Pimp Your Portfolio

25 04 2012

by BJW graduate Simon Fogg

When you slam your NCTJ portfolio down on the table during your first interview, the hope is that it will procure you that highly coveted job in journalism.

But to ensure you actually get the interview, there’s a better way to show off what you can do.

In Reporting lessons you’ll be told to maintain a strong social media presence and start a blog to showcase your writing. These are good ideas but I recommend going one step further and designing a dedicated online portfolio. I credit mine for getting me a job.

Firstly, If you haven’t already, check to see if your name exists as a dot com address. If someone else hasn’t beaten you to it, buy that shit. You can always choose .co.uk, .net, or .org instead, or even .xxx, although that might not be the effect you’re going for.

You can buy a domain name of your choosing through a company like GoDaddy, 123-reg, DreamHost and countless others.

This will really improve your Google search ranking. Which is important because as a journalist in a digital world, you need to prove you know how those internets work. Plus, if you’re vain like me, it’ll give you a buzz to have your name as a writer dominate the first page of results. Although I have the top spot on mine, I’m still battling for prominence with a cameraman from Downton Abbey and a middle-aged Christian from Bradford, which is not ideal.

Anyway, when you’ve got your own domain name, you’ll need to host a site on it. I recommend downloading the WordPress.org software instead of using WordPress.com the free blogging site. It’s pretty much the same content management system except you can do a lot more with it.

Setting all this up is a bit of a bugger so look for a company that do a ‘1-click’ install. There’s a list of web hosting services here. The monthly cost for hosting is not expensive but shop around for a good deal anyway. I went with GoDaddy because they are known to be (reasonably) reputable and the installation was simple.

Once this is set up, it’s time to make your site look pretty. To get a shiny portfolio theme you’ll need to have a browse through a site like themeforest.net or find an independent developer like the ones on this list of places to buy WordPress themes. The better the theme, the more expensive they tend to be but you’ll have a fully customisable website rather than a standard blog. WordPress have a selection of free themes here as well as a selection of premium ones.

When choosing a theme, my advice is to be as minimalist as possible. Use the front page as a concise opening statement and utilise html to put your social media links right where they’ll be seen. The most important part in my opinion is the option to categorise posts as portfolio items and have them appear in an organised and accessible fashion. Find a template that does this and you’re set.

To inspire you, this blog post on great journalism portfolio and  CV websites  shows some of the sites the pros are using.

This isn’t a step by step guide but half the fun is figuring it out as you go along. If you’ve lasted more than a few lessons of shorthand, this will be easy in comparison.

Simon Fogg / www.simonfogg.com / @simonfogg

Simon completed his NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Brighton Journalist Works in January 2012 and is now deputy web editor at a B2B company.

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