Chapter 3

The importance of an online portfolio + job opportunities + free advice

Dear writers,

Welcome to chapter 3 of your friendly neighbourhood freelancing newsletter.

As promised a few days back, I want to start this edition by saying: DO NOT WRITE FOR FREE. Free here could mean publications that offer payments in paise/word. Yes, Indian publications don’t pay very well and the situation is no different in the content writing space but, you have to put your foot down and demand more. Don’t do your writing such a grave disservice.

A good practice before discussing payments is to ask yourself: Is my time and effort worth a piece that pays me just Rs200-Rs500? How many articles a month would I have to write to earn enough to pay your rent (My biggest expenditure every month is rent so, this is a very important question for me). Wouldn’t it be better to put this on a blog rather than published in a place that doesn’t value my words?

It makes me sad when people tell me they got paid low rates. Always ask about payments upfront and then decide on whether you want to take things further. This is a pet peeve and I will not stop talking about it.

Today’s newsletter focuses on creating an online portfolio, and features the usual job opportunities and calls for pitches.  

Let’s begin.   


STRAIGHT TALK: THE PORTFOLIO

This week, I want to talk about something that is essential to every freelancer: having an online portfolio. You may be a freelance writer, designer, graphic designer, journalist or photographer – a portfolio will always prove beneficial.

Note: everything I write is based on research and my experience so, it is neither exhaustive nor the Gospel truth.  

Why have an online portfolio?

The advantages are obvious: it helps distinguish yourself from your peers; it boosts your online presence; it creates a complete picture of your skills; shows off your experience’ and makes your work easily accessible. I add a link to my portfolio with every pitch I send out.

How to do it?

There are a few ways to put out your work and make it visible to potential editors and employers.

Established writers with the skills and some money to spare buy a domain name and create a website on which they showcase their work. An attractive and easy-to-navigate site is a bonus. A typical site would have an ‘about me’ section or short bio introducing yourself and your work, a list of all your stories (either in one place or divided according to subject/ publication); some testimonials from editors, clients, co-workers; and a separate blog section.

Priyanka Agarwal is a Mumbai-based author and freelance writer created a website to “showcase my portfolio and services, and streamline all my work and achievements on one platform”. From an author’s POV, she knew it would help facilitate book sales and marketing exercises and earn her brownie points in proposals sent to publishers. She recommends Wix for anyone who wants to make a website on a budget and choose from readymade templates that allow for both minor and major tweaks.

Bangalore based independent journalist, Priti Salian, started a website to ‘park her stories in one place in a design and format that was easy on the eye’. “Publications rarely put up author-bios, so there was no means for ‘potential editors’ to know me better.” She has bagged assignments through the website and found that it gave her credibility as a journalist. “People do take my work more seriously when they can see some good clips on the home page.” Salian created her website in 2014 by buying a domain name, using OMNIS as the host and browsing through YouTube tutorials.

If you don’t have the skills or don’t want to spend on a domain name, there are services that provide easy (and free) alternatives.

I use Contently and Porterfolio – I find the latter limiting. Contently allows me to upload work samples (online links and PDFs) within minutes, along with the skills used, subjects and formats for each story.  It’s a clean interface and I can sort through my stories according to publication, topic, skill and format. It also links to my social media pages. Contently gives you the option to accept work via the site but, I haven’t had any success with that.  

Note: you can have a website and a separate online portfolio. Salian has both – she likes Contently because of the ease of uploading stories but it’s her website that shows up first in a search online.  

What to keep in mind when creating a portfolio?

Keep things neat and crisp. Assume that people don’t have time to read so focus on highlighting the relevant information. I don’t add links to all my stories, just the ones that show different skills and subjects. Update your portfolio frequently.  

If creating a website, “keep the website attractive and your best work on the home page, no one has the time to look further,” says Salian.

“There should be more of ‘You’-oriented content rather than ‘Me’-oriented content. Show how you can help users. Place your book, film/TV/web show trailer/clips, major articles upfront…let this be the first thing that hits the user. The titles of your website’s sections have to be simple and understandable. (eg: About Us/Our Story > Journey So Far). Create a blueprint on paper first and then put everything together on a free version. Seek feedback at this stage itself. Go live with a domain only once you have everything in place. Remember to test out the mobile version,” adds Agarwal.

EXTRA

Another handy option is creating a media kit. Usually associated with bloggers/ influencers, these are important for mentioning your influence, readership of your blog, brands you have worked with, and your rates (for content writing).   

Mumbai based travel writer and blogger Deepika Gumaste has a blog/website and a media kit. “A media kit is a snapshot of your work, a personal branding tool. Instead of having potential clients (corporates, PR agencies, tourism boards etc) comb through Google and other sites, I make their life easier by putting all relevant information in one place. This is the information I want the client to see,” she says. Her kit contains featured media and published work, her writing services, testimonials, and her social media reach.

Her advice: “Don’t make it lengthy. It should capture your worth as a writer and showcase your focus areas, the numbers/ reach/ publications. Don’t mention rates – those can be discussed on project basis.”


HAVE AN IDEA? GO PITCH!

She Knows is a progressive, inclusive space for women to find the practical information on food, health, lifestyle and entertainment. They want food pitches for January (non-health related). Email kenzie.mastroe@shemedia.com

Forge is Medium’s personal development publication. They like stories about productivity, self-improvement, optimization, personal progress, mindfulness, and creativity. They have a useful pitching guide for submission. Email Amy Shearn on ashearn@medium.com or Cari Nazeer on cari@medium.com

The incredible The Atavist Magazine is seeking pitches. The award-winning publication publishes one blockbuster nonfiction story each month – true narrative nonfiction stories that are character-driven and possess in-depth reporting and elegant writing. Email seyward@atavist.com

An Indian in-flight travel magazine is looking for pitches. Pay is around Rs3/ word. If interested, write to julieksam@gmail.com

I am Well and Good is looking for wellness takes that tackle race, socioeconomic status, ableism, ageism, etc. Email samantha.leal@wellandgood.com

If you have a story or want to share your experience traveling with a disability, email Imani.barbarin@gmail.com

NEED A JOB?

The Indian Express is looking for a senior copy editor with at least seven years of experience. The job is for the print edition and is based in Noida. Email tie.desk@gmail.com, with the subject line 'Senior copy editor'.

A PR agency in Mumbai is looking to set up a digital team and want people who can execute social media campaigns or do client servicing. Experience is preferred. Message Divya Chakravarthy.

Food Matters, Mumbai wants a social media manager. The person needs to love good food and drinks, hanging out with the people, should be creative and have a good eye for photography. Email hr@foodmatters.in

Anat, which creates and distributes content that encourages unconventional representation of women, trans and queer communities is looking for a SocialMedia intern for 3 months. The opportunity is paid. Email shataakshi@anatspeaks.com

ZIRCA Digital Solutions is a global digital solutions company that provides state-of-the-art digital advertising and content solutions to brands. They are seeking a senior copywriter (digital). Experience: 3-5 years. Message Rohan Sonalkar if interested.

The new media venture, All Things Small, wants full-time writing interns in Mumbai. It’s a paid four-month internship with the potential to convert it into a full-time one. Interns need to be hardworking, English language writers who love ideating, writing and editing copy. Bonus: if you well-informed on culture, politics, movies, shows and documentaries. Email sidin@allthingssmall.in with the subject “Intern” (this is important).

A new hospitality venture in Goa is seeking a travel writer and social media manager, and a communications manager. Skills: Must have a way with words, aesthetics; bonus if you know how to create videos. Email shruti@reverbmedia.in

A new venture in the travel space, in Mumbai (office is in Andheri East) is looking for a junior content writer. Skills: someone with good grasp of English, and communication skills. Experience: anyone from a fresher with strong language background (mass communication or English Lit graduate/post-graduate) to someone with a year or two of experience in content writing. Email nicole.menezes@dscovr.in

We Secure app are looking for a part time or freelance content writer (Cyber Security). Email srini@wesecureapp.com


MISCELLANY

Follow Dalit Women Thrive on Instagram. The new account seeks to start a discourse on what happiness and well-being mean for Dalit women, while functioning as a repository for helpful tools and resources.

Block Twitter’s advertisers till they restore the Dalit/ Bahujan/ Adivasi/ Kashmiri/ etc. other accounts they have mass-suspended. Vasudha Passi on Twitter started a block list. The idea is this: Twitter earns revenue from advertisers directed at users. Refuse to contribute to Twitter's revenue until it stops enabling hate and silencing dissent.

Apply for a grant. Internews' Earth Journalism Network is offering grants to boost reporting on marine fisheries in India, with a focus on illegal fishing, overfishing and harmful fisheries subsidies. The grant is US$1,000. Last day is December 5. Submission details are here. Email info.ejn@internews.org

Read some of the stories I found compelling this week. There’s the Open piece on the scourge that is food blogging and influencers demanding free meals for favourable ratings. The Atlantic has a terrifying behind-the-scenes on Amazon and the way they treat employees – it can really put you off the site forever. This investigative piece talks about a serial dog killer in Hong Kong. Eater talks about the perils of comfort food. Reader’s Digest did this lovely story on working class writers. Keep aside some time to read this longform piece, The Feminist.

Shop for a cause at the The 5th Annual Good Karma Sale at Doolally, Khar this Saturday. It’s being organised by Manorama Pathshala, an alternative learning and creative center in Versova – the sale funds a large part of their annual budget. 

Aparna Jain is looking to interview Indians, below 37, in ‘for-profit’ business of social enterprise for her book. This does not include NGOs, trusts, foundations, crowd-funded or volunteer based organisations but, places running profitable social ventures. Email aparna@zebraa.in


Before I sign off, some more personal news. This weekend, my grandmother celebrates her 111th birthday in Goa. I wrote a small tribute to her last month. Please do keep her in your wishes and prayers.

As mentioned before, do write in with suggestions, criticism, hate mail, memes, or dog videos. I welcome and entertain them all.

Adiós.   

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