Without a good portfolio, any attention you get will be useless
Gig work is not an oligopoly, there are plenty of opportunities to get clients and there is plenty of competition. The challenge we all have as freelancers is discovering the best approach to standing out. That’s where your portfolio comes in, the purpose of your portfolio is to showcase your usefulness.
If you want to make a portfolio that is useful to both your clients and yourself, it needs to clearly capture your work. Your portfolio has to answer, “What kind of work do you do and are you good?” The purpose of a portfolio is to show your clients that you can consistently produce quality work, under any conditions. Your portfolio should be tailored to the type of work you are best at and the type of work you want to do.
You can accept other types of work to get supplemental income or for more experience, but you don’t need to add all of your previous work into your portfolio. The work you do add to your portfolio has to include the work you’re most interested in doing. And when you are an amateur, you need to design your portfolio to distinguish yourself from the sea of other competitors out there.
A portfolio that separates the amateurs from the professionals
The difference between an amateur and a professional is mainly based on time spent working. Amateurs work on a creative task during their spare time, usually doing said creative work as a hobby or as a side-hustle. A professional does their creative work full-time and it is their main source of income. An amateur can sometimes be better than a professional, but they simply haven’t made the transition into full-time work. Often times this transition can’t be made because of an inadequate portfolio.
A portfolio has to let your prospective clients know they can trust you with their money. Your portfolio has to give your leads confidence when they contact you to begin the negotiation and hiring process. The clients that end up paying you do so because they don’t believe that you are a risk. Before any negotiations are made, the client has to be willing to spend their money on you. Your portfolio convinces them to start a conversation.
Portfolio design takes time to master
Your portfolio has to be able to describe your process and the skills that you can bring to the table. Therefore, there are many design considerations that you have to consider when creating your portfolio. Can your portfolio describe your process? What types of services do you provide? How you decide to answer these two questions will either make your leads click to learn more or leave your portfolio page.
Amateurs have many services whereas a professional has one to two main services that they provide based on the industry they work in, market size, experience, preferences, and established credibility. When deciding which services you want to pursue, think about which types of services can let you cross-pollinate your skills. In copywriting, for example, one key skill that cross-pollinates amongst many types of services is research.
Additionally, you can and should describe your process for how you start and how you will deliver your assignments if hired. Whether that is stated at the beginning or at the end of your portfolio, this is an essential element to a successful portfolio.
A prospective client may be impressed by your work but, having your process clearly displayed will also let them know if you’re the right person to hire. Perhaps how they do their own work doesn’t align with your work process. Describing this ahead of time, in your portfolio, will reduce friction and future headaches for all parties involved.
Here is what you can do if you are just getting started
If you’re seeking the best way to start a freelance career in copywriting, you need to take matters into your own hands. If you are struggling to find work so that you can build a portfolio, try giving yourself assignments. Searching for writing prompts, rewriting a landing page you found online or creating a sample newsletter based on the emails you click on the most are great ways to start building your portfolio. You can also use the assignments and tests given to you when you’re applying for copywriting positions as portfolio items.
Even if you’re new to freelance work, having an empty or nonexistent portfolio is much worse than having a portfolio with a few self-assigned samples. At least with sample work displayed, you can show your skills to leads that are open to hiring someone who is just getting started. Also, by completing assignments you get better at your craft and the core skills that go along with it, which is necessary to grow your career. How else are you going to get better without doing the work?
If you can’t get hired by clients right now, hire yourself first.
Image Credit: Unsplash
For an example of how my portfolio looks like, click here.