For many freelancers, particularly those in writing or designing, it is a good idea to build a portfolio of work so that you can show potential clients what you can do. If you have a portfolio you should be ready to show it at short notice. It should be updated regularly and well presented. If you think of yourself as a brand, then this is your advert.

Things to include:

Digital portfolio

You should always have a digital copy of your portfolio that you can email it to clients easily. You may also want to feature examples on your website or blog. This should be easy for clients to find ifBuilding a freelance portfolio they search for you, which they probably will.

Paper portfolio

While digital copies are now the most common form, it can be a good idea to have paper copies of your work that you can give out at meetings or pitches if they arise. If potential clients have something to hand they are less likely to ignore or forget it later.

Testimonials

Including testimonials from previous clients can really help you appear more reliable and well established in your field. It will help you stand out amongst your competitors and help to reassure clients. If you are working for free in the beginning, you can ask for testimonials in return for your work if they are happy with it.

CV

Not everyone will need to see this but it’s still a good idea to have one ready and up to date. It’s a quick and easy way to show who you’ve done work for in the past and show off any relevant qualifications you have.

Things to think about

  • Information should be presented clearly and without clutter. This can make all the difference if a client is considering you out of several different freelancers.
  • Spelling and grammar should be checked and rechecked. We all make mistakes from time to time but leaving those mistakes in your professional portfolio or your proposals is just sloppy and unlikely to inspire trust.
  • Make sure any images you use in your portfolio or on your website are your own or you have the permission to use them.
  • Choose a niche to work in. You should have a good idea of the kind of clients you want to be working with and knowledge about the industry you plan to do work for. It can be tempting to try and cover all bases to show absolutely everything you can do. However, clients tend to have a specific idea of what they want and being specific will be more likely to win you the work and repeat clients.

Tips for beginners

It’s the same old problem, how do you find work without experience? Building a freelance portfolio can be particularly difficult for beginners for this reason. However, there are a couple of things you can try but be prepared to work hard and be patient to see results. The options below are things you’d be best to schedule around your day job while you build your business.

You will probably not be earning a lot of money in the beginning and you may even choose to offer your services for free just to build up experience. Even when working for free it is still important to establish exactly what is expected of you and your client in a contract. You should also make sure that you can use the work as an example in your portfolio.

Spec work

If you are a writer or a designer you might want to consider working on spec. Spec ads, for example are adverts you create for a made up client/product to demonstrate what you can do. Freelancers often disagree on whether to include these or not but if you choose to, don’t mislead people by saying that it was real work for a real client.

Content Mills

Sites such as fivesquid or Copify are known for being less than ideal to use. They tend to pay small fees for your work and while this is not a great way to pay the bills it can be useful for building up experience, examples of your work and a list of potential clients. They are also sometimes used by freelancers during quieter periods of work as a top up to their usual work.

Send out proposals

Another option would be to research companies who you think could use some new copywriting, blog posts or social media updates and offer to help them either for free or for a small fee. You could ask for a testimonial or a credit in return. This option is probably how you will get most of your work in future too so it would be a good idea to get used to the idea of sending out proposals. Try to tailor each one to the specific client, it makes you look well researched and prepared.

Do you have any other tips on creating a portfolio that gets results? Please leave a comment below.