This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Setting yourself up as a freelancer can be tough.

After all, how will customers know to trust you when you don’t have much of a portfolio to show them? It’s still possible to improve your portfolio and get yourself into a better position, so don’t give up yet.

Use these 5 tips to get your freelance book in top shape.

Find lower-paid work

The first thing to do is to look for clients who don’t mind having someone with less experience do the work. This is perfect for portfolio-building, but won’t make you too much money. Usually they are on a tight budget themselves, and they will expect good quality work all the same. Make sure you put the same amount of effort in that as you would for a well-paying client, and you can use this work to fill your portfolio. Make sure that they agree for you to showcase the work before you start. You can find a range of jobs on sites like Gumtree to get you started.

Work for yourself

If you don’t have specific examples in your portfolio, or you feel that the examples you have could be better, don’t be afraid to work for yourself. Create a brief as if you were a client, and work to it in order to create something for your portfolio. It doesn’t matter what field you are in – you can do this work off your own back to get a better example for future clients. Once you have something better from a real client, you can replace it, but it’s a great way to get that portfolio into better shape right away.

Look at others

When you are trying to improve your portfolio, it’s a good idea to understand the general standard in your industry. Search out the people who are considered to be the top freelancers in your field. What do they have in their portfolio? What kind of quality do they hold themselves to? Are there any key errors you didn’t realise you had been making? Try to bring your portfolio up to the same level so that you can attract top-quality clients.

Consider presentation

Even the best portfolio in the world can be brought down by poor presentation. Make sure that your portfolio satisfies the following criteria:

  • It is easy to read
  • The interface is user-friendly
  • Your work is presented at full resolution, if applicable
  • It can be seen on mobile or desktop
  • If a downloadable file, it is compressed to save room
  • It carries a clear and identifiable brand

Be selective

There is a saying that your portfolio is only as good as the worst piece of work that it contains. This is very true. You should ensure that you only put your best work in your portfolio: the work that you are proud of and would be happy to produce again. As soon as you have something new to add, consider taking out at least one piece that is no longer of the standard of your overall portfolio. Your collection of work should be constantly evolving as you improve in your work and do better pieces. It should also showcase your most prestigious clients and your most up-to-date work, so never let it get out of hand by leaving too many entries. Keep it to a strict maximum limit to ensure quality control.

Once you have followed these steps, your portfolio should be something that you can be proud of. With this under your belt, your freelance orders will start flooding in.

Kelly Wright works as a freelance writer and loves to share her thoughts with others. She's interested in photography and design.