How to Build a Web Design Portfolio & Grow Your Freelance Business
What makes a good web design portfolio? That’s the question that each and every web design freelancer has asked herself at one point in her career – especially when just starting out in the business. You want to stand out among your competition, express your skills, and gain the attention of your ideal clientele but you don’t have a lot of experience yet. How can you show what you’re capable of before you’ve had the chance to secure your own clients or your first web design job?
If you’re working in web design now or just beginning your career you CAN actually begin to build your own web design portfolio before you get your first big job or big client, you just need to have a DIY spirit. In this post, we will walk you through how to grow that portfolio and make it the best it can be whether you’re brand new OR looking to revamp your existing portfolio of work.
Build Yourself a Website
Hello! Constructing your own website is a twofold win for your portfolio dilemma. In the first place, you’re showing potential clients or employers that you can build a great website by doing just that – building yourself a great site. Second, you now have a place to house and host all of your future best works AND blog about the process, to let everyone know that you know your stuff. While you shouldn’t go nuts putting every bell & whistle into this website, you can demonstrate excellent use of forms, nice widget functionality, intelligent visual design, clean code, optimized images, and so much more with one website. If your site looks great, and you’re using it to house other projects that also look great, you could be off the ground in no time.
Grow what you know – then show it
By taking some tutorials or teaching yourself different facets of web design and development, you can boast new skills and show those off. You don’t need to have a spiffy web design job or a ton of clients to start doing this – just get into those new tools or frameworks and start messing around. Once you’re getting really good, you’ve got a new gold star to show off to potential clients and add to your resume and your spiffy website. Anyone looking to hire a designer or developer with that special skill will see you as a stand-out partner.
Not all classes run cheap, we understand. However, if you do take a course – even just on Udemy or somewhere else online – you can use the sample assignment projects as great portfolio items. Remember: the website you build does NOT have to be a paid project in order to count for your portfolio and adequately demonstrate what you can do. The same is true if you took web design courses in college or in a more formal setting – capture and use those projects!
Give and take
Do you have any friends who would like to have their own website, and can trade you by providing a skill that they have in return? For example, do you have a social media whiz friend who is looking to start her social media side business and needs a website? If you build it for her, you’ve just added a client to your portfolio and in return, she might even be able to bring your brand to life on social media. That’s a win-win-win.
We know you’re probably super busy but a great way to add to your web design portfolio is to find an organization that you’re passionate about and provide website services. Chances are the animal shelter, veteran’s assistance group, or a local school could benefit from a better web presence. You can donate your time, build a simple site (they’re usually not very demanding), and add it to your portfolio. Better yet, they’ll be so thrilled that they will likely be happy to provide a testimonial or review for your work, too!
What do I do with my new portfolio?
Once your portfolio and your website look great and really express your story, your style, and your skills – it’s time to promote yourself. This can be really uncomfortable for people, especially when they’re just starting out, but if you want to have a successful side-hustle or freelance career – or even just get hired with a great company, your personal brand is everything. Here are 5 quick tips to growing your brand:
- Impress every client and colleague
I know this sounds pretty lofty but it is imperative that you do your best for every client, every employer, and every colleague – even those who never get to see you create a website, like your coworkers at the coffee shop where you work, or your boss at the restaurant where you wait tables. Those people will vouch for you and pass your name on more than anyone.
- Get social and stay social
You need to promote yourself by constantly putting out content, sharing your work, and staying active online. Consistency is key.
- Start locally
Why compete for the attention of the whole world when there are tons of businesses right in your own town? Reach out to the local plumbers, insurance companies, and restaurants and see if anyone needs a website. By doing some research, you’ll quickly be able to see whose website is outdated – start with them first. They’re going to appreciate that your rates are a whole lot lower than the big agencies in the city, and they make great long-term clients.
- Get communal
Join the right kinds of forums and spaces online where developers and designers talk to each other, where they meet clients, and where they collaborate with other digital creators. You might meet a photographer or marketing guru who recommends you to a few of their clients. You might get hired on by a senior designer who needs another team member. You never know what can happen when you network.
- Find a mentor
By reaching out to someone who has been in the industry for years, you can learn everything you’ll need to know about running your side hustle or full-time business, getting the jobs you want, and designing better websites. Plus, their network is probably 10 times the size of yours right now and they may be able to pull a few strings.
What are your best tips for promoting yourself as a budding freelance web designer? Comment below.
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