What are your clips worth? Do they mean enough to you to keep them around and organized?
When I was just starting out in this business as a cub college reporter with just a few published pieces in my clutches, every byline was a keeper. I visited the local art supply store and purchased a large black portfolio.
I diligently snipped my clips and affixed them to the portfolio’s black, plastic-sleeved pages. With each new article, my portfolio grew. And each job interviewer thereafter for the first few years out of college was invited to sneak a peek at my array of past work.
Today, while the presentation is different, clips of past work remain an important part of my career development.
A powerful tool
Let’s assume for a moment you’re a professional writer who has made a career writing on select issues. Let’s also assume that you prefer to keep clips or tear sheets on some of your best work, so you can review them as reference materials in the future or just enjoy some of your writing from the past.
How, then, do you organize those clips? Do you shove them into a vast and general “clips” file, only to then waste time fetching torn and yellowed tear sheets from a bulging file folder? What’s worse, when you tear other clips as reference material, does the file become a black hole of dated articles that are now useless?
A few fellow writers I know have different reasons and methods for keeping their clips the way they do. One stashes her clips as reference materials for future articles. Along with the article she’ll keep her interview and research notes in specific computer or paper files for about two years. This way, she can refer back to them if a similar topic arises again.
Another writer I know clips and couples others’ articles with his own to build a reference desk on a variety of topics. When the file swells to unmanageable proportions, he’ll divide it into related subjects and smaller files. Once a year, he tries to cull dated and useless clips from the file.
Organization made easy
Here are some tips to keeping your clips:
They also can create an easy reference system for filing and retrieval. For example, articles I’ve written are torn from the publications, slipped into the protectors and clipped into in a red 1 1/2-inch binder (the measurement is of the width of the spine). While it has a plastic slot on the spine into which I can insert a label, the color connotes the content.
Also, any research or articles I come across are slipped into the sleeves and put into a blue binder. Clips, articles or research, are entered from the front of the binder, so the most dated work is toward the back.
Then, request that your client publication maintain a link to the article online indefinitely. You can steer other editors to that site when referring to past work, and you also can link to it from your Web site and create your own online portfolio.
Keeping clips and electronic files of your work also is a matter of practicality. Quite often, we interview people who would make valuable resources for future articles. Having to find those names and contact information again could be difficult. Regularly scanning our past files and clips can remind us of contacts we’ve already made—and could use in the future.
Clips are more than reference materials and job-interview fodder. They’re glimpses into our past. So ask yourself, what are your clips worth?
Does the writing business perplex you? Let Jeffery D. Zbar seek the solutions in his monthly Business column. E-mail your ideas or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.