So, you’ve decided to quit your 9-to-5 or maybe you’re looking for a little extra income and want to give freelancing a try. The good news is that the demand for freelancers has grown over the past few years, and the trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The (potential) bad news is that you’ll need a portfolio in order to find work.
But don’t panic! This guide will teach you how to create a brilliant freelancer portfolio—even if you’re starting from scratch.
What is a freelancer portfolio?
A freelancer portfolio includes examples of your best work and proves to potential clients that you have the competencies necessary to do the work you say you can do. Companies rely on freelancers to complete tasks and projects they can’t handle in-house, and they expect them to get the job done with minimal guidance and supervision. Your freelancer portfolio is your chance to show off your skills, prove your capabilities, and attract new clients.
6 Things Every Freelancer Portfolio Should Include
A strong freelancer portfolio should include a selection of your best work along with a short description of how you were involved in the project—and preferably, a testimonial from the client. You’ll also want to include your credentials, contact information, and a strong call to action. Freelancers often have to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), so make sure you have permission to share the work before including it in your portfolio.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these key elements of a brilliant freelancer portfolio . . .
1- Examples of Your Best Work
At the beginning of your freelancing career, you might be tempted to apply for anything and everything that crosses your path, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you want to build a solid long-term business with high-paying clients, it’s often a better idea to focus on one or two niches and establish yourself as an expert in those spaces. Choose areas that interest to you, otherwise, you’ll risk burnout later on. Keep this in mind as you build your portfolio.
Look at everything you’ve done to date. If you’re a content writer or copywriter, this could be things like articles, blog posts, eBooks, email campaigns, or some posts. Graphic designers might showcase things like logos, website designs, and print materials. Developers will want to show off things like apps and websites they’ve built.
If you want to go all in, consider building a portfolio website—WordPress is easy to learn and will enable you to build a professional-looking site. Otherwise, a PDF of your resume or CV with clickable links can be a great way to get your foot in the door. The “Projects” section at the bottom of your LinkedIn profile can also be a resourceful way to get your name and portfolio in front of prospective clients. Regardless of how you go about it, the old adage “show, don’t tell” is the key to building an effective freelancer portfolio that will bring in new business.
2- Background Information & Results
As important as they are, examples of past work only tell part of your story, and it’s up to you to tell the rest. For each project that you showcase in your freelancer portfolio, include a short paragraph explaining the project’s objective and how you approached it. It’s even better if you can include a few sentences about the results of the project and how it helped your client achieve their objectives. Demonstrating that you’re results-driven will show that you’re professional and have the competencies necessary to help your clients reach their goals.
Strike while the iron is hot! Get into the habit of asking clients for a testimonial at the end of each project. In the world of freelancing, most prospective clients don’t have time to chase down your references. Testimonials are a fantastic way to show that not only do you deliver results but you’re also a pleasure to work with.
4- Education, Certifications & Awards
As you become an established freelancer, your portfolio will become more important than your resume or CV. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that prospective clients can see your credentials. Highlight your degrees and any professional certifications or courses you’ve taken. In the highly competitive gig economy, showing ongoing professional development could be what sets you apart from your competition! And of course, showcase any of your projects that have won awards.
5- Contact Information
Don’t make prospective clients dig to find your contact details. Make sure that your email address, phone number, link to a contact form, and/or other means of reaching you are prominently displayed on every page of your website—or in the header of your portfolio PDF.
6- A Call to Action
All good marketing includes a call to action! Tell prospective clients what you’d like them to do next through your freelancer portfolio. Here are some examples:
- Send me an email.
- Give me a call.
- Request a free consultation.
- Request a quote.
- Let’s discuss how I can help you.
For general options (like the last three), make sure to state how you’d like to be contacted (e.g., phone, email, contact form, carrier pigeon).
What to Do If You Don’t Have Any Projects to Show
It’s always important, to be honest about your work, so never embellish the truth or exaggerate your role in past projects. Maybe you haven’t been solely responsible for any projects or perhaps all of the projects you’d like to show are under NDAs. We’ve all been there and there are several ways to get around this:
- Show hobby projects – A project is still a project, even if you weren’t paid.
- Highlight student projects – If you’re just starting out in your career, consider showcasing the work you did as a student.
- Include personal work – This can be a personal blog for content writers. Developers and graphic designers can show their personal websites. If you’re an illustrator, create a stunning logo or other images to feature. Photographers can include their Instagram accounts or exhibitions they’ve been involved with.
If you still don’t have anything to share, consider doing some volunteer projects or offering discounted rates to build your portfolio. Think of it as an investment in your future. These things can help you create a freelancer portfolio that can get the ball running for you.
Don’t Forget to Update Your Freelancer Portfolio
Your freelancer portfolio isn’t a “set it and forget it” project. Make sure to update your portfolio regularly—this means adding new projects and deleting ones that don’t show your best work. The longer you’re a freelancer, the more your skills will evolve. Ensure that your portfolio reflects that evolution and showcases your best work. Value quality over quantity.
Following our advice, you should have a solid freelancer portfolio and be ready to start looking for your first clients. Don’t be shy about marketing yourself—get your portfolio out into the world! Take a look at your professional network to see if there’s anyone who could benefit from your services. Family and friends might also be a good place to start.
Creating a freelancer profile at Worxmart could be another smart first step into the world of freelancing. Good luck!