Building a portfolio as a freelancer is one of the best ways to grow your business. It’s like the virtual version of me handing you my card which you then take home, look at and say “wow, I should contact her”. That’s what a virtual portfolio does.
Whether you’re a writer, graphic designer, web developer, or work in some other field, having an online presence where you can show off your work will increase your chances of landing clients.
My goal is to help you by answering the most asked questions about building a portfolio from experienced people who have been there before.
Let’s get started…
What is a portfolio?
A portfolio is a collection of work that showcases your skills and demonstrates your ability to perform certain tasks or provide certain services. This can include examples of your work (videos, photos, articles, links to websites), testimonials from clients, and a list of the services you offer. A portfolio is often used by freelancers when applying for jobs or bidding on projects.
Do I need a portfolio?
Yes! In my opinion, this is the #1 mistake people make when they’re starting out. A good portfolio is essential for getting business. Take it from me: without one, you might as well not exist. The good news is that you don’t have to be a pro to build one. The bad news is that you DO have to do it—no matter how uncomfortable you feel about it.
How do I build a portfolio as a freelancer?
Start by creating a list of all the skills you have, then find ways to showcase them online. Make sure you keep your portfolio updated and add in new projects that showcase your skills.
What do I need to include in my portfolio?
Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to start filling out your digital portfolio. First, you’ll want to include a collection of the work you want to showcase—this can be videos, photos, or links (to YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and stories, websites you created for clients).
At this stage, it’s not necessary to tell potential clients which project belongs with which client; unless that information is important for them to know (for example with websites), just focus on including examples of good work and evidence of your skills.
How many projects should I include?
Make sure your portfolio shows breadth and depth. Try to include at least 5 projects that display the range of things you can do. If you’ve been around the block, try to include a mixture of your best and most recent work (and don’t forget to update!). If you’re just starting out, fill in any gaps with mock projects—just make sure they are pretty polished and resemble real projects as closely as possible!
Where can I start with my portfolio?
You really want to highlight your best projects, but you also want to show a wide range of skills. One approach that works well is to pick a few projects that are most representative of the breadth and depth of your skillset and list those as part of your portfolio.
Then add a section of samples where you can show off some additional skills, or even just work done for fun. That way you can still show off your versatility without overloading the reader with too many options.
What should I include in my portfolio as a graphic designer?
Include graphics that show off your design skills, such as logos or posters. Make sure they are relevant to what you plan on doing when freelancing! If possible, try to find projects where clients actually use these designs—this will give them more credibility when viewing your work later on down the line!
When should I show my portfolio?
Your portfolio is as much of a tool for you as it is for prospective clients. In the words of design expert Dan Mall, “Your portfolio can be a place for your best work, but it also needs to be a conversation starter.”
If you take some time to strategize the content of your portfolio with care, you can create a tool that will help you make the most of networking opportunities, attract your dream clients, and ultimately land better projects and more money.
What’s the best way to present my portfolio?
There are many ways to present your portfolio, from a physical book or binder filled with printed pieces to a PDF document or slideshow that you email to potential clients or bring on a flash drive. In today’s increasingly digital age, however, the majority of designers choose to create an online portfolio.
Not only does this allow them to update their portfolios more frequently and easily—which is especially important in fast-paced fields such as web design—but it also makes their work accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Plus, it can be cheaper than printing full-color brochures or physical samples.
How do I start an online portfolio?
You aren’t alone if you’re not sure how to start your own online portfolio. There are lots of places out there where you can go to build one out. It may seem hard at first, but once you get started, it’s really just like putting together a puzzle—the picture will come together from all the pieces!
How can I present my work in a portfolio?
You want to make sure that you’re presenting your work in the best possible way. We recommend making sure that you pick a clear and easy-to-read font, and choose colors carefully so that your work stands out on the page and doesn’t blend into the background. Keep it simple!
What if I don’t have any experience in the field of freelancing? Can still get paid for what I do?
A: Yes, you can still get paid for what you do even if you don’t have any experience in the field of freelancing. You just need to be very good at it and know how to market yourself effectively on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
How do I pick the right pieces for my portfolio?
You want your portfolio to give a good taste of the work and writing styles you have to offer, so make sure that you choose some pieces that show off your range and skills.
How many pieces should I put in my portfolio?
It depends on how much experience you have—you might want to include fewer pieces if you haven’t been freelancing for very long. You may want between 6 and 10 pieces.
How do I showcase my work in a portfolio?
The best way to show off your work is to display it in progress so that clients can understand the process you took to create it.
How do I get started?
I know it feels like a lot to take in, but it’s really not hard at all. You can start by building a website or creating a portfolio on Instagram. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, check out the next question!
Where else should I build a portfolio?
There are lots of places to build your portfolio! If you’re interested in getting your work in front of people who are already looking for freelancers, check out sites like Upwork or Fiverr.
Should I include my name in the domain of my website?
It’s not necessary to include your name in the domain of your site, but it can be helpful if you’re trying to build a personal brand. There are lots of great reasons to do it, including making it super simple for new clients to find you and make sure they know that you’re an individual rather than a company. The only downside is that if you ever want to start a company, you’ll need to rebrand yourself.
I don’t feel like I have enough work to include in my portfolio yet. What should I do?
It’s okay to include work that isn’t paid, as long as it’s high-quality (so make sure you edit it). This could be writing for a blog post or article for which you haven’t been paid yet or a piece of design work for which you never received payment.
You can also include volunteer work; just make sure that the client will allow you to use their logo or product as part of your portfolio site. If they won’t, consider including other details about the project but not using their brand identity.
Who should be featured in my portfolio?
You should only share samples of your work that you feel proud of and showcase your skills. You may also want to consider the relevance of the work or projects to the kind of position you want. If you’re applying to a digital marketing role, including websites you built-in HTML or CSS will be more valuable than print brochures, for example.
How many projects should I include?
This is really dependent on the type of work and how long you’ve been working in your field. If you have less than five years of experience, you can use one project for each job you’ve held since graduation. If you have more than five years of experience, you can use one project every three years.
When in doubt, stick to no more than 10 projects because any more than that will probably overwhelm the employer who’s viewing your portfolio.
I’m a freelance designer. I have a website, but it’s not very impressive. Can you help?
Sure! If you don’t have any work to show off, why not make up some fake projects? Designers do this all the time. It’s called a “spec ad,” which is an ad you design for a fake product or service. This way, you can show what you would design if… say… [company name] had hired you to create an ad campaign for them. You can also mention that your portfolio is designed in Adobe XD and is fully responsive—that way, people will know you’re a designer who really gets with the times!
But what about writers? How do we showcase our skills as freelancers?
Great question! You could write up fake press releases for products that don’t exist yet or even just make up product descriptions for products on Amazon using real keywords from the product listings. You could even create fan fiction about your favorite celebrities—after all, no one’s gonna sue you for saying Kim Kardashian married Brad Pitt (…unless she does).
Should I use an online platform or a print portfolio?
We recommend using both—that way, no matter what kind of client you’re talking to, you’ll be prepared. Print portfolios are great for clients who can’t always be in front of a computer screen, and online portfolios are great for clients who want to see all the work you’ve done across multiple platforms.
Do you need a portfolio to get clients?
It depends on what kind of clients you’re looking for! If you’re looking for clients who are willing to take a chance on your skills, then no—you don’t need one. Just slap together a nice-looking website and include a resume or CV. You can include links to work you’ve done in the past or even descriptions of previous jobs you’ve had.
How can I create a spectacular portfolio?
The first step is to figure out who your audience is—are they prospective employers or clients? Are they looking for inspiration or entertainment? The design of your portfolio should be as unique as you are; if you work with bright colors, try using them in your website or blog design. If you love using minimalism and clean lines, stick to those themes when designing your online space.
How long should my freelance portfolio be?
That’s up to you! You want to make sure you showcase enough work that demonstrates your skills, but not so much that it overwhelms visitors.
How do I choose my style of writing a portfolio?
When choosing a style of writing for your portfolio, it’s important to know what kind of clients you want and what kind of work you’d like to do. If you’re looking for clients who are more formal and serious, it might be best to stick with a more traditional tone. However, if you’re going after clients who are playful or fun-loving, then a humorous tone could be perfect for you!
Should I put my resume in my portfolio?
Nope! Your resume and your portfolio are two different things that serve different purposes, so if you try to use one as the other, it won’t work very well for either purpose. You can definitely link back and forth between them though (your portfolio can link to your resume and vice versa).
Why do I need an online portfolio?
An online portfolio does a lot of the heavy lifting for you that takes time and energy to do yourself. It gives potential clients a way to find you and learn about you, and it makes the sales process much faster since they don’t have to request your resume or samples because they’re right there on your site.
Do I really need a portfolio?
Yes! A portfolio is crucial because it allows you to show your work to potential clients, which is an essential part of landing clients as a freelancer.
What’s the best way to make my portfolio stand out?
This is a great question! One of the best ways to make your portfolio stand out is by making sure it’s relevant to what you do as a freelancer and has samples of your best work in it.
Who should I show my portfolio to?
You should show your portfolio to anyone who might want to hire you! If you’re looking for clients in a specific industry, look up some of the biggest companies in that industry on LinkedIn and see if you can find any employees there who might be able to pass along your portfolio. You can also reach out directly to people on LinkedIn!
How often should I update my portfolio?
You don’t need to update your portfolio every day, but you should check in on it at least once a month and make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate.
Should I have a blog as part of my portfolio?
It can be helpful to have a blog linked to your portfolio so that people can see what you’re thinking about and working on right now. But if you’re not interested in maintaining a blog, that’s okay too! You can still use your portfolio as an effective marketing tool without one.
What if I don’t have any experience or testimonials?
Don’t sweat it! You’ll get experience and testimonials by doing projects for people or organizations. You can also ask family and friends if they need help with anything, so you can get some real-world experience in the field you want to work in.
How do I build my online portfolio?
You need three things: 1) a website where you can post your portfolio, 2) content to showcase in your portfolio and 3) images or video to help break up the text. The easiest way is to use a site that offers templates, like Wix or Squarespace. You don’t need any coding experience at all—just choose the template you like best and then click through the options for fonts and colors.
You can even add stock photography from sites like Unsplash or Pexel (we used Pexel for our own homepage). Then add links to your work on other sites, like LinkedIn or Behance—these services offer great ways for freelancers to show off their work in a professional setting.
What is the point of a portfolio?
- To show off your work
- To provide proof of your experience and skills
- To give potential clients a sense of who you are as a person
Should I include anything besides work samples in my portfolio?
Absolutely. While your work samples are the meat and potatoes of your portfolio, you should also include a description of your skillset, an overview of your experience, and links to any relevant certifications.
Should I add my education and experience to my portfolio?
It depends on how long you’ve been working in your field. If you’re just getting started, this might be the best place to showcase your education and other training. If you have several years of experience, you probably shouldn’t spend a lot of space on it—but you could include it in the overview at the beginning of your portfolio.
Will I need a portfolio if I’m a new freelancer?
Again, it depends on how much experience you have. If you’re brand new to freelancing but have been working in the same field for years, yes—you should definitely create a portfolio. But if you’re just starting out as both a freelancer and in the field overall, then it’s probably better to wait until you’ve earned some experience.
What is a freelancer’s portfolio and why is it important?
A portfolio is a collection of your best work that showcases your skills. It acts as a resume but focuses on your experience as well as your ability. A great portfolio lets you really stand out from the crowd and can make you look more professional.
What to do if you have no work experience?
You can still build up a portfolio without any paid or professional experience—try doing some pro bono work or volunteering opportunities to get started. This can not only help you gain valuable workplace skills but also provide you with examples of your work to add to your portfolio.
Should I include a link to my LinkedIn profile?
Yes! When someone looks at your portfolio they might want to find out more about you and where else they can see examples of your work, so including links to other sites such as LinkedIn will be helpful for them.
How much should my portfolio cost?
This depends on what kind of freelancer you are. If you are an illustrator, you probably don’t need to spend much on your portfolio. If you do illustration work, make sure to include samples of your work on your website.
If you are a freelance programmer, it can be more expensive to build your portfolio. We suggest having one or two sample projects that show off what you can do.
What should I include in my portfolio as an illustrator?
As an illustrator, it’s important that people can see your work. Make sure to include images of past projects, as well as some text that describes the pieces so that people can get a sense of what it took for you to create them.
Where should I host my portfolio?
Many freelancers use Squarespace because it is so easy and affordable. Whatever platform you choose to host your portfolio on, make sure that it is mobile-friendly.
What kind of language should I use to describe my skills?
The first thing to consider is how your potential clients think. They are looking for contractors and freelancers who can speak their language—not just the technical jargon of your industry, but also the lingo that relates to their specific project or job.
So, you’ll want to research the job description for positions similar to yours and make note of any keywords that come up often. Then, use those keywords in your portfolio documentation. This will help you stand out as someone who understands their needs and can communicate effectively with them.
What if I don’t have any freelance experience?
If you’re new to freelancing and don’t have any experience under your belt, it’s okay! Instead, focus on showcasing projects that you’ve done for other clients (even if those projects weren’t freelance!) and identify the skills that you used in those projects that would apply to freelancing.
isn’t it better to just focus on the projects within my industry?
Especially when you’re just starting out, you should show off your skills in a variety of different contexts. The more context you can provide about a particular skill and how you’ve applied it in different settings, the stronger a case you’ll make for yourself as a well-rounded freelancer.
Should I list all of my past clients and employers?
Yes, you should include all of your previous clients. There is no need to hide the fact that you have done work for them—they will likely be flattered that you are featuring them in your portfolio. If you are concerned that a client may not want to be listed as an employer or client, you can always ask them beforehand. If they say no, that’s okay! You can still mention the work you did for them by describing the project in a general way without naming names.
Should I include case studies or samples of my work?
Yes, definitely! The point of a portfolio is to show off your best work to potential clients and employers. Make sure to include only your best samples.
If a project is confidential, can I still include it in my portfolio?
You can still include the project in your portfolio if it’s confidential. You don’t have to name the company or describe exactly what the project was in detail. Describe it generally, along with the technology and techniques used.
Should I list the skills that I use as part of my work process?
It’s important, to be honest about what skills you bring to the table. If you’re confident in your ability to complete a project, and you’re comfortable doing it, then go for it! There’s no reason not to add it to your repertoire.
How do I get the most out of my portfolio?
This is a great question and one we get asked all the time. The answer is this: make sure you feel really good about each piece in your portfolio. This will help inspire trust in those who might hire you.
I’m looking for a job and I’m having trouble. Is it because of my portfolio?
It’s hard to say exactly why someone wouldn’t hire you based on your portfolio, but there are some things we can say generally: make sure your work reflects what kind of job you want! For example, if you want to be hired as a graphic designer and all your work is writing-based, then maybe you should consider adding some graphic design pieces to your portfolio.
I want to add something to my portfolio but I’m scared it won’t be good enough?
It’s totally normal to feel self-conscious about your work. The most important thing is that you’re proud of what you’ve created and what it represents. Your portfolio is a reflection of you and your passions, so try to keep that front and center when making decisions about what to include. You can always take things out later if you change your mind!
My portfolio looks terrible. Should I take it down while I work on it, or keep it up and make updates as I go?
There’s no harm in keeping your portfolio up while you’re working on it, as long as you clearly communicate that you’re still in progress. In fact, many employers see an unfinished portfolio as a plus–they know they can trust you to get things done even under pressure! Just make sure not to say that your portfolio is “done” if there are still things missing or unfinished projects within it (like a half-finished blog post).
Where’s the best place to build a portfolio? Squarespace? GitHub? Medium?
You can use any platform you’d like! I personally think Medium is best because the interface is simple and clean, and there are lots of tools to help you get started (like this one).
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section below! And if you’ve found any questions of your own, feel free to share them there too. They might not answer every question out there, but hopefully, the answers provided here will give you some guidance on how to build a portfolio for your freelance work.