Posts filed under Web Design

Building Your Professional Website & Online Portfolio: 13 Things You Need to Know

If you’re pursuing a career as a professional writer, having an online portfolio is an absolute must. When we say “online portfolio,” what we mean is a website that showcases your work, the same way you would in a binder of newspaper clippings (does anyone do that anymore?!).

Having an online portfolio allows you to direct potential employers to a single, permanent space where your work will always be accessible. It won’t get ruined in the rain and it will never go out of date (if you update it regularly, that is!). Even more importantly, it improves your professional online presence and creates a platform on which to market yourself, which is really what finding a job is all about. Plus, it shows how tech-savvy you are—a huge selling point alone!

There are so many online tools available, many of which are even free. But regardless of which one you choose, consult our expert checklist below to ensure your online portfolio is polished, professional and effective!

Relevant domain:

  • Having your own domain name doesn’t cost much and it shows that you are serious about being a professional! Use your own name, a business name, or a short phrase that reflects your goals. Remember, it’s all about marketing yourself and creating something memorable.

Aesthetically pleasing design:

  • Treat the design of your website as part of the portfolio itself. You want to show potential employers and clients that you have some web skills, but don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you have to become a web developer or a coding expert. Many designs are already built for you, and you have the option to customize them if you want. Also keep in mind that what is ‘hip’ in design is constantly changing. You don’t want a site that looks like it was built in 2005—things have come a long way since then.

Professional headshot:

  • Making a good first impression with a professional headshot is crucial. Think of it this way: you’re the product you’re trying to market! This doesn’t mean you have to be a model, but getting your photo taken by a professional photographer—or even a friend with a great camera—is an investment you won’t regret! You can use this headshot in countless places, and it might be the first impression someone has of you and your brand. Lots of writers skimp on this, but it is absolutely crucial to your online image and the way you will be perceived. If you don’t care about representing yourself well, then how well will you be able to represent someone else?

Your resume:

  • Whether listed directly on the site or provided as a PDF, including your resume offers an excellent way for potential employers to get a quick picture of your experience. Even a link to your LinkedIn profile is a good option.


  • This one is obvious at this point, but if you are going to bother making a website, then it needs to showcase your work! (You’d be surprised at how many professional websites lack this…) Include photos of completed projects, samples, screenshots, links, videos—whatever you have! It’s best to include a caption with each piece that at least details when it was created and what your contribution was.

Contact info:

  • You don’t have to give away your soul here—a simple e-mail address that you regularly check will suffice! We definitely recommend against sharing your address online unless it’s an actual office and you want people to find you.


Description of services:

  • If you’re looking for freelance gigs, then you’ll want to include a list of your services and a brief description of each. Some freelance professionals choose to list their rates and fees directly on the site, while others prefer to keep that information confidential until they speak with a potential client directly. Either way, it should be clear from visiting your site what you do!


  • If you work with freelance clients, then this is a wonderful way to show off your street cred! Of course, some people take these with a grain of salt (who would post a bad review of themselves on their own website?) but it does show that you’ve worked with real people.

Dead pages:

  • Oops! How did that happen? Test every link on your page—it doesn’t look very professional if you send someone to your portfolio and an important page is broken.

Unfinished design:

  • Don’t send anyone to your site unless it’s completely finished! Once you start a page, finish it.

Out of date information:

  • Did you get a new e-mail address? A new job? Have your work responsibilities changed? Is 2008 the last time you made an update? It’s a good idea to give your portfolio a glance every few months. Consider adding a website updating schedule to your calendar.

Faulty links:

  • Unfortunately, links to other websites do become inactive, and when they do, there isn’t anything you can do about it. But don’t let that deter you from including them on your site. Just be sure to test the published links periodically.

Spelling or grammatical errors:

  • You may be a writer or an editor, but you’re still not perfect. Call in a favor from a co-worker or ask a friend to proofread the text on your site—the last thing you want is for a potential client or employer to catch an error when you’re the one claiming to be the grammatical expert!

No matter where you’re at in your career, an online portfolio is not only a huge professional asset, but it’s also a super convenient way to get your name out there! Creating one may feel like busywork, but trust us, the investment will pay off.

Need some inspiration? Check out the links below for some of our favorite online portfolios (all from Dear English Major contributors!):


Megan Falk: Direct Response Marketing Coordinator


Name: Megan Falk

Age: 29

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. English: Creative Writing, with a focus in Womens’ Studies

Current Location: Cincinnati, OH

Current Form of Employment: Direct Response Marketing Coordinator for a non-profit organization

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work full-time for The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters as Direct Response Marketing Coordinator. My job is largely encompassed by creating and editing content for direct mailings, as well as creating and updating websites to promote special events.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first job straight out of college was as an ESL instructor in Seoul, South Korea. At the time, I was blissfully afflicted with wanderlust and the job market was dismal, so teaching English seemed to be the perfect fit. A friend of the family had been teaching in South Korea for years and although I enjoyed his anecdotes and stories he told during his state-side visits, I wanted to see it all for myself!

After completing the lengthy application and applying for my passport, I had to answer a few essay questions regarding my aspirations in English and undergo a phone interview (Skype had only just launched and was still quite unknown!). I lived in Seoul for one year and massively enjoyed balancing work and play.

An acquaintance assisted me with acquiring my current job in the non-profit sector. She had been promoted and asked me if I knew of anyone who would be interested in her former position; I jumped at the chance. I had always been told that working for a non-profit was very rewarding and I can honestly attest that it is and continues to be!

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

When I returned to the U.S. after a year teaching abroad, I took on a job as a teacher’s aide at a special needs elementary school. Although most of my day consisted of working one-on-one with students, I was given the opportunity to assist a colleague with creating content for the school’s new website. I relished the opportunity to put my writing skills into action while helping to promote the services and programs of the school.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I applied and interviewed for the college newspaper but unfortunately did not get the job. Writers and reporters for the college newspaper were highly coveted positions and although I didn’t get hired on, this was perhaps my first real lesson about the competitiveness of writers in the job market. This experience, however, did not deter me from submitting articles on a freelance basis in order to get my work out there in print.

During my sophomore and junior years, I had a paid summer internship at a marketing firm. The internship allowed me to learn how to make professional connections and discover that the film “Office Space” was really a cautionary tale! All cinematic interpretations aside, I learned first-hand what the expectations were of working in a nine-to-five office job.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Having meticulous spelling, grammar, and punctuation will assist you in many ways, but in order to find and keep employment that will justify your years spent studying English, you must not settle. It is of the utmost importance to find a job that you look forward to going to each day.

Employers want to hire someone who stands out and can bring innovation to their company. Keep your mind fresh with learning about new technologies and acquire new skills that will make you a valuable asset. Accept challenges head-on and understand that there are no failures, only learning opportunities.

Visit Megan's online writing portfolio, check out her blog, and connect with her on LinkedIn!

Posted on May 18, 2014 and filed under Non-profit, Writing, Editing, Teaching, Web Design, Marketing.

Nicki Krawczyk: Copywriter, Copy Coach & Founder of

Name: Nicki Krawczyk

Age: 34

College & Majors/Minors: Boston University, BS in Communication

Current Location: Boston, MA

Current Form of Employment: Copywriter, Copy Coach and Founder of

Where do you work and what is your current position?

This isn't as simple a question as you'd think. :) Right now, I'm working part-time for a company called SmarterTravel as their Copy Manager. I'm there to help out, but my main focus is on my company, Filthy Rich Writer. We provide tips, tools and training for new and aspiring copywriters and we're in a big growth phase. It's very exciting, if ever so slightly exhausting. I also take on freelance copywriting work if it seems interesting. (I just finished up a video series with an animation studio in Brazil.)

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

Well, my first real job out of school was running events at a health club. It took me a little while to find copywriting. The funny thing is, when I was in high school, my Dad was a marketing director and used to bring home extra work for me to do. I'd write it and he'd review it, offering me feedback and suggestions. After college, though, I stumbled through a few different jobs (I taught aqua aerobics—and I made those ladies work) before it occurred to me that I could actually write copy for a living. Once I figured out that that's what I wanted to do, I really hustled; I put myself out there, learned as much as I could, made a bunch of mistakes and wasted a lot of time. It worked out in the end, but it wasn't exactly the most direct route to success.

Since then, I've had the privilege of working for and with a bunch of really fun clients including TripAdvisor, Marshalls, Hasbro, Keurig, adidas and, yup, Harlequin Romance novels. I’ve worked for agencies, I’ve worked in-house and I’ve worked freelance. I love copywriting. It's fun, it's challenging, it lets you work with really dynamic people and you get to see your work in print or online all the time. And it doesn't hurt that it pays really well, either.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I actually think the answer for me has more to do with a task within a job. I was working to build up a team of writers to write copy and content for a flash sale travel site and my team consisted of two brand new junior copywriters and three writers whose experience was in editorial writing. To bring them up to speed, I put together a course to teach them everything I knew about copywriting, and my company spawned from that. The crazy thing is that it’s actually been really hard for people to learn copywriting—and what I mean is that there very few college classes in it, ad school is expensive and many of the online courses out there have been either get-rich-quick schemes or don't give people all the information they need.

So, basically, I started my company to teach people everything I wish I'd known when I started out and then everything I’ve learned since then. (The books I bought back then basically just told me to buy a fax machine. I'm not joking.) I love copywriting, and I discovered that I really love coaching people to be copywriters.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Not enough! I mean, I had a couple of public relations internships and those taught me that I didn't like public I guess that's something... Most of my preparation for post-grad life came post-grad. During college, I was always kind of itching to get out and really start my life. The thing is, though, that back then, internships were pretty much the only thing you could do to prepare. Now, there are a million and one things you can learn online and so many more opportunities to help you to hit the ground running when you graduate.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Get training in the field you want to get into, no matter what that field is. The big secret about changing careers (or starting careers) is that it's a three step process:

  1. Get training
  2. Get experience 
  3. Get work

The thing is, most people try to skip over step one, step two, or both of them—and that's usually exactly why they fail. A lot of people think the way to break into a new career is just to write/rewrite their resumes and apply. But no one's going to hire you and give you a shot just because you're a nice person. I mean, if two people are applying for a job and one has training and experience while the other doesn't, who do you think is going to get the job? The good news, though, is that it's easier than ever to get job training. There are so, so many quality courses online. And the really good courses, too, will give you training, plus give you the steps you need to take to build experience and success for changing careers.

Check out Nicki's copywriting portfolio at, and head on over to her business website,!

Posted on May 1, 2014 and filed under Marketing, Writing, Copywriting, Web Design.

Amanda Rinker: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Name: Amanda Rinker

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, Writing Concentration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Current Location: San Antonio, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I currently work at OVC, INC. (aka OVC Lawyer Marketing) which is a website development company based out of Chicago, Illinois. We provide website design, Search Engine Optimization, social media, website content, blogs, and more for attorneys located throughout the U.S. At OVC, I am the Content Manager. I mostly handle the assigning and editing of website content and blogs, but I also help out with the web operations duties of maintaining legal directory listings for our clients, creating and updating mobile websites, updating websites, and the upkeep of Google Places listings. Really, I wear many different hats at OVC but my passion is the content. It is a big responsibility to keeping content and blog schedules on track, as well as handling client turnaround on projects, but my passion for editing makes all of the pressure worth it. I love being able to take something a writer compiled, research the latest SEO techniques to implement, and conform the writing to make a client successful and happy.

I was introduced to the owner of OVC, Greg Wildman, back in 2011 through my first freelance job after college. I worked for (then Online Video Concepts, LLC) here and there for two years, adding content and updates to attorney websites. In 2013, I gained a bigger role with the company, and this year I became its first employee. With the 2014 massive growth of OVC, we hired on three more full time employees and even more contract writers and web developers. OVC, INC. has a bright future and I plan on helping to carry the torch.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

My first job was for a multi-faith prayer website (weird, right?). After college, I started dating my now husband of four years so I was determined to find a work-from-home job. He was in the Army and we'd likely be moving around every two to three years. So I cruised Craigslist ads for three months after graduation before I came upon the interesting ad. I sent an email with my short post-graduation resume and received a response from the Chicago-based website. After a Skype interview, I was hired and worked for the website for about a year as a freelance editor eventually managing a team of writers and editing their content for publication and email newsletters. Through this amazing opportunity, I learned HTML, the content management system Joomla, Wordpress, how to publish eBooks, and really just how to be a professional in a virtual setting. I will be forever grateful for this first opportunity I had.

Nowadays, especially when you telecommute to work, employers are looking for writers and editors with a broad range of skills. You can't just be able to write anymore; you have to know some HTML, have worked in the "back end" of websites, know the latest SEO techniques, have experience with social media, and more. Not only do you have to have talent, but you must also be willing to learn how to market yourself. This involves keeping your own online portfolio and making sure it's up to date. For example, my website is not as current as it could be, but now that I have a full time employee position I can afford to let it linger until I need it. However, when I'm in the market for new freelance opportunities, I always make sure to have the most recent articles I've written, live links to social media I've helped manage, etc. Not only should the resume be recent, but having my own hand-built portfolio website also shows my budding web development skills.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

My job after the prayer site was for a digital art magazine/news website. This job taught me the importance of being an asset to a business. For example, I would take calls or push out relevant news stories for our website on nights and weekends. I was the link of broadcasting the latest art, fashion, or book news to our viewers. It was great for learning responsibility and my value as a worker. This editing position also taught me more about interviewing. I would interview innovative creators of art and learn what made them tick, or what their inspirations were. It helped me connect with people even if it was over a computer or on the phone. It can make you stir crazy working in an empty office at home, so this provided some human interaction. Finally, this freelance job gave me more insight on publishing for eReaders like Kindle, Nook and iPad. There are so many different aspects that go into publishing that readers don't think about, such as each eReader must be created in it's own file format. They all don't read the same file and make it look pretty on the screen. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with when publishing the quarterly eMagazine.

I also freelanced for a publisher that released different science-related journals. Specifically, I worked on an academic physics journal. Let me say, it's very interesting to edit around scientific terms and theories that you don't understand. However, I made it work somehow. As a copy editor you pick up inserting that "blank" noun or verb over a term you don't know. Though, I am proud to say that when I see stories about the Large Hadron Collider in the news I jump for joy because I've been editing works about it. Most notably, this job taught me how to work with the Chicago Manual of Style (whereas I was familiar with MLA style in college) and how to use different editing software for journals.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

During my senior year of college, I was involved in the English Department's "BaZaar Magazine," a student publication with articles and reviews written on music, movies, and travel sites. But, my main involvement that shaped my career was my in English Club and Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society) from sophomore to senior year. My senior year, I was the President of the English Club and Vice President of our Sigma Tau Delta chapter. Attending STD (yes, it's a great acronym) conferences in different cities, submitting my writing and meeting book authors was the best experience I had in college. I have signed books from Alexandra Fuller, Michael Perry, and Neil Gaiman that I will treasure forever, as well as the memories of hearing them speak about their careers. Not only did these organizations look good on my resume, but they enriched my life and future career with expanding my own writing, learning from others, and gaining relationships with my peers.

The other major thing I did to prepare for post-college life ("real life" as I call it) was nab an internship at a small Pittsburgh publishing house. This helped me get my hands on manuscripts, allowed me to contribute my own book reviews to their blog, and showed me the ins and outs of a real company. Though I did intern tasks like maintain the stockroom, mail out book orders, and get everyone lunch, I learned valuable editing and business skills from the editors and book designers.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

One concrete statement that I can give to English students and graduates is what I mentioned before: Be more than just a writer or editor. Know your craft but also know what will make you successful. Market yourself with the abilities you should have in today's digital age. Also, be willing to take less money if you want to get your foot in the door. I started off making $8/hour (now near minimum wage) with my first gig. But, I worked hard and made my way up to $10/hr in only a few months, and so on. Today a lot of people, especially in my generation, think they deserve more right out of college, so that's why they might not be working in the field they enjoy. It takes sacrifice and working over 40 hours a week to get somewhere. I'm not saying you may not be worth a higher salary, but to get somewhere you have to start from the bottom and fight your way to the top.

Visit Amanda on her professional website, check out her profile on and connect with her on LinkedIn!