Creating a portfolio can help you book more clients. We’ll give you everything you need to know to create a high-impact portfolio even with no experience.View Video on Loom
A strong portfolio can help you secure high-quality clients at competitive rates. But as a beginner, figuring out what to put inside your portfolio with little experience can quickly become a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma.
I need the portfolio to get the experience, but I also need the experience to have things to put in my portfolio. But how do I get the experience without the portfolio? Or make the portfolio without the experience?
Even without experience, there are a variety of ways to easily create a strong portfolio as a beginner freelancer. Let’s dive into it.
In simple terms, a freelance portfolio is proof that you truly know how to do the services you offer. It is a way to showcase a variety of previous work to clients, giving them a clear idea of what your work typically looks like so they can have confidence in your capabilities.
Think about it like this: If you went to buy a custom birthday cake, you’d probably ask the baker for some samples of the different flavors they offer or designs they’ve done in the past. Similarly, if you want to get your hair done at a new salon, you might browse the stylist’s Instagram page to see if their skills match your preferences.
The same goes for freelancers working with clients. When a client books your services, they want to know what they’re getting before they agree to pay for it. A portfolio is your opportunity to showcase past work to clients, demonstrating your knowledge, skill set, and ability to deliver services.
This is where we help you get out of the chicken-or-the-egg trap. Here’s a few tips for creating the perfect portfolio as a beginner freelancer.
Oftentimes, freelancers feel like school projects come across as a bit too juvenile for a professional portfolio. However, if the work is applicable and demonstrates a strong understanding of the service you plan to offer, putting a school project in your portfolio is absolutely okay.
For example, if you’re studying marketing and want to offer social media services as a freelancer, using your recent social media strategy project in your portfolio is a great way to showcase your expertise in this area.
Similarly, if you have any applicable personal projects, use them as well. For example, the pictures you did as a favor for your best friend would be perfect for a photography portfolio.
As you gain more industry experience, you can easily swap out school and personal projects for client-based work. However, these projects are perfectly fine to start with.
If you don’t have any school or personal projects to start with, consider creating a sample work piece. Start with one of the prompts below.
Various online websites such as HubSpot, Coursera, Udemy, and even Skillshop with Google offer free courses on a range of topics. Several also offer certificates after completion of the course, which are a great addition to your portfolio.
Where you decide to host or display your portfolio is ultimately up to you. Depending on the type of work you’d like to display, however, you may find certain platforms more useful than others. Here are some of the top online portfolio websites/hosting platforms and the industry we think they’re best for.
Here’s a few portfolio examples from real Pangeans:
Regardless of the type of portfolio you’re looking to build, there are a few things you should always keep in mind as you build it.
Include work that you feel strongly about and that demonstrates the skill set you’re looking to market as a freelancer. While you may have written a killer article for your linguistics class, it won’t be very applicable in your social media management portfolio.
Having 2-3 strong pieces in your portfolio is better than having 15 “meh” pieces. Focus on creating a few exceptional pieces instead of pumping out pieces just for the numbers.
Anything you put in your portfolio is fair game for a client to bring up during your discovery call. If you put something in your portfolio, make sure you’re confident in your ability to talk about the process of creating it from start to finish.
If you opt for a more casual portfolio, such as a Google Drive folder, be careful about how you present the work. For example, don’t just throw a bunch of pieces in a folder and call it a day. Rather, sort the work in subfolders to categorize the content or add context to the individual documents so clients can understand what they’re looking at.
If you have experience within the industry you hope to freelance in, adding your resume to your portfolio can give you a bit more credibility with clients. However, if your resume is full of great yet unrelated work, we recommend leaving your resume out.
If a client opens your resume to learn more about your web design skills and spends 5 minutes reading a document about your retail management skills, they may pass on looking at the rest of your portfolio. If you suspect that your resume experience could detract from the other work you’re trying to showcase, don’t add your resume to your portfolio.