Why You Need an Ultimate Archive of Your Work

By Aubre Andrus December 17th, 2014

While online portfolios are incredibly important for showing off your expertise, there’s a second kind of portfolio—a completely different kind of portfolio—that can be a really valuable tool for all freelancers: an Ultimate Archive.

An Ultimate Archive is an “offline” portfolio for organizing and analyzing your body of work. It’s a simple spreadsheet with a link to everything you’ve ever written on the Internet. You’re likely the only one who will ever see it. But besides tracking your bylines, there are many different ways it can help you land new clients and improve how you approach your career.

Setting Up Your Archive

Using a spreadsheet program of your choice—I personally like Google Sheets so I can access and edit the document from anywhere—begin creating new tabs. Your archive can be organized in multiple ways. By category: copywriting, ghost blogging, social media; by topic: travel, technology, fitness; and by client: Company A, Publication B, Website C.

Within each tab, label the horizontal columns with these titles: client or publication, title, link, date, and topic. Now this is the fun part: start remembering everything you’ve ever written. Start with the past year and work backward. If you’re an overachiever, you can highlight certain clients or topics in different colors as you go.

I segment my archive into a combination of all three: categories, topics, and clients. Some tabs are mildly repetitive, but I can easily consult the document and find the clips I need fast.

Even if you’ve already created some type of organizer, you may not be reaping all the benefits. Creating my own archive helped me see additional ways I could use my past work to run my career more efficiently.

See the Big Picture

During the daily grind of churning out stories, you may not even realize how much you’ve written about a certain topic. With an archive, you can reveal just how fluent you are in a certain topic and piece together fun statistics to share in your biography or LinkedIn profile like, “I’ve written 200 blog posts on technology” or “I’ve been writing about travel since 2006.”

It’s a confidence builder for those who are afraid to pitch a new editor, a new publication, or a new client. You might even discover you have a decent amount of experience in multiple fields thanks to the “topic” column. I was surprised to see just how many travel companies I’d worked with, and just how many food and travel clips I’d accumulated. It’s a space I’ve been trying to “break in” to for the last few years and suddenly I realized, “Hey, I’m in!”

Find Trends

Those who are really into numbers can add a few more columns to the spreadsheet: payment, shares, and word count. Perhaps you don’t realize just how profitable health writing is to your bottom line, or you didn’t even know your tech how-to articles get shared much more than your other work.

I especially liked viewing how many times each of my articles were shared. It allowed me to see which headlines and which topics performed best, which will help me fine-tune my pitches to editors in the future. If you can track which kinds of pitches get accepted and published, that will eventually translate to more money in your pocket.

Share Your Best Work

Highlight especially great clips and the best examples of your work in yellow. As I built up my spreadsheet, I was shocked to find so many good clips—and many that I’d forgot. Those are the clips that should star in your portfolio and on your LinkedIn profile. Going forward, my portfolio is going to be much stronger because of this exercise.

Plus, how many times have you sent clips to a client that were less than your best? The next time a potential client reaches out to you—or you reach out to them—you can consult your handy document and “control-F” your way to the most relevant samples of your work, especially those clips highlighted in yellow. Game changer.

Track Ghostwritten Work

Un-Googleable work like ghost blogging and web copy doesn’t lead to public recognition, but you should still track it religiously. If you work for bills instead of bylines, the archive is a great way to keep record of your projects—especially since a lot of them can’t be shared directly in a portfolio.

When a new ghostwriting client reaches out to you, consult your archive so you can quickly share links to your work. You may even consider creating a separate archive specifically for ghostwriting that could be shared directly with a client. That’s another plus of Google Sheets—it’s easy to share and you can limit access to just viewing with no editing rights.

Build a Side Business

I’ve taught the occasional social media class and spoken to elementary school classrooms about writing. Neither avenues are a major source of income for me, but I’d like them to be. Thanks to a “speaking gig” tab on my archive, I can visualize just how much of this work I’ve done and can incorporate it into a pitch for future speaking engagements.

If you’re pursuing something on the side or looking to expand your freelance business, document your progress—even the unpaid experiences—and use this information as proof of your expertise. This is also a great place to keep track of any press you’ve received along the way. Before you know it, your side gig could become a main source of income.

We creatives might shy away from spreadsheets, but they can be immensely helpful to your freelance business. After all, the best way to improve is to study our past successes and failure. It will take a few hours to get your Ultimate Archive up and running, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort.

Image by Grisha Bruev
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