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The Portfolio - Putting Your Best Foot Forward
(Page 1 of 2)
One of the most important parts of
your freelancing marketplace profile is your portfolio. Like its
physical counterpart, your online portfolio contains a collection of
past work samples for clients to view when they are considering hiring
you for a project. And like a physical portfolio, its contents can make
or break your business.
The Benefits of Portfolio Samples
The portfolio is a feature that benefits
all of the parties involved in the online freelancing process. Clients
are able to see what contractors are actually capable of, in a way that
is more concrete than relying on resumes and text descriptions in proposals.
Freelancing sites benefit through the increased chance of a project being
fulfilled. But it is arguably contractors who can benefit the most from
the portfolio, in several different ways.
First, there is the principle that
showing beats telling. Anyone can claim to be an expert writer,
professional designer or experienced Web designer, but the portfolio
allows you to demonstrate that you are what you claim to be. Clients
are much more likely to trust you if they can see what you’ve done.
Beyond this matter of competency,
portfolio samples also allow clients to assess your style. Many
clients have a hard time expressing what they want; these folks get stuck
in a difficult “I know it when I see it” mode, which can
be very frustrating for both them and contractors bidding on their listings.
Some of these clients will be able to tell from your portfolio if the
type of work you do is similar to what they want. Even better, they may
find something in your portfolio that strikes a chord with them or shares
characteristics with what they are trying to accomplish, and pointing
this out to you can help you understand much better what needs to be
done. The portfolio is especially valuable for those in artistic fields
for this reason.
Finally, your portfolio helps protect
you by insulating you against clients who ask for custom samples and
mock-ups for specific projects. These are often prohibited by marketplace
site terms of service, and are often a bad idea even if they are allowed—clients
sometimes use these innocent-sounding requests to take advantage of your
work and creativity without paying you. Absent the portfolio, a client
might be justified in asking for a custom sample; with one, a client
who insists on a mock-up before project award is usually telegraphing
his or her intentions.
What to Include in the Portfolio
Obviously, you want your portfolio
to present yourself and your capabilities in the best possible light.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Quality: You want to put only your best-quality
work in the portfolio. This would seem to go without saying, but hey,
I just said it. :)
- Quantity: The number of items in the portfolio
may be limited by the freelancing site you’re using; if not, then
you’ll be faced with a trade-off. A large number of samples shows
more of your capabilities and may impress some clients, but it may turn
others off. An argument can also be made that only a small percentage
of your work is really your best, and even if you’re very good,
selecting the “best of the best” may be superior to just
putting a lot of items in there.
- Appearance: Sometimes, a piece of work
may be very good, but may not appear that great in the portfolio
because of technical limitations. Remember that most clients won’t
be doing more than skimming through your portfolio, so if possible, focus
on samples that will catch the eye and make an impression.
- Breadth: Your portfolio should contain
a variety of selections representing all of the types of work you do.
This is another argument for avoiding an oversized portfolio, since too
many items may mean that some clients look at only a few similar items
and miss the others.
- Relevance: Notwithstanding what I just
said about variety, try to choose samples that are as relevant as possible
to the type of bids you’re trying to win. You may be looking for
writing projects, for example, but there are many kinds of writing. If
you’re looking to write novels, a chapter from a novel you’ve
written previously will be more persuasive than, say, articles about
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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