Your work is the top tool to showcase your many skills. So it’s important to create an amazing Freelance Portfolio.
Whether clients are looking for a one-off project or a long term hire, how your work shows up is your gateway. Even if you come highly recommended, your work needs to make the cut before they place their trust in you.
Also read: How to make a strong first impression with your professional expertise
Your portfolio isn’t just about what you do, but also what you stand for and why they should work with you!
This means that you give your visitors compelling reasons to love you, all without them having to traverse multiple pages to get convinced. In other words, pull it all together in a page or two.
Here are some common weaknesses of many portfolios
- Not enough detail or too much – keep it relevant and interesting
- Sharing samples of your work only – they are hiring YOU, not just your work
- Posting images, media or links without details – context counts!
- Not including other relevant info – lay it all out
What are the best ways to share a portfolio online?
While every portfolio is unique, most fall in 3 broad categories.
Single Page Portfolio – many brands and startups who are hiring freelancers ask you to upload a ‘freelance resume’. So if you’re limited to a page, go with the resume format.
Standalone Portfolio webpage or PDF – this could be on the web or an email attachment. Add rich details with well thought out text and media. Can be more than a page, but not overlong.
Check out these 9 free portfolio websites for designers, freelancers and photographers Don’t have your own website? Try these 15 free portfolio hosting sites.
Portfolio Section on your Website – here you have way more skin in the game, and a lot more flex too. Focus on your work samples but treat it like a website home/ landing page (without duplicating your home page content – more on this below).
Follow these top best practices for your Freelance Portfolio Page
A good portfolio is more than an album, playlist or compilation of links and text. So if there’s only one rule you can follow, it would be this.
Treat your portfolio as your online pitch!
That said, I have broken it down into simple components that can help you showcase your awesomeness in effective ways!
Make it comprehensive
Here’s a thumb rule – assume that it’s all a prospective client is going to see!
With that in mind, create your portfolio page like a condensed version of your website. So it might include a lot of your work and a little of everything else that makes you hire-worthy.
This creative marketing portfolio gives a clear, concise and comprehensive look at the various services offered with a CTA to view more work on any particular service.
Grab attention from the get-go
Hook them with a highlight or summary statement right on top. If they like what they see, they are more likely to scroll down.
Here are a few examples
We Build Customer-Friendly Websites
Copy your customers can’t resist!
Great Design. Simplified.
Your brand, our vision!
Add high quality (digital) assets
This seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? After all, the purpose is to showcase your work online.
But I have seen portfolios where the proof of work was actually the weak point.
Low-resolution images, broken video links, ugly screenshots, or too much marketing and not enough work examples. These will not inspire any kind of confidence in a client.
You need to present your work attractively, in a user-friendly format. And that means balancing out appearance with readability. The content must flow in a cohesive way, and it should make sense.
Here’s a design portfolio that starts with a brief prelude and simple, effective visuals.
Tell the story
Sure, you wrote great copy for social media, but was it right for the client?
That’s where adding the details helps prospective clients understand if you translated the vision (or not).
Granted that not everything will need elaborate details, but even the simple ones can enrich your work a lot. There are some simple but effective ways to do this.
- Add captions to images and videos
- A 1-3 sentence descriptor for larger projects
- Include a summary brief for a campaign that you created
- Show the overview of an email sequence that you designed.
In fact, keep it brief, but make sure you add some explanation.
This Social Media portfolio is a great example of visuals, accented with text that can be clicked for further reading.
Add your experience, skills and certifications
If your credentials are diverse, focus on what’s most relevant to your current line of work. Where possible, weave it into your narrative rather than as a series of bullet points (the latter are better for Resumes or showcasing on your Linkedin Profile.)
You can lay it out straight.
I bring 5 years of experience in video creation.
Or, include in a storyline.
As a copywriter, I love to translate your vision into simple, but snappy captions
Even share as a teaser, as an invitation to browse.
I’m a prolific blogger and have a Certificate in Creative Writing from XYZ University. More details on my About page.
Don’t forget to include your professional skills. Plus, learn the essential soft skills for business and choose what you stand out on.
Link to content externally and internally
Links serve a valuable purpose in engaging your clients. Even if the info is all there on the website, include links to Contact, About Pages.
If you have a separate Services page, link to that as well. And don’t forget to do the reverse – link the Portfolio page on the Services one.
Similarly, you can link to the web and social media pages of clients for whom you’ve done the work.
Include headings page jumps
If your page has a lot of content, create a mini menu on top by adding linked text on the top of the Page. This way the reader doesn’t have to scroll endlessly.
Balance out text and visuals
As I mentioned above, images without a story is a job half done.
Similarly, avoid ‘death by text’ and find creative ways to incorporate images and media. Find ways to mix up content elements and build interest.
Check out how this writing portfolio has balanced the page with visuals.
Don’t have a visual portfolio? Check out these 10 options. [image and link]
Create mock-ups and dummies
If you don’t have a sufficient body of work, mock-ups of how your work will look helps. Experience is important, but this way you can showcase the skills, while you build a body of work.
Outcomes of your past work matter. If you have data to share, that’s great! Some examples are email open and click rates, social media engagement etc.
Without external metrics, you can still talk about how prolific you are.
Created 22 graphics each month for 4 social media channels, complete with images and captions.
Delivered 1-3 day turnaround times for the top 50% of tasks assigned.
Here are some ways you can share your excellence.
- Illustrative timelines or a simple PowerPoint
- Take screenshots of results achieved
- Likes and shares on SM posts
- Newsletter open rates
- Clever captions, stats
- Templates you created to keep track of stats
Showcase your work ethic
While good quality work matters, initiative, integrity, flexibility and creative thought count as much.
Do you know the skills that clients value most (these get you re-hired)
Mention your stand-out recommendations
Add a snippet or two of your testimonials and again, link to your testimonials page.
You can do this in several ways.
Add a top testimonial in entirety.
Or you can share a sentence from one or two.
If you have a lot going on your portfolio page, then an option is to extract and use only a couple of phrases in blockquote. Like “… creative and well thought out…” or “…best VA I’ve worked with…”
Also read: Build an effective network! 21 top tips to rock your online networking
Post your own at-work photos
This serves 2 important purposes. It adds personality to your profile. Secondly, it also tells your client that you have a dedicated workspace and you are serious about your freelance career.
When you share images, videos, graphical illustrations, keep in mind that extra-wide images look really small on mobile and will, in fact, defeat the purpose of showing off your design skills.
So test out your page on different devices before you commit to a particular style or layout.
Stay light on jargon
Your audience may not be necessarily from the same industry or have the same kind of expertise as you do. So I recommend using a judicious combo of industry terms and simple English
Find Pro resources for blogging, social media, SEO, Productivity & more!
(Tons are free!)
Be aware of Confidentiality
This is super critical in any customer related share! Needless to say, that for anything you post, your client’s interests and requirements are key.
Get an email (or signed) approval that you are sharing the content they have paid for.
If you can’t share specifics, change out the details or blur names.
Getting an outside opinion is a final frontier. What you believe looks great might not work. Similarly, you might be underscoring a feature that could, in fact, be a top-selling proposition for you.
If possible, get feedback from your audience, or call on your business besties.
Need Advice? Insights? Collaboration?
Find your tribe of peers [image & link]
Your portfolio has one goal – showcase, persuade and ultimately convert! The more comprehensive and persuasive your info, the higher is the possibility that your work – and you – will stand out in the mind of your clients.
But in the end, remember that a good portfolio is always a work in progress. So do evaluate, refine and improve whenever you can. You won’t regret it.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Business Mentor and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years.
She’s a co-founder at Maroon Oak and has founded Win Thinks, where she writes, speaks and teaches about Digital Media, Brand Building and Future Ready Businesses. A day trader for over a decade, Pooja launched Trading Paces to educate amateur and pro stock traders. As a classroom mentor, Pooja loves teaching students across the U.S. about job skills and entrepreneurship. Read about her on Huffington Post and Forbes.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, she’s discovering the pleasure of drawing Zentangle patterns for ‘creative mindfulness.’
Excellent tips. I would love to apply this for my clients needs. Thank you for these!
Great read! My portfolio definitely needs a tune up now!
My portfolio has several pages, each with different information: me, my work, my successes, my previous clients, etc. I think that every freelancer should have a portfolio, or a media kit, it’s the professional way to sell yourself and your services.
Great tips 😉 I always struggle with a freelance portfolio as a translator – find it so hard to compile everything into one page!
Your title got me! Very witty and catchy. I may use some of these tips for the future. Very helpful, great job!
Really helpful topics in the art of creating a persuasive portfolio! Thank you!
Amazing tips! I will be working on my portfolio this weekend. Thank you so much for the info.
I think this tips can be applied to Media Kits too. I will like to upgrade my Media Kit
Excellent advice about treating your portfolio as an online pitch!
This is so helpful. Thinking about starting a portfolio so this would go a long way for me. Thanks for sharing.
I’m doing my portfolio right now so this is super helpful!