How to Build a Portfolio When You're Just Getting Started

how to build a portfolio when you're just getting started

Something that I get a lot of emails and messages about is on the topic of how to get started with a freelance business. Whether you're wanting to do photography, graphic design, web design, interior design, or any other creative freelance work, you're going to need a portfolio. But you need clients in order to have a portfolio...it's an endless cycle.

The other issue is that you don't want to be everything to everyone with a freelance business. You want to carve out a niche for yourself so that you become the go-to person for a specific kind of work. So being intentional about what you show in your portfolio is also important. Here are some ways that you can create a portfolio that will attract the right clients and get your business going ASAP.


Do a pretend project. This doesn't work for every type of freelance work but in some cases, you may be able to create a pretend project. For example, if you're wanting to be a graphic designer who specializes in invitations, you could create a pretend wedding invitation suite. Or if you want to do web design, design some pretend websites. I'd actually recommend designing as many as you have time for!

Collaborate with other creatives. If you want to build a photography portfolio for example, meet up with other creatives in your area (floral designer, stylist, wedding planner, bridal gown shop, makeup artist, etc) and do a styled shoot that you can all use the photos from. Make sure everyone tags and links to each other when they post, and this will also be a great way to get the word out about your services.

Work for free. I know that a lot of people balk at the idea of working for free as a creative, but I honestly think that is such an entitled point of view, and my opinion is...of COURSE you're going to have to work for free! Not forever, of course, but in the beginning, who is going to hire someone with no experience? Offer up your services to the type of business who would be your dream client for free, and then you'll have that type of work in your portfolio so you can attract more of that type of client. Be sure to get it in writing that you can use the project as an example in your portfolio and that you can post it on your website and social media accounts!

Publish and promote. Once you actually have some work, you'll likely need photos of it or a way to display it in the most professional looking way, and then you'll need to set up a website and social media accounts to show your work. I love Squarespace for creating an online portfolio (that's who I have always used for my websites). Having a website legitimizes your business and makes potential clients take you much more seriously. You should also be sure to set up social media accounts for your business and use hashtags so that people can actually find you and you can drive traffic to your website. 

Be intentional. This is such an important thing to remember when creating a portfolio: be intentional about the work that you include in it! If you want to photograph bohemian weddings, only include bohemian weddings in your photography portfolio. That doesn't mean that that's the only work you can do - if someone wants to hire you to photograph their corporate holiday party, by all means, take the job! But you don't have to include it in your portfolio. This is such a common mistake. Sometimes creatives think that the quantity of work in your portfolio is the most important thing but it's NOT. You want to only show the type of work that you want to continue to do. Otherwise here's what happens: you take a job that you're not crazy about and never want to do again and publish it in your portfolio. Someone finds your website and sees that you do that type of work and hires you to do their similar project. And so on and so on until one day you're known as the go-to for that type of work which you don't even like in the first place! That's why it's better to have a smaller but more intentional portfolio than a giant all-over-the-place portfolio.


If you're working on building a portfolio, I hope this helped you! Please let me know in the comments what you're working on and if you can think of any tips that I've forgotten. xoxo