creative portfolios

23 January 2016

Ask Freddy: Is My Writing Portfolio Too Long?

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Marketing Professor; photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash…

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 to read.

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

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

So if a creative director or marketing manager thinks your portfolio is too long, you probably don’t want to work for them. Even if they’re not faking it, they’re 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).

That’s why, when 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 today’s copywriting portfolios must contain many pages. Gone are the days when copywriting portfolios could feature a mere dozen print ads and storyboards. (A few hotshot ad agency types can still get away with just the short stuff, but they tend to have video reels. Most ascending copywriters need to go long.)

Provided that your portfolio contains your best work and only your best work, 20 pages sounds fine. In short, go long.

— 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 graduate-level marketing communication courses 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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