As a freelancer, the importance of knowing how to build a good portfolio cannot be overstated. Portfolios enable you to showcase your skills and present your best work to potential clients. While a resume is a great and concise way to tell prospective clients or employers about your professional experience, a portfolio shows them exactly what you’re capable of and can capture the style and versatility of your work.
Portfolios are also a vital element in a freelancer’s self-marketing toolkit. By uploading a curated selection of your work on a freelancing platform or on your professional website, you can differentiate yourself in an increasingly populated freelancer pool and attract clients that are a good match for your skills. Still, having a portfolio is not quite the same thing as having a good portfolio. Here’s how to take your freelance portfolio to the next level.
Tips on how to build a good portfolio
Whether you’re looking to upgrade an existing portfolio or just starting to put one together, here are 5 helpful tips to improve how you exhibit your work and to set yourself up for the freelance jobs you want.
Highlight a selection of your work
One of the most important things when learning how to build a good portfolio is choosing the right work to highlight.
And remember, a portfolio isn’t the place to showcase every piece of work you have; we recommend featuring a maximum of 10 pieces that represent a range of your skills.
Are you new to freelancing and are unsure of what to put in your portfolio? First, remember that every freelancer out there has been in your position. Second, if you don’t have formal freelance work to showcase, start building your portfolio with other samples that demonstrate your skills and that show what you’d like to do more of, whether it’s a personal blog, DIY coding project, or graphic design mockup.
Choose the order strategically
The order of the pieces in a portfolio is also important when learning how to build a good portfolio. Instead of opting for chronological order—which can actually be a disadvantage by showing your earliest projects—put the work that is most relevant to the types of jobs you want at the forefront. For example, if you have a wealth of long-form blog articles to include but want to apply for more copywriting projects, put your copywriting samples front and center.
If you’re applying for a specific job and you know what they are looking for, make sure that you put a similar project in the number 1 slot. Most clients won’t want to deep dive just to find a piece that inspires them to choose your work, so make it easy for them. It’s like providing a pitch before even meeting them.
Provide some context
Context can include a short blurb about the goal of the project and how your work met the brief, a summary of the project’s success, or a testimonial from a previous client. If the project in question was a group effort, it is also a good idea to explain what role you played in bringing it to life. This can also show versatility. If you directed and managed any of your previous projects from beginning to end, you’ll be instantly more appealing to clients who have very little time to ‘hand hold’ and don’t want to micro-manage.
Be sure to get client approval
As a freelancer, it can be tempting to add a new skill or project to your portfolio ASAP. But it is important to get permission from your clients before updating your profile. For example, you don’t want to upload a sample from a project that is still officially unfinished, even if your work on it is complete. Additionally, if you have done ghostwriting, you might not be able to disclose the work publicly. Ultimately, it’s better to get approval from clients before adding new work to your portfolio. If you’re unsure, you can add a line that says you have the experience and ask them to inquire further, and send them pieces directly. It’s less likely that a client will have a problem with what you share in private than what you put on your portfolio.
Keep your portfolio up to date
At the same time, filter out and remove older projects as they become less relevant. What’s most critical when you follow how to build a good portfolio is that the work included in your portfolio is representative of your current skill level. Having an up-to-date portfolio will show potential clients that you are productive and that your work is maturing.
Take the reins on your freelance career
Be sure to keep these 5 tips in mind as you create or update your professional portfolio. Strategically showcasing relevant work samples on your website or professional profile will help you be discovered and will ensure that your skills align with what the client is looking for. Ultimately, how you build your portfolio will influence the type of work you get and the direction your freelance career goes in.
Be sure to check out our SkillPack blog for more guides and tips to help you navigate becoming a freelancer.