Having an online freelance portfolio can fast-track your growth in the gig economy.
It helps you attract more prospects, build your influence, and earn the trust of high-value clients.
Best of all, you can create a professional-looking portfolio without spending a single cent.
1. Start with LinkedIn
A LinkedIn account is pretty much a necessity for professionals nowadays.
With over 830 million users consisting of CEOs, bloggers, marketers, and various company decision-makers, LinkedIn is a goldmine for prospective clients. It’s also equipped with features that freelancers can use to promote their services and highlight their expertise.
For example, freelance writers can feature articles they’ve submitted on other websites. They can also share the details of their work experience, including the brands they worked with in the past and for how long.
Image Source: LinkedIn.com, @kschachinger-seo
LinkedIn also has other features to help freelancers build their networks, like:
- LinkedIn groups: Join relevant LinkedIn groups to connect with like-minded individuals. Potential clients may also share job postings in these groups.
- Sponsored messaging: Automate message ads and entire conversations to put lead engagement on autopilot. This is available for LinkedIn premium users, but you can use it with a free trial or set automated “Away” messages instead.
- Publish articles: LinkedIn lets you publish full-length articles directly on the platform. You may also use this feature to syndicate content from your own website.
2. Build a Free Website
Make your portfolio more authoritative by building a free-hosted website.
A website lets you generate traffic, acquire leads, and grow your credibility by sharing insightful content. It also provides a convenient place to showcase your work samples, including written articles, designs, photos, and so on.
Some of the best online publishing platforms like WordPress.com, Issuu, and Wix include a free plan for new freelancers. This includes customizable themes, a built-in content editor, free plugins, and basic SEO tools.
WordPress.com, for example, offers free portfolio themes with aesthetic layouts to show off your work samples.
Image Source: WordPress.com
One of the drawbacks of a free-hosted website is that you’re building on a subdomain—not your own domain. This means your website address will look like “myportfolio.wordpress.com” instead of “myportfolio.com.”
If you get the budget, consider building a self-hosted website to use a unique, branded domain along with premium WordPress themes. Self-hosted sites are also more flexible when it comes to functionality and page customizability.
3. Develop Your Content Strategy
Your portfolio website is ready, but it lacks the means to generate traffic and potential clients.
A content strategy will help you stir interest in your personal brand and professional services.
To build an effective content strategy, start by identifying your target audience.
For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter, your target readers are businesses, bloggers, and other website owners. These are people who need someone who knows how to create high-quality content for marketing purposes.
Put yourself in their shoes and identify the problems they face in creating sales-optimized copy, such as:
- Building customer personas
- Creating content that aligns with the sales funnel
- Finding skilled copywriters for the job
You also need to perform keyword research to help your content rank in search engines. This is important if you want to generate free, recurring traffic to your portfolio site.
Use free tools like AnswerThePublic to find potential target keywords and weave them into your content’s title, subheadings, and main body.
Image Source: AnswerThePublic.com
How do you know if your content strategy is effective?
The only surefire method is to use content analytics to track performance-related metrics, like page views, session duration, bounce rate, and pages per session. Set up tools like Google Analytics to track these metrics and identify which of your content tactics work the best.
Google Analytics will also help you identify your top-performing content channels, be it direct traffic, search engines, emails, or social media.
4. Link Your Socials
Build an online omnipresence by creating professional social media accounts and linking to them from your website.
Social media is an effective way to get short-term traffic to your portfolio website and content. Effective social media marketing also helps build your credibility as an expert in your niche.
Instagram, for example, is perfect for photographers and videographers who want to share their best work. Its flexible formats, namely Reels, Stories, and feed posts, give users multiple ways to discover and interact with content. Adding a QR code to your Instagram bio can make it easier for followers to access your portfolio or website, and can help you reach a wider audience.
TikTok—believe it or not—is also effective in establishing authority for freelancers in almost every niche. You can upload short tutorial videos, react to subject matter experts, and post about TikTok quotes that your target viewers use.
5. Collect Testimonials
Gather testimonials or reviews from past clients and feature them on your portfolio page.
Statistics show that 93% of B2B prospects consider reviews in their decision-making. Positive reviews serve as verifiable proof that your freelance services are capable of generating desirable results.
Collect testimonials and short reviews from past clients through emails or by creating a feedback form on your portfolio website. Include the client’s name and company (complete with a link) to make these reviews more authentic.
To make these testimonials easy to find, compile them into a single page with CTAs that bring readers to your contact page or services landing page.
Image Source: JoeCanWrite.com
6. Start Reinvesting
A free portfolio website can help you grow your professional brand, boost your online reach, and secure higher-paying clients.
But that doesn’t mean it should stay a free-hosted website forever.
Migrating to a self-hosted website will accelerate your growth as a freelancer and unlocks opportunities like affiliate marketing, newsletter subscriptions, gated content, and more.
Here’s a simple roadmap that will help you scale your portfolio website:
- Purchase your own domain: Free publishing platforms like WordPress.com let you buy and use your own domain without migrating to a new host.
- Scale your content marketing strategy: Explore visual content, buy SEO articles, run influencer marketing campaigns, and create premium content (eBooks, online courses, etc.) to elevate your brand image.
- Evolve into an agency: Some of the most successful freelancers eventually start their own agencies, which exponentially multiply their clientele and income.
Nothing in the freelancing world is meant to be easy.
Creating a free online portfolio is an exception.
With the tips above, you should be walking off into the sunset with a professional-looking portfolio in a day or two. Just remember that, while your work samples should speak for themselves, online prospects won’t discover them unless you have a content strategy in place.