Writing portfolios aren’t talked about much on the web. Most articles share tips for artists and graphic designers.
But writers also need an online home for their work.
If you’re looking for a complete step-by-step setup guide to make your own writing portfolio website then you’ve come to the right place. This guide applies to any type of writer including copywriters, authors, technical writers, ghostwriters, content marketers or even big picture screenwriters.
I’ll walk you through the entire setup process and share tips to make your portfolio stand out from the herd.
Before we start I want to share an overview of the whole process.
These are the steps you’ll follow in order to create your writing portfolio site:
You may be asking yourself “why WordPress?”
The biggest reason is because it’s free and it’s the most heavily-supported web platform. It’s supported by any web host and 25% of the Internet is powered by WordPress.
Everybody’s using WordPress and it has a huge community. So if you ever need to solve a problem or add extra functionality to your site there’s an answer somewhere online.
As you use WordPress for publishing you’ll learn the ins and outs quickly. Everything you need on WordPress is free so the only fees you pay are for web hosting. But it’s very cheap and the work you can pull in from a great portfolio site will more than cover small server fees.
So without further ado let’s dive in!
Usually you need to get a domain separate from web hosting, but if you go with BlueHost you’ll get your domain for free. This also means you won’t need to mess with nameservers or DNS settings for the domain since everything is managed through BlueHost.
I recommend this route because it’s cheap and BlueHost is one of the best hosts for new websites. Their support staff is great and you get a free domain + 5 free e-mail addresses with a new account.
To get started visit BlueHost and click the green “get started now” button.
The cheapest plan is all you’ll need for a simple portfolio site. It comes with a free domain and unlimited traffic(bandwidth) along with free e-mail addresses.
Click the “basic” plan to move onto domain registration.
On the next page you’ll need to put in whatever domain you want to register.
I recommend getting a .com because this is the most common suffix and everyone’s familiar with it.
For a personal writing portfolio I recommend using your name as the domain. This way you can re-brand if you ever branch into other areas so the website acts like your professional online haven.
But if you’re a niche writer you can get away with a more wacky name. Take for example Lauren Orsini’s portfolio titled Otaku Journalist.
It doesn’t matter how you brand your domain as long as you like it.
Once you have an idea enter it into the “new domain” box on the left. It may already be taken so you might have to try a few different domains before you find something available.
The next step after your domain is the final signup for your contact details and payment info.
But make sure you look over the “package information” section closely. You’ll want to uncheck everything but the domain privacy box.
All domain names are registered with ICANN and they require some contact info. The privacy checkbox will use BlueHosts’s contact info rather than your personal info.
All the other checkboxes are just upsells that you don’t need so uncheck all of those.
You can also change your registration period from 36 months to 12 months if you prefer. It’ll cost less overall but the monthly rate increases a tad. BlueHost’s pricing is still exquisite comparable to other hosts so you can’t go wrong either way.
Once everything is filled out click “submit” and you should be all set!
In a few minutes you’ll get an automated e-mail from BlueHost with login details to access your account. From there we can do the one-click WordPress install to get your site online.
The e-mail from BlueHost should lead right to your account dashboard where you can setup WordPress. However it may ask you to create a password so do that and make sure you save it so you’ll remember.
In the BlueHost dashboard you’ll see a bunch of boxes with small square icons. Scroll down until you see the box labeled “website”.
The 2nd icon should be labeled “install wordpress” with the blue WordPress icon. Click this to get started.
It’ll take you to a page with some options for advanced services but you can do this all yourself. At the very top of the page you’ll see a box with the label “Do it yourself”. Inside is a big green Install button.
Click that to move onto the next step.
You’ll be asked to select which domain you want to install WordPress for. Since you just made an account you should only have one domain.
But the dropdown menu lets you choose between www and non-www for your website. There’s no functional difference so just pick whatever looks best to you.
Then click the “Check Domain” button and let it run.
When it finishes click the “Show advanced options” checkbox to expand a few more fields.
The first field will be your WordPress website’s name. This appears on your actual website and in your WordPress backend.
Title your site whatever you want. It could be your name or whatever brand you use. This can always be changed at any time so don’t worry too much.
The admin username/password is a bit more permanent so make sure you write these down and keep them handy.
You can always change your admin password but the username cannot be changed. It’s not visible on your site so just pick something you’ll remember.
Then check the terms & conditions checkbox and click the install button. It’ll take a few minutes for the install to complete but once it’s done you’ll see a “completed” message at the top of the screen.
You can either click the “Admin URL” from the details page or visit the admin page directly by entering the URL by hand.
This will always be accessible from yourdomain.com/wp-admin/
When you first visit the page it’ll ask for your WordPress username and password(the user/pass you just created during the installation).
So enter your details and log into your fresh new dashboard.
Right out of the box everything should work great and you can even view your site with the new WordPress install.
But before grabbing a theme for your portfolio it’s important to update your site’s permalink style. This defines how your website’s URLs look and you only need to do this once.
Find the settings link in the left-hand menu and hover over it. A flyout menu should appear. In this flyout menu click “permalinks”.
This brings up a new page where you can change how your links look. I would highly recommend using the ‘Post Name’ style because it’s very simple and easy to read.
For a portfolio site it’s good to keep your URLs short because they’re easier to share.
But you can choose whatever setting you like. The default “Plain” is just so ugly and it’s terrible for SEO.
You might also want to disable user comments since they don’t serve much of a purpose on a portfolio site.
To do this click the “Discussions” link in the left-hand menu under settings.
On the discussion page uncheck the box that says “Allow people to post comments”.
This disables the comments feature and keeps your site clean. Portfolios really don’t need comments anyways so it’s good to turn this off.
At this point you can browse all the other settings to make changes if you want. They’re all pretty straightforward and you can search Google if you have questions about what they do.
But to keep the guide moving let’s get into theme selection.
Writing portfolios do not need many visuals because the portfolio work is just text on a page.
This means a typical portfolio theme may not work as well for writers. But it also means writers have a much easier time picking a theme because they can use basically anything.
I encourage you to check out the free themes and search around. You can search by style(ie. minimalism) or features(ie. 2-col) and see what comes up.
Most WordPress themes are built around blogs so most of the homepages feature post lists. But I’ll show you how to change this so your portfolio homepage can be a static page instead of recent blog posts.
In fact you don’t even have to run a blog on your site if you don’t want to. You can make all your content as pages and remove the “blog” link from the navigation with ease.
But for now search through the theme’s directory and pick a theme you like. Here are a few that could work well for writing portfolios:
You’ll notice a lot of these themes use background images in the header. They also have static-style homepages without blog posts.
You’ll need to make these changes yourself but they’ll look much more professional than having a blog-style homepage.
For this example I’ll use the Caveat theme.
To install this theme go back to your WordPress dashboard and click “Appearance” in the left-hand menu.
On this page you’ll notice a button that says “Add New” near the top.
Click that and you’ll get a big list of the most recent themes. From here you can search for whatever theme you want to install, in my case I’ll type caveat.
In the search results you should see the theme you want. Hover it and find the blue “install” button.
This will automatically download the theme to your server and install it into your site. Couldn’t be easier.
Once it’s finished installing you can activate the theme. Click activate and you’ll be able to see it live on your site.
Once your theme is active you can customize it. There should be links for editing the menus, widgets, and the “customize” button for changing the layout style.
With the Caveat theme you’ll find a lot of features. I can’t cover all of them but if you spend an hour playing around(and Googling) you’ll quickly learn how it all works.
But I will teach you how to create a static homepage for your site to hide the blog from the homepage.
First you’ll need to create two new pages from the “pages” link in your admin panel.
For the first page title it “Homepage” and place a bit of content in the body(gibberish if you want). Then hit publish.
Create another new page and title it “Blog”. This page doesn’t need any body content so just hit publish.
Now go to the Settings -> Reading menu.
The very first setting next to “Front page displays” allows you to change your homepage from a blog archive to a static page.
Click the Static page radio button. Two dropdown boxes become available.
Next to the “front page” dropdown select your Homepage. Then next to the “posts page” dropdown select your Blog page.
Save changes and you should immediately see the new homepage on your site.
Last step is to setup your portfolio’s homepage with the Caveat theme.
Go to Appearance -> Customize. You’ll notice a big navigation to the side with a link titled Home Page. Click that and you’ll see a few new links, one of which is titled Homepage Banner. Select your homepage and click “save”.
You can see a preview of how this looks in the right pane.
Because this isn’t a full guide to WordPress I can’t cover all the custom features. But I highly encourage you to spend time in this customize menu. Tinker with stuff and over time you’ll learn how to quickly edit anything on your site.
Every new WordPress install comes with a bunch of plugins, and you really don’t need any of them.
But there are a few plugins you should install that offer some basic functionality. They’re all free and I’ll cover each one in detail.
First visit the plugins page and see what’s installed.
I recommend deleting everything. Akismet is the only semi-decent plugin but it’s used to combat comment spam, so if you’ve disabled user comments then you can probably delete Akismet too.
It’s a good idea to limit the amount of plugins you run because it’s easy to bloat your WordPress site with too many. A simple portfolio site shouldn’t need many plugins but keep an eye on how many you install over time.
Let’s look into the plugins you should install.
Every website benefits from some type of caching system. This reduces page load time and speeds up the delivery of your site’s content.
They’re both incredibly simple to use and they don’t require any custom work. You just install, activate, and let them cache your pages.
On the plugins page you should find an “Add New” button near the top. This works just like the themes area so you can search for any plugins you want.
Search & install either W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, but not both. You only need one caching plugin so just pick whatever you want.
After it’s installed click the “activate” link to enable caching.
There shouldn’t be any default settings to change or configure. The plugin should start caching right away and all your new pages will be cached too. Just set it and forget it.
This next plugin is the ultimate SEO tool for every WordPress website. It’s perfect for a simple portfolio site because it gives you full control over all the titles and meta info for every page. And don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, Yoast can do it all for you.
Yoast SEO is completely free and widely regarded as the best SEO plugin.
From the “add new” page you can search for yoast and you should find it right away. The plugin comes with a lot of features. It can be easy to get overwhelmed looking at the Yoast dashboard.
Most of the default settings are fine so you don’t need to touch anything. But I do recommend skimming through each page just to see what Yoast has to offer.
One thing you could do is modify the homepage title tag. This is what appears at the top of the browser window and it appears in Google when people search for your portfolio site.
But there’s a lot more to this plugin so don’t feel like you have to understand everything. SEO is a big topic and thankfully Yoast handles everything for you.
Your writing portfolio should have a way for new clients to get in touch. The best way is through e-mail so a contact form is key.
I prefer Fast Secure Contact Form. It’s a free plugin that comes will all the features you need. It’s the plugin we use here on WhatPixel and it’s definitely one of my favorites.
However there are dozens of other contact form plugins too. One amazing alternative is Contact Form 7.
Feel free to search around and if you find a different one you like then go with that.
The only thing you need to do is copy/paste the contact form into your contact page. Once you create a new “contact me” page then go to the Contact Form 7 settings page.
Here you’ll notice something that looks like
Copy/paste this directly into your contact page body and click save.
FS Contact Form does let you customize the design but it’s all in CSS code. So if you want something a bit less technical then Contact Form 7 is perfect.
They’re both great plugins and you can’t go wrong either way.
Lastly I recommend installing Insert Headers and Footers which is a simple plugin for adding code to your site’s header and/or footer.
This is useful when setting up 3rd party services like Google Analytics.
Normally you’d need to edit your theme’s footer file to add the Analytics tracking code. But with this plugin you can just copy/paste the Google Analytics code right into your site’s footer area. It’ll appear on all pages so you can get traffic stats for the entire site.
All 4 of these plugins are on my recommended list for a reason. They’ll be useful for every type of writer and they can work on any portfolio theme.
By now your portfolio site should be online with its own theme and some basic plugins.
Everything else is up to you and how you want to style your website. There are no perfect answers when it comes to a portfolio site. The goal is to showcase your work and ideally pick up new clients.
But what sort of work should you include? And how should it be placed on the site?
WordPress makes it easy to create new pages and even sub-pages if you want to do multiple writeups like case studies.
I’d suggest making a small handful of pages on your site. They should all fit in your navigation and they might look something like this:
Naturally you can improvise or combine pages as needed.
Some writers like to list their services along with work samples on the same page. Others like to combine the about page with the contact page.
It’s your portfolio so you should do whatever you want! Just make sure your content is accessible and easy to find.
This is why less is more.
Try to keep your navigation simple and easy to browse. You could also add a link to your blog if you plan to write blog posts.
If you’re not sure what you want you can try writing down what type of content you need on your portfolio.
From there you may have an easier time planning which pages to create.
The actual portfolio page is tricky and there is no single correct way to do it. Some writers list their best articles or writing samples organized by category. Other writers organize by date or just place links sporadically.
Don’t worry too much about how your content is presented at first.
Just getting your site online with content is a huge step forward. You can always come back to make small tweaks and you’ll always be adding new portfolio pieces over time.
One last piece of portfolio advice I have is to brand yourself with your website.
Make this portfolio the destination to learn everything about you. Clients may love to read about your journey as a writer and maybe some tidbits about your personal life too.
Go into as much detail as you like and make sure the copywriting is on point.
Remember that you’re a writer and your portfolio should reflect that. Let your style come out in your portfolio writing and really make it your own!
I certainly hope this guide can help at least one person create an awesome writing portfolio.
It may seem like a lot of work at first. But once you get a site online you can basically let it sit there and run. It requires very minimal maintenance and once you understand WordPress you’ll be able to repeat this process for any other sites you want to launch.
If you feel some parts of this guide are murky or too vague please reach out and share your thoughts. I’ll continually update this post as needed to make it the perfect guide for writers who need a web presence.