How to Build a Portfolio

One thing that’s going to make getting customers easier for your business? Developing a portfolio that plays to your strengths and showcases your signature style. People will come to you knowing exactly what to expect and are much easier to convert into paying clients once they’ve seen a portfolio of work that they love. It will get them excited to work with you and fills them with confidence.

When you build a portfolio of your amazing client work and features, your clients respect you, listen to you and value what you do. It can completely turn things around for your business and I’d love to see that happen for you. It’s important to remember that when potential clients are looking for someone to work with, they’re thinking, “will they understand me? What if they show me something I don’t like?”  Your job is to help them overcome a lot of that anxiety. But it can be tricky.

When you’re starting out, it’s natural that you want to take work from anyone, from big projects to one-off tasks. As you grow, you realise that you’re making money which is great. But you feel frustrated with your business and your client onboarding process is a difficult uphill climb. At this point, clients might be coming to you by recommendation. But are they coming to you because of your distinctive style?

1. Identify Your Strengths

When I say “distinctive style”, I don’t mean that all your work looks the same. There may be certain characteristics of what you do that shines through in your portfolio and these should be things that you’re truly great at. Perhaps you have an eye for arranging flowers or you have a way of getting inside the mind of the person you’re coaching. Whatever it is, you need to identify your strengths to build your own distinctive portfolio. You also need to be sure of your aspirations for the work you want to be doing and the clients you want to be bringing in in the future. Trust me, defining the style of the way you work will revolutionise everything.

This also relates to your income goals. You need to think about the sort of projects you want to offer and at what price point. Perhaps you’re a social media manager offering packages at a few hundred pounds. Or maybe, you’re a website/brand designer offering packages at a few thousand pounds. Knowing your income goals will make this process a lot easier. Be sure to take time to decide what you want before you get started.

Here are a few tips to help you build a portfolio:

  • Create a vision board (either on paper or digitally) to represent the type of work that speaks to you the most.
  • Take a look at your most recent projects. Pick out the ones you really enjoyed and want to do more of. This gives you a clear vision to determine the style of how you work, meaning you know exactly what you want your portfolio to look like.
  • Plan out your income goals and packages. Hopefully, this will shift your focus onto the types of people that will be willing (and able) to invest that kind of money. This will also help to make your marketing efforts much more directed.

2. Look at Your Current Portfolio

Let’s be real. Take a look at your current portfolio. What’s your initial reaction? Pride? Or do you not want to even look at it? If it’s the latter, think about why it’s making you feel this. Have you neglected it? Or do you not have the right experience to put in there yet? Look at it from an outsider’s perspective. Ask yourself if there’s a distinctive style, look at the number of examples included and then… “did I do this to the best of my ability”?

I get that running a small business is hard work. I get that client work and attracting new clients will always come before doing the work for your own brand. But I guarantee that if you get your portfolio up and running, it will keep things ticking over.

3. Pick The Work That Represents What Your Business is All About

Here’s the thing. When you start out, you might have samples from a variety of different industries. You wanted the work and experience, right? There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when you want to work in wedding photography and you’ve only got pictures of wildlife. True, it might be solid work that you’ve done. But it’s not going to inspire potential clients.

It’s ok to fill the gaps in your planner with smaller projects that aren’t directly related to your chosen industry. But you don’t always have to show that work off. The trick is to make sure that the work in your portfolio is cohesive and doesn’t cause confusion as to what you do best. Once you start looking through your past work, you’ll get a feeling for the type of work that really shows off your talents. It’ll become easy for you to pick projects that will appear in your portfolio.

4. Promote, Promote, Promote

Whether you’ve had to do a large or a small amount of work to update your portfolio, your next job is to promote it wherever you can. You need to definitely put somewhere in your contract that you reserve the right to use the work you create for your clients for your own marketing purposes, even if it’s without branding or after the exclusivity terms are met. Set time aside in your week to update your key platforms with what you’re doing. Put your energy into the channels that are you getting you results.

5. Keep It Updated

Whatever your job title is and whatever industry you work in, it’s not just about having a portfolio. It’s about keeping it updated. Potential clients are dipping in and out of your website all the time. Tempt them towards become paid clients by constantly showing them your latest work to keep them excited.

Over to you!

Your homework is to go away and jazz up your portfolio.

I cover planning your income goals, promoting your business, branding and more in my course, Fabulous Foundations. Sign up today to be the first to know when the doors re-open!