A Freelancer’s Guide to Creating an Online Portfolio

Self Employment

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The gig economy is a fast-growing employment option. According to Intuit about 34 percent of the American workforce is comprised of independent contractors and freelancers, and that number is expected to grow to 43 percent by 2020. That’s a lot of opportunity…and a lot of competition.

Although the freelance lifestyle is full of perks—high hourly rates, schedule flexibility, and creative satisfaction—it can also mean committing to constant job hunts throughout the year. As the gig market grows, it’s important to distinguish yourself among your for-hire peers. An online portfolio can help you create a full picture of your work experience and allow clients to find you. Here’s how to get started.

Choose a Hosting Platform

They say presentation is everything, and the best way to make your work stand out is with an attractive and easy-to-navigate site. This task may seem daunting if your web development skills are lacking, but fear not: There are services that provide easy (and free) ways to build your website:

  • Wix: While they offer paid design services, Wix allows users to build their own sites, no web design knowledge necessary. The steps are simple: answer a few questions about your business, choose a look and feel (also known as a theme), and start customizing. Check out their step-by-step guide to demystify the process.
  • Contently: Aimed at creative freelancers, Contently’s form-like interface allows you to build a portfolio that includes basic contact information, work samples (both online and uploaded PDFs), and a list of professional skills. You can also highlight relationships with companies using their employer database. And while Contently’s model connects internal freelancers to employers, you can change your portfolio permissions to allow for public access.

Organize Your Work Samples

Work samples are a no-brainer for your portfolio, but organizing them requires a bit more thought. When presenting your work, consider the companies and clients you want to attract and create a sample page that caters to their needs. If you’re a commercial photographer, for example, a visual landing page is more inviting than links to individual images.

It’s also helpful to separate your samples into categories. Suppose you primarily do design work for advertising clients, but also create infographics and other design projects for online media outlets; it’s probably worth dividing the two types of work into different sections so would-be clients can readily find the samples most relevant to them.

The final piece of any sample page is context. Include a description with each of your samples, e.g., “I was hired by Company X to create an email marketing campaign for 5,500 subscribers,” and a list of skills you used to complete the project. A little detail goes a long way.

Collect Testimonials

Even in the tech age, word-of mouth recommendations are a powerful sales tool, and adding a testimonial page to your portfolio is a great way to keep the work flowing in. Ask clients, co-workers, and supervisors to write reviews on your behalf, or email them a pre-made form if they prefer a structured questionnaire. In addition to attracting new clients, this strategy helps you stay in touch with past employers (and remain on their gig worker radar).

Include a Bio and Links to Your Social Accounts

Like it or not, social media plays a role in the hiring process. According to a CareerBuilder survey, roughly 70 percent of employers looked at social accounts to screen candidates in 2017. So you may as well use them to your advantage! Lean into networking by curating your social accounts for professional gain, create a business Facebook page, or use Instagram to advertise your services and show off your work. Along the way, don’t forget to include a short and friendly bio explaining who you are and what you do. A well-maintained social presence can help you reach clients and give your portfolio an extra boost. You’ve got nothing to lose. 

List Your Availability

The nature of gig work is fluid. For many companies, contractors fill specific needs that change on a weekly basis. With this in mind, it’s helpful to list your availability for interviews and work so clients can snag your hours when they need them. Use a calendar plugin for your theme, or if you prefer low-tech, you can use a free app like Google Calendar or ZOHO Calendar to coordinate with employers.

When it comes to hustling in the gig economy, you can’t afford to remain anonymous. Increase your visibility by creating a strong online presence, and you’ll find yourself spending a lot less time hunting for that next gig.