How To Create A Portfolio With No Previous Work

in Starting Guides

Research suggests that only 35% of freelancers have an online portfolio for their work. However, 64% of freelancers say that they use the internet to find work. Whether online or offline, a portfolio can be an incredibly powerful tool to help demonstrate how valuable you can be to a client and why they should hire you. A portfolio reflects your experience, expertise, creativity, knowledge and skill. Furthermore, it showcases all of these attributes through proven case studies and the tangible results you achieve. 
However, when you are starting out as a freelancer, you are unlikely to have any previous work to include if your portfolio. So, how can you create a powerful portfolio that wins clients with no prior work? Here are just some of the ways you can build up a portfolio from scratch. 

Begin with your bio

Your biography should help to introduce you and your portfolio to your client. Consider your bio as the ‘about us’ page of a website; in fact, your portfolio may even be a website, depending on your industry. The bio should be a quick overview of who you are, what you do and the critical skills, experience and qualifications you have. 
It can be challenging to write about yourself in your bio and give off the ideal perception. With this in mind, it can help to get your friends and family to read your bio and state three adjectives that they think of when they read it. For example, goal-getting, creative and analytical. These adjectives should be the same as the message you want to portray. If they are misaligned, your bio may need a review. 
Remember, it is wise to keep your bio short and sweet. Clients are more likely to focus on the examples in your portfolio and your proven abilities, more than what you say you do. 

Add your manifesto

A manifesto explains who you are as a freelancer. It doesn’t demonstrate your work. Instead, it states who you are as a freelancer. Consider your manifesto as declaring your values. This way, you can attract like-minded clients who share your values. This not only helps you to find clients but helps you to attract the right clients. When you share similar values to your clients, you are far more likely to build a healthy and positive working relationship. 
Being on the same page as your clients can really help to secure long-term relationships, so don’t be afraid to be honest in your manifesto. You have the chance to talk about your style, your focus and niche, your expertise, and how you operate as a person. For example, if you donate a certain amount of profits to a charity, your manifesto is a great place to share this information and explain exactly what is important to you as a freelancer.  

Think about your branding

Your portfolio should demonstrate the capabilities of your freelance business and give an exemplary first impression; it needs to be consistent and professional. Branding can be a great way to show that you are serious about your business and your work. While you may not need branding guidelines at the early stages, a logo, tagline and consistent use of a colour palette and typeface can help to create the impression of a professional freelance business. 

A skills profile

You don’t need to have had paying clients to build up a selection of skills. You may have built up skills from academic projects, online courses, self-studying, volunteering or any other format. However, make sure that these skills are relevant to your portfolio and freelance business. There is no point listing skills that you don’t want to utilise as a freelancer.
There are lots of ways you can document your skills in your portfolio, from including certificates, listing skills or perhaps including sample pieces of work for each talent. If you do include sample work, just add a note to make it clear that these are examples and not work that a client has paid for. 

Example pieces

Just because you haven’t had paying clients, doesn’t mean you cannot exercise your skills in creating example work. You may find it is beneficial to generate example pieces for your own business that you can utilise elsewhere as a freelancer. For example, web designers can demonstrate their portfolio by creating a stunning online portfolio website. Alternatively, designers can come up with a concept for their own business needs. 
Freelancers may also find it beneficial to seek out briefs from other companies even if the company didn’t hire them. It can also help to demonstrate initiative if you spot an issue that a company has and then creating example pieces of work of how you would fix it. Many businesses like freelancers who are willing to use their initiative and go beyond the brief to find the root cause of an issue and, then, offer suggestions of how to improve it. 
Again, it is crucial to add a note to any examples you create that these are purely sample pieces and not paid pieces of work. 

Social media and contact information 

If you use social media to showcase your talents, then make sure these are easy to find in your portfolio. This means clients can explore your skills further if they want further information. It is wise only to have industry-specific or ‘business’ social media accounts. If your personal social media accounts may not show you in the best light, leave them out. Your social media accounts should help not hinder your business as a freelancer. 
When posting content on your social media, make sure that it demonstrates a keen interest in the industry and is relevant to your work. Before posting to the world, ask yourself; ‘Am I happy for clients to see this?’

Finally, after wowing clients with your portfolio, you need to make it incredibly easy for clients to contact you. Keep your contact information up to date on your portfolio and easily visible so clients know exactly how they can get in touch to discuss their next project. 

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