Creating a writer’s resume and clips – tips for the 21st century

The first time I searched for a writer’s resumé, I found a 2001 piece by Moira Allen entitled “Creating a Writer’s Resume.” It’s got the basics for a simple, standard resumé for writers: contact info, objectives, writing/editorial background, employment history, education, awards and memberships.

All good advice. Except for one thing: it’s 10 years old.

To put this in perspective, Allen talks about putting your clips into a “nice leather binder.” Does anyone even have face-to-face meetings with writers they plan to hire these days? I’ve never had an actual, physical portfolio of the kind Allen mentions, and not a single one of my employers has ever asked to see such a thing.

No offense to Ms. Allen, but her piece is a bit out of date for 21st century writers. Here’s what I suggest for writers toiling in 2011.

How to build a writer’s resumé

Let’s take this one step at a time: Allen’s “resumé” section of her article is still relevant and valid. Follow those rules and you’ll have a nice looking, professional writing CV you can send out. I would also include hyperlinks to any of the employers you list in your employment history (particularly if they’re not places that are globally recognized), but the rest is solid advice. Read it, absorb it, do it.

In addition to the “paper” resumé Allen describes (which is usually emailed these days), you will also want to keep track of your work history on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is, essentially, Facebook for work. You can network online, add friends and co-workers to your networks, and keep track of your employment history without having to have a copy of your CV on hand. Depending on how public you like to make your CV, you can even send employers a link straight to your LinkedIn profile, in lieu of a traditional resumé. You can check out mine here if you’re curious; I’ve kept some of the sections private, like my photo (which I don’t think is necessary to include on a CV), but allow others to view my websites and current employers, since they are already public knowledge.

Creating clips for the digital world

Clips, like resumés, are entirely digital these days. Potential employers want to see links to the places you’ve been published. They want to see reputable websites, brands and publications they’re familiar with, or at the very least some really well-written content on lesser-known (but not self-published) sites.

Obviously, clips no longer go into a fancy binder. They live online, so you need to get your links sorted. Make a list of all the places you’ve been published, and include:

    • The name of the publication
    • The title of your piece
    • The date the piece was originally published
    • A direct link to the piece, preferably on the publication’s website

You can keep these all in a single Word document for handy cut ‘n’ pasting into and out of your resumé, or create several different lists for different writing genres, if you have a few different specialties.

Presuming you have a website (because if you don’t, you’re still pasting your clips into that leather binder), you’ll want to post your best credits there, making it easy for potential employers to view your work. Link directly to the sites that have published your pieces, arrange everything by category, and introduce the work with a little blurb about the piece if the title is vague or confusing. (Ideally your titles should not be vague or confusing, but that’s another post for another day.)

Be sure to check your links occasionally (like whenever you are sending them to potential employers), just to make sure they are still live online and the website that published your excellent work hasn’t folded. I like to take screenshots of the clips I use frequently and save them on an external hard drive, just in case.

Old-school: dealing with hard copies

Now, let’s say you have published some pieces with one of those strange old-school creatures called magazines or newspapers or even books. How do you get digital copies of those beasties?

Most magazines and newspapers do publish their material online, as you’re probably already aware, so first see if you can find a link to the digital version. If absolutely no digital copies exist (or if they’re only accessible to paid subscribers), then the best thing to do is to get thee to a scanner and make your own digital versions.

Save your files as JPGs, upload them to your website, and create links to these images like you did for all your other publishing credits. When people click the link, they will be taken to the scanned copy of your piece. For instance, check out my article on Ralph Nader published in The Link. Simple, right?

Including clips in your cover letter

When applying for jobs where clips are requested or required, simply include the direct links to each of your chosen pieces in your cover letter. Remember that if they only ask for three clips, they really only want to see three clips. Not two, not four, and certainly not 17. Pick your best three and send those. DO NOT innundate the employer with all of your links, unless you are desperately trying to avoid employment.

A few words about cover letters

“Cover letter” is actually a throwback to the days of paper letters, as it implies that your letter is physically covering something else (i.e. your resumé), and thereby introducing the supplemental materials that will help get you hired. People seem confused by this, perhaps rightly so, in the age of digital letters (which are also known as emails), and will often send a separate attachment called CoverLetter.doc as their “cover letter.”

Let’s just settle this now: “cover letter” simply means you are introducing yourself and your work to the potential employer in an email. You don’t need to attach a separate document, so just write what you want to say to them in the body of your email, including the links to your clips I mentioned above. Yes, you can write your letter in Word first, and then cut and paste it into your email, if you want to make sure everything is spelled properly and looks nice and meets any specified word counts. Just don’t include a cover letter attachment or you’ll look incredibly silly.

Got questions?

We’ve got answers! Let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed in this post, and we’d be happy to help.

Like this post? Want to know when more are available? Click here to sign up for our free newsletter.

4 Responses
  1. Laura,

    Wonderfully informative post – although the thought of building my own resume makes my toes curl.

    So far I’ve been able to get away with a portfolio and a jaunty smile :)

    Still, if I ever need to build one up -now I know where to check for guidance!

    Danielle

  2. Good point, Danielle. A lot of the time I do see ads where people don’t even want resumes anymore; they just want to see what your writing looks like, so the clips are way more important than a list of clients you’ve worked for. Are resumes going to be totally obsolete in another 10 years? I wonder!

  3. […] the 21st century PWA member and “Pressing Your Buttons Since 2007” blogger Laura Roberts, took a decade-old article about how to write a writer’s resume and brought it into the 21st century. While presenting your […]

  4. […] blog post. It’s called “PWA Picks… the best writing on writing,” and talks about my take on updating your writing resumé and portfolio for the digital age, as well as what to pay a […]