Many entrepreneurs and freelancers find it challenging to navigate through a crowded industry. It can be difficult trying to get the right clients while also marketing your product or service. Even if you feel you’re one of the best at what you do, nobody will know it unless you have real evidence you can share with potential clients.
When you need to prove yourself professionally, it’s crucial to show, rather than just tell. That’s why having a digital portfolio is an amazing tool to help you stand out from the crowd. Research shows that 90% of the information our brain processes is visual and that people who use visual content are 43% more likely to persuade their given audience (think potential clients).
When you’re trying to attract new clients, highlight your skills, strengthen your brand, or become more visible online, an impressive digital portfolio, showcasing your successes, will help you accomplish your goal.
Take time to objectively review your current portfolio. As a client, would you be impressed by what is included?
Be honest and see where you might be able to modify your portfolio in order to maximize your odds of standing out from the competition and getting paid exactly what you’re worth.
Here are nine steps to strengthen your digital freelance portfolio, no matter what industry you’re in.
(1) Be on these channels. . .
When you’re looking for the best portfolio site that works for showcasing your skills or product offerings, look for ready-made website builders that help you create quality and effective portfolios quickly. These sites are also excellent for helping you:
- Showcase your work professionally
- Increase your visibility
- Gain industry contacts
- Create new business opportunities
Website Builders for Creating and Updating Your Digital Portfolio
Wix—Very intuitive, with more than 500 templates. Drag and drop editing is perfect for writers who want to spend time editing their words rather than their portfolio. 110 million plus websites use Wix.
Weebly—Extremely easy to use with clean and basic templates.Excellent for engineers and graphic designers who need clean templates to demonstrate highly visual projects. More than 40 million websites use Weebly.
For a more in-depth comparison between Wix and Weebly, refer to this guide.
Squarespace—Has stunning templates that create mobile-responsive websites for all fields. Over 1 million websites use Squarespace. Works well for project managers, virtual assistants and others in logistical roles, to showcase flow charts and brainstorming sessions with attractive images.
And, when it comes to promoting yourself and your skills even further, it goes without saying that social media is extremely beneficial. It’s often said that Instagram and YouTube work as your portfolio. Depending on your field, this can be quite true. Many potential clients are interested in seeing your comprehensive web presence before they decide whether they want to work with you. They’d like to see how you promote yourself and engage with others via social media. Create professional social media accounts that highlight your business or freelance skills. Placing social media icons on your portfolio site is an easy way to connect with prospective clients and customers.
(2) Make Grammar Perfect
You are presenting yourself as an authority in your field. Your digital portfolio is the evidence you use to show that you are credible and capable of providing a high-quality product or service, free of mistakes. This is why you want to make sure you have proofread all sections of your portfolio before you hit publish.
Even if what you’re offering has nothing to do with writing, potential clients might be reluctant to hire you if you have grammatical errors—it questions your credibility and is unlikely to inspire trust. Misspelled words and poor grammar in your portfolio are a quick way for potential clients to weed you out from the competition. Make sure you have someone else read over your bio and content to ensure your grammar is correct and your writing is as polished as possible.
(3) Professional Photo
Providing a photo on your digital portfolio puts a face to your name and experience. It also helps prospective clients and customers “connect” with you. Providing a professional photo does not necessarily mean you need to hire a professional photographer, (while that is definitely advantageous) “professional,” in this case means that the photo you choose should look high quality and clear, with appropriate clothes, posing and setting. A high-quality photo sends the message that you pay attention to detail, value yourself and your work.
(4) Past Client Reviews
Recommendations and testimonials from past clients can greatly increase your credibility. They are also helpful if you’re just starting out and are working to add more samples to your digital portfolio. Having references already included makes you look proactive and professional. Potential clients are able to see that you are well prepared and that your work and experience are respected.
(5) Include All Past Work Experience and Education
Your past experience and education tell a story about your background and work history. Including your education shows that you undertook proper schooling in your field and that you developed skills in an accredited manner. Including your educational experience is also helpful because it can be a talking point with potential clients and customers. It could be seen as an asset, especially if it is a highly respected institution, but also because it might be a place of common ground between you and the client. And, in regards to your past work experience, while it can be tempting to use your digital portfolio as a space to “dump” all of your previous work, you should instead be deliberate about what you include. Just as you would tailor your resume or a discussion about your past experience—not listing every single past work experience—you should carefully curate the pieces within your portfolio, so that they are relevant to the current work you desire.
(6) Create Your Own Content in Your Expertise
While it is extremely beneficial to have a number of work samples from a variety of areas or industries—it shows that you are adaptable and highly skilled—it is also an asset if you can narrow down your work to a single area of focus.
Guest posting is one of the most beneficial ways to create your own content within your expertise. Look for blogs or online publications that accept submissions from freelancers. Guest posting helps you get attention and gain exposure, allowing you to be seen as an authority in your field. You will be respected as a published author and in time, clients will start coming to you, wanting you to implement the strategies you suggested in your article or even write a similar article for them.
(7) Build Connections with Others
Relationships run the world and in this world of social media, relationships have taken on a whole new approach. Online social networks help to foster professional and personal relationships as well as inspiration, encouragement and support to grow a successful freelance business. Connecting with others via the various social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) helps us to stay up-to-date on the latest news, trends and relevant content.
As an expert in your field, a post you create could be shared dozens of times, ultimately going viral. Any content that you make, where others repost or share, can be used as a sample of work to be added to your digital portfolio. Perhaps you write a post that a celebrity or Influencer comments on. That is yet another item you should include in your portfolio, as it was celebrated by someone with major clout. While you may not have an exact relationship with this celebrity or Influencer, a connection was made that works to further build your credibility and appeal to clients.
It is evident that content is king, so then connection must be queen. As a freelancer and entrepreneur, social media can be used to build connections with industry experts that can then be leveraged for everyone’s benefit.
Engaging with others on social media is also a surefire way towards making connections. Follow those who are in your same niche or similar niches. Comment on posts, photos and messages with genuine responses. Give feedback and share free advice or guidance as needed. Engagement is an excellent way to quickly gain followers and create value and trust. A well-thought out post can pique the interest of potential clients looking to offer high-paying work for someone with your exact skills and expertise.
Guest posting, mentioned above, is another way to build connections on other platforms. The fact that another expert allowed you to share information on their site creates a connection with them and their audience. When you continue to guest post on popular sites, you’ll start noticing that clients start coming to you. Posts that you wrote or contributed to that gained a lot of shares are pieces to highlight in your portfolio.
(8) Use Case Studies (Especially for Non-Visual Fields)
If you work as a freelancer or have a business where you create content or a product in a non-visual field—like sales or management—you can still create a portfolio to demonstrate your work. It might require a bit more creative thinking, but having a digital portfolio in a field that is logistical will really help you stand out.
Consider creating case studies about a past client you helped. The case study could be on a marketing strategy you developed, or a summary for how to use Quickbooks or Excel. Perhaps you outlined an easy step-by-step process for setting up Google Analytics on a client’s website, or you explained and demonstrated the importance of SEO, doubling their traffic. The specific subject doesn’t matter, rather the demonstration of critical thinking skills and problem solving are what is important.
If you helped a client or anyone else solve a problem or accomplish a goal, you should document those details into a case study. As you structure your case study, make sure you answer these questions:
- What was the client’s business challenge?
- What was the strategy that was applied to address this challenge?
- What was the creative solution that was developed?
- What were the measurable results? What did success look like?
Include these case studies in your digital portfolio, as they are examples that demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your field. They do not need to be colorful or highly creative, as good thinking speaks for itself, and unique and original thinking, that helps to solve problems for others, can also help to showcase you as a thought leader, one that is highly sought after.
Note: You must respect your clients’ confidentiality when you create these case studies. If you think that naming the company is necessary or will make the story special, make sure you ask their permission first.
(9) Clearly Explain Who You Are
Make sure you have a section on your portfolio that clearly explains who you are and what you do. If a prospective client lands on your profile and cannot find any information about who you are and what exactly it is that you do, you might have lost a connection.
Include these essential elements:
Tell your story in a brief, and in a relatable and personable manner. Share about why you love your specific field or your first experience working in the field. Also, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.
What You Do / How You Work
You can give your title in this section and provide details about what your work entails and the services you provide. You can also explain your approach to work, and the methods and strategies you use to provide clients with outstanding work.
Call to Action
Create a page or section titled, “Hire Me,” “Work with Me,” “Contact Me,” or any other appropriate title that encourages prospective clients to get in touch. Include your email address, phone number (if you feel comfortable), Skype username, and your professional social media profiles.
Start reviewing your current online portfolio to see how well it is performing for you and representing your value as a freelancer. If it has been a while since you read over your portfolio, take time to carefully proofread each section and have someone else review it for grammar and sentence structure.
It should be clear to see why having a portfolio is an asset for any freelancer. If you want consistent, high-quality clients, it really is worth investing your time and thought into creating and updating a digital portfolio that shows your value.
To learn more tips on freelancing, visit another blog article on the FreeeUp blog:
Tiffany Medois is a former Copywriter at Mattel, writing copy for WWE action figures, Minecraft and tech toys; she is also a filmmaker. Tiffany enjoys helping clients find their voice with content that illuminates their message. She also loves chatting about skincare and has written about it on her site, SkinGab. Connect with Tiffany on Twitter and LinkedIn.