've managed to complete even a single fanfiction story then I'm sure you've figured out a way to deal with your own writer's block. Busting through that invisible barrier isn't easy and by doing it with fanfiction, you've shown yourself that you can write, even when the words don't come easily. Once again, this is an invaluable skill for a freelance writer.

These are just a few ways that writing fanfiction can turn from a fun hobby into a career. Take your talent and all those skills you've learned and use them!

Michelle (also known by her pen name "Mokibobolink") is a freelance writer, editor and blogger with a love for fanfiction and how it can help new writers. She started a blog ("Moki's Fanfiction Blog") as a forum for fanfiction readers and writers to discuss their favorite hobby, provide helpful tips to new writers, give lists of her favorite stories and sites to find great fanfiction.

How to Build a Successful Freelance Writing Career

By N Williamson

A freelance writing career is one that allows you to have the flexibility to work at home on a schedule that you set for yourself. However, while it may seem simple, it actually takes work and time to build this kind of career. If you want a career in freelance writing that is lucrative and successful, here are a few important steps that you can follow.

Keep Your Day Job

When you are starting out in your freelance writing career, it's important that you keep your day job in the beginning. It's a good idea to begin developing your skills while you are still working at least part-time. While you can earn enough money in this career to support yourself, it will take some time before you begin making that much money and there is also a bit of a learning curve. Until you get to the point that you think you can support yourself solely with your writing, you'll want to keep another job.

Take Time to Diversify

As you are working to build a freelance writing career, you need to take some time to diversify the companies that you write for. There are a variety of companies out there that pay up front for writing. Others may offer you some residual income as well. While many people like to be paid up front, there are also benefits to residual income. Starting out with various projects and various websites is a great idea in case writing for one gets a bit slow. If you diversify your writing, you'll be able to make sure you can make enough money to support yourself.

Don't Forget About Taxes

Many people who get started in a freelance writing career never think about taxes. Most companies that hire freelancers will not take out the taxes. This means that you should be saving money out of your paychecks to make sure that you can pay the taxes when tax time comes around. This way you won't be hit with a huge amount of tax debt on April 15th.

Realize You May Not Always Be Able to Choose Topics

While it is always great to write about topics you like, when you first get started in your freelance writing career, you need to realize that you may not always be able to choose the topics that you want to write about. You will probably have to start out writing about a variety of different things.

Be Ready to Work

There are some people who have the idea that a freelance writing career is easy. However, it does really to take a lot of work. You'll need to do your research, there is time spent writing, and you'll have to edit your own work as well. There are plenty of benefits you can enjoy and so long as you work hard and stay disciplined, you will increase your chances of being successful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Roadmap For Your Fiction Writing Career

By Randall Ingermanson

What's the dirtiest word in a writer's lexicon? Think about that for a minute before you read on. What's the worst thing you can call a fellow writer?

Here's what many writers would say: "Unpublished."

I've met a ton of writers at writing conferences. To break the ice, I usually ask them what they're working on. They'll spend ten minutes telling me all about their novel. Then, if they've not sold a book yet, they'll hang their heads like they're admitting to being a drug dealer or a congress-critter and mutter, "But I'm (shudder) unpublished."

Let's just dump that word. I've got a better one. When I was in college, I knew a lot of students who were hoping to get into med school. Some of them eventually made it. Some didn't. But here's the thing: I never heard any of them saying they were "unmedical" students. They said they were "pre-med."

I wish all writers would quit calling themselves "unpublished." I think it would be a whole lot smarter to use the word "pre-published."

Why is this important? Because the way you think about yourself influences whether you succeed or not. And how long it takes you to succeed.

I spent about 16 years pre-published (counting from the day I decided I was gonna write me a novel till the day I saw one of my novels on the bookstore shelf.) That's not at all uncommon. I've got friends who took longer. I've got friends who did it much quicker. I took way too long, and I suspect my own attitude had a lot to do with it.

I believe it should take about four years to get to publishable quality in your fiction. Some writers will be quicker, some slower, but four years is reasonable. I've got a longish article on my web site that explains the whole theory behind this:

The bottom line is that I classify pre-published writers into four categories, Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. At each stage, there are specific tasks you need to accomplish to advance to the next stage.

You may be a Freshman, a Sophomore, a Junior, a Senior, or even a Graduate. If you aren't happy with how your career is going, then here are five steps you can take to get back on the road to where you want to go.

1) Take inventory of yourself. What level of writer are you? Do your writing friends agree? Do published authors agree? If you think you're a Senior and everybody else thinks you're a Sophomore, then there's a problem. Being a Sophomore doesn't mean you're a bad writer. It means you're not fully trained yet. There's a difference. Figure out where you are.

2) Make a long-term goal for yourself. If you've figured out that you're a Freshman, then a reasonable long-term goal is to graduate in about four years. Whereas if you're a Senior, then a reasonable goal is to graduate THIS year! Please note that you need to realistically think about whether this writing game is for you. You may wind up spending the next four or five years training to write fiction, and then end up NEVER getting published. Does that make you chuck your cheeseburgers? If so, then go find another career. Pick a safer one, like wing-walking or cliff diving or lion taming.

3) Make a short-term goal for yourself. Rome wasn't built in a nanosecond, and you won't learn neurosurgery or tennis or fiction in a few days or weeks or months. Can't be done. What can you reasonably do in the next three months? In the next year? For my short-term goals, I ask myself what I'm weakest at and what I'm strongest at. Then I work on improving just those two areas of my writing.

4) Get yourself some advisor's. You are the average of the five people you hang out with most. Change your hang-out group, and you just might change your behavior! Find some advisor's who are at a similar stage in their careers, writers who are positive thinkers and are dedicated to advancing. (If you're a Sophomore, hang out mostly with other Sophomores, and maybe a few Freshmen or Juniors). Your advisor's won't be in this just for you. They'll be in it for them too. They'll advise you, and you'll advise each of them. This is often called a Mastermind Group or a Dream Team or whatever. Get yours. No less than five. No more than six. This is NOT the same as a critique group. These are career advisor's, not craft polishers.

5) Map out a plan to meet your short-term goal. If you're not sure what to do, ask your advisor's. That's what they're there for. If they don't know, figure out who does. Share what you learn with your advisor's. Do everything you possibly can to help them succeed. They'll return the favor in spades.

6) I promised five steps, but you get a bonus sixth: Go do it. Put your plan into practice. Meet regularly with your advisory group. Keep each other accountable. If your plan isn't working, figure out why. If you don't know why, figure out whom to ask. Get help! Give help! Work your plan until you reach your short-term goal. Then set a new one.

That's all! It's pretty simple, but don't kid yourself -- it isn't easy. Learning to write fiction is hard work, and if you don't like that, then quit. Quitting IS easy and you'll get to watch more TV and probably have a better love life. You just won't ever get published, but you won't really care, or you'd be willing to do what it takes.

But the fact is, you can't quit and you won't. Because writing is in your blood. When writing is in your blood, you're going to do what it takes to succeed. You're going to assess where you are. You're going to make a plan. You're going to execute that plan.

That's what writers do.

Randy Ingermanson is the award-winning author of six novels and one nonfiction book. He is known around the world as "the Snowflake Guy" - a tribute to his invention of the widely used "Snowflake method" of designing a novel. Randy has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and is the publisher of the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction, the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with over 8000 readers. Visit his web site today:

What If My Whole Writing Career Has Been Wrong?

By Beth Erickson

I've been writing professionally for nearly 15 years. I've seen a lot of ups and downs, triumphs and disasters.

As an industry, freelancing has transformed more times than I can count, the big-wigs of yesteryear have been replaced and today's big-wigs will invariably be a fond memory someday.

Overall, freelancing has been good, helped me achieve many of the objectives I set out to achieve.

One thing I didn't expect, however, is how easy it is to fall off track. I share this story with you in the hopes that you don't fall into the same trap(s) I did.

Back when I was working with my Creative Mindset Group, I always emphasized the importance of Polaris. If you're unaware with this concept, here's a quick explanation: Sailors worldwide could navigate earth's vast oceans (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) because they fixed their heading based on the position of Polaris, our North Star.

Polaris is positioned directly above the North Pole. This means that despite the earth's continual rotation, Polaris is the only star that doesn't appear to move across the night sky. Instead, it remains fixed in its position, allowing reliable ship navigation.

So, theoretically speaking, no matter where you are (in the Northern Hemisphere), if you can't find your way, all you need to do is look up, find Polaris, and you'll be able to navigate your way back on track. Cool, eh?

Now, time for my quick story.

I begin my writing career with a message in my soul and a song in my heart. Along the way, I discovered that making a living as a freelancer was a little more challenging than I expected. Turns out, I'm not only expected to know how to write, I must spin a great yarn, I must persevere in a tough profession, and most horrifying of all, I must learn to sell my writing.

It's a tall order.

So, setting my ultimate dream (my Polaris) aside, I embarked on the long process of perfecting my craft (still have a ways to go on that count, I'm sure), keeping my mindset strong, and mastering various components of the persuasive process, i.e. marketing, just to name a few challenges.

That's about the time things started going a bit amok for me.

While I rather enjoy exploring these techniques, they are mere tools to propel me towards my ultimate goal... my Polaris. However, none of them are my "official" Polaris.

Sadly, for far too many years, my life rotated around these exact activities. I studied writing, I immersed myself in mindset issues, I lived, breathed, and ate everything I could get my hands on when it came to mastering marketing techniques. In fact, I even became a professional copywriter for a time.

Ah, the incredible detours we take.

Bad part was that my ultimate dream, my Polaris,languished, patiently waiting for me to come to my senses.

And here's where it gets really interesting.

I firmly believe that we're born with in in-born navigation system, a way we can instantly know when we're on a path contrary to our Polaris. Whenever I'm working on a project that is in harmony, something that is leading me closer to my ultimate goal, I feel great. I'm in the creative zone. I love it. Challenges hardly feel like challenges because I find the whole process so invigorating.

When I'm working on a project that isn't in harmony with my Polaris, I feel a resistance, an annoying niggling feeling that makes it hard to write. I have to force myself to the computer to get moving. The whole process has a dark pallor about it.

When I experience these negative sensations, I know I need to reevaluate the project and examine whether it will enhance my ultimate goal, or whether I should pass the project on to another writer who may find joy working on it.

I know. Easier said than done.

It's hard to turn down projects. It's only the daring who have courage to run after their own dreams, especially when you've got a few dollars at stake.

My theory is that talented people are capable of a lot. However, just because you have the ability to do something doesn't mean you should. We have a finite amount of time per day. How will you spend that time; writing something truly heart felt and empowering, or slaving over a project you took on for the sole purpose of earning a few bucks. The old adage is true: You earn every cent when you take on a project solely for the money.

Somewhere along the line, you'll have to decide whether you'll follow your personal Polaris, your life purpose, or allow yourself to be side tracked by the myriad of possibilities that could, in essence, be valuable, but may leave you wondering at the end of your career, "What if my whole writing career has been wrong?"

Beth Ann Erickson is a compulsive writer, author of seven titles, and editor of Writing Etc., the free zine for writers. Get her first novel when you sign up as a VIP member of new newsletter. It's free, fabulous, and fun.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Turbo-Charging Your Writing Career - 6 High-Yield Strategies

by Marg McAlister -

Hands up all those who'd like to have a successful writing career.
(What's that you say? What do I mean by 'successful'?)
All right, I know all writers are individuals. To some, 'successful' might mean just getting one article published. Others want a string of best-selling novels, recognition in the supermarket and megabucks in the bank account. So, for the purposes of this article, we'll define 'successful' as "achieving regular or ongoing publication credits in tandem with a growing income". That income should increase as you become more recognized and popular as a writer.
Now for the crunch. How do you achieve success? How do you win a growing readership? And the biggie: how do you make sure you get paid for your efforts?
There's a simple answer. You need to INVEST in your career. Think of your writing as a fledgling business. Wise investment will help it to grow - and help you to get the results you want. 
  1. You need to spend a buck to make two (or more) bucks
  2. You need to prioritize your spending
  3. You need to invest time as well as money
  4. You need to invest energy
  5. You need to surround yourself with wise advisors and positive people
  6. You need to plan, review, and plan again

1. You Need To Spend A Buck To Make A Buck
Every craftsperson needs to have good tools to get the best results. A writer is no different. 
  • You can make do with a typewriter - but a computer is better. (Why? It's easier to edit your work; you can connect to the wider writing community via the Internet, and editors are increasingly asking for manuscripts and proofs to be emailed to them.)
  • You can make do with looking up publishers in the Yellow Pages - but the latest edition of a Writer's Marketplace is better. (Why? It gives you much more industry-specific information - and it's a darn sight more convenient.)
  • You can make do with business cards and postcards to promote yourself - but an email address/website address is better. (Why? The take-up rate of Internet users is phenomenal - people can reach you or read about you easily and conveniently.)
It's easy to talk yourself into "making do". And it's true that writers can spend almost nothing on tools of the trade. However, successful businesses know that in the end, you have to spend money to make money. That doesn't mean waste money - it means you carefully plan your spending.
2. You Need to Prioritise Your Spending
There are three main things you need to think about when you're prioritising your spending on your writing career. 
  1. What will help me improve my skills?
  2. What will help me to do my job more effectively?
  3. What will help me to become better known and to market my work?
Look realistically at your income and expenditure, and decide what you can spend on your writing career in the next 12 months. Don't make this the least possible you can manage. Think of it as ongoing costs in building an effective business. (And remember that many start-up businesses don't expect to make a profit for the first 3 years!)
Here are a few ideas:
(a) What will help me improve my skills?
Books on writing for your professional library - a writing course - a writing workshop or program - a writers' seminar or conference - membership of a writers' centre - writing software - a critique service
(b) What will help me do my job more effectively?
An up to date computer - a good-quality desk and chair - an internet connection - a directory of writers' markets - a separate room for writing - a reduction in working hours in my outside job - a fax and/or good printer - a better word processing program
(c) What will help me to get known and to market my work?
Attendance at writing talks/seminars/workshops/groups - local functions and social groups - internet discussion lists - my own website - submission of articles to industry magazines/ezines - run my own seminars and workshops - business cards - regular column for local paper - radio chat show appearances
These are just a few ideas. Brainstorm a list of your own, then rank the items on each list in order of importance to you. What is the wisest use of your money at this point in your career?
3. You Need To Invest Time As Well As Money
You have probably already noticed that many of the career-boosting strategies that involve investment of cash also require an investment of your time. The importance of giving time to your career cannot be overestimated. 
  • It takes time to read up on markets and draw up a submission list.
  • It takes time to keep records about where your work has been and where it needs to go next.
  • It takes time to go to seminars, workshops and regular group meetings.
  • It takes time to read up on techniques to build your writing skills, to use them, and to get feedback on how well they worked.
  • And of course - it takes time to actually sit down and write!
In writing, as in any field of endeavour, there are far more 'gunnas' than achievers. "I was gunna write for an hour every day, BUT..."; "I was gunna do a chapter this week, BUT..."; "I was gunna go to that seminar, BUT..."
It's far easier to find excuses for not doing something than to get out there and do it. With every excuse, your writing career stalls again. Sure, we all have times when everything that could go wrong does go wrong - but we need to be careful that this enforced 'time out' doesn't stretch from weeks to months, or from months to years.
4. You Need To Invest Energy
An energetic approach to achieving success in your writing career is just as important as spending time and money. You can spend thousands of dollars and you can sit down at the computer for four hours a day seven days a week - but if you don't invest energy then you are diluting the effects of both.
Example #1: You can go to a seminar and sit by yourself the whole time (or nod off because you're bored/tired)... or you can make an effort to talk to other writers; ask questions of the panel; introduce yourself to an agent.
Example #2: You can skim through the posts on an internet discussion list... or you can join in and toss around a few ideas (and get to know the others on the list).
Example #3: You can sit at your desk for 2 hours and write a page, play 10 games of Solitaire, answer your email and chat on the phone to a friend for twenty minutes... or you can write a scene, print it out, read it out loud for pacing, analyse the dialogue, then rewrite it - in short: be proactive about using your writing time.
5. You Need To Surround Yourself With Wise Advisers and Positive People
It has often been said that writing is a lonely occupation. It certainly can be, if all you do is sit in front of the computer for hours on end, lost in your writing world. It's even lonelier if you seem to be the only one who believes that you've got a chance of making something of 'this writing caper'.
Am I saying that it's a bad thing to become really involved in your writing? Not at all - but you do need balance. You also need to surround yourself with the right kind of people to help you move forward - (1) the right advisers and (2) positive people.
Who are the 'right advisers'? People who know something of the world of writing. Usually, these will be other writers or professionals connected with writing: agents, editors, writing centre personnel, and experienced members of writing groups (online and offline).
What about 'positive people'? This is easy. Getting published is hard enough without the doomsayers undermining your confidence. If your family is not supportive, look for others who are. Talk about writing with people who care. Beware of published writers who launch savage attacks on the publishing industry without offering any constructive advice (sometimes they have a hidden agenda).
You love to write. You want to make a living at it. You want to know how to make this a reality - not be told how awful and impossible it all is.
Naturally, you shouldn't close your ears to sage advice. If there's an editor everyone hates dealing with, you want to know about it. If there's a publisher who takes ten months to respond to a manuscript, doesn't take calls and is slow paying contracted authors - you want to know about that too. But overall, mix with positive people. Your enthusiasm and effectiveness will soar.
6. You Need To Plan, Review, and Plan Again
A well-run business reviews its performance regularly. As you invest time, money and energy in your career, stop periodically to review the effectiveness of your strategies. 
  • What did you learn from that conference/workshop?
  • How much return will you get from your investment in that book on technique or that directory of writers' markets?
  • How much difference has your investment in an internet connection made to your knowledge and contacts?
  • What is the next step in your career?
  • What do you need to invest to take you to the next step?
Plan, review, then plan again. This should be an ongoing process in your campaign to establish yourself as a successful writer!
By employing these 6 high-yield strategies to investing in your career, you'll notice a definite change in your attitude and your results.
Does this approach work?
Well, for over a decade now I've had a career based solely on writing and writing-related activities. It pays well in both satisfaction and dollars. I've always invested time, money and energy in my career. I've tried to surround myself with good advisers and positive people. And yes, I do plan, review then plan again! I'm constantly updating my knowledge, tools and contacts.
These 6 high-yield strategies have worked for countless other writers. They're based on (1) common sense and (2) good business sense.
Give them a try, and watch them work wonders for you.
(c) copyright Marg McAlister
Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How to Create a Professional Writing or Artistic Portfolio

by Eric Engel -

Up for a job interview? Trying to win over a prospect? Want to show potential clients that you have what it takes as a freelancer?

Pages stapled together (or pieces taped into a leather bound book) won't cut it. Your portfolio says everything about you as an artist. You can't afford to let it look like a hack's job. And the binding says just as much about you as the work itself.

Your Portfolio Should Tell the Story of You

A portfolio should speak for itself. You won't always be there to comment on the work. You may have to leave your portfolio with someone so they can spend more time examining it. In some cases (such as with out-of-town prospects), you may have to mail it to them before they'll even see you.

How to Organize Your Portfolio

Organize your portfolio in some sort of categorical sequence...and each category should have a title page. Most writers and artists prefer to start with 'College Work'. If you have no college work to show, then jump right into the industry or type of creative work. But make sure to include the title for that industry.

You can separate the title page for each category, by trimming a quarter of inch off the rest of the pages. Then (if you have a printer that will print on the edges) print the title on the edge of each title page in your portfolio.

With so many technological advances, there's no reason to glue pieces of your work to the pages. If it's an electronic publication, simply cut and paste into whatever software you're using to print it out (more about software later). If you want to show the printed work, scan it and paste it in as a graphic.

The printed pages from your computer are easier to manage, won't fall out, and easier for your prospects to page through. The last thing you want your prospects to worry about is losing scraps of paper that fall out while they're trying to get a good look at your work. If you don't have a color printer, save everything to a file and find a local print shop that will do the work for you. It's an added expense, but it's well worth the money.

What Kind of Software to Use

The software you use largely depends on what kind of software you can afford (and your ability to learn software). If you're a computer graphic designer, then you probably already know what to use. For writers, Microsoft Word will work...but it would be easier to make a really outstanding portfolio with Microsoft Publisher. Publisher would make it easier to use graphics, colors, and text windows.

Adobe InDesign is great for a multi-page document, and you can easily import work from other programs. It also gives you more control over the sizes of what you import. So your portfolio can have extended pages for the titles. Adobe products are generally more expensive and harder to learn. Corel has several more affordable options.

The Final Portfolio Touches

Whether you're a writer or an artist, the little details will mean a lot to your prospects. Again, using a standard 8 ½ x 11 booklet will make it easier for the prospects to look through your portfolio. It also makes it easier to mail your portfolio to and from prospects.

It's permissible to include an electronic version of your portfolio (either online or by CD), but prospects still need a hard copy to look at. Even for animated graphics, using screen shots arranged in a timeline will impress them more than directing them to a website.