A lot of potential clients will ask to see your work before deciding to work with you.
Having a portfolio ready to go makes showcasing your work a lot easier, for both you and the client, over sending them multiple documents.
Your portfolio will showcase and highlight samples of your best work and projects you’re most proud of.
Especially as someone who works online, a portfolio is a great way for a potential client to get a snapshot into the quality of your work, what results they can expect, and, maybe most importantly, whether they actually like and resonate with the work you do. That last point is super important because if a client hires you blindly and doesn’t actually vibe with what you’re putting out there, your professional relationship will be stressful, and nobody wants that.
Generally speaking, especially if you’re, for example, ghostwriting for a client, it’s a good rule to either have a clause in your contract that you reserve the right to use your work in your portfolio. When in doubt, ask your client for permission!
Who needs a portfolio?
Honestly, when you’re working online, almost every business type should have a portfolio of some description.
Graphic designers, artists, web designers and developers, copywriters, social media managers, podcast editors, heck, even general virtual assistants can all benefit from having one.
For general VAs, it is a bit trickier to showcase your work. But you can definitely include some client testimonials and a few snapshots of the work you’ve done for them. Include results you’ve achieved together, such as the average number of emails replied to, screenshots of organized calendars, and more.
How you can use your own business as a portfolio
When you’re first starting your online business, you probably don’t have a lot of clients or work that you can showcase.
But that doesn’t mean you have nothing you can use as a portfolio!
In fact, when you’re new in business, your portfolio should really be you doing what you’re going to do for your clients, but for YOU.
For example, if you’re a social media manager, look to create some social media portfolios for your business that really stand out. Grow your followers, have active engagement, and create a visually appealing feed.
If you’re a writer? Start a blog on your website, write long Facebook or Instagram posts, or join Medium.
Website designer? Make sure your website is kick-ass.
You get the idea. When you don’t have client work to showcase, your own business is (and always should be, in fact) your best example piece.
Creating an art and design portfolio
Art and design portfolios are some of the coolest out there.
Yes, you can absolutely create a website that shows off your work, but you’re not limited by any means. From social media profiles and DeviantArt accounts to dedicated art portfolio websites, your options are endless.
Another real-life example from a DNK student Courtney James Howlett (Seage), who has used Instagram to show off his art and design work. His artwork has been used on book covers, professional illustrations, and so much more.
Get creative with your art portfolio and be proud of the work you do.
Showcasing your graphic and web design
Graphic and web design tend to go hand in hand, with some seriously talented people lending their skills to both.
Obviously, having your own website looking and running well is the first step to these kinds of portfolios, but when you’re showing off your other work, there are a few ways to do this.
DNK student, Birte Kahrs, is a graphic designer and visual branding strategist. Her portfolio is clean looking on a separate page of her website, with each design linked to what the project was about and her role in it.
Another example of a website portfolio comes from DNK student, Monika Rabensteiner, who has her graphic and web design portfolio on the main page of her website. Again, each image links to an explanation of what the project was and her role in it.
But even as a graphic and/or web designer, you don’t have to have your portfolio on your website. You can create a separate Google Drive folder for your portfolio, just like the talented artist and graphic designer from the Inner Circle, Alexis Wright, has done. She’s even included her resume/CV as the first thing you see when she sends the link.
This proves that you don’t necessarily need a website to show off your badass work, so get the word out there!
Building a social media and content marketing portfolio
Creating your portfolio as a social media manager is a lot of fun. You can experiment, use trial and error, and watch your follower count tick up.
Once you’re ready to create a portfolio of work you’ve done for clients, you can create a page on your website.
Here’s an example from VA Starter Kit student, Sunny Joos, who uses her own social media profiles (yes profiles) to show off the work she does. You can see the way she plays with Instagram layouts and colors to create different visual effects.
Another one of our incredible student examples is from Vita Babens. Vita is a content marketing specialist and has her portfolio designed differently on her website. Each of the scrolling images links to the live-work she’s done/is doing for her clients.
No matter how you deliver your social media portfolio, your clients will appreciate that insight into the way you work.
Writing portfolios clients adore
Writing portfolios can be a bit trickier to show off, especially if you’re ghostwriting for your clients. This doesn’t always cause trouble (remember what I said earlier about clauses in your contracts and, when in doubt, just asking) and shouldn’t put you off highlighting your written word.
Because of this, creating a PDF document of writing examples can be one of the safest ways to show off your writing. By using a PDF, you can embed links to the published works, if you can and want to, otherwise, you can just show your writing without linking.
Here’s an example of a PDF portfolio from DNK student, Amanda Sloan, who showcases a variety of her styles, including blog posts, recipes, and sales pages.
And as a writer, you should always have an easy link to any published media you have in your name. This can look like a media page on your website, or include it on a page in your PDF portfolio.
This all looks great, but…
If you don’t have the capacity to create a separate portfolio, you can always create a blog on your website with quick and easy references to just a few examples of your work. This is a great option when you’re just starting out and want potential clients to see something.
If you are yet to create a website for yourself for whatever reason, there’s nothing stopping you utilizing the power of social media to portray some of your finest achievements. Canva is a good tool for creating beautiful infographics, social media graphics and even animated social posts to share on your profiles.
Inner Circle student, Ren Caldwell, took imperfect action when she created a few blog posts highlighting her talents. This is a perfect example of working with what you have and not letting a lack of portfolio hold you back from anything.
Armed with all this portfolio knowledge, are you ready to create a portfolio potential clients will absolutely love?