How to build a freelance portfolio that wins clients


Building a freelance portfolio is one of the first things you need to do when trying to find new freelance clients.

Before a potential new client hires you, clients need more assurance than your promise that you will deliver value for them.

Showing any previous client work or freelance projects you have completed is a no brainer. But how you structure your freelance portfolio depends on your profession and your preferences.

Although the term “portfolio” isn’t the same for all freelance professions, here we’ll call the body of your work as your portfolio.

Your freelance portfolio website

A key part of your freelance portfolio is your website. Since a website is the main way a possible client can have contact with you, you need a website to show what work you’re doing and whether you’ve shown enough value to prompt them into contacting you.

There are many things that you’ll want to include in your website portfolio:

Case Studies

Presenting work as a case study can be as simple as showing a picture of the project (if there is one) and writing about what you did on that project.

A case study usually highlights your approach to the project, why the client selected you for the project, what you actually did and the way it benefited the client.

When presenting your work as samples or links, you’ll wish to opt for 2-3 key comes and expand them into case studies.

This will be helpful for clients who haven’t worked with any previous freelancers in your area and may not be sure what to expect. In describing the project and outcomes, you have got an opportunity to impress clients.

Show your skills and your ability to explain your service in a way that they can see the value you provide.

Showing examples of your work

This may mean extracts of written work, illustrations, designs, pictures or code snippets.

One of the most popular style of portfolios is simply a series of visual samples shown as a slideshow presentation.

If you select a slideshow format make sure you show your best work upfront – a client might be in a hurry and  in a very hurry and choose you solely on your first 1 or 2 projects that you show them..

For freelance designers, developers and journalists who haven’t got time to develop full case studies, a series of links to previous work completed will do as a portfolio

Client lists

Showing a list of clients you’ve previously worked for is a great showing new clients that you’ve completed projects for similar companies before.

For example, if you are a freelance journalist, you can list if you have written for The New York Times and Vice Magazine. Only list relevant articles, otherwise you may have trouble persuading a client that you have enough experience for the job.

What projects to show in your freelance portfolio

The work you show in your portfolio is the work you want to become known for. Your portfolio paints you as a specific kind of freelancer who will a specific kind of project. This has some interesting  implications once you create your freelance portfolio.

Selectively showcase your work

If you’re getting to be a designer for large corporate clients, then showing startup work isn’t going to help you. Decide what work you wish to win and build your portfolio relevant to it market. This might mean leaving out some your best work, something that you may think is counter intuitive.

Stay focussed, but give some variety

Showing a diverse range of projects can show clients that you are versatile. But an excessive amount of example projects or case studies can leave a client unsure of what it is exactly that you do.

You’re better off painting a nice portrait of how you can benefit the client in a more specific way, rather than come across as a freelancer who takes on any project that comes along.

Tailor the work you showcase to match the client

If you’re pitching for a specific kind of project or sector, make sure your portfolio presents you as an individual who can handle that kind of work.

If you’re presenting your freelance portfolio online you’ll get the same result by categorising your work. Clients who are trying to find a specific kind of freelancer in a certain industry can go straight to that category and ignore the work that is irrelevant.

What if you have no previous freelance projects or experience?

There may be many reasons why you have very little work or experience to point out.

Your previous boss might not have let you create case studies or you may not not have done the kind of work  you earn to try and do now, or you don’t have abundant freelance expertise to highlight.

As you would guess, there’s only one answer. Do some work to bulk up your portfolio.

As a start, you could draft a fictitious brief that plays to your strengths and execute it, volunteer for a charity that needs your freelance skills, or do free work for friends or family.

This approach may not be exciting or good for your wallet, but in a few weeks and after a few initial projects m be in a much better position to build your freelance portfolio with work you can be proud of.


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