How to build a freelance portfolio that’ll get you hired (even if you have no past client history)

Your portfolio may be the most important part of your freelancing profile. It’s the thing that concretely PROVES (or not) that you know what you’re doing.

But, it needs to be built a certain way, otherwise it can actually work AGAINST you.

First is visual appeal. Take these stats for instance:

  • When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
  • Eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page.
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.
  • Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.

I know… shocker.

Adding images makes things perform better. But, I’m always baffled by freelancer profiles. A lot of freelancers don’t properly prioritize visual appeal. Your portfolio HAS to look good. Even if, you’re in an industry that lacks it (writers, back-end development, etc).

One way to accomplish that, of course, is to make sure you always build nice-looking things.

But, again, that can be tough in some industries.

One trick I see being used a lot more lately is using “graphical representations” instead of screenshots. Take this graphic for Infusionsoft, for example:

2018-10-07_1120

This is obviously not what the actual interface looks like. But, it gives the impression that it is. And, it communicates the point.

So, get creative with your portfolio. Don’t tie yourself to having to just take screenshots. If you’re a writer, use the graphics from the websites or books you’ve written for. If you’re a back-end developer, show the front-end result. Use graphics instead of screenshots, if necessary.

But, PRIORITIZE visual appeal.

The second big thing is your portfolio needs to function AS proof.

I talked about how to inject proof into your profile overview in this article. It’s critical. But, when you mention projects you’ve worked on in your overview, clients will immediately go to your portfolio to SEE those projects. So, make sure anything you mention in your overview is visually represented in your portfolio.

I’m telling you as sure as I’m sitting here… if you combine that 1-2 punch (overview and portfolio) in the way I outline… clients will stop and give you a hard look.

And, you’ll make a very compelling case.

And, over time, my experience is you’ll win a lot more jobs.

Of course, the big objection I get at this point is…

I don’t have past clients to put in a portfolio.

And, it IS tricky when you first get started. It’s hard to get work without a portfolio, but you can’t build a portfolio without work. And, the main advice you’ll hear is to do FREE work.

That’s fine, but it’s actually not necessary.

There’s a simple (and quicker) way to build your portfolio that doesn’t require doing a bunch of free work for people who often end up being a pain in the a!@ to work with.

I show you what that is in Module 2, Lesson 6 of my Freelancing on Upwork course on SkillShare. And, you can get access to that course for nothing. Details at that link.

Later,

John

Do you want more freelance clients?

I’ll show you what I learned over the last 15 years to grind out (from absolute scratch) a backlog of new clients wanting to hire you. Who your best client prospect are, what services you should be offering them, where to find them and more. Just enter your email address in the box below and let’s get started:

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John Morris

JOHN MORRIS

I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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