So you’ve made it to the first round of callbacks from a potential client and their next question invariably after reading your cover letter/pitch/ freelancer resume is:
"Do you have any samples of your work I can see?"
That is where having a compilation of past works, freelancing projects, and awards also referred to as a professional portfolio, can be both time-saving and help you put your best foot forward with a client
Benefits of creating a professional portfolio
Successful freelancers have a portfolio of online work that showcases their track record of success. Creating a professional portfolio is so valuable that it really is not an option in this competitive day and age to not have one readily available to show potential clients. Not only that, a strong portfolio will often reinforce how much you charge for your 1099 hourly rate. This can be in a public webpage format or you can choose to have a more private file that you only share upon request. The choice is up to you.
Public portfolio vs. portfolio upon request
Some experts swear by having a public portfolio available online through a website that showcases you as a professional. The argument is that search engine optimization (SEO) and using the correct keywords will ensure you land your next big client. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case.
Other experts believe that having a private portfolio site that is only viewed upon request of a potential client is the more advantageous route. Again this may not always be the case.
Choosing a hybrid portfolio-website
In my experience working with clients whether they are freelancers or small business owners, the most successful results I have witnessed first hand has been through what I would like to call the Portfolio-Website Hybrid Model. This will allow you to have the benefits of both an open showcase website as well as the exclusivity of “by request only” clientele which may lead you to new clients that may be more discerning.
Create a landing page or personal website
First, you will need to create a landing page for yourself as a professional. Do yourself a favor and buy the domain name. Get as close to your name and occupation as possible. Bonus points if you can get the ".com" at the end. This will make it easier for potential clients to locate you on the web. There are many stunning templates available that you can purchase and customize to make your job a lot easier.
Hire a professional
If you are not a web designer, do not try to become one now. Learning how to do graphic design can take a long time. Instead, hire another freelance designer from Fiverr or Upwork 1099 freelancer who can take care of the project for you and in less time.
What to include on your website
You will want to request that your site include the following:
This prompts your website viewer to input their name and email address before accessing any information about you. This is primarily done via pop-up box. This will also become invaluable as you begin building your email database of clients, followers, and potential leads.
About you page
this will be a brief bio about you and your work. Don’t go overboard on your personal background though unless it is relevant. This is to sell business services, this isn’t tinder. This will also be where you go into detail about what you do and the type of clients that you serve (or prefer to serve)
Client testimonials or social proof
This can be included at the bottom of your page or can scroll throughout. The choice is yours. There is no wrong way to do this part. Make sure you include former client names as well as their company names. Always get express written permission from a client before posting a testimonial on your professional website.
This will be the section where you include your social media links, email address, phone number, basically any way to get ahold of you. A contact form would be really convenient.
Request for quotes
Do not post prices on your website. You will be much better served to utilize a call to action for pricing as well as portfolio samples where you are now returning information to the potential client.
Creating portfolio samples
This really has to be broken into two categories at the minimum considering a new freelancer must use different portfolio creation strategies than a more seasoned freelancer with several previous or ongoing clients. Each has different advantages and challenges involved.
Portfolios for new freelancers
Maybe you are fresh out of school? Maybe you want to get clients as a freelance photographer? Or you are making a career change and putting together a portfolio is the first step towards landing the client of your dreams that will set your career moving forward.
There’s just one problem . . . You haven’t actually worked with clients before and delivered projects. While it may pose some difficulty with a bit of creativity we can sidestep this little situation while also maintaining our professional integrity.
If you were formally trained
If you went to school for your chosen freelance field, where it was for a four-year degree, an advanced degree, or you took a two-hour workshop in the basement of your grandmother’s church, use that work that resulted from those educational experiences in your professional portfolio. Most of the time, prospective clients don't care if you were formally educated or went to a big-name University. The only thing they care about is if you can get the job done.
For example, the majority of freelance writers were self-taught. You don't necessarily need a formal education to be good at copywriting.
If you weren't formally trained
Self-taught? That’s fine too. Showcase projects you may have completed for yourself or other personal contacts. You can even choose to include unfinished or in-progress projects in your freelance portfolio.
Maybe you can get an online certificate of courses you've completed. There are many Google Analytics or LinkedIn courses you can get certificates for.
If you have no experience yet
Maybe you haven’t done anything in your chosen freelance field yet. Create projects for yourself that you include in your portfolio. If you are a copywriter trying to build a portfolio, put together some quick blurbs showcasing your prowess with the pen. You don't necessarily need freelance work. Simply, make your own. If you are a graphic designer, design a logo for yourself and use that. A variety of work samples in your field will show that you are competent. All the different type of work will improve your client's confidence in your work.
All portfolios start somewhere. A great portfolio takes time. As long as you have some sort of samples that a potential client can see that lends validity to your work and fees you will be fine.
If you're quite experienced
Quite often experienced freelancers can experience frustration when it comes to deciding which project samples they should choose to include in their online portfolio. You will want to include at the minimum your most recent work as well as your favorite project example.
If you can provide a case study of the results you got for your past client, that would be even better. Anything that can showcase your particular skillsets. You could even take small project or get $5 clients on Fiverr to build a portfolio.
Number of portfolio samples
No more than three to five pieces should be included most clients will stop paying attention around the third or fourth project example and most will know if they like your work enough to pay for it after reviewing the first sample. So make sure you showcase your best work in the beginning.
Identifying your specialty as a freelancer
You can benefit by identifying who your ideal target customer is and building a portfolio to attract those clients. The “I will work for anyone who cuts a check” will lose its appeal around your second assignment. Decide who is your target client and what field they are in and build your portfolio around that.
Update and edit your portfolio regularly
A portfolio is not a one-time compilation that you can forget about if you want to continue to grow your career. While curating your portfolio you will want to remove work that becomes less relevant as it ages and add more up to date work. There of course, will always be pieces that are referred to as “evergreen pieces” or timeless pieces that may remain in your professional portfolio as long as you wish. Just make sure you are constantly including only your best work.
Staying relevant in your freelance field
Every professional field has trends and things go in and out of fashion. It will up to you as the professional freelancer to stay up on the trends for your field and make sure you have a piece that showcasing your mastery of the trend in your field included as a portfolio piece.
A finely tuned, well-targeted portfolio can be the one thing that makes a client decide to hire you. Make sure you take the time to either curate your best work or to create very strong samples that you can compile into a concise “Greatest Hits” of you as a freelance professional. A majority of clients will say that review of a freelancer’s portfolio was even more instrumental in their hiring decision than price. Additionally, a strong portfolio can justify higher contract prices as long as the work has enough value to justify the price.
As a freelancer, you will continuously be refining and editing your portfolio and that is ok. As you grow as a professional, you will want to always present who you are now, not who you were, remember clients want to see only your best quality work. Put together the best portfolio you can possibly put together, and you will be one step closer to landing your next paid contract.
Good luck and make that money!
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