How You Can Improve Your Portfolio for More Strategic Projects



Put yourself in the shoes of a hypothetical client for a second. Imagine you’re an e-commerce website owner trying to find a writer to help revamp your product descriptions. After posting your project, you receive two applications to consider:

Freelancer A sends a customized proposal with a portfolio of writing samples that, while good, doesn’t really correspond to the work you’ve outlined.
Freelancer B sends a customized proposal that is supplemented by targeted portfolio samples of past e-commerce projects that involved optimizing product-related content.
Chances are you’re going to choose Freelancer B—especially if you’re looking for a freelance copywriter who can offer not just completed work but strategic support as well.

If you tailor your proposals to each project but still aren’t getting the kind of projects you want—or the caliber of projects you want to see—your portfolio may be the culprit. Take the following steps to help transform yours into one that—like Freelancer B’s—showcases both your skills and strategic value.

Find your niche
“Jack of all trades; master of none” isn’t just an expression. It’s a reality in the world of freelancing. In the example earlier, “writer” isn’t compelling. “E-commerce copywriter” is. That’s the value of specialization.

According to Lindsay Van Thoen, writing for the Freelancers Union, there are plenty of reasons to specialize in a particular skill set or niche, including that:

“Expertise is naturally perceived of as being of higher value, and clients are willing to spend more for it. If you decide to specialize, you can increase your rate.”

When you specialize, you may:

Be able to charge higher rates
Be more likely to get the projects you apply for
Find it easier to complete the projects you’re assigned, since you’ve already developed mastery in your chosen skill set
Be more likely to earn repeat projects, thanks to the top-of-mind awareness you’ll build with your clients as an expert
You may be afraid that locking yourself into one particular specialization will mean missing out on opportunities. Most who take this route, however, find that the opposite is true—that any lost revenue from projects outside of your niche is more than made up for from clients who respect your expertise.

To help find your niche, begin with the following questions:

Which of my past projects best used my skills and interests?
What kind of work could I see myself focusing on long-term?
What demand exists for the specializations I’m considering?
What are the highest paid / most in-demand skill sets in my industry?
Aim to find a balance between specializations that pay well, that have significant enough demand for your needs, and that you actually enjoy doing.

Establish your expertise
With your niche chosen, it’s time to build your reputation through portfolio samples. First, take a look at your existing examples and consider the following questions:

Does the work relate to my chosen specialization?
Does the work prove my expertise in my chosen specialization?
Will the work impress a potential client looking to hire for my chosen specialization?
Remove pieces that don’t align or that don’t demonstrate your value in your new niche, even if the quality of the work is good. When it comes to proving your strategic value as a freelancer, consistency counts.

If your analysis reveals gaps in your portfolio—or if you’re trying to transition to a new specialization and don’t have any related projects—you may need to put in some extra effort to develop new examples. A few options for doing so include:

Temporarily cutting your rate or offering a discount to land more of the kinds of projects you want to do in the future.
Doing sample mock-ups to include in your portfolio.
Looking for opportunities to build your portfolio through volunteer work with local non-profits, with the understanding that you’ll be using your work in your portfolio.
If you do offer a discount, make it clear that you’re doing so for a limited time to establish your portfolio. Building a strategic, premium brand requires charging professional rates. Otherwise, you risk potential clients not taking your skills seriously.

Optimize your portfolio examples
As you’re building portfolio examples, don’t just add them to your profile and call it a day. Instead, take a few moments to write up a description for each, sharing:

What specific work you did
Why you approached the project the way you did
What results the clients saw
Adding this context to your portfolio pieces gives you an edge when it comes to clients who are looking for freelancers with whom they can develop strategic relationships. Mention these insights in your cover letters. Expanding on both your approach and the results you were able to achieve separates you from freelancers who simply crank out work without much thought.

But don’t stop once you’ve added your existing work. Put it on your to-do list to revisit your portfolio whenever you complete a new project and the impact of your work is fresh in your mind.

Never stop investing in your portfolio

Your portfolio can make or break your freelance business. Don’t treat it as an afterthought. Continually look for ways to add to it, ensuring that everything you put into it reflects positively on your skills with your chosen specialization.

Over time, both the number and quality of projects you’re being offered should reflect the impact of this investment.

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How You Can Improve Your Portfolio for More Strategic Projects How You Can Improve Your Portfolio for More Strategic Projects Reviewed by proville on 12:45 pm Rating: 5

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