What to include in your freelance portfolio (except for the obvious)

in Starting  and Positioning Guides

  1. Your name, location and contact details.
  2. Examples of your past work.

It’s pretty clear that most freelancers know what to put in their portfolio. But what they don’t know is that you can make it much easier to win work if they go further than the average freelancer.

Stories


Case studies are non-fictional stories about what you were hired to do, what challenges you faced, and what outcome you produced. Clients care about the story because it gives them some context about what you do and what you can do for them. So case studies aren’t just pictures, text or code. They’re insight into how you work.

Whilst writing a case study, imagine you’re writing it for the 100 other similar companies that can benefit from your services. What do they want to know? Usually it’s a simple as solving a problem. But you should go into the specifics of why your solution solves their problems in the best way for their industry or product.

Here’s a really short example that takes you through a common request and outcome that I used to run into:

SuchAndSuch Ltd. approached me to re-design their home page. We talked about what their goals were, and it turned out that sales had been dropping ever since a competitor had been outspending them on Adwords. I proposed that instead of re-designing their homepage, we try to do something to increase referral traffic. They were under a lot of pressure, and this solution would yield results quicker than increasing organic traffic. And obviously do much more for them than a homepage redesign would.

Their product was very novel and easily shared, so I designed the UX flow for a referrals system. It rewarded anyone that shared their favourite products with their friends with a discount. This amounted to the equivalent that the client was spending to acquire a customer.

It launched 4 weeks later when we emailed every past customer letting them know about the new offer. In the first 4 weeks after launch, they had cut their ad spend by 25% and increased organic traffic by 300%. Their sales revenue also increased 15% for the month following the launch.

It addresses why I was hired, how I identified their deepest problems and helped fix them. It tells people how fast I fixed the problem and how I worked out how to make it affordable for their business.

What if there aren’t any spectacular results? As long as you address the clients goals and try to reach them, it’s a success. Most of the work we do is experimental and iterative. People are smart enough to realise you can’t deliver amazing results in every situation — the key thing is how you worked with them and what state you left them in.

Most case studies I read on freelancers portfolios go as far as telling me the client name and services that were carried out. What clients really want to know is — what is it like to work with you.

Values


Knowing what type of freelancer you are and what you stand for goes a long way to convincing someone to hire you. I’ve already written about why you should write a manifesto. The key thing to remember is that customers buy from people they feel most similar too (this is branding), so you can attract the right kind of clients by writing about your own values.

Pricing


An idea of price along with your services helps you attract the type of work you need. Most freelancers are concerned with turning off clients that you may still be able to help. Pricing is tricky. You should try displaying prices within a range. Add prices to your case studies to give people an idea of how much you cost in specific scenarios.

Knowledge


Writing about what you’ve learnt is the best signal to a potential customer that you know what you’re doing. Sharing what you know shows confidence in what you do. You should aim to write a couple of articles on things you’ve tried and learnt from, for every project you’re involved in.

Action


Make it easy to start working with you.
There should be a call to action with every piece of your portfolio. The easier it is to start working with you, the more likely you are to receive inbound leads from potential customers.

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