So you have a skill, you have decided to take the jump and go freelance, now all you need is clients. No matter which route you choose to find clients, without a portfolio, this is going to be difficult, not impossible though. When I started I had no solid portfolio to kick start my freelance career, I had no completed projects and no clients to vouch for me and give me testimonials. Below I aim to give you some pointers on how to kickstart your freelance career, follow these tips to maximise your chances of starting freelancing without a portfolio.
- Make up your own projects – if web design is your thing, make some test websites, clients like to be able to view your work by going to a physical website and clicking around and in some cases even examining the code. Make them your best pieces of work, spend time on them and put some effort into them, make a handful of them about various topics. When I started I made a restaurant website and a hotel website purely as a demonstration of your skills.
- Create your own portfolio website – Even though you donâ€™t have a huge portfolio, step one should have gave you a couple of things to shout about, create your own website and make it your best work. Put your demo sites on your portfolio page and put a notice on there stating that the portfolio is still under construction and that more sites will be added there in the coming weeks, this covers your back for the size of the portfolio. Creating your own site gives you another site that you can show to your potential clients as well as providing you another platform to make money from in the future. Add a blog in there and some pictures of yourself, this breaks down the virtual barrier that exists with online work and makes you more human to your clients. Contact information is also important, many clients still prefer to pick up a phone to talk to you, so let them!
- Be honest! – when applying for projects on whatever platform you have decided to use, be honest with your potential clients, tell them that you are new to the platform and that you are looking to build up your feedback and portfolio, many people wont entertain your account without feedback but all you need is one person to give you the benefit of the doubt.
- Be patient! – You probably wont get awarded a project on your first day, you will need some perseverance, you have to understand that you are competing with people with established profiles complete with good feedback and a decent portfolio. I was really lucky that I managed to get a project awarded on the first day of using oDesk, I have a friend however who didn’t get one for 2 weeks and gave up, it really is about catching the right person at the right time, all you need is one, every positive feedback that you get will make it a lot easier to get more projects.
- Start small – When you are portfolio building, you need to be prepared to earn very little money from projects, do not however treat them as low budget projects, you need the portfolio item as well as the clients feedback so treat them as a high paying customer. When you see a project advertised, go below there estimated budget, remember you are competing with people from India and other asian countries where people are prepared to work for very little.
- Be unique – One thing many clients hate is a standard sales email when applying for there project. To them there project is more important than anything else on oDesk so treat it that way, refer to the specific project in your cover letter and express your excitement for it, as them specific questions, show them that you have read and understood every word of there description.
If the above doesn’t work for you, try your local area, go to some charities and offer to do there sites free of charge, do whatever you can to build up your portfolio, it is the most important weapon that you have and is what will differentiate you with other freelancers out there.
All the best! I hope this has given you some insight on how to start freelancing without a portfolio and I hope I have been of some help, let me know in the comments if you think I have missed something.