Anyone serious about a freelance career should make setting up a freelance portfolio one of the first things you do. When you freelance, your services are what you’re selling. You can assure people you’re good at what you do, but they really need to be able to see it for themselves.
A solid, well-designed freelance portfolio accomplishes a few important objectives:
- It shows you have experience. On a very basic level, it simply shows this is something you do. Your prospects will know right off the bat that you’ve been hired, delivered the work promised, and that the client determined that it was good enough to use.
- It shows your skill. Clients can see what you’re capable of and your particular style.
- It shows you’re serious about your freelance business. To many clients, a freelancer without a portfolio will come off like an amateur. Having a portfolio shows you mean business.
- It can help you avoid clients that are a bad fit. Not every client is right for you. If a client doesn’t like the style of the work you’ve done already, you’re better off not working with them. Your portfolio can save you the trouble of dealing with an unhappy client later.
For freelancers, a portfolio essentially replaces your resume. Potential clients won’t care as much about where you’ve worked in the past as the quality and style of the work you’ve done.
Now that you know you need one, where should you start?
You have one main choice to make in determining where to host your freelance portfolio: should you use a portfolio website or build your own website?
Your Own Website
Building a website for your freelance business immediately demonstrates a level of professionalism to clients. It shows you’re planning to build a freelance business, rather than simply chase after whatever work you can get.
It does cost more and will take more time to put together. You’ll need to invest in web hosting (which costs a few bucks a month) and you may potentially want to hire a designer or writer to help you get the website just right. But it shows you’re running a legitimate business and allows you to pursue online marketing to grow your brand.
These will do the trick if you need to get something up fast or don’t have any money to spend.
What to Put In Your Freelance Portfolio
Pick your samples based on two main criteria:
- Those that show your best work
- Those that show the range of your work
Freelance Portfolio Best Practices
Now that most of the basics are covered, we have a few tips to help you ensure your portfolio does its job well.
Organize the page so it’s easy for leads to find work relevant to them.
You don’t want to make your prospects work too hard. Make the decision as easy on them as possible by labeling different sections of your portfolio based on the type of work or industry, so they can jump right to what they need to see.
If the whole point is to get hired, your prospects need to know how to get in touch. Make it easy for them. Put your contact information or a “Hire Me” link somewhere easy to see on the page, so the moment someone determines they like what they see, they know exactly what to do next.
If your worked helped clients achieve a specific goal, mention that on the portfolio page. Freelancers have to be good at crafting deliverables that are specific to the needs of each client. Adding some extra context lets your prospects know that you not only completed the work; but you specifically provided the work that the client needed.
Social proof is powerful. A quote from a past client lets future clients know you’re reliable. Use the sidebar or put them next to the samples of work you did for the client rather than putting them front and center– you want them to support your work, rather than distract from it. But including testimonials can be a persuasive addition to your portfolio.
Show your skill on the page, not just in the examples.
If you’re a designer, make sure your portfolio looks great. If you’re a writer, be extra sure all the grammar on the page is correct and the writing is up to par with what you usually deliver to clients. If your portfolio looks sloppy, your potential clients might not even bother looking at the work within it.
Your freelance portfolio will be the face of your brand. Make sure it lives up to the task.
You want to put your best foot forward, but you also want potential clients to see that you’re capable of doing different types of work.
If you’re just starting out, do your best with what you have and continue adding to the portfolio as you go. And keep in mind, you don’t have to stick with using work that was paid for. If you’re a writer with published guest posts or a graphic designer that helped out a non-profit pro bono, you can include that too. In fact, if you don’t have many work samples yet, those can be good ways to build up your portfolio until you get more paying work.