It is said that the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most. Now, you will have to place yourself in the shoes of a client for a minute and imagine how they feel like when going through applications for a job form a freelancer. Think about it: you are an owner of a website who is interested in hiring a writer to help you market your product. You receive two applications from freelancers after posting the job on an online platform:
The first freelancer sends you custom proposal accompanied by samples in a portfolio. The samples are good, quite good. The only problem is that they aren’t in line with what you need.
The second freelancer, on the other hand, sends you a proposal accompanied by portfolio samples that are relevant to your job requirement.
Now, which freelancer will you select? Most definitely, it’s going to be the second one. You will do that because you need not just a completed project, but someone who has demonstrated their previous experience with similar projects.
As a freelancer, you could be in a similar situation as the first candidate in this story. As much as you strive to target your proposals to specific job requirements, you are still not getting hired. The biggest culprit, in this case, could be your portfolio. It could be the one costing you the kind of jobs that you would really like to work on. Here are the steps to take to prevent this from ever happening again.
1. Specify your niche
A jack of all trades is a master of none, so said the experts. The truth of this statement cannot be ignored. In the world of freelance, it is demonstrated on a daily basis. Just saying you are a writer isn’t enough, you will have to narrow down to the exact work that you do if you hope to land some clients. A simple act of specialization may be all the change you need to make to open a flood of clients for yourself.
Many people naturally regard expertise as being of high value. It's, therefore, possible to get clients to pay you more if you can demonstrate your expertise. And specialization helps you do just that. This is according to Lindsay Van Thoen, who was writing for the Freelancers Union.
If you are successful in specialization, you can comfortably do the following:
Charge highly for the work you deliver
Succeed in getting the jobs that you applied for
Complete client’s projects with ease because you have already mastered the skills
Be able to get additional projects from the same clients because of building a rapport with them
Most people, however, are afraid that if they specialize in a given niche they will be effectively locking themselves out of some great opportunities. But the opposite is actually true in this case. If you are able to show your skill in a particular field, you will get more clients and this will more than compensate for those you may have lost outside your field.
Ask yourself these questions to identify which niche you can fit in best.:
Which kind of work do I intend to focus on in the long term?
Which past projects best utilized my interests and skills?
Which skills are in high demand in my specific field?
What are the requirements for the specific niche I’m thinking about?
Ensure that you strike a good bargain between those niches that pay well, those that will utilize your skills and those that you enjoy most working in.
2. Evaluate where your skills lie
After you have specified a niche you can comfortably settle on building a great reputation through great samples. You first of all have to look at the current samples and consider the following:
Whether the samples are related to the niche you selected
If they are able to show your expertise in that particular field
Whether they have the capacity to attract the attention of prospective clients in that particular field.
After this careful evaluation, you will then have to get rid of those samples from your portfolio that you feel do not reflect your new field of specialization. You need to do this even if the samples themselves are of excellent quality. Perhaps you might find a better use for them elsewhere. At this juncture, it is better to be consistent.
In case you realize that the remaining projects are not sufficient for landing clients, you have to work hard at developing new ones. You can do the following while you are at it:
Developing some mock-up samples to put in your portfolio
Engaging in volunteer work with some local charitable organizations to enhance your portfolio.
Reducing your charges as a way of offering a discount to prospective clients in your selected line of work.
You will, however, need to state clearly that the discount you are offering is for a limited period of time to establish yourself. Failure to do so will be risking your reputation because clients may not take you seriously afterward.
3. Enhance your portfolio samples
Don’t just assume that all is done when you add a sample to your portfolio. You need to enhance it with details that will clearly communicate to potential clients. Include a description of each sample stating:
The type of work it is
The reason for your approach in tackling the project
The results achieved by the client.
This information is crucial for landing clients looking for long-term freelancers. The information can be further explained in the cover letter or proposal you send. If you are able to explain in detail the approach used and the results achieved, you will be able to rise above your competition and impress the client enough to hire you.
And keep updating the portfolio each time you complete a project. This will keep it fresh and updated, a fact which won’t go unnoticed by clients.
Your portfolio is what determines whether or not you will be successful as a freelancer. You will, therefore, have to be deliberate about improving it so that you have higher chances of being employed. As time passes, the investment you put into it will yield results that will make it worth your while.