Freelance woman writing in front of a computer.
Back to BlogLifestyle

Freelance portfolio: What is it and how to build it from scratch

There’s one thing that all successful freelancers have in common—and that’s a strong freelance portfolio. While a memorable personal brand will get you in the room with a client, it will be your work that closes the deal. To really set yourself apart from the competition, you’ll need to carefully consider your unique selling points and skills with the most earning potential. Don’t want to miss out on top projects and generous clients? Take into account these elements when crafting your freelance portfolio.

Freelance desk with books and block notes.

What is a freelance portfolio and why do you need one?

In its basic form, a freelance portfolio is tangible proof that you can do what you say you can do, and if you were hiring somebody, you’d probably want to see proof of their work.

To be able to win the projects you really want, you must provide relevant examples and showcase your expertise. Which means, the best way to build an impressive portfolio that helps you close high-paying projects is to start by defining your USPs. Translation: your specialty.

What does a well-defined USP look like in practice? Instead of using the generic industry lingo to describe your services—such as “digital marketer” or “freelance designer”—aim to highlight your niche-targeting skills. For instance, “content marketer” or “logo designer” are much more specific and allow you to carve your own sphere of influence in the big industries. Eventually, these skills will define what you become known for, or your personal brand.

Freelance computer on a desk, with glasses and headphones.

How to build a freelance portfolio

There are three key factors to consider when crafting a freelance portfolio: your USPs, general industry expectations and your ideal customers. And here’s why.

Knowing your USPs allows you to curate your best work that’s aligned with the image you want to project. Although freelancers often pitch right and left to win new work, sticking to your guns and consistently producing work that strengthens your core offering is the most effective way to establish your personal brand and fuel the growth of your business in the long run.

Consider what your ‘best work’ and ‘professional achievement’ mean within your field of work and your industry. For example:

  • For freelance writers, it could be a big win to get featured in one of the leading media outlets.
  • For freelance wedding photographers, showcasing a bunch of testimonials from delighted customers might be as important as sharing a library of curated images.
  • For freelance graphic designers, earning a competitive edge simply by talking about the big-name brands they’ve worked with in the past. Know the rules before you start playing!

Finally, catering to the needs and expectations of your ideal customer is also a must. Look up the brands that you’d love to have as your clients and study their tastes and standards—what type of work do they celebrate? Can you match the style and vibe? Working backwards from those requirements, even if they’re imagined at this point, will help you create and curate work that attracts your ideal customers.

Freelance desk with computer, pens and notes.

What should you include in your freelance portfolio?

Ready to roll up your sleeves and start creating your money-making machine? Here’s a checklist for building an impressive portfolio that will help you wow and win over your prospects.

Examples of your best work. Start by pulling together examples of the work you’re really proud of, all while keeping in mind your USPs. Depending on your line of work, this can include anything from links to your published articles, to web designs or video reels.

Descriptions and results. Packing your portfolio with eye-pleasing visuals is a smart move but compelling your prospects to actually get in touch or ask for a quote requires another layer of proof and this is where your story-telling ability comes into play.

  • Statistics: Sprinkling a few stats and metrics always makes a portfolio look more professional and the freelancer more results driven. Whether it’s the number of downloads, reads, new customers or leads generated, don’t be shy about blowing your own horn.

  • Descriptions: Add a brief description of how you tackled each project, what difficulties you faced, how you overcame them, and what results you have managed to achieve to each piece in your portfolio.

Testimonials, case studies and references. Whether by syndicating with reviews sites like Trustpilot or Feefo, or by sharing quotes from their happy customers, well-known brands understand that social proof plays a crucial role in swaying prospects to give them a go. Your online portfolio is no different. Always try to source feedback from happy clients and include it in your pitch or portfolio. If you’re just starting out, reuse your LinkedIn recommendations and employer references to create a more professional image of your business.

Education and professional achievements. Do you hold a relevant degree or training certificate? Have you received any awards or important mentions in the press? Were you featured in an article, have you held an exhibition or achieved something else that’s worth mentioning? Then go ahead and add that to your portfolio to boost your credibility!


Your money at N26

If setting up your own business is causing you confusion, N26 are here to help with their free bank account for freelancers and the self-employed, which makes things easy, letting you earn 0.1% cashback on all purchases you make, and enjoy free card payments worldwide. And now that time really is money, luckily it only takes a few minutes to set up.

N26 Business banking for freelancers and the self-employed

N26 You: free travel and theft insurance, foreign medical expenses and more

Related posts

These might also interest you