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Freelance Portfolio – How to Build It, Use It and Promote It


A freelance portfolio is perhaps the most essential tool that a freelancer can have. To have it help you get jobs, you need to build it so that it correctly summarizes your expertise. You also need to use it in key communications with potential customers, and you must promote it any chance you get to uncover opportunities, which means it needs to be kept updated.

So how do you build, use, and promote your freelance portfolio? Build your portfolio based on the skills you want to showcase. Use the portfolio to your benefit strategically, showcasing your successes and the kind of expert you want to be known for. Promote your portfolio in all communications that are relevant – it shows you are a professional and can do the work the customer wants.

A well-built portfolio, visually appealing and descriptive, is one of the most important tools you can have not only to start freelancing but to get more projects and build your business.

How Do I Make a Freelance Portfolio – Some Initial Definitions and Ideas

Let’s start to build your portfolio. To begin with, we need a good definition and benchmark of what a portfolio is. Then let’s take some of the key elements and match it to your own experience. We will also take a look at different portfolios and the various disciplines there are in graphic design and how we can build a portfolio from this knowledge.

Defining terms – What is a Portfolio and How Do Freelancers Use it

Whenever I have searched about freelancing or even talked with freelancers about jobs, one of the main points that always comes up is “make a portfolio.

So let’s back up a little bit and define precisely what a portfolio is, but the elements are, and how freelancers use them so you can build your portfolio.

CareerOneStop has a definition of a portfolio that aligns well with what a freelance portfolio can and should be – “A portfolio is a way to organize and present your skills, projects, training and education. It allows you to display your best work. It also can provide a way to tell the story of your career and the challenges you have overcome.” Read the full definition here.

To give you some encouragement to start, and to explain the importance of a portfolio, here’s a YouTube video that outlines that. The first 2-3 minutes give the best information and the remainder is an example portfolio.

YouTube Video on The Importance of a Portfolio

YouTube Video on The Importance of a Portfolio

Building Your Portfolio – All Your Past Work

In a way, a portfolio is like a visual resume. But it is much more than that and can impact freelancer’s proposals to potential customers in a way that a simple resume could never do. So let’s take stock of all the experiences and projects you have been involved in. 

To build your portfolio, collect all the achievements and best works you have done and then organize it – FreelancingBoss

List them out:

● What projects have you been involved in, and what were the deliverables?
● Was there any recognition or award from the project or experience?
● Was the project needed to be completed in a limited timeframe, i.e., a rush project?
● In terms of the deliverables or outcome, was there significant or positive recognition after the project was finished?
● If there are multiple IE tens or hundreds of completed deliverables, group them, and choose to highlight one or two that had the best recognition, result, experience for the customer.

When collecting and building these experiences and projects, try to make it in this format:
● Image, scan, PDF
● Description text – describe shortly the project and the outcome and results
● Highlighted skills
● Challenges and how they were overcome
● Recognition – awards, press releases, letters of reference

Once you have this information, you have two options. One, you can create a PDF of this information assembled in less than ten pages. The second option, which will take a bit longer, is to create a portfolio website and to put the information on specific pages on the portfolio website.

Different Portfolios for Different Disciplines

Depending on the type of freelance work you do, you will have a different set of visual items to put in your portfolio.

In the table below, I have grouped the different types of freelancers and described the kinds of work they can showcase. I have included a description of their work output, what can go into the portfolio, and the possible format. Finally, I have ranked the difficulty to assemble on a scale of easy, average, difficult.

Table: Different Types of Freelancers and What They Can Show in a Portfolio

Type of Freelancer - Discipline or SkillType of Work They Can Showcase in PortfolioFormat Type - Image, Graphic, Case Study, Link to WebsiteDifficulty to Assemble - Easy-Average-Difficult
Graphic Arts -
●Graphics Designing
●Logo Design and Illustration
●3D Modeling and CAD
●Creative Design
Showcase visual images and examples of your work. Drafts are permissible, but completed works are best.Image, video clips, PDFs, Case studies, Link to websiteEasy
Media -
●Audio and Video Production
Show collections of your best images taken or finished videos or podcasts. Point out the best, and why it is considered your best workImage, Video, Case studies, PDF, Link to websiteEasy
Teaching and Tutoring -Showcase teaching materials that you created and used successfully with studentsCase studies, PDFs of course materials, lessons, Link to websiteEasy
Writing and Copywriting -
●Article and Blog Writing
Show the best work you have done, and the reasons it is your best work. For instance, it won a writing award or has ranked high in Google or received high trafficPDF, Case studies, Link to websiteEasy
Software -
●Mobile App Development
●Game Development
●Web Development and Designing
Showcase the work you have done by linking to a website or a software application the person can download. Tell what is unique about itPDF, Case studies, Link to website, software download linkAverage
Company and Marketing Services-
●Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
●Branding and Public Relations
●Admin Support or Assistance
Showcase completed projects and their impact - more customers, more traffic, increase in salesCase studies, PDFs, Website links, Average
Type of Freelancer - Discipline or SkillType of Work They Can Showcase in PortfolioFormat Type - Image, Graphic, Case Study, Link to WebsiteDifficulty to Assemble - Easy-Average-Difficult

Use this as a guide to help you assemble items to put into your portfolio. Remember, a good portfolio has visual elements as well as text that describes how the project was put together in addition to any references or accolades received. Showcase the best aspects of your portfolio.

A graphic artist can collect all their best illustrations to be put in a portfolio – FreelancingBoss

How Do You Use a Freelance Portfolio and How to Present It

Knowing how to use your portfolio and when to present it in your marketing and proposals is an important skill to have. On the surface, it would seem that it’s easy to incorporate. However, there are some things that you can do, which will make a more significant impact. Let’s go over some of the key ways to use and present your portfolio.

Using Your Freelance Portfolio as a Marketing Tool

If you have built your portfolio well, you should take advantage of every opportunity to promote yourself for new projects and to companies that may need your help.

As a freelancer, marketing is the gateway to getting the word out that you are a certain type of expert and that you are ready to take on projects for customers. Every time you email a potential client, apply for or give a proposal for work on freelance jobs platforms, meet or discuss with people is a marketing opportunity to use your portfolio.

By taking the approach that your portfolio is a marketing tool that can be used to multiply your efforts to find new jobs and projects, you can start to market your expertise in ways that goes beyond just applying for a job on a freelance platform. If you decide to take it a step further, by specifically marketing your freelance business, a portfolio will be a reliable tool in any marketing campaign.

Using a PDF Portfolio

Having your portfolio in PDF format enables you to attach this as a document in many ways.

If you are active on the freelance job platforms, you can add this to your profile. Additionally, there are sometimes areas where you can attach files in the experience area of your freelance portfolio, and this is where you can attach the PDF.

A portfolio can be simply gathered in PDF form and created. You can also print it and put it in a folder for a physical showing – FreelancingBoss

It’s also essential to add your portfolio in PDF format to proposals and emails with potential customers. As mentioned previously, it’s a way to showcase your skills to them and let them know the type of quality work you can produce.

One thing that you can also do with the PDF portfolio is to store this on Google drive or dropbox. You have the option to share the link to the document, and in that way, you can attach your portfolio PDF document. It is useful for email, profiles, and other marketing communications.

Using a Freelance Portfolio Website

A lot of freelancers have created a portfolio website. In fact, in some disciplines like graphic design or website developer, it is unlikely that you can get a freelance project without showing your work on a portfolio website.

It is not to say that you cannot get freelance work projects without a website; my point is here that it can greatly help your chances.

If you have created a portfolio website, just like with a PDF portfolio, you should take advantage of every opportunity to promote yourself and your work. 

Add your website link to:
● Proposals 
● Emails 
● Business card 
● Customer communications 
● Freelance platform profiles 
● Promotional materials

If you are preparing a proposal for a particular type of work that you have done in the past, you can link the exact page on your website that has the case study and visual image relevant for that project.

Related Freelancing and Work at Home Articles You Might Also Be Interested In:
How Can You Create the Perfect Freelancer Workspace at Home?
How to Get Freelance Illustration and Artist Jobs (Online, Remote, Home Office)
How to Have a Minimalist Home Office Desk Setup (Workspace, Computer, Decor)

To Promote Your Freelance Portfolio – Keep It Updated and Relevant

Now it’s time to go over the importance of keeping your portfolio updated and relevant and a few tips on how to do that. You can also use these ideas to position yourself into a new skill area in your work discipline.

Keep it Updated

Every time you have completed a new project, which is impressive or has won some accolades or shows skills that are new compared with your other projects, you should add this to your portfolio so that it is always updated.

One idea that might be useful for is that when you add that new reference project to your portfolio, add some attention to it. If you have a website, showcase it on the home page and create a direct link to that project description. You can even highlight what makes this new project valuable to your previous customers and potential customers.

Keep it Relevant to the Work You Are Doing

Keep all the projects in your portfolio support the projects that you have the most expertise in and also that you want to continue doing. Although it may look nice, there is no reason to have some projects showcased that have no relevance to the work you are doing. For instance, if you are a landscape photographer but have done some portrait photography, continue to showcase the best landscape photography that you have done and don’t get distracted by showing the portrait images. 

Website portfolios are gaining in popularity – FreelancingBoss

It’s especially crucial if you are giving proposals for freelance landscape photography. Most of the time, they will hire you for the skills and experience that you have in landscape photography and will bypass any mention of portrait photography.

It’s a good thing to keep your portfolio related to the type of work you want to do, especially if you are applying for those specific types of freelance projects. Try and make all of the projects that you have in your portfolio support your target of getting the kind of work projects you want. For instance, if you are an animation illustrator and have been working on cartoons, it’s logical that you will have all of the projects that are cartoon focused. 

But say you want to branch out into the animations for commercials, you should showcase a lot more about the animations for commercials than for the cartoons you have done. In this way, you can position yourself more in these types of commercial projects.

There you have it. How to build your portfolio and use it to your advantage in promoting your skills to get freelance jobs. The most important thing is to start collecting and organizing the projects and experience that you’ve already done. 

It will be the key to getting more work and thereby gaining more experience and skills. So roll up your sleeves and take a good look at the projects you’ve already done and create that portfolio.