Imagine that a random stranger comes up to you and asks what you do for a living. You say: “I’m a creative.” So the stranger shoots back “Yeah? Prove it!”

That’s where your portfolio comes in. It shows what you have done, what you’re capable of and why you should be paid for it. If you want it to work to your advantage, here’s what you do:

1. Choose Your Best Work

Unless you’re just starting out, you don’t have to include everything you’ve ever worked on in your portfolio. You only have to pick the ones that will appeal the most to your ideal client.

For example, let’s say you’re a writer. If you want to enter the marketing field, your pieces should demonstrate your ability to persuade people to take a certain action. If it’s the creative clients you want, they probably won’t mind those “Modern Love” essays you poured your heart and soul into.

2. Organize Your Materials 

Whether you only have a handful of works or hundreds of creations, you need some way to keep them all organized.

The easiest way is to file them under categories, like freelance writer Mridu Khullar Relph does. You can also arrange them chronologically, in story-form or in any other way you see fit. What’s important is for your client to be able to browse through your work without much hassle.

3. Pick a Platform 

The best way to present yourself online is through a self-hosted website. Through it, you can tweak your portfolio however you want, without worrying too much about restrictions on formatting, layout and the like.

If you don’t want to pay for hosting, there are cheaper alternatives. You can sign up for websites like Weebly, About.me, Wix and others that are specifically designed to help you set up a portfolio for free. Keep in mind that these sites limit the way you present your portfolio, so think carefully about whether their $0 price tag will benefit you in the long run.

4. Pick a Portfolio Design 

There are loads of designs available, although you need to remember only a few criteria for choosing Web design templates. In general, if the design showcases your personality, and complements rather than detracts from the awesomeness of your portfolio, that’s good enough. 

5. Don’t Forget the Rest of Your Website Copy 

Your client should be able to tell, at a glance, whether it’s worth their while to check your works one-by-one or not. To help them with that, you need an “about” page, a “contact” page and a call-to-action to complement your portfolio.

Your “about” page should describe who you are, what you do, what you believe in and what makes you different from your competitors. For ideas on how to go about this, check out these examples of great about us pages.

As for the contact page, the link to it should be in a place where your potential client can see it, such as below your about section, in your website header or even on your front page. If it’s clearly spelled out with a call-to-action button like Hire Me, that’s even better. 

6. Optimize It for Search Engines 

Don’t forget to sprinkle keywords throughout your website copy. If you want to show up in searches for the keywords “freelance writer in New York,” you should incorporate that into your “about” section. Just be careful not to overdo it, lest your site be penalized for keyword stuffing.

7. Make It Mobile-Friendly 

According to data from Morgan Stanley Research, there were almost 2 billion mobile phone users as of 2015 – a little over one-quarter of the entire world population. Make your portfolio design responsive so it can be read on a mobile device without resizing, scrolling, zooming, etc.

8. Conduct A/B Testing 

A/B testing means evaluating the effectiveness of your portfolio design under different scenarios. You can test whether your site works across different browsers, whether it’s mobile-friendly, whether it attracts more traffic with one layout or the other, etc. Your objective is to make sure your site is as user-friendly as possible, for the sake of your prospective clients. 

9. Keep Your Portfolio Updated

Every time you finish a project you’re proud of, don’t forget to add it to your portfolio! Also, if you have any pieces that are no longer relevant to the career path you want, or are bringing down the overall quality of your portfolio, remove those. You’re only as good as your weakest piece, after all.

10. Let the World Know About It 

Of course, you can’t just leave your portfolio floating around on the Internet without anyone knowing about it. You still need to promote it on your social media accounts, so that the right people will be able to see it and be impressed with your work.

Over to You…

It helps to think of your portfolio as an extension of who you are as a professional. When you look at it that way, you’ll be more motivated to spruce it up and transform it into a client magnet. Now that you know what to do with your portfolio, you’ll have an answer to the next stranger who asks you to prove your worth.

You can connect with Sarah on Twitter @SarahLandrum.

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Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and expert career blogger, sharing advice on learning those all-important life skills as they apply to the job search and career development. Her blog, Punched Clocks, is all about helping you navigate the work world and find happiness and success in your career. Subscribe here to get all of her great posts, and follow her @SarahLandrum for even more career advice.

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