How to Create a Professional Portfolio as a Freelancer

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What’s the one thing that sets apart every successful freelancer? A well-crafted portfolio! While your personal brand may catch the interest of a potential employer, it is your portfolio that will help seal the deal!

Ready to take your portfolio to the next level? Read on for a few tips on creating the most impactful portfolio of your work.

  1. Why Do you Need a Freelance Portfolio?
  2. What Should a Professional Portfolio include?
  3. How to Create a Professional Portfolio that Converts Clients
  4. Professional portfolio examples from fellow freelancers

Why Do you Need a Freelance Portfolio?

First of all, what is a portfolio? Your freelance portfolio brings together some of your biggest, most successful projects.

Basically, a freelance portfolio provides real proof that you can do what you say you can do.

To be able to win the projects you really want, you must provide relevant examples and showcase your expertise

Before the Internet, designers, artists, and other creative professionals had to physically assemble their portfolios and hope to show them to someone during an interview. Today, however, it’s the other way around: potential clients first want to see your portfolio online, and then decide if your skills are the right fit.

This makes it all the more important that your portfolio reflects not only your skills but also your creativity and professionalism in general.

“A portfolio showcases your skills, talents, and abilities.” 

Your portfolio is one of the strongest tools in client acquisition. It is perhaps the very first impression a client may have of you. Of course, creating a portfolio should serve the goal of getting you more customers, but it can also help you establish a brand for yourself.

Creating a convincing portfolio can be tough – It is very important that you pay a lot of attention to every aspect of your portfolio. 

We’ve created this article to help you navigate the process of creating a professional portfolio that highlights your skills and the best projects

List of reasons why freelancers need a portfolio

Types of Portfolio and Formats

An important aspect to consider when creating your portfolio is the format.

There are different ways to design a portfolio and you can use several of them at once. Within the freelance industry, the most common portfolio formats include having a website listing past work and a standard PDF portfolio that you can send as an attachment, too. 

Additionally, several freelancers within the creative field also upload their portfolios on platforms such as Behance, Dribbble and/or other social channels like LinkedIn.

💙 Freelancermap also offers a space for freelancers to upload their portfolio and showcase their skills > Create your profile now

Before you create your portfolio, map out the type of portfolio that will work best for your specific niche. Identify your potential clients and how you may best reach them. When choosing a format, you want to make sure that your prospects can view your designed portfolio well. 

There are several tools and free portfolio services to make a freelance online portfolio:

What Should a Professional Portfolio include?

Pay attention to what you include in your portfolio to make it looks professional. It can be easy to get carried away and want to list out all the projects you have ever worked on. But there is such a thing as information overload. 

Instead of adding in a bunch of different content, take the time to go through all your work and choose pieces that you are especially proud of or think you have done particularly well on. 

Your clients are busy people and your portfolio needs to speak on your behalf so make sure it is clear and easy to look through.

In order to create a succinct portfolio, put yourself in the perspective of your clients:

  • What information does your client need to be convinced of your work?
  • How much does your client already know about your work? 
  • Who looks at the portfolio and decides to hire you? 

These questions can help you write a list of what your portfolio should include in order to gain new clients. 

Additionally, we’ve listed a few key details every freelance portfolio should contain

#1 – Best and latest work

Add in details about your latest work and some of your best work

For example, if you are freelancer writer and you have a particular niche that you are passionate about and absolutely love to write about, most of your portfolio should include samples that reflect that niche.

On the other hand, if you are a freelance graphic designer and love logo design, your freelance graphic designer portfolio should include your best-designed logos up until now.

Did you get an award for a project or was included in a publication? Share those work achievements, too!

Tip: When selecting the works for your portfolio, also consider what kind of clients you want to address. If you want to take on a particular type of work, highlight those works that might appeal to the relevant target group. Be prepared to change up your portfolio if you’re a freelancer that offers more than one type of service. 

#2 – Basic information

Details such as your name, phone number, and email address, as well as the type of freelance work that you offer, should be readily apparent. 

This overview helps your prospect to have all the important information together.

It’s also a good idea to link to other social media accounts where the client can find more about you and your work. A cover letter is also a great way to reach out and connect with your client.

#3 – Testimonials and Social Proof 

Testimonials and client reviews can make a huge contribution to convincing potential customers that they are worth their time and investment.

Don’t be afraid to include past customer references, reviews, possible media coverage, or anything else that shows your expertise and your happy clients.

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

How to Create a Professional Portfolio that Converts Clients 

So now that we’ve covered what goes into a successful portfolio, let’s look at how to create a portfolio that draws in clients

#1 Choose the right work for your portfolio

We come to the big question in creating a portfolio: the selection of the work

What should you include in your portfolio and what shouldn’t be shown? Here, too, it helps you to know your target group. Which projects could convince these people? Think about a portfolio design that suits your target group. 

For a portfolio in pdf, we recommend showing 5 to 7 pieces of work. The more material you have to represent a project, the fewer projects you should show. This just helps clients focus on your best work

On your website or other online portfolios, you can of course show all projects that interested parties may want to see. They can more easily filter and go through past work in a digital format.

#2 What to include in a portfolio if you lack experience

If you don’t quite have enough (or any) projects to showcase, get creative!

One option when designing a portfolio is, of course, to extensively exploit the few projects you have done.

For example, for a logo project, you could show a logo design throughout the process, the style guide, and how this logo looks on all media and in different colors. 

If you have no work for your portfolio to show yet, create some! 

Offer up your services for free on small projects, work for a non-profit organization you would like to support or work for an acquaintance that is starting out too, and need your help.

You could also simply create things without having a client that is going to use that work.

For example, if you are creating a freelance web designer portfolio, you could also redesign a website you usually use or design a new landing page that would work for them.

It is very important to mention here: Think entrepreneurially! What is important today to win your first customer tomorrow?

#3 Work on your text – Content is king

Once you have the visuals of your portfolio sorted, work on the language. Think about the portfolio from your client’s perspective. What sort of language do they understand? Use familiar terminology to connect better with your clients

Even if you are not a writer, it is an important part of your portfolio design.

Your words can help your clients get a picture of your work that is not just pictures – and this increases your success as a freelancer! 

Also having text on your online portfolio would be great in terms of SEO, so if you are not that good with words and have the budget, we’d recommend you hire a copywriter to write the texts for your portfolio.

Your ability to communicate with clients will be ultimately as important as the technical skills you are offering, so using an easy wording a potential client would personally use will help you connect with them!

“Make sure your portfolio copy don’t have typos and is understandable for the client” 

Do not forget that clients often don’t even know what they need or are confused about the work a freelancer does. 

For instance, a client could contact an illustrator and ask for an illustration when in reality they need an animation or they would expect that a UX designer also delivers a website developed.

#4 Show yourself and your personality

Whoever is looking at your portfolio definitely doesn’t want to see exactly the same thing they’ve seen in ten other portfolios – so be as creative as you can and include your best, most imaginative pieces of work. 

Another great way to set yourself apart is to Include a personal touch by adding a professional headshot photo. This helps personalize your portfolio and give your clients a clear mental image of you as a freelancer. 

#5 Set a call to action (CTA) to incite conversation

For many freelancers, it is not easy to advertise their work. However, this would be a key part of your work as a freelancer. That’s why it is important to add a CTA (call to action) when creating a portfolio.

  • What should the client do after seeing your elaborately designed portfolio PDF? 
  • What should the viewer of your website do next? 

Help them out by adding a CTA to your portfolio. Some ideas to encourage potential clients to engage with you are:

  • Link or button to directly hire you
  • Link to schedule an initial free consultation call with you
  • Contact form where clients can tell you more about their project needs
  • Adding your contact details so they can call or write an email 

Make it as easy as possible for your prospect to take the next step with you!

#6 General Tips for your Portfolio Design

Put a reminder in your calendar so that you update your portfolio regularly. We recommend you to update it every 6 months.

As mentioned above, If you have different target groups or want to change your target group, you can easily create different freelance portfolios and find a new positioning.

Even if you have many different styles or designs, there should be a common thread running through your portfolio. Try sorting your work (for example, by color or theme) or arranging it in creative patterns (for example, alternating between black and white and color).

And of course in conclusion: keep in mind what your prospect wants and design your portfolio accordingly!

Professional portfolio examples from fellow freelancers

A great way to find inspiration on how to create a stellar portfolio is by looking up professional portfolio examples from your fellow freelancers. 

Check out some amazing freelance portfolios here: 

Sean Halpin

Sean is a web designer and developer based in Toronto who uses soft colors and simple imagery to present his work. He also includes his availability and a CTA to directly message him if you want to hire him.

Studio Schurk

The illustration and animation studio based in The Netherlands uses fun images, made in a style that pokes at our inner child fly around the screen, and leaves visitors with a smile. Their strength is their style of creating bold and colorful illustrations and animations, so they made sure to incorporate these elements into their portfolio.

Studio Schurk Portfolio
® Studio Schurk Portfolio

Melanie Daveid

Melanie is a UX Designer and Art Director from Austria living in Berlin. The first thing you see when you go to her site – a simple, elegant logo on the background of a black hand.

It awakens your curiosity. Then you can go and read more about her, her work, contact her or go to her shop. The best portfolios should encourage you to explore more after seeing their “cover”.

Dragos Muntean

Dragos is a Digital Product Designer that uses his portfolio “as a reflection of my work and my evolution as a designer”. He adds a contact section where you can get in touch with him and where he opens up a little bit showing more about his passions in an image gallery. 

Portfolio Dragos Muntean
© Portfolio Dragos Muntean

Do you have your portfolio up-to-date? Apply all these tips and make sure you do! Having a professional portfolio can be the perfect hook to land clients!

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Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

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