How to Build a Freelance Portfolio

One of the biggest draws of freelancing is the flexibility it grants in terms of hours, schedule, and pay. However, this flexibility also extends to education and experience — there is no set path to becoming a freelancer, and there are no required qualifications. Instead, a freelancer demonstrates their skills and the quality of their work by showing potential clients their portfolio.

Building a professional portfolio is a great way to stand out as a freelancer and make a first impression that matches the quality of your work. This may sound like a challenge, but you don’t need to be a sales expert or a web developer to achieve results that are worthy of your work. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create a portfolio that will highlight your strengths and showcase your best work to attract clients.

Your Guide to Building an Impressive Portfolio

Below, we’ll cover nine simple steps to show you how to build a freelance portfolio that can help bring in more clients and increase your earnings.

1. Get Clear on Your Goals and Your Target Clients

Although it can seem like a good idea to keep your goals and target audience broad in order to draw from a wider audience, this strategy can often leave a portfolio lacking in the kinds of details a client wants to see. A focused portfolio with a clear target audience, on the other hand, allows you to show off your strengths in detail and show your ideal client that you have in-depth knowledge and experience in your area.

This also has a different, perhaps unexpected, benefit: if you target a certain niche, you might be able to command higher rates as an expert in that area.

2. Decide on the Format of Your Portfolio: Website or Google Drive Folder

The format of your portfolio plays a large role in its overall look and ease of navigation. Common options include websites and Google Drive folders. Both of these options have their own strengths: A Google Drive folder allows you to arrange your content in a simple and intuitive layout, and a portfolio website has a visual impact.

The right format for your portfolio often depends on the type of freelancer you are, and the type of client you aim to attract. For instance, businesses with a strong brand identity are likely to benefit from a personalized website, whereas freelancers who have worked on a large, complex project may benefit from the structure of a Google Drive folder. While using a Google Drive folder is undoubtedly quicker, it is also simple to create a portfolio website using a website-building service.

3. Craft a Compelling Value Proposition

Your value proposition is the core message you want to communicate to your potential clients. It outlines the main benefits of your services and tells a client why they should choose you over a competitor. It is, in essence, a marketing strategy, so taking the time to pick the right words and invoke the right image for your business can make a big difference.

The key to a good value proposition is to be clear and concise and add a reasonable amount of flair. Using too many buzzwords or slogans will take away from the meaning, and a proposition that’s too long can cause readers to lose interest. A good place to start is by outlining the ultimate goal of your services — for a content writer, this goal might be to provide clients with clear, compelling blog posts that will perform well and generate quantifiable business results.

4. Demonstrate Your Storytelling Skills in the ‘About’ Section

A powerful advantage you have as a freelancer is being a single person, rather than a large, faceless company. Using the “About” section of your digital portfolio to tell the story of your freelance business and your experience in a personable way can help prospective clients build a favorable impression of you.

It can also help you express your passion for your work, which can influence the way potential customers view your work. To tell a good story, it’s important to stay on point and keep the word count reasonable, as many viewers won’t spend too much time on an “About” section. It’s also good to keep things positive — passion, hard work, and progress are effective topics to cover, whereas struggles and failures can be more of a risk.

5. Showcase a Few of Your Best Samples and Meaningful Projects

When it comes to choosing the projects you want to include in your online portfolio, quality over quantity can be a good rule to follow. If you’re a full-time freelancer, you may have completed a good number of projects, but it’s important to respect people’s time. No one can look through your entire catalog, and it’s unfair to expect them to.

Rather than leaving them to pick a few projects to look at, it’s often more effective to handpick portfolio samples yourself. By choosing your favorite projects and samples you’re proud of, you can showcase the best examples of your work.

6. Sell Both Your Services and the Outcomes That They Generate

When you work freelance gigs, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the larger projects you contribute to, but for the purposes of your portfolio, it’s important to make the connection. By highlighting the tangible business results your work has generated, you can make a strong argument for choosing your services and show your potential clients that you understand their needs.

7. Include Reviews and Testimonials From Previous Clients

Reviews can be an important factor in decision-making when people are committing to spending money, so including testimonials with your portfolio can help boost your trustworthiness. If you don’t have reviews already, it’s not too late to get in touch with some of your recent clients, but make sure they know that you intend to publish their responses.

8. Use a Clear CTA

While a call to action (CTA) can feel overly salesy sometimes, it’s an effective way to spur readers into action and reduce the amount of effort required to take the next steps. If an email link is conveniently located at the bottom of your portfolio or at the end of your “About” section, a potential client can easily click while their positive impression of you is fresh in their mind.

9. Make Your Portfolio Easy to Navigate

Making sure your portfolio is simple, clear, and easy to use is essential in order to keep a reader’s attention. Good organizational skills are a must in most lines of work, so it can leave a negative impression if your freelance portfolio is confusing and hard to navigate. If you want to demonstrate a range of skills, make sure to categorize your work and use headings to point different clients in the right direction.

Get the Guidance You Need to Flourish in Your Freelancing Career

Building a compelling portfolio is just one step in your journey to bringing out your full business potential as a freelancer. Taking your freelancing business to the next level can be a difficult task — you’re essentially a one-person company, and any company can be a challenge to run alone. With Noumena, you can receive the professional guidance you need to progress in your career, whether you want to find investors or level up your bookkeeping skills.