Why You Need to Start Curating a Portfolio Today

Curating a portfolio of your best freelance work is vital to developing your freelance career. Let's take a look at what a portfolio is, why you need one, and what you should include in it.

What is a Freelance Portfolio?

When you apply for a regular job, you submit your resume. This gives the recruiter an overview of your experience and a sense of what you're capable of.

Freelancing is different. Potential clients aren't all that interested in your resume. Instead, they want to know what you're capable of. They want to see what you've created in the past.

The best way to show your previous work is through a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of work you've done, presented in a way that's attractive to clients. A portfolio can be a physical object, such as a file of your past work. Or it can be virtual, displayed on a website.

You should start collecting examples of your work to include in your portfolio as soon as possible. Even if you've yet to find freelance work, you can include samples you created during your studies or while you were developing your freelance skills.

Why Every Freelancer Needs a Portfolio

What should you include in a freelance portfolio?

By browsing your portfolio, potential clients can see whether the work you've done in the past is a close fit to what they want you to do for them. If they like your work, they'll want to hire you.

In other words, a portfolio is a sales tool. By curating a portfolio of your best work and by showing your portfolio to potential clients, you give yourself a better chance of winning contracts.

Your portfolio…

  • Makes you look like a pro
    A portfolio shows you've got relevant experience.
  • Grabs attention
    Your portfolio tells the story of your professional life, and stories immediately pull people in.
  • Gives you confidence
    When you take your portfolio into a client meeting, you have a ready topic of conversation about which you're the expert.
  • Provides clients with a strong reason to choose you
    If your portfolio impressed the client you're meeting with, then they'll want to hire you.

What To Include in Your Portfolio

When you're starting out, you'll be grateful for every new project that provides something new for your portfolio.

As your freelance career develops, you can start curating your portfolio.

Curating simply means you decide which pieces of your work to include in your portfolio and which to leave out. Curating your portfolio is a good idea for three reasons:

  1. You can choose samples that best reflect the work you've done.
  2. You can curate your portfolio to impress a particular prospect.
  3. You can target your portfolio at your ideal clients to help you win contracts for the projects you most enjoy.

Including your best work in your portfolio goes without saying. You should never include samples that are below what you expect of yourself. They reflect badly on you and your business.

When you're meeting with potential clients to pitch your services, it's always a good idea to curate your profile to match the type of work you'll be doing for them.

You'll have an idea of what they want from your pre-pitch conversations, so you can adjust your portfolio accordingly. For example, if I'm meeting a client to discuss writing copy for their website, I want to show them my web copy samples. Bringing my press release samples instead might show I can write, but it would also show I hadn't really listened to what they needed, and would make for a weak pitch.

As for your online profile, you don't know who will be browsing it. Because of this, there are two good approaches to curating it.

  1. Include all of your best work
    The advantage of this is that it will appeal to a wide range of potential clients.
  2. Feature only the work that you most enjoyed
    This will appeal to fewer potential clients, but they're more likely to be the clients you'll enjoy working with.

How to Display Your Portfolio

For an easy way to display your portfolio, I recommend setting up a self-hosted WordPress website. There are hundreds of free and paid portfolio themes that will show your good work in a positive light.

Editor's note
Here are some other tools that can assist with creating online portfolios…

Additionally, it's worth including your portfolio on your LinkedIn profile. You can do this by adding the "Creative Portfolio" module to your profile page.

The trend for portable portfolios is to make them easily viewed on any device. Showing your portfolio on a tablet, or in an 8 x 11.5 portfolio file is the way to go.

As with most aspects of your freelance business, you can get ideas for what to include in your portfolio and how to display your portfolio by checking out the competition. Look up how freelancers you admire display their work.

Most importantly, make your portfolio something you're proud of. Your clients should hear the passion in your voice and see a twinkle in your eye when you show your work to them. They want to see you care about your work, so you'll be invested in the project you do for them.

Written by David Masters

David Masters helps businesses find their sweet spot of creativity, productivity and making money. He's been earning his bread as an online business writer since 2008.

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