Once upon a time, before there was digital anything, creative types used to haul their freelance portfolio around in a binder or folio box to show their work to prospective clients or employers.
Luckily for all of us, scrapbooking prowess is no longer a prerequisite for successfully going freelance. And the opportunity to strut your stuff online for potential clients to check out before they decide to meet with you is a definite plus.
However, making sure you have a well-designed representation of your work full of eyeball-grabbing portfolio items that shine a spotlight on your talent is just as crucial as ever.
By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have all you need to rock a great-looking, business-building digital freelance portfolio, from resources for the best freelance graphic design websites to top content portfolio sites and stunning freelance portfolio examples.
Why You Need a Good Freelance Portfolio
Let’s start by flipping through some of the basics of what a professional freelance portfolio can do for you.
Social proof is, as you know, one of the most important ways to build your online credibility. After all, would you hire someone sight unseen without giving them at least a cursory Google search?
On the flip side, if someone does hire you without knowing anything about you, how much do you trust their judgment?
The first step in building trust is for both sides to do their homework. And having a robust, up-to-date online freelance portfolio with not only great work but also evidence that your work helps build others’ businesses is key.
That combo platter of eye-catching work and great reviews goes a long way in helping people feel like they know, like, and trust you. And that’s a critical component of building a customer base.
What’s in a portfolio? I don’t mean the actual items (although we’ll get to that, too). I mean, what can it do for you? Now, the most obvious answer is to showcase your work. And sure, that’s part of it — attention-grabbing samples, be it unique, stunning imagery or designs or expertly crafted content, are excellent portfolio items.
But your freelance portfolio can be much more than that: done right, it can be a business-building, client-converting machine. That means trimming your portfolio from everything you’ve ever done to a handful of representative work that has pulled in stellar results for clients. It also means using compelling content, user-friendly structure, and strategic calls to action along the way.
The bottom line: your portfolio isn’t about you. It’s about your clients and the value you provide to them (both current and prospective). When you’re putting together your portfolio items, keep that perspective in mind. What can you show people that make it simple for them to equate your work with their success?
In other words, your freelance portfolio can be one of your most powerful sales closing techniques, so focus on including portfolio items that can convert browsers to buyers.
Proof of Quality
This point encompasses the first two: your freelance portfolio is always about quality over quantity. So, you might have written loads of articles, taken a zillion gorgeous photos, or developed a ton of apps, but a deluge of work doesn’t equal work well done.
Keep your freelance portfolio examples to only those that shine a spotlight on your best work — and again, that means stellar projects with great results. So, for example, for the portfolio on your website, be sure to include glowing customer testimonials along with work samples.
Another way to demonstrate the quality of your work and reach a wider audience at the same time is to have a profile on one of the best freelancer sites. Nothing says quality more than unbiased, unsolicited rave reviews from buyers. Don't miss our detailed article Upwork vs. Fiverr to learn how to choose the right freelance platform.
Create an Eye-Catching, Yet Easy-to-Get Portfolio
When it comes to pulling together your portfolio, there is no one “right” way to do it. As we’ve been discussing, your freelance portfolio is your chance to show potential clients your skills and verify your experience.
The key to a great portfolio is to strike a balance between showcasing your talent and creating a clear, intuitive user experience. If you're a writer, this may mean breaking your pieces up into categories by the client, style of writing (i.e., website copy, emails, blog posts, etc.), or topic. If you're a designer, you could organize your work by industry or client challenge.
There are website builders specifically for portfolio creation, which is also a great route to try if you don't have a website up just yet. Portfolio builders make it easy to arrange your work in a visually appealing way (not unlike your Personal Kanban board). Using a portfolio site might be best for designers or creatives that need more than a link to a URL to showcase their work — and they work great for writers, too.
Best Freelance Web Designer Portfolio Websites
Sharing your work on a well-organized, UX-optimized website is a great way to build your online presence, along with your freelance portfolio. The following are a few of the best freelance graphic design websites to shine a spotlight on your work.
Behance is the OG freelance web designer portfolio platform. Founded in 2006 by Scott Belsky, the whole idea was to provide a clean, well-designed space for creatives to show off their work and get proper attribution. (Something that wasn’t so easy back in the early days of the internet.)
Today Behance is owned by Adobe and is one of the top global professional social platforms for creative Unemployable types. However, its original mission to make it easy for all kinds of creatives, from graphic designers to illustrators, animators, photographers, etc., to create and share high-res freelance portfolios remains the same.
To share your work, you create a project (a “grouping of images, videos, and other digital content with a related theme or process”). This gives you a unique URL to put on your website and/or directly share with potential clients. You’ll also be able to see analytics that track views and “appreciation.” And if you’re interested in job opportunities on the platform, there is a marketplace you can explore.
As you cultivate your Behance profile, keep in mind that you may be selected by Behance’s team of curators to be included in one of their curated galleries. This can be great social validation and also a terrific way to help in your quest of finding enough of the right clients.
Who should use Behance?
Creatives of all skill levels, from newbies to pros.
Pricing: Free — unlimited projects
For more on how Behance works, check out their website.
Like Behance, Dribbble is one of the original online platforms and best freelance graphic design websites for creatives to develop and share a freelance portfolio.
There are a few differences between Behance vs. Dribbble. First off, Behance is open to all, and Dribbble requires an application. (Dribbble used to be invite-only.) Behance has projects, and Dribbble has “shots,” which are small screenshots that allow you to provide people with a taste of your current projects. (Paid options enable you to include more shots.)
Finally, while Behance is all about showcasing and discovering creative work, Dribbble is more focused on designers sharing inspiration, and they also emphasize helping creatives get hired.
Who should use Dribbble?
Creatives from “rookies to all-stars” who enjoy a social platform and are willing to pay for some up-leveled opportunities, including the ability to sell goods and get hired (i.e., “hire me” buttons, priority placement in Hiring search listings).
- Free to get started
- Pro: $12.00/month
- Pro Business: $20.00/month
To learn more about the Dribbble community and what you get with a Pro account, visit their website.
Adobe Portfolio (PF) is a freelance web designer portfolio builder that includes hosting and unlimited pages — although, of course, you need an Adobe Cloud subscription for one of their products (i.e., Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator) to enjoy this gratis feature.
With several beautifully designed templates to choose from, you can create a freelancer portfolio website ranging from a single welcome page to a full-on, multi-page portfolio by industry, project type, etc. Benefits range from easy Behance integration (as mentioned, another Adobe property), a custom domain name, Adobe tools, and more.
Who should use Adobe Portfolio?
If you don’t have your own website and use Adobe freelancer tools like Photoshop or InDesign, this is an excellent digital freelance portfolio solution.
Pricing: PF is included for free with your Creative Cloud subscription.
- Creative Cloud – Photography (includes Photoshop & Lightroom): $9.99/month
- Creative Cloud – All Apps (includes the entire Adobe creative app collection): $52.99/month
To learn more about Adobe PF and the whole suite of Adobe apps, visit the PF website.
Best Writing Portfolio Websites
Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean that you can’t have a well-designed, attractive freelance portfolio. The following platforms help you spotlight your work and empower you to make it shareable and discoverable.
Here’s Contently’s mission, stated right up front: “Contently gives freelance creatives the opportunity to work with top brands on high-quality projects that pay well.”
That all starts with your creating an online freelancer portfolio on their site. Your Contently portfolio is a single page designed to highlight your freelance content marketing samples, topics of expertise, and skill set.
There’s no limit on how many projects you can upload. If you’re a good match, Contently will alert you about freelance opportunities with their clients, who include many well-known and prestigious companies.
As for freelance portfolio items, just be sure to include projects that represent the areas you specialize in. Also, be sure not to skimp on the bio section. You have ample opportunity to highlight your niche expertise and favored topics.
Contently will be in touch with you if and when you’re a good match for their clients. You have to be approved by the Contently team, and then you’ll get trained in working with brands through their platform.
Pro tip: Do your homework and be sure to get a good feel for Contently’s clients. Tailor your portfolio to address their needs, and be sure to tag your skills and topics.
Who should use Contently?
If you want to connect with high-quality clients, Contently can be a great place to add your freelance portfolio.
Pricing: Free (Contently makes money on you, so there’s no fee to be on their network. They tried taking a fee from freelancers, and it didn’t work — so they’ve doubled-down on their original values.)
Clippings.me is an easy-to-use, attractive online portfolio for journalists, bloggers, and writers. In just minutes, you can add your best work, customize your page, and share your portfolio far and wide.
With a great-looking layout that requires no technical skills to design, you can customize the look/feel, add your bio, links to articles, PDFs, multimedia files, and voilà! You have a great-looking freelance portfolio.
Clippings.me is mobile-friendly and SEO-friendly — they claim to be the highest-ranked freelance portfolio site. Plus, you can use a custom URL, integrate Google analytics to see how often your profile is visited, and add a spam-protected contact form. All in all, a great way to showcase your work online and connect with potential clients.
Who should use Clippings.me?
If you don’t have your own website and can’t be bothered with setting up one, Clippings.me makes it fast and simple to get your online freelance portfolio up and rocking.
- Free for up to 10 pieces in your portfolio
- Clippings.me Premium: $9.99/month (includes a custom domain and other features)
For more information, visit the Clippings.me website.
Journo Portfolio is chock full o’ features and functionality that make building your online freelance portfolio a breeze. Choose from multiple themes to customize your online presence, and add as many pages as you’d like.
Journo Portfolio provides multiple ways to help automate your business portfolio maintenance, from set-it-and-forget-it article importation to an automatic assignment feature that places your latest articles on pre-designated pages by topic or theme.
Visitors can subscribe to your portfolio updates, and you can also easily download your freelance portfolio for offline viewing. Plus, you don’t have to worry about losing your portfolio items, as Journal Portfolio takes automatic screenshot backups. That way, your online articles are preserved — even if the outlet you wrote them for goes away or takes your work down.
Who should use Journo Portfolio?
Busy freelance writers and content creators who want a smart platform that makes it automatic and intuitive to keep their portfolio fresh and work saved for posterity.
- Free: Up to 10 articles
- Plus: $5.00/month
- Premium: $10.00/month
For more details about Journo Portfolio and its pricing structure, visit their website.
Muck Rack is to journalists as Contently is to content marketers. That is, a free platform for freelancers to display their portfolio that makes its money from the paying side of the fence. (In this case, PR professionals looking to find and pitch journalists.)
Writers have everything they need at their fingertips to automatically compile and showcase their best work, analyze news on any topic, and track the impact of their stories. Online articles are grabbed automatically, and you can upload PDFs of your work, too.
The platform allows you to pitch journalists and for you to get pitches from PR companies. Plus, you’ll be able to stay up-to-date with all media moves and generally keep your finger on the pulse of media outlets from a variety of outlets across print, television, radio, blogs, podcasts, etc.
Who should use Muck Rack?
Journalists are the best fit for Muck Rack, although content marketers who write journalistic articles may also benefit. (You do have to be verified by Muck Rack’s team for access to premium features.)
Most Important Freelance Portfolio Items
Now that you’ve got a good idea of the many digital portfolio options available to you, let’s make sure you include the things that will make you stand out from the crowd — beyond your outstanding work.
Spell Out Your Services
There's no better way to send a potential client to another freelancer's site than confusing website copy. If a client can't understand what you offer from your website, you're in trouble.
The thing is, you don't have to include paragraphs upon paragraphs of flowery language. In fact, it's probably best to keep it as simple as possible, at least when it comes to describing what you do.
A great example of how to do this artfully can be found on freelance writer and Unemployable contributor Kat Ambrose’s website. Here’s how she describes what she does:
“I’m Kat Ambrose, a copywriter for B2B SaaS companies and eCommerce platforms. I can help you boost your conversions, educate your audience with content, and make more money.”
That’s it. Two sentences. Then, Kat provides more relevant information within each service page that potential clients are likely looking for. Her freelance portfolio is the icing on the cake.
Make It Easy for People to Book a Meeting with You
Whether it's through a contact form or an automated scheduling service, make it easy for potential clients to reach out to schedule a call or reach you via email. This seems like a no-brainer, but it's best to leave nothing to question when it comes to your website.
Calendly is an excellent tool that allows potential clients to view your schedule and book a slot that works for both of you. Not to mention, no more confusion around scheduling in different time zones.
Plus, Calendly has a feature that lets you embed your calendar into your site, making it even easier for people to book time with you.
Don’t Forget Testimonials!
Testimonials are an excellent way to up your cred and establish yourself as an authority in the space you're in. It shows potential clients that you're not only fantastic to work with but that you deliver great work as well.
Testimonials are a powerful sales tool, too. Think about it: If a potential client sees that you helped increase conversions by 15% from content you wrote for a previous client's blog, that's a pretty convincing argument for hiring you.
However, asking for testimonials can be intimidating. When should you ask? Better yet, how should you ask?
It's simple. Ask a client if they'd be willing to write you a testimonial either as you're wrapping up a project or after you've worked with them for a few months and have some results to show for it.
Here are two templates that might make asking a bit easier.
When wrapping up a project:
Hey [Client Name],
I loved working on [insert project] together and achieving [insert results] as a team. I'm adding testimonials to my website, and I would love to include one from you. Would you be willing to write a few sentences about your experience working with me?
When hitting a milestone in your ongoing working relationship:
Hey [Client Name],
It's been wonderful working together over the past [insert time frame] on [insert project]. I'm adding testimonials to my website, and I would love to include one from you in the mix. Would you be willing to write a few sentences about your experience working with me?
Do Case Studies — People Love Numbers!
Want to make a lasting impact on prospective clients? Take your portfolio to the next level, and instead of just pretty pictures or nice clips, include full-on case studies. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages long — a few concise paragraphs along with illustrative images will do the trick.
To make your case study impactful, be sure to state the challenge(s) upfront, then discuss your process of arriving at a solution, and finally, share the results. That last part should be numerical if possible, for example, the percentage increase in sales, response rate, or another notable boost to the client’s business. This is why having quantifiable goals is so crucial to your business overall and on a project-by-project basis.
Connect as Many External Resources for Work Quality Proof
And finally, if it’s not obvious already — don’t be humble!
Whether it's on your own website or a third-party platform, make sure your freelance portfolio connects anywhere your work shows up online. Add hyperlinks on your digital portfolio(s) to your work on your clients’ sites, both past and present. Highlight accomplishments on your social media accounts. Link your bio on guest posting sites to your portfolio.
Link, link, and link some more.
All of this is smart marketing and a great way to get more eyeballs on your freelance portfolio. Be bold — and go forth to win more business.
Small Changes, Big Results
Your website is a powerful tool that plays a massive role in growing your business — making a few tweaks where necessary can make all the difference, even if they're not monumental changes. You may be surprised how much of an effect a testimonial or a reorganized portfolio can have on your business.
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