When it comes to building a business as a freelancer, the age-old conundrum is in full effect. On the one hand, you need clients to build a portfolio, but on the other hand, you need a portfolio to get clients. So how do you build a portfolio in order to get clients? The good news is that unlike other types of work, you don’t actually need someone to give you a job in order to gain experience – but that is certainly preferable. If you are trying to start a career as a freelance graphic designer, here are 4 great ways to build a portfolio.
Build a website
Not only will your website be a great place to showcase your work, but your website, should be the most impressive piece of work you’ve ever designed. Even you hire a web designer to build your website, you will most likely work closely with them to design something that is uniquely you. Think of it like an interior designer. An interior designer doesn’t paint the walls, install the countertops or lay the carpet or tile, but when the workers have completed their work, the room is a showcase of the designer, not the workers that put it all together. Your website is the same way. Your website should be the crown jewel in your portfolio, so design it with care.
Use what you have
Somehow you actually learned how to use graphic design tools, which means you probably created something in the process. Whether this is simply projects that you have done for your own enjoyment or to enhance your skills or even projects you did for a grade in school, every single thing you have ever created is fair game for a portfolio. Remember that every project you produce is sharpening your skills, so projects you did a year or two ago may seem elementary or juvenile to you now. That doesn’t mean they will seem that way to some of your first clients. Don’t be afraid to use anything and everything you have ever created as part of a starter portfolio to gain your first clients.
Use Fiverr or other online resources
Fiverr in particular is a great way to get clients without an expansive portfolio and still not work for free. The concept of Fiverr is that you offer some kind of initial service that you only charge $5 for. The theory being that if you create a sample of your work for a client and they like it, they will hire you for bigger – and higher paying -jobs. Fiverr and other similar sites are a great way to get paid before you have an extensive portfolio, which you can also use to build one.
Search out those in need of design services in your community
While no one wants to work for free, you won’t be able to charge premium prices for your services without a great deal of experience under your belt. Whether it’s designing a social media post for a local business, a logo for a relative’s independent business or a flyer for a church social – every bit of business you can drum up will help you build both your portfolio and your business. Best of all, if you do a great job, they may recommend you to others. On that note, however, while it may be tempting to work for free just to build up your portfolio, that is a bad idea. Working for free will almost certainly bring you as much business as you can handle, but eventually you will want to be paid for your work. It is far easier to slowly introduce increases in your rates than it is to get clients to pay for services you have offered for free in the past.
Start pursuing bigger fish early
There is a lot to be said for the idea of “swinging above your weight class.” The reality is, if you want to be a successful freelancer, you’re going to have to hustle. Ultimately, however, what will sell you the best is not actually going to be your portfolio, but your passion. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t walk in with some killer samples of some excellent work, but a meager portfolio with some excellent recommendations and a clear passion for your work will often sell you far better than an extensive portfolio will. This means that you don’t have to wait until you have a number of known or recognized clients under your belt to start pursuing more prestigious clients. This also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare yourself for a mountain of no’s before you get a yes. No matter what industry you are in, you should prepare yourself for rejection. Graphic design is no exception.
The number one thing to remember about being a freelancer is that no matter how impressive your portfolio is, you’re still going to have to hustle. Which is again true of any industry you are in. You will definitely have to hustle to get material to build your portfolio in the first place, but even once you have an established portfolio, you will still have to hustle to get it in front of the right people. While there may come a time when clients are banging down your door, that day will be a long time coming for most and may never come for some. If this is what you are passionate about, however, just keep hustling and success will surely follow!