Freelance In 40 Days [Day 8]: Assembling The Portfolio

Posted: September 2nd, 2009

Photo by Orcmid (Flickr)

Photo by Orcmid (Flickr)

This is Day 8 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. In today’s tutorial, we’ll begin to compile all your work experience into a portfolio.

No More Resumes No More Books

Hands up if you ever had to write up a resume and fudged that part about your work experience. It may have gotten you a job or two in the past. In freelancing, though, we can’t fake our work experience. We have to prove it. So we have to set aside enhancing our data in resumes in favor of another ticket to finding us work: the portfolio.

The portfolio is a compilation of samples of our work and shows a potential client that we have a particular set of skills and know how to do a particular job. It’s most important function, though, is to represent and showcase our own unique style of work.

Let’s look at the major differences between the portfolio and the resume:

  1. A portfolio cuts right to the chase. Rather than sifting through your alma mater and your illustrious career goals, all a potential client wants to see is what you can do for them.
  2. A potential client does the selection by himself and can see right then and there that you suit what they are looking for. So don’t worry about a call from human resources to come in for an interview.
  3. A portfolio shows off and becomes a reflection of your business. A resume gets your foot in the door for a job.

Although a portfolio is simply a list of our work experience, there is still more we can do to make it work for us.

A Portfolio Should Sell You Too

A portfolio is rather straightforward in showing our skills yet there are little things we can do to make it sell ourselves as well. A client will be obviously be able see that you are able to handle a particular task from the portfolio. Including other additional information, however, will make that work stand out and get you hired in the process.

So, it helps to note for each one of your work samples:

  • What it is.
  • A short description noting any special features.
  • The client it was created for (a name always helps).
  • Where it is published online or physically in a magazine, newspaper, etc (if applicable).
  • If it received an award, press or any special recognition, note that too.

Don’t worry if your past work didn’t win a Nobel prize or wasn’t featured in the New York Times either. Think of this as if you are in a museum looking at a sculpture and you are reading the information about it on a plaque right next to it. While the sculpture is the main attraction, the info in the plaque adds to it’s value by providing knowledge that wasn’t evident in the sculpture itself.

What If I Don’t Have Anything For A Portfolio?

If this is the case, then you are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to looking for your first projects. The solution to this is really simple though. Start out your portfolio by offering your services for free or at a deep discount. Do a little research and find local businesses that might benefit from you.

For instance, find a school or church in your area that can use a new design in their website. Or try guest posting on popular blogs in your field if you are a writer. The bottom line is there is never a shortage of people who can use your services for free or at low cost.

Getting the portfolio started will put off the start to your freelance career but it is essential if you want to be able to find work. Having proof of your experience will become the difference between clients selecting you for projects and you struggling to find work.

Your Homework For Today

Think back to your past work experience and come up with a list of work samples you can use for your portfolio. Jot these down on a piece of paper or type them into a Word document and remember to note:

  • What it is.
  • A short description noting any special features.
  • The client it was created for.
  • Where it is published online or physically in a magazine, newspaper, etc (if applicable).
  • If it received an award, press or any special recognition, note that too.

Don’t worry about formatting or putting these on a website just yet. Those will be for tomorrow’s tutorial. Also, for those who have no work experience go out and create it and build your portfolio. Day 9 will be waiting for you here when you’re done.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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