Is Your Portfolio Building Your Freelance Business or Shrinking It

Starting a freelancing career can be intimidating, not to mention downright confusing. Today I’m continuing my 4 part series sharing some lessons I’ve learned over the past 3 years, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and what I’ve picked up along the way!

Missed Part 1? Check it out here!

 

Your Portfolio is Your Introduction

Unless you’ve met your visitor before, chances are your first introduction to your client will be your website. So make it great. Your portfolio is you, online. It’s where you share your knowledge, your experience, and how you can help them in one place.

Social media can help you get noticed, but your website is the one place where you have complete control over what is seen and how it’s shared.

 

 

Content You Need to Include

Home Page

This is your visitor’s first impression of the first impression of you and your work. (Make sense?) There are a number of ways to do it, and in no way am I saying my way is best. Find what works for you!

Your Home page be a number of things:

  • About page
  • Landing page
  • Blog
  • Short welcome message that directs visitors to other pages

It doesn’t need to have a lot of content, either! Aside from the header, I have less than 75 words on my homepage, because my goal is to direct people to other pages. You’ll also want your image prominently displayed.

 

About Page

This is a hard page to write. In one short bio you need to include your expertise, your personality, and some background. You need to strike that balance of witty but friendly, but also professional.

It can be easy to go overboard with the information you share, and while it’s good to include a variety of information, refrain from telling your entire life story.

This potential client wants to know how you can help them, and, sorry to say, they probably don’t want to hear about that non-applicable internship 6 years ago.

People want to learn about you as a person only as much as how you can help them.

Ultimately, it’s your website! Build your page to show your personality. I’ll look at someone’s page, and while I may not agree with their choices, it fits them, and that's what's important.

I want to share some others’ About pages to give you a sense of what to include.

 

HubSpot's About page is visual, well laid-out, and one of my favorites. They include a video, briefly share their history, people, success, and have a "Join Our Team" section.

Jon Acuff is one of my favorite authors, and as an author/speaker/stellar tweeter, his fits what he's doing. It's short and to the point, his success, and a call out for contacting him and for his newsletter.

 

As you can see, there are many different ways to create your About page. It ultimately depends on how you plan to use your site, which if you're reading this, is probably freelancing and connecting with potential clients.

Utilize your success, some personal info to make you sound human, and imagery to share why they should work with you.

 

Contact Form

I highly recommend you don’t publish your information directly on the Contact page. Spammers can get ahold of your email address, and do you really want your phone number so easily accessible? (This is the age of the internet, people can find what they want to find, but you don’t need to make it easy for them.) If it’s a business number, go for it, but really consider whether you want your personal number on the website.

This is where the Contact form comes in, and there are two ways to do it.

The Bare Minimum

  • A basic form with Name, Subject, Email, and a Message box.

  • Relies on the sender to give you the information you need.

  • Takes less time for sender to complete.

 

 

The Slightly-Less-Bare Minimum

  • Typical Name, Subject, Message, etc., but also Questions

  • Use required cells for questions like budget, biggest problem, goal, or anything else you want to know within the first communication with a potential client.

  • Keep in mind that it may not be a potential client and that makes it harder for them to send you a message.

 

Blog

This is where you show your worth as a writer. It’s where you show, not tell, your expertise.  It doesn’t need to be often, but it should be regular. (I’ll be the first to tell you that this is what I need to work on.)

What you write on is up to you, but it should be related to your industry, specifically your niche.

 


Friends of mine in the video and design world use their blog to explain the thought process behind their latest project, problems they encountered, and their thoughts on the finished product.

I happen to love this method! I love seeing the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a creative project, so seeing the creator’s own thought-process behind the piece is awesome.

Regardless of how you decide to use this space, make sure it’s relatable, in your own voice, and it’s interesting to the reader.


Past Work

It’s okay to get creative with this one, especially as you’re just beginning. If you recently graduated, do you have projects you could use? Even if you may need to edit or modify, it’s a great way to find work to include as you start out. If there’s work from previous jobs, you can include that, too. (**Make sure you get permission first!**)

Quality is more important than quantity, in this case. A professor of mine always emphasized choosing the “best of the best”. This is often your first introduction to a client, so make sure what you share is your best work.

This also means every few months you should take some time to update it with current work, and remove other pieces you may not need.


Using Client's Content

Depending on your contract, your client may own your work. Even if you still own the rights, it’s still work they commissioned you to do for their brand, and you need to respect that. Even if you’re 100% sure they’ll say yes, it’s always good to get permission, and to get it in writing.

Because of various SEO considerations, consider linking to the articles directly instead of copying it word for word as to avoid duplicate content. (Some clients may mind more than others, but if it’s hosted on their site, I’d rather not post duplicate content on my own page.)

At one point I included a text link and a brief description, but in an effort to make it more visually appealing, I made some changes.


 

Hosting Your Site

There are three primary ways to host your website, and more opinions than that on what you should choose.

I have my personal thoughts and reasons as to why I’ve chosen Squarespace, and while it’s working great for me (with a few caveats), I want you to make the best decision for you.

Site Hosting Considerations:

  • Is your URL going to be your name, or a company name?

  • Will you self-host via WordPress?

  • Will you code it from scratch? (I would say a must for a programming/development portfolio; the website itself is an example of your work!)

  • Will you go the other route: using websites like Squarespace or Wix that aren’t self-hosted, but can also work just as well?

 

My thought process for choosing Squarespace:

  1. WordPress is great, but feels clunky (I hadn’t seen some of the better themes at this point.)

  2. I don’t love how non-visual WordPress’s CMS is.

  3. Squarespace’s CMS is visual, which is perfect for how I work.

  4. But WordPress’s blogging platform is great.

  5. Squarespace’s themes are so sleek and minimal.

  6. Squarespace’s blogging platform isn’t as strong.

  7. But those themes…

  8. The blog will only be one page. The rest of the site will benefit from being on Squarespace.

  9. … I kind of this whole rebelling against the status quo thing.

  10. But the status quo is that for a reason.

  11. Eh, still choosing Squarespace. It works best for me.

I still feel slightly uneasy about not being on what’s considered best practice, but then I look at my website and I love how it looks, so in the end the pros outweighed the cons.

 


This can feel overwhelming, and while it needs to be taken seriously, it’s okay if it takes time. Up until twoa months or so ago this site was… embarrassingly designed. I knew it needed to change, but I didn’t know how I wanted to change it.

If the entire website makes you want to pull your hair out, tackle one page a weekLorem Ipsum the heck out of a page if you need to until you have the copy finalized.

 

I began by saying that your portfolio is your introduction.

It shows how you view the world.

It shows how incredible you are.

It builds your business and your reputation.

So make it great. 

 

How will you create a business-winning portfolio?

I'd love to see what you create! (Really!)