How to Build a Freelance Portfolio

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.

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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.

What is a Portfolio?

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.

Why is Having a Portfolio Important in Freelancing?

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.

How to Make a Portfolio with No Experience

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.

Utilize School or Personal Projects

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.

Create Sample Work Pieces

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.


  1. Social Media Management: Pick a popular brand on social media (ie. Coca Cola, Taco Bell, Discover). Think about what you would do if you were in charge of their social media presence. Create a mock social media strategy and Instagram feed redesign.
  2. Email Marketing: Pick a brand you currently receive marketing emails from. Choose one of their recent email campaigns and rewrite it to reflect how you would run their email marketing strategy.
  3. Content Creation: Select 2-3 items around your house that you use and love. Create ad-style videos for each of the products.


  1. Graphic Design: Pick a brand and redo their logo. Take screenshots of your work as you create it to show clients your typical design process.
  2. UI/UX Design: Find a website or app you frequent. Conduct a UI/UX audit on the pages. Then, compile screenshots of the different sections, and create a document summarizing what you would improve.
  3. Website Design: Use a web design platform such as Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress to create a 2-3 page website showcasing your design skills.


  1. Blog Writing: Pick a topic you know a lot about or would like to write about for clients. Write a blog discussing 4 misconceptions about the industry.
  2. Copywriting: Find an ad on your Facebook, Instagram, or Tik Tok feed. Screenshot it, then rewrite the copy in your own style.
  3. Translation: Find a document relevant to the industry you want to translate for. Translate the document into different languages.


  1. Sales Development: Create a scenario that poses several challenges for selling (ie. You’re selling skis in Texas), then write out a mock conversation demonstrating how you would handle the situation and close the deal.
  2. Business Consulting/Development: Create a scenario that poses several challenges for a company (ie. You’re working with an early-stage startup with three employees in a saturated market). Devise a business plan for the company to showcase how you would help them achieve their goals.


  1. Web Development: Create a 2-3 page website for a brand you love.
  2. Engineering: Create an AutoCAD drawing or model for a product you own.
  3. Data Analytics: Search for a website dataset on a site such as Kaggle. Then, go to the website directly and scrape it. For example, you could scrape a site such as Reddit then use the data to find and display interesting correlations. 

Take Skill Courses

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.

Best Portfolio Websites and Formats

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.

  1. Contently → Writing
  2. Behance → Design
  3. Adobe Portfolio → Design
  4. Dribbble → Design
  5. Adobe Express (Formerly Adobe Spark) → Design
  6. Github → Web development
  7. Canva → Good for various industries
  8. Google Drive Folder → Good for various industries
  9. Wix → Good for various industries
  10. Squarespace → Good for various industries

Here’s a few portfolio examples from real Pangeans:

General Tips for Creating a Portfolio

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.

Select Strong Pieces

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.

Quality Over Quantity

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.

Only Select Pieces You’re Confident In

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.

Be Aware of How You Present the Content

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.

Add Your Resume if Applicable

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.

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