23 January 2016

Ask Freddy: Is My Writing Portfolio Too Long?

Q: Dear Freddy:

What’s a good length for my copywriting portfolio? Right now it’s 20 pages, which feels long, but it’s 6 writing samples, and most are multiple pages. Is that too long?

– K in L.A.

A: Dear K:

Not too long for a real marketer.

Eons ago when I was a junior copywriter, I interviewed for a digital writing job with a marketing exec who merely flipped through my portfolio, glancing at the headlines and the photos before handing it back to me. I was speechless – was my writing that bad?

Fortunately, I didn’t rip my book apart, since it scored me a great writing job later. I also found out that the first company never did hire a writer. The reason? The exec got fired for lying on her resume — she wasn’t really a marketer.

Likewise, if a creative director or marketing manager today thinks your portfolio is too long, you probably don’t want to work for them. Even if they’re “real” marketers, they’re likely out of touch with today’s marketing trends, which emphasize long-form digital content (blogs, branded articles, web copy, even ebooks) over print ads (as much as I love magazines, many are shuttering their print editions).

You’ll see the apathy of these marketers reflected in the dry, lifeless text on most commercial websites: page after page of tedious copy filled with jargon, clichés, and filler. But hey, look at the cool photography!

That’s why, when I’m hiring writers, I want to read as much of their work as possible, with samples in different voices for different clients. While many writers can pen a clever headline or two, their true talent shows in how they keep a reader interested over hundreds of words.

So, by necessity, today’s copywriting portfolios must contain many pages. Gone are the days when copywriting portfolios could feature a mere dozen print ads and audio/video scripts. (A few hotshot ad agency types can still get away with just the short stuff, but most ascending copywriters need to go long.)

Twenty pages sounds about right to give them a taste of your talent — and leave them wanting more.

— Cheers! Freddy

Do you have a question about marketing you’d like to ask Freddy?
Simply drop him a line.


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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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