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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Planning and Managing Your Online Freelancing Business
      >  Building and Tuning Your Profile and Portfolio

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Picking Effective Keywords
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Key Strategy Tips for New Freelancers
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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 restaurants.

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Picking Effective Keywords
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Key Strategy Tips for New Freelancers
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012

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