A well-assembled portfolio is an essential marketing tool for any successful freelancer. But how do you ensure that what you put together will attract, rather than deter, new business? Here are a few actionable tips to help make your portfolio the string in your bow for landing high-value clients today. Although these tips are optimized for writers, they are applicable for almost any type of freelancer – whether your field is SEO, graphic design, or even architecture.
1. Tailor your portfolio’s format to your audience’s needs – rather than what you think is best
Most freelancers, irrespective of their niche, have a vanity website, whether it’s hosted on their own domain or on a publishing platform, such as WordPress. Online portfolios have become the norm, rather than the exception, for most of the freelance world.
This is particularly true if you’re prospecting for a ‘high tech’ client, irrespective of what space you’re freelancing in. A well-assembled, online portfolio shows that, at a minimum, you had the technical wherewithal to acquire a domain and hosting, design a website, operate a CMS, and spend some time on graphics to make things look tidy.
Editors at top-tier publications, who routinely receive hundreds of such proposals a day, often stipulate that story pitches be sent precisely as text copied into the body of an email or via an online form, such as this one from the Washington Post. Send your idea using any other method whatsoever, even by simply appending an attachment, and your email will disappear into a digital vortex never to even be considered.
The reason editors assert this process on potential writers is simple. If writers adhere to the system as requested, editors never have to leave their inbox, or even open Acrobat Reader, to evaluate story ideas. This makes their work-flow much more manageable.
Some in other industries may use systems that automatically parse your writing sample or resume as an initial screening technique. A much smaller number of workplaces may have web filtering policies that prevent access to unknown domains.
If your leads are dropping like flies after the portfolio-sending stage, don’t discount the possibility that your online portfolio could be causing an unexpected paint-point in your new business funnel. Picture yourself in your prospective client’s shoes to determine how they would like to evaluate your suitability for a prospective job rather than what you think is best.
Need a hand setting up a website?
Consider these portfolio websites:
- Wix for a quick do-it-yourself version that will have you up and running in no time.
- SquareSpace is also a popular hosting platform to look into that offers impressive templates and features for an affordable price.
- WordPress is the typical content management system (CMS) for self-hosted portfolios. If you’re a little handier with technology, you may also want to consider Joomla, Drupal, or any of the dozens of other CMS options available for free installation, but note that the last two also require that you have a domain name and hosting.
Need a little inspiration?
Take a look at some of these great portfolio websites from graphic designers to whet your appetite and want to create something both effective and visually appealing.
2. Create different versions of your portfolio
You wouldn’t send the same version of your resume to jobs in different industries. Why, then, have only one version of your portfolio? Freelance writers often find themselves tasked with producing quite a large variety of content, even within one sub-category, such as ghost-writing blogs.
Demonstrating your prowess in drafting well-researched articles for a client that develops cloud software solutions, however, is extremely unlikely to impress – let alone be intelligible to- a client in a less technical and unrelated space, such as the hospitality sector.
There’s no doubt about it: creating separate versions of your portfolio is a time-consuming and tedious process. But if you’re serious about working in a couple of different industries or verticals over the long term, it’s an investment that you should be prepared to make.
To get started, consider creating different versions of your online portfolio linked from a central landing page that can act as your main prospecting resource. Offer the more targeted version whenever it’s appropriate to do so. If your portfolio is online, consider bundling your best material into local or cloud-hosted folders, ready to share with a business prospect at the click of a button.
3. Leverage analytics’ actionable insights
If you do have an online portfolio, however, you should avail of the power of web analytics to dive deep into your prospects’ interaction with what you have online and gain actionable insights to help drive your conversion rates upwards.
Using a free platform like Google Analytics is enough to track events, goals, and monitor how many of your visitors are responding to your call-to-action by proceeding as far as, say, the quote request page.
More advanced tools, such as at heat maps, can give you an even deeper understanding of which part of your portfolio your prospects find engaging – and which parts are causing them to bounce off your page.
Signing up for Google Analytics can be done in three easy steps.
- Visit analytics.google.com.
- Create a property for your website and obtain your tracking code.
- Install the tracking code on your website.
4. Have relevant material easily on hand
If you’ve been freelancing for a number of years, chances are you have worked on a number of very different projects, as well as plenty of similar, overlapping ones.
Assuming that you maintain a well-organized collection of your client work – as you of course should – it’s also a good idea to use folder structures to categorize your work methodically according to exactly what type of material it is.
Besides increasing the organization of your file directory, this will also make the process of replicating that look and feel on your portfolio website (for instance, by creating categories and sub-categories on WordPress) exponentially easier. When prospecting for freelance clients’, responsiveness and reactivity is key.
Using this system, if a new prospect comes along that’s looking for something you’re certain you’ve worked on several times before but can’t remember exactly where on your Google Drive / laptop it’s stored, you will have the trump card ready to pull in a matter of moments. Drafted a few ‘one-pagers’ for marketing departments before? Sub-divide them by industry, audience, and voice. The same goes for virtually any other material in your portfolio.
A little goes a long way
A little work towards improving how you present your portfolio, and ensure that it’s offered in the most appealing format for your target demographic, goes a long way towards maximizing the new business it can help you land.
About the author
Daniel Rosehill is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem.
For more writing, see DanielRosehill.com.