Planning to shift to freelance? Start with building a professional online portfolio

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Table of Contents

Leaving the office for freelance opportunities at the beginning may seem to be challenging when it comes to attracting the first clients. Here every method of promoting yourself as a specialist will be useful: creating a profile on freelance platforms like Fiverr,  Freelancer, or Upwork, searching the first clients in your closest circle, and joining freelancing communities in social media.

The major deciding factor for a client to choose you for further cooperation is a professional portfolio. It provides information about your previous experience, examples of completed projects to get acquainted with your style and know what to expect from you. It’s a common misconception that a portfolio is necessary only for designers because it’s equally valid for freelance writers, web developers, marketing specialists, and other professionals.

So here we go with the top tips for building a professional online portfolio: 

Gather the relevant examples

The first step in compiling a portfolio is gathering all your previous experience to decide what you would like to share. Even if you don’t have real work experience, you still can choose some assignments from learning courses, or tasks you’ve done to participate in competitions. These can also be projects you performed for yourself like showing how you would improve a service you like, offer the redesign for a web page, etc. If you have ever won in some contests, including these awards will also work. 

For technical professions, you can include a web development courses certificate, a link to your public Git repository, and pet projects. When it comes to the real experience for software engineers, before sharing the works you completed for your former clients, make sure that they are not under NDA and get the official permission, as usually, it’s considered to be internal information. 


Once you have all the materials at hand, it’s high time to structure it into logical parts of your portfolio grouping the works by topic, duration, or just sorting them in chronological order. One of the most common beginners’ mistakes is including everything they have done, so that the portfolio looks bigger, thus more substantial to impress a potential client. In fact, it does not work this way, and can even have an adverse effect because too many examples of the same thing may distract people. Instead, choose the most outstanding works that you are proud of.  

Another aspect to consider is how you will present the information: here everything depends on the profession, but it’s a good practice to create a short description of what you were doing for the project, what were the main challenges, and how you coped with them. 

If you are working as an independent contractor make sure to include the section with the documents. These can be terms of services, copyright on using your materials as well as other specific documents like design contract template, marketing briefs, or any other documents related to the services you provide. It’s critical for the creative professions that require a lot of сorrection and changes, that’s why you need to include your work codex to let clients know about your preferences.

Decide on the format

When you know what you want to present and have a structure in your head, you can move on to the next step: deciding on how you will build your portfolio. 

The first thing is choosing the right domain name for the website. Often, it’s your name with the extensions like .com, .net .info, and others, but it’s also possible to include some catchy keywords from your niche just in case you plan to promote your services with this website. 

Then, goes the choice of the platform. Here, everything depends on your skills and budget for the website. The simplest ways include drag-and-drop builders like Wix or Squarespace. They allow creating your website by adding and organizing the design blocks in less than a day even for a non-tech-savvy person. 

Another variant is a CMS like WordPress that is a bit more difficult but allows more functionality when it comes to customization, as many themes and plugins are specifically designed for portfolio purposes. It may also happen that even this is not enough, and you will decide to go with a custom-coded website that allows maximum flexibility, yet is the most expensive option. 

Add a personal touch

Last but not least is presenting you as a person. It includes a bio, personal interests, contacts, and links to social media to get in touch with you. The personality of a freelancer may play a crucial role when your client will decide between several candidates with the same skills. It’s always easier to work with someone who is on the same page with you, so including this information in the portfolio is a great way to attract your audience. 

Creating an outstanding portfolio is one of the most important steps in building your reputation as a freelancer because it can give a boost to your career. That is why it requires a thorough approach and can take several weeks to compile. Make sure to post regular updates including fresh examples because the market requirements may be changing and clients will be more interested in some newer works. Something that was relevant at the beginning of your career, may become outdated. 

Also, with time, you will want to delete the early works because of their imperfections and the progress you have made. It will help you to focus on the most vivid examples that reflect your experience and fulfill the main purpose of the portfolio: showing the projects you are interested in and demonstrate your professional skills.

Author’s Bio:
Michael Dunlop is a content manager working with Udemy. He is a firm believer in quality content and his aim is to help people make informed choices. Mike has achieved a Master’s in economics from the University of Edinburgh.

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