I write this post sipping an Italian coffee from a café in Vietnam reflecting on my last 3 or 4 months of freelancing. Last October, an American agency who contributed to over 50% of my monthly income stopped sending me recurring work. This shock to my monthly income pushed me to start thinking about how I presented myself professionally online, like on my freelance website.
It’s easy to overlook this sometimes, but we live in an incredibly global society. More and more businesses turn to tools on the Internet to accomplish their goals.
As a freelancer, having a searchable website in a gig economy is an asset. I work with clients from places like Spain, Poland, Taiwan, and the USA — largely due to the way I represent myself online.
Even as a WordPress website designer, my own website featured the absolute minimum. Until a few months ago, it was a single page with one paragraph explaining what I do, links to side projects I work on, links to social media and a contact form.
Sometimes, because (a lack) of time or money, we have to start with the minimum. But it’s also an important life skill to build your assets over time — including your website.
How do you present yourself professionally online?
Your website is your modern-day resumé.
And just like writing a resumé, perfecting your portfolio website as a freelancer feels like a daunting task. Do freelancers actually need websites to get hired? What do you include on a portfolio website? Will it actually lead to more clients?
Just like a resumé, your website communicates what you do and what sets you apart from the rest.
If you have neither money nor time, to put towards your portfolio website, start by putting up a single landing page that shows the absolute minimum.
At the very minimum, your portfolio website should include two things:
- What you do
- How to get in touch with you (e.g. contact form, social media)
That will make your website a central place on the Internet where people can learn about you, how to get in touch with you, and where to find you (or your work) online.
Optimize Your Portfolio Website for SEO
Think long term: include keywords to optimize your website to rank well on search engines.
It may seem like a tedious task — after all, you may be competing with websites like Upwork or Freelancer to rank for different keywords.
But imagine if you spent one-hour doing keyword research which led to just one lead? Or two? Many freelancers end up finding work from their network or referrals, so just one lead could potentially lead to much more work in the long run.
Think about two things:
- Your positioning and what makes you different
- What potential clients would type into a search engine
Protip: Write case studies on a separate page with relevant keywords to improve your website’s SEO.
Don’t Forget to Talk About You
Again, at the very least, have a section on your landing page that introduces you and what you do.
And remember — you wouldn’t write your resumé just talking about you. When you position yourself to potential clients, nearly every word you write should have a purpose. Your About section should be a client-centered copy.
What would make clients want to work with you? What value do you bring to the table? If you have a hard time thinking about this, ask previous clients (or people who you have worked with) what it is about your work that stands out. You can also include Press mentions or testimonials on your About page.
It doesn’t have to be all about business! People hire people, so you can take extra steps to personalize your website like adding a “fun facts” section or a timeline.
Show Off Past Work with a Portfolio
If you are just starting out, do projects at a reduced rate or include “fake projects” that showcase your real skills and feature those in your portfolio.
You can also go above-and-beyond by searching for ideal or potential clients in your industry, doing the work before contacting them, and sending them the final product (or a mockup of the final product). At best, you land a new client or industry contact. At worst, you have something to add to your portfolio.
Again, your website is all about making an impression. The way you present yourself is important!
Freelance writer Lydia Paulina features two of her most notable articles at the top of her portfolio:
Feature Client Testimonials
Adding social proof like testimonials are an important way to build credibility in what you offer.
Throughout your website, feature testimonials to give potential clients an idea of what it’s like to work with you.
If you don’t have a steady stream of raving clients to gather testimonials from, consider the tips in the article below.
How to Find Freelance Clients
7 Tips to Build a Sustainable Client Network
At the beginning of each project, make sure your goals with the client are clear and concise. At the end of each project, ask the client questions like why they chose you for the project, what they liked best about working with you to achieve these goals, and what type of client they would recommend work with you in the future.
Make It Easy to Contact You
Lastly, make it effortless for potential clients to contact you.
- Include “Contact” options in both your navigation bar and your footer
- Make the “Contact” button on your navigation bar stand out from other links
- End every page with a specific call-to-action encouraging potential clients to get in touch
The best business provides an incredible experience. Start offering a great client experience by getting rid of any friction to contact you!
Start Small, and Build From There
It’s okay to start small and build from there. If you lack time, start with a simple landing page explaining what you do and how to get in touch with you. Then, slowly add on from there.
You can start with a service like Carrd.co to get a free landing page live. Or, you can build websites with no coding knowledge using WordPress and Elementor Pro.
Alternatively, hire a website designer to design your portfolio website. The investment of hiring a professional who can help you improve your positioning and optimize your conversions will help you build your confidence, raise your rates, and sign more clients.