Currently, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be in a position where I’m open to new opportunities. Many people stay stagnant and get stuck for so many years in a particular situation, where they must remain at a company. But, I’m a believer in growth, expanding my knowledge, being in a place where my wings will not be clipped, and I can fly to new career heights. Since being open to new opportunities, I put my son in daycare because I realized I’m not Superwoman. What I am is a wise woman who recognizes when she needs all of her attention to focus on her next career move.
The biggest thing that’s come up thus far has been hiring managers wanting to see a portfolio.
Why Visual Artists vs. Writers Have It Easier With Their Portfolio Websites
As a content creator, content director, writer, senior social media manager, and content strategist, I am often asked for my portfolio. But you see, not all content is easy to put on one website. Graphic designers, videographers, and photographers have a much easier time having one website. Why? Because they deal with images or videos. Simple. I have a friend who’s a graphic designer. All he had to do was create a website with images of graphics he’s created for companies. Heck, as a content creator that can also shoot DSLR videos and edit them in Adobe Premiere, I even have a section on my other website with examples of video content I’ve directed and edited. Since it’s visual, it’s easy to display.
What about content writing you’ve done for a bunch of companies? What if said companies have changed their websites and the content you wrote for them no longer exist? What if you didn’t take a bunch of screenshots or saved thousands of copies as proof that you can write? Also, when you write for companies, they own the copy and not you. It’s hard to manage physical examples of marketing copy. I ran into this issue myself.
I used to be a news producer for an ABC affiliate in upstate, New York. I wrote hundreds of articles for them and saved a long list with links to each of my content. Then the site was taken down when the station closed. The same happened with a magazine owned by Yellowbook. Hibu was a community magazine distributed nationwide. I wrote a bunch of articles for them that I didn’t save. Another company called 310 Nutrition – I wrote a bunch of content for them as well. I did keep a content analytics spreadsheet with detailed data from impressions, likes, shares, clicks, etc. But all of the links now direct to different content because the website was updated like many other companies.
How Much Copy Do Companies Need To Determine You’re A Professional Writer?
What I do have are my personal blogs, social media accounts, and an entire website of my most recent company. Every word written on that website, I wrote. Yes, I did finally make screenshots of each web page this time. But, why didn’t I save all of my files from previous companies? I wrote so much that I didn’t feel like I needed to keep it all. In all honesty, if I saved all of the content I’ve ever written for other companies, I would literally have a terabyte worth of material and content pieces in the thousands. Ryan Gray, my husband, and chief content officer at STN Media, is a professional journalist who hires freelance writers all the time:
“I’ve been professionally writing and a journalist for 27 years. I only came across maybe one person out of many people I’ve hired that actually had a website with screenshots of old written material saved on their website. 95% of the people that I hire have maybe 2-3 links or a handful of screenshots of clips they’ve saved. As a professional writer and editor of a magazine, honestly, that’s all I really need. I’ve never ever needed more than that to hire a quality writer.”
So, how much professional copy does it take for a writer to prove they can write?
When I volunteered for a literary agency as a manuscript reader and read scripts for other agencies, it took all but the first few pages to know whether or not I liked someone’s style. Heck, sometimes it takes the first page to know if you jive with someone’s style, voice, and storytelling abilities. Unless every single hiring manager out there is a legitimate professional writer, such as my husband, are they actually going to read hundreds of articles a writer has written?
What About Written Assignments Otherwise Known As Specs?
This article was originally almost 4k in word length. I did extensive research on the benefits of writing any article over 3k words. While I found many professionals arguing that long articles make for better SEO, I decided to trim down. I felt 3-4k word length for an article might be a bit too long and decided to save my in-depth pros and cons of specs for its own post. I am very passionate and feel strongly about specs of any kind that require not just artists, but other industry professionals to pass a litmus test to prove their skills. Here is a good online article that expanded on this: Tech Companies Are Getting Free Work Out of Job Applicants.
More often than not, spec assignments aren’t fair and job seekers get the short end of the stick.
Oh yes…I have experience with spec tests and I no longer do them. Editing tests are another thing entirely and perfectly fine because you’re not coming up with original content. You’re simply editing copy, which is an industry-standard. Even still, many people are doing away with them. But spec tests should not be agreed to by professional writers or any career pro in any industry. I will explain in a follow-up article after this on my reasons why. Certainly, there are positive reasons some companies defend their hiring practices. However, there are many more cons for candidates doing writing, design, social media, content strategy, or any other type of unpaid assignment as a part of an interview process. It’s a big debate. One of the major concerns is that companies that do mandate candidates complete written assignments are getting new ideas, fresh copy, and all free of charge. There was an interesting question posed about this on LinkedIn. While this career coach did come across as objective, some of my favorite answers were from LinkedIn professionals that were not in favor of such practices.
They felt the company should agree to compensate the candidate for their time or not be allowed to use the copy without permission. Unfortunately, many companies neither pay candidates for new concepts created for the interview nor do they ask rejected candidates for their permission to use the specs. There are very few companies that will pay. TheHOTH is one such company rumored to pay $5 to candidates that are required to submit a writing assignment for an interview. Regardless of how small, that shows some respect to job seekers. It can at the very least buy them a cup of coffee. Candidates looking for new career opportunities are taken advantage of and that’s why I will not agree to spec assignments anymore. I do not do work for free and if you’re looking for new career opportunities, you shouldn’t either. Because this is a serious issue. Think about it. What happens to all of the marketing content or assignments from job applicants that company X gathered?
It’s a great question and poses an ethical dilemma that I will discuss in a follow-up article.
Do Personal Blogs Count Toward A Professional Portfolio?
Absolutely. If they don’t qualify for some hiring managers, they should. Why? Because many writers use WordPress. WordPress is one of the largest and most popular content management systems (CMS) out there because it’s user-friendly. But it still requires skill. Every major outlet uses them. There’s a great article that lists 40 popular companies that use WordPress, including: Time Magazine, CNN, Tech Crunch, Sony Music, The Rolling Stones, and Microsoft News, just to name a few! My husband’s company, too, and at my suggestion.
Knowing WordPress and navigating your way around designing blogs, scheduling content, selecting images to complement the blog, and understanding SEO plug-ins are fundamental skills. It’s more than just playing around and posting a cute cat or random pictures of your garden. It’s understanding your audience, building your brand, understanding your brand voice, and growing your platform. Isn’t that what many companies are looking for? Don’t they want their company to grow? Don’t they want brand awareness, blogs that improve SEO, drive organic traffic back to their site, and the ROI hopefully being a purchase or action taken, which is the bottom of the funnel in marketing (also called BOFU)? Blogging and social media are at the top of the marketing funnel (TOFU.) See the below marketing funnel I designed myself via Canva Pro!
Blogging and social media can offer a trickle-down effect. This means revitalizing stale content with fresh copy that is unique, engaging, and most importantly, tells a story that hopefully hooks your target audience. Emotion and storytelling are two strong factors in writing great marketing copy for any of your omni-channels: emails, social, direct mail, ads, video scripts, even long-form books. An omni-channel marketing content approach should work well on any device, any platform, whether the user is on their desktop, mobile, or tablet.
I always check how my blog, social copy, social images, video quotes, and any content I create appear on both desktop and mobile. A good content creator, content manager, and strategist of the twenty-first century will be cognizant of how content looks on different platforms. A good content director will be aware of their audience and the customer’s journey.
At the end of the day, skilled writers are storytellers at heart. Personal blogs that tell a story, have an audience, and show the writer’s passion should not be frowned upon but celebrated. Likewise, having social media accounts that show followers, as well as good written and visual content, should be respected in nearly ALL marketing roles as an example of a professional skillset. Why? Because while many people do have blogs and social media accounts, not all of them are successful, written, or designed well. So, if a professional writer does have decent a blog, that should be recognized.
Personal, Successful Social Media Accounts Should Be Praised By Future Employers
If you’re gunning for a social media manager position, your own personal accounts should reflect your knowledge of each platform. In the past, I was stunned when I was hired as a consultant and met several people in social media management positions who have like 3 followers and dead personal social media accounts, or they’re on one platform but not all of them.
It’s like, huh? You’re the social media professional, and you’re hardly on any of the social media accounts you profess to have knowledge of?
It’s like going to a hair salon. Do you want to get your hair cut by a stylist that has bad hair? Or do you want to go with someone who has great hair? If you’re trying to lose weight, do you want to hire a personal trainer that is overweight? No. You want to hire someone who is fit and who walks the talk.
If companies are hiring for content creators, content managers, social media specialists, etc., then they should reward creators who DO demonstrate on their own personal blog(s) and social media accounts that they ABSOLUTELY know what they’re doing. You want a content creator who is proud of their accounts. They give you an indication that they can do the same and provide the same success to you and your company!
I’m On TikTok, Are You? #FollowForAFollow
Below is my newbie #TikTok account. I’ve been on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr for much longer. I do miss Google+ and StumbleUpon. My least favorite is SnapChat. Feel free to watch, follow, and I’ll follow back if you’re on it. I created the video because I’ve been asked multiple times for a portfolio. In the video, I explain in my own words what I’ve shared above.
In summary: This is my main blog. I no longer write on my other two because it simply became to much for me. But I did design, create all the content, and promoted 3 blogs that have generated close to 3 million views (tvshowjunky, newagingparents, and lilpickmeup). Plus, I’m on every major social platform with thousands of followers.
The Bottom Line
I’m very passionate and not just good, but great at what I do. I own my strengths and am willing to take certifications to improve areas where needed. I call myself the Queen of Certifications. Check out all of my certificates listed at the right sidebar, and you’ll know why. If you’re the same in terms of education and experience, then you should ROCK IT! There are ZERO reasons to make yourself small. As a woman of color and someone who had to pay for her own education, I worked too hard through all of my education and experience to shrink myself down.
I’m also not going to allow other people to diminish my accomplishments, and you shouldn’t either. As I said, I’m open to new opportunities, but that also means I may not be the right fit for every company. You may not either, and that’s okay. Some people might want to hire someone with a specific personality, different skills, or with a certain job title, etc. They may want specific writing samples such as only B2B or only B2C or only a particular type of genre. When it comes to B2B or B2C writing, that’s the most ridiculous emphasis I repeatedly see in job postings. Why? Because a good content writer can 100% write B2B or B2C as long as they know the audience.
Now uber genre specific such as writing only about technical automotive or computer networking topics, yeah, that requires a special type of person. B2B and B2C writing don’t take an award-winning writer or someone who has only done one thing. It’s not very hard, not for a professional writer who is good and understanding and finding nuance. But hiring managers are looking for what they’re looking for. It is what it is. However, as a candidate on the search, I’m also not desperate. I’m taking my time, and I’m also interviewing companies. That’s how every candidate should be. It has to be the right fit for both the company and the potential new employee.
I’d much rather wait for a company that will see my personal blogs, social media accounts, and my successful contributions to my former employer as strong qualities they want. As writers and content creators, we should celebrate our personal achievements. We should be in an environment where we are encouraged to fly instead of having our wings clipped. So like I said, I’m taking my time. Because I’d rather have a company beyond excited to have me on board, love what I can bring to the table, and you should, too.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged Artists, Career Advice, Careers, Content, Designers, Education, marketing, Portfolio, Professional Writers, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Success, Writers.