I’ve posted in the past about the need for anyone in a creative profession to have a toolkit. Today, we’ll look at one of the biggest pieces of that toolkit, the portfolio.

A creative portfolio is basically a glorified resume. As a creative professional, it gives prospective clients or employers an opportunity to get a sense of your style and professionalism. It also means that, if someone asks to see your work, you don’t have to scramble through old folders, trying to figure out which pieces are suitable, or finished, or ‘good’. All you need to do is zip up the folder and email it right to them, or take it to interviews on a flash drive.

It’s also a good idea to have several versions, depending on your career and experience. Since each person’s portfolios will differ, I’ll share how mine are set up.

I have a varied career, which is both good and bad, but for the purposes of the post, means several very different collections.

My editorial portfolio is inclusive of anthologies, magazine and blog editing. I have covers from my projects, a selection of strong reviews, and some actual content, including an ebook edition of one of the magazines I edited.

Sell sheets I’ve written, coverage I’ve obtained, tours I’ve organized, etc. The idea here is to give an image of the range of my experience and clients.

Pretty self-explanatory! I should probably break this into two sections for my own work, but I haven’t…yet. This is where customization really comes into play. Are you applying for a creative position? Pitching nonfiction? Editorial? You don’t want your prospect to have to read five or six things before getting to the one they need to read. A variety is good, but make sure the title shows which one it is.

Not everything in a writing portfolio needs to be completed short stories or novels. Looking for game design work? Have some pieces of world-building you contributed to another project, even if it wasn’t gaming. Need nonfiction work? Make a list of the pieces you have finished, with a short description and publication history of each…and a list of pieces you want to write or are currently working on. Again, label clearly.

And, finally…
The bones of the portfolio are the same for all of them: you need a bio, a headshot, an easily-edited cover letter and resume. You won’t need these every time you send out a portfolio, but it keeps everything in one handy place.

As usual, this varies by person, career and career path. Figure out what works for you, and run with that, but always be sure to keep it fresh, edited , consistent, clearly-labeled and professional.