For most service-based businesses, a portfolio provides proof that you’re the right person for the job.
Whether you’re a graphic designer who’s showcasing brands and websites, a photographer who’s showcasing weddings and engagements, or a coach who helps entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level, you need a portfolio to showcase your past work and build trust with potential clients.
But how do you create one?
You might have clicked on this post thinking I was going to talk about photos and layout. And while those are important to the overall look of your portfolio, I’m not going to cover that in this post.
Not only is that a no-brainer, but every other portfolio post puts the primary amount of attention on photos and many of you reading this offer non-visual services like coaching and consulting.
I wrote this post with the hope that you would begin to think differently about your portfolio.
So instead, I’m sharing 5 ways to strategically build your portfolio that everyone else isn’t talking about… yet.
1 | Share your portfolio as it’s being built
We often view a portfolio as a collection of our finished work.
But the process of building a portfolio is ongoing; there’s always a new project in the works that will eventually be added.
So instead of waiting until a project is complete, invite people in on the process.
Share sneak peeks of your process on social media. Invite people to weigh in and leave feedback on decisions that have already been made (trust me, people love sharing their opinions).
Not only will it pique the interest of those who are following along with you and build more excitement around your project launches, but it will also invite potential clients in on your process and help them envision what it would be like to work with you.
It also ensures that pieces of your portfolio are being seen, rather than waiting for people to stumble upon your portfolio and take a look around.
So next time you’ve finished a crucial step of your client process, share the different options with your audience and ask them to weigh in with their opinion.
If you’re a brand designer, this might look like sharing different logo concepts and asking people which one is their favorite.
If you’re a coach, this might look like presenting different strategies for solving a problem and asking people which one they think would work best and why.
You can get creative with it, no matter what you specialize in!
2 | Share your process by writing portfolio posts
I’m always surprised by the number of people who simply share some photos in their portfolio, write a couple words about each project, and call it a day.
If that’s what your portfolio currently looks like, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity to highlight your entire client process and position yourself as an expert!
Instead, take the time to write a portfolio blog post that shares the story of your project from start to finish.
Start by highlighting the initial problem. Why did your client come to you for help?
Then share a step-by-step look at the entire process along with why you made certain decisions.
(This is a huge advantage to writing a blog post as opposed to simply sharing photos of your work in a portfolio. It provides an opportunity to highlight your knowledge on the subject and build credibility with potential clients.)
After you’ve shared the ins and outs of the process, share the end result along with a testimonial from your clients.
By writing a post like this, you’re inviting people into the process and once again helping them envision what it would be like to work with you.
Posts like these build trust with potential clients, but they’re also highly shareable.
Blog readers can easily pin photos from your portfolio blog posts and share them on social media.
But how many people actually pin and share photos from a simple portfolio page on a website? Very few.
So instead of going the boring, expected route, set yourself apart from your competitors and highlight your expertise by sharing a portfolio blog post for each project and link to them from your portfolio page.
View some examples of Elle & Company portfolio posts here
3 | Include testimonials
Your portfolio should calm the fears of anyone who is considering working with you.
And the fears of most potential clients revolve around the investment and the capability of the person providing the service.
So how do you calm those fears and convince them that you’re the best person for the job? You provide proof!
Proof comes from the showcasing the quality of your work, giving people an inside look at your process, and highlighting the testimonials of your past clients.
If you don’t have any testimonials, reach out to past clients. If you don’t have any past clients, start collecting testimonials from current clients as you finish up their projects.
And from here on out, add a step into your client workflow to collect testimonials once the project wraps up.
Now there are two ways you can go about collecting them: You can either ask for the testimonial on the last day of the project once you’ve passed everything off to your client or you can ask for the testimonial after waiting a few months.
If you ask for the testimonial at the completion of the project, you’re bound to get a glowing review. Your client is thrilled to be done with the project (and hopefully thrilled at the outcome).
But if you ask for the testimonial a few months after the completion of the project, your client might be able to share tangible results from their experience with you.
Depending on your business, one might be better than the other. But definitely give it some thought and plan it into your workflow!
4 | Include a call-to-action
So many portfolios dead end with no call-to-action.
When you do that, you’re leaving the next step up to your potential client. They might click over to your process page or your contact page, or they might leave your site altogether.
That’s no good! Instead, include a natural call-to-action.
The person has just spent the time browsing your work. This is the best opportunity to invite them to check out your client process or go ahead and book you!
“Like what you see? View the ins and outs of my design package here”
“Are you interested in working with me? Get in touch!”
Spur them into action rather than hoping they find their way to those other important pages of your website.
P.S. This should be the case for every page of your website. Don’t leave any dead-ends; include a call-to-action on each one.
5 | Highlight the projects you want to be booking
You might have several great projects from the past few years, but chances are that some of them don’t fit the packages you’re currently offering or the client base you want to work with.
So instead of highlighting any and every project you’ve ever worked on, showcase the projects that fall in line with the type of work you want to be taking on.
That way, when you go to share sneak peeks on social media or publish new portfolio blog posts, you’ll attract the right clients.
If you don’t have any projects that reflect the direction you want to go in with your services, consider creating a fictitious project or exchange services with another business owner so you can walk through the process and display your work.
Photos and layout are important, but there are so many other aspects to building a portfolio that often aren’t considered.
These 5 tips are very effective for drawing in the right clients, and they aren’t complicated or time-consuming.
Which of these tips are you going to implement? Were you surprised by any of the suggestions in this post?