Showing off what you've got: What to include in a freelancer portfolio

When it comes to creating a freelancer portfolio, there are a few things you can't forget. Take a look at this guide to learn how to build a portfolio.
Showing off what you've got: What to include in a freelancer portfolio

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We all know that freelance life comes with a ton of perks. However, before you can start reaping these benefits, you'll have to land your first gig.

Want to work from home, set your own rates, and finally enjoy the freedom that lies on the other side of the corporate ladder? It all starts with proving you're up to the task.

A freelancer portfolio helps you do just that.

The ticket to acing your interview and wowing potential clients, it's a critical part of your resume.

What should you include in yours and how should you organize it? Today, we're sharing all the details you need to know about arranging your portfolio.

The purpose behind a portfolio

If you're here, it's because you're interested in learning about the value of a freelance portfolio.  So, what exactly is a portfolio and why do you need one?

A portfolio is basically a visual representation of your work experience so far. Years ago, you'd bring a physical one to an interview, with various documents organized into a binder for clients to browse.

Now, however, we're fully into the Digital Age. That means most portfolios are websites instead. As you start preparing yours, it helps to have a roadmap to follow.

Here are the basic elements to include.

1. Your niche-specific skills

Your portfolio is an excellent chance to showcase your talents and impress any potential clients. Look for any opportunity to put your personal spin on your site and highlight what you're great at.

Want to break into the web development niche? Code your site from scratch and make it awesome. If you're a budding graphic designer, show off those skills with a great layout and eye-catching graphics.

Beyond the actual projects in your portfolio, consider the actual portfolio a project in itself. It's the first thing a client will see, and that initial impression is everything.

2. Relevant projects

It's easy to wax poetic about your own projects. You're close to them and you're understandably proud of them. That said, you might not be able to fit them all into your portfolio.

Like your resume, it should be as concise as possible while still covering all the bases.

If you're not sure how to pare it down, start by asking these questions:

  • Which pieces demonstrate my expertise in this niche?
  • Are some projects more relevant to this client's needs than others?
  • How does each project illustrate the services I'm showcasing?

If you don't have many projects under your belt yet, don't sweat it. Everyone has to start somewhere!

In this case, you don't have to stick with professional endeavors only. While you're still earning your experience, feel free to add personal projects into the mix.

Create a great website for a friend? Include the link! The same goes for any school-related projects or presentations you've completed.

3. Results-oriented language

In addition to links and images, your portfolio should also contain results-oriented language that tells the client exactly what you can do for them.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, this means shifting the focus away from yourself and onto the person reviewing the content.

Start by explaining how your skills can meet a major need, fill a gap, or delight your client's audience.

For instance, say you create incredible, interactive websites. While that's impressive in its own right, it's even more persuasive if you can convince clients that with that site, you can:

  • Optimize their online presence
  • Improve their search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Boost their brand credibility
  • Lower IT costs

In your quest to prove your worth, keep in mind that clients are more interested in how you can boost their worth.

4. The processes you follow

A portfolio filled with gorgeous imagery might look great, but it can leave clients with a ton of questions.

This isn't the time to play hide-and-seek with your intentions. Make it easy for anyone to clearly see what you do, how you can help them, and the processes you follow.

How do you approach each project? Are there certain techniques you use? What about your preferred software programs?

This is your opportunity to go after the work that you want, and it all starts with defining how you currently work and where you want to go.

5. Specific challenges you've overcome

Thanks to fancy tech features, it's all too easy to make your portfolio look sleek and impressive.

Clients do want to see your past work, but they also want you to tell them about each effort, rather than simply show them.

Don't be afraid to discuss any specific challenges you encountered, and how you overcame them.

Was the deadline extremely tight but you still delivered it on time? Did the project team switch members halfway through, leaving you holding the brunt of the legwork? Were the expectations vague from the very beginning but you managed to exceed them?

Clients don't expect perfection, but they do need to know that you're capable of rising to a challenge. The best freelancer portfolio is honest, real, and approachable.

A freelancer portfolio can propel your career

Whether you're just starting out or you've been a professional for years, a freelancer portfolio can help you land the job you want.

These tips can help you turn a blank screen into a selling point. With the right approach, you can help clients see your potential and turn interest into income.

Now that your portfolio is a work of art, let Hectic help you grow your freelance career. From accounting and invoicing tools to time-tracking and project management resources, you can access it all on our app.

Get started today and let's grow together.

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Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
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