One of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to maximize sales as a freelancer is your own personal career portfolio for your freelance business.
The location of your portfolio is important. It resides at the center of your freelance business marketing.
You should host it on your own website using any number of (free or premium) awesome portfolio themes. Start with a strong template, then customize the WordPress theme for your portfolio to make it unique to your branding and freelance business goals.
This is a fairly standard workflow to follow. But how you set up your portfolio, the language you use, and the weight you give to design elements, is where the most important portfolio marketing decisions you will make reside.
The sales process is one of guiding a potential customer to understand how your work benefits them.
The sales process is one of guiding a potential customer to understand how your work benefits them. The key here is to understand that this is a process. In most cases, you cannot simply put your portfolio online and expect potential customers to automatically “get it” and jump to buy from you. First, you need to put some thought and craft into your portfolio design.
The good news is that the mere fact potential customers are looking through your work is a great sign! You’ve attracted attention and they’ve found their way to your portfolio. But is your portfolio set up to maximize sales? Or do you risk losing the customers that are finding you to the competition?
This guide is filled with professional portfolio tips and walks you through the important considerations for staging your portfolio in such a way that you drive sales and engage potential customers.
A few simple portfolio design tips can dramatically change the way that your customers take in your freelance portfolio, and in turn can make all the difference between them clicking the link to your contact page or clicking away from your portfolio altogether.
Understanding the Sales Funnel
Most of the work we do as a freelancer requires at least one conversation with our clients. By the time we get to the point that we’re talking details with the client, the sale is most of the way complete. The trick is getting to that point!
Your portfolio should be geared toward driving customers to the point that they are getting in contact with you and engaging in further discussion. In this way, your portfolio acts as the top-most part of what many refer to as the sales funnel.
At the highest level, a sales funnel for our kind of work might look like this:
- Expose – the customer becomes aware of you and your services.
- Influence – the customer becomes aware of how your services can help them.
- Engage – the customer communicates or takes further action to educate him or herself.
- Convert – the customer makes a purchase.
- Retain – the customer stays with you over the long-term and makes further purchases.
This is a very high-level concept, but shows how your portfolio influences potential customers for you. Your portfolio should result in engagement, which is typically sending you an email or picking up the phone.
Identify Your Target Market
Central to a well-designed portfolio is a clearly defined target audience. Your freelance portfolio should be organized in such a way that your customers see that you understand their specific needs. Therefore, ask yourself some questions to help you better focus your audience, for instance, who is your ideal customer? Do you have several different kinds of clients?
The key here is to understand that as your portfolio becomes more diverse, you’ll need to be more and more conscious of keeping your portfolio on task and organized.
Most freelancers, especially those with jobs in the creative field, have clients across several different industries. One challenge that you will face is both showing off your work while keeping it focused. You may want to divide up the various kinds of work you do or the highlighted pieces you’ve created based upon industry.
The key here is to understand that as your portfolio becomes more diverse, you’ll need to be more and more conscious of keeping your portfolio on task and organized. If you are just beginning your freelancing career, you may want to read more about how to build your portfolio from nothing.
Regardless of how many or how few pieces you have to show off, some simple design portfolio tips for organization include:
- Separate pages for each industry or kind of work that you do.
- Tag your portfolio pieces so customers can quickly find similar content.
- Directly on the home or landing page of your portfolio, prominently explain the various kinds of work you do and link to the segmented pages so readers can quickly peruse through what they are interested in viewing.
An Awesome Portfolio is Selective
One temptation that all freelancers face is that of posting all of their work in their portfolios. This will eventually lead to a site full of old, outdated material. Keep your portfolio focused and maximize sales by choosing very carefully which pieces you want to highlight.
Don’t litter your personal career portfolio with every piece you’ve ever done. If you know your customer, you’ll know which pieces to put right in front of them to influence their decision.
The key here is influence. Remember that customers have been exposed to your work and have actively engaged in researching you more. Make sure you guide them to pieces that are ideal for their needs, and stage those pieces to influence their decision to move forward with contacting you.
Some ways you can selectively choose ideal projects to include:
- Big successes – if you’ve got a client that is thrilled with your work, show off this project and include client recommendations and quotes.
- Complexity – we’ve all had those projects that required seemingly endless hoop-jumping. Highlight one of these projects and show off how much work it took to complete it successfully.
- Standard projects – sometimes the best thing to do is show off a standard project that this kind of client is likely to need. This lets them see how you can handle the standard tasks that they may want done and can influence them simply by communicating that you can get the job done.
Pro Portfolio Tip: Use Case Studies
Another powerful way to influence customers is through the use of case studies. You may want to organize your portfolio differently for these specific kinds of pieces, the reason being is that case studies are usually long on detail and short on examples.
With a case study, you describe a specific business scenario and how you solved the problem, along with the results.
With a case study, you describe a specific business scenario and how you solved the problem, along with the results. Using a content marketing example, you may describe how a business needed a blog, how you went about defining their content needs, creating the content, and then showing how the blog helped the customer hit their business goals.
There are lots of professional freelance case study methods that range from extreme detail to high-level overview. Use of a case study should typically be in conjunction with more basic portfolio options. You don’t want detailed case studies to be the only thing in your portfolio for clients to view. But you can certainly use case studies to give your clients more information.
To get you started with a case study, here’s one format approach:
- Describe the challenge your client faced. This can dive into great detail or stay top-level, depending upon your goals.
- Discuss your solution. Talk about how you approached the problem and why you settled on a particular solution.
- Detail how you created the solution. This is where you can highlight your project management skills and show how you overcame challenges throughout the process.
- Deliver the results. Finally, conclude the case study with a clear discussion of how your solution fixed the business problem.
Maximize Sales with a Clear Call to Action
Remember that you always want to lead the potential customer to engagement and conversion. Hopefully your freelance portfolio has influenced their decision at this point, but what next? This is where your call to action is so critical.
Some customers will want to research further, so you can’t ignore providing more information and resources. Some customers will have detailed questions and will want to discuss these with you directly. Still others will want to jump right into the sale. Each of these stages of the engagement process should be carefully addressed on your portfolio site.
For the customers who want to research further without engaging you, this is where your portfolio can guide them to your case studies, as an example. After reading through a detailed case study, the potential client should have a firm grasp of your capabilities and will likely be ready to either begin discussions with you or make a purchase. So connect your general portfolio pieces to your case studies or other resources with a simple statement like, “Check out our case study or give us a call today“.
For those customers who want to discuss further, make it very easy for them to get a hold of you by email or phone. Some sample calls to action would be:
- Call now
- Drop us a line
- Send us an email
- Fill out our form
- Click here
- Call me!
Your Freelance Portfolio is Your Sales Pitch
Think of your personal career portfolio as a robust sales pitch.
For many freelancers, it is the only sales pitch you will get with many of your clients. Just as with sales calls, you have to get your portfolio out there for everyone to see, so be sure to create both a printed version (for face-to-face meetings) and an online version.
Market your online version through your social media network and be sure to optimize the page for search engines, just as you would with the rest of your website. In fact, you may want to research some awesome portfolio websites for inspiration toward the design on your own portfolio site.
With visibility, high quality, and a call to action, your portfolio won’t just give you exposure. It will help you maximize sales by proving to potential clients that you are the one to hire at no less than the prices you are asking.