Build a portfolio that actually stands out

Jul 07, 2020

If you think you can compile a few pieces of your work and call it a “portfolio,” you’re mistaken. There are around 57 million freelance workers in the United States, constituting 36% of the US workforce.

That means that as a freelancer, you have to get creative and try harder to present yourself because if you don’t, someone else will.

This is why it’s important to build a strong portfolio, one that aptly demonstrates your capabilities, skills, and achievements. It needs to persuade clients and make them believe that you indeed are the best person for the role.

Let’s take a look at six best practices to create a freelance portfolio that stands out and wins clients.

1. Pick a niche

Content writer, SEO specialist, PR professional, social media marketer you cannot be them all. Positioning yourself as a “jack of all trades” does more harm than good.

You need to be a specialist, so pick a niche and excel at it.

Make a list of the fields you’re interested in, have experience in, and are knowledgeable about. In order to grow your freelance business and attract more clients, there needs to be a demand for that service in the market. Your next step is finding how lucrative each of those niches are.

How do you do that? You can use Google Trends or browse a freelance marketplace such as Upwork to understand what services people are searching for.

Let’s say you’ve decided to become a freelance copywriter. Don’t leave it at that narrow your focus further and choose a specialty such as B2B copywriting, entertainment copywriting, SaaS copywriting, or ecommerce copywriting, to name a few.

Not only will this will help you build a more specific portfolio and pitch to the right clients, it will also let you market yourself better.

Here’s an example of a specialized freelance writer who specializes in environmental copywriting.

2. Shortlist your strongest work samples

Put your best foot forward, they say, and rightly so.

Given the number of portfolios or applications clients look at, you don’t want them to have to skim through a long list of your work to find the stuff you're most proud of. Instead, send them three to four of your strongest work samples and make them count.

Look at your past work which projects delivered results or were particularly well-received by the client?

Along with showcasing some of your best work, make sure it’s relevant to the client you’re pitching. For example, if you’re applying for a project that requires you to design social media graphics, make sure you include at least one work sample that demonstrates that.

3. Write an effective ‘About Me’ section

The "About Me" is one of the most important elements of a freelance portfolio. Clients are likely to read this section before anything else in order to understand more about your background, experience, and the work you do.

The purpose of this section is to introduce yourself and showcase your personality. Use it to tell a story and take the reader through your journey.

Opt for a more conversational style of writing, as it’s easier to spark a connection with your reader. Keep this section shorter than 250 words, and include your headshot.

Here’s an example of an effective "About Me." It includes the essential elements and gives an insight into the freelancer’s background.

4. Include social proof

Whether you’re an established business, startup, or freelancer, social proof always sells.

Prospective clients want to see third-party validation to make the right decision. Why not build upon this “I’ll have what they’re having” mentality and leverage it to win new clients?

Here are some types of social proof you can add to your freelance portfolio:

  • Testimonials from clients
  • Published interviews and media mentions
  • Logos of brands you’ve worked with
  • Number of projects you’ve worked on
  • Awards or accolades received
  • Links to published guest posts

Here’s a good way to present social proof in a freelance portfolio.

5. Add visual appeal

Apart from writing great content and including the essential elements, it’s also important to capture and retain your clients’ attention. The most effective way to do this is by designing a portfolio that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Use bright visuals in the form of images of work samples and videos, or even illustrations, icons, charts, graphs, or timeline infographics to complement your portfolio and communicate the message effectively.


Source: Venngage

This applies to every kind of freelancer, not just those whose work involves visuals such as freelance designers or photographers. If your work isn't visual in its nature, get creative! Think about how you might use an infographic to describe your content writing successes, or a graphic timeline to talk about your experience.

6. End with a strong call to action

You want your portfolio to lead to work and new clients, which is why it’s important to include a clear call to action (CTA). The idea is to compel clients to take the desired action after reading your portfolio.

Give them an option to shoot you an email or give you a call to discuss further. Ensure you make it easy for them to do so by placing your email address or phone number in a prominent spot.

Alternatively, depending on the nature of your freelance business, you can also encourage clients to ask for a quote or get a free audit. However, it’s important to choose just one clear CTA, or you risk confusing clients.

The takeaway

A well-written, structured portfolio ought to be part of every freelancer’s marketing arsenal. So, the next time you’re sending a business pitch to a potential client, don’t forget to include an impactful portfolio that demonstrates your capabilities and showcases you as the best-suited freelancer for the role or project.

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 us your blog post.

Simki Dutta

Simki Dutta is a content marketer at Venngage, a free infographic maker and design platform. When she's not working, she can be found refreshing her Twitter feed and binge-watching Netflix shows.