You have your own freelance graphic design business and you’re wondering how to get new clients. You’ve opened the door… so where is the eager crowd of clients wanting your terrific services!?
Maybe you thought about improving your website and portfolio, but you’ve put it off, and the pressure to have billable projects is causing you stress now. Intuitively, you know you need to figure out what marketing looks like for a solo entrepreneur in graphic design, but where do you start?
Help has arrived! We can show you how to create the perfect graphic design portfolio. We know what you need to feature, how many projects your portfolio needs, and how to execute an effective plan to get it online. Are you ready!?
Years ago, as a one-woman graphic design business, we launched and then scrambled to figure it out. We were running constantly: looking for clients, tweaking the website, posting on social media, cold calling, networking, advertising… We’ve been there, done that.
What’s the golden key? Did any of our scurrying around work?
Well, we did figure out the key, but we learned the hard way. Now, years later, we are a burgeoning graphic design studio! We don’t want anyone to have to struggle through the jungle of freelancing like we did. We’re here to help you! The strong get stronger, and we’re here to show you how.
Effective Freelance Portfolios
So, what is the key, you ask? Your portfolio. Start there and build your freelance graphic design business with the clients your portfolio will attract.
You need to create an attractive portfolio. But, first, you need to know what is attractive to your audience. Start with thinking about who your ideal client is.
What industry are they in? How big is their business? What do they sell? What do they need from a graphic designer? Where do they live? What do they drive (what is their economic situation)? And, most important…where do they hang out online?
Ok, take a minute and see if you can answer those questions. Make sure the answer to the first question (What industry are they in?) has a specific answer. Don’t avoid this. Have you heard of “niching down”? Well, it’s time to build a bigger business and client-base for yourself by focusing on a smaller area of expertise.
Think about where most of your clients have come from so far. Which ones had the biggest budgets to pay you from? Which projects do you enjoy the most?
What kind of clients really appreciated the creative work you are most proud of? Which clients are recommending you because of what you produced for them already?
Niche down. Then, you’re ready to think about the pieces in your portfolio.
An effective freelance graphic design portfolio is:
- Well-crafted (take the time to make it good)
- Aimed at your ideal client and their industry (your new niche!)
- A focused sized (4 projects is adequate…7 is too many)
- Featured on your website
- Highlights your best work (including mock-up projects, if you don’t have enough excellent examples to feature for your niche)
- Lean and trim (don’t include extras, student work, sketches, etc.)
Your Freelance Portfolio Needs 3 Essential Components
Our design studio has birthed a whole enterprise focused on helping freelance graphic designers start and grow their businesses. At Aventive Academy, we provide practical and efficient courses that walk students through the steps they need to take.
With our prompts, you won’t forget anything, and you won’t need to make the mistakes we did. Just think of how much time you will save!
Aventive Academy also offers free workshops, including Improve Your Design Portfolio to Get Clients, where we show you how to create a portfolio that will launch your business growth.
Whether you have past clients or you’re just starting out, we provide step-by-step guidance for a wow-factor portfolio that will draw your ideal client to your graphic design business.
Stop worrying about your potential competition and create your own A-game. It’s all about your portfolio — your bragging rights!
The free workshop covers the following portfolio components:
- Step 1: What should you include in your portfolio?
- Step 2: How do you get potential clients to see your portfolio?
- Step 3: How should you feature the projects in your portfolio?
We’ve already said that your portfolio should be on your website (yes, you need a professional website — no, Instagram isn’t enough). Your projects should show off your highest level of quality and expertise.
If you don’t have previous client projects to feature, get to work and create conceptual projects showing your best work. Your prospective clients won’t know the difference between a former project and a conceptual mock-up…they just want to see examples of the amazing work you’ll produce for them, too!
In all of this, remember your niche! Your ideal client. Keep your focus narrow. You won’t turn away other customers, but you will be the go-to expert in your niche.
Here’s a real-life example: at our graphic design studio, we provide branding packages for the health and wellness industry. In fact, we’re currently rebranding so we can niche down even further than that!
Instead of the entire health and wellness industry, we are now focused on a smaller sub-section: skincare products. That’s our special expertise, those are the projects we enjoy the most, so we know that’s where our ideal client is.
Now that you have some projects (or mock-ups) in mind, how should you present them in your portfolio? There are amazing mock-ups available online, and you can leverage these to really stand out.
Your clients will love the 3D stuff you can feature, and if you focus on a minimum of 4 projects, you’ll provide enough evidence of your expertise. It’s important to showcase your best work without overwhelming the viewer. (And, by the way, if you have 6 projects…we recommend that number.)
Over time, you can update, add, and replace projects in your portfolio to keep it fresh and feature your best and most recent client work. But really, what you want is to impress the heck out of anyone looking at your website.
Speaking of that detail…how do you get traffic to notice your beautiful portfolio online? We have you covered for that important detail, too!
How to Attract Amazing Clients
Your amazing clients are your ideal clients. You’ve defined them. Now, you need to find them and get them to swing by your website. How do you do this? It’s simple, really…
Where do they spend time online?
Pick the best location. Maybe two, but not more. Keep your life simple and focus on promoting effectively, through the ideal platform for your ideal client.
Don’t be tempted to spread yourself too thin, or your promotional activity will suffer, and you won’t drive traffic to your website and portfolio.
Get active on the ideal platform (or two) where your clients spend their time. Be interactive. Your goal is to direct traffic to your website, so always keep that in mind. Once they arrive at your website, they will look at your portfolio to see what you’ve done and what you can do for them.
On social media, think about what your ideal client needs and provide value to them. Try to keep your posts 80% educational and 20% promotional. Be real, be interactive, be interested, and be interesting!
How to Present Your Work in Your Online Portfolio
Are you a bit stumped for how to present your portfolio projects? Do you struggle for the creative impetus sometimes? We have good news for you.
We found two online platforms that have an endless array of creative portfolio feature ideas. You can dip into stock templates, see what’s new in the latest colors, or move beyond 2D to provide a 3D stand-out element in your project pieces.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so let us show you a couple of excellent options. (And, yes, we are affiliated with both of these stellar online resources, but that’s because we value them so much that we use them in our own studio, too!)
And we used Creative Market recently for a skincare rebranding project. Check out these cool 3D options that will give your clients (and their end-customers) the feeling of custom photography without the big price tag!
Can you find inspiration for your next 3D logo presentation, some client stationery designs, packaging, or website laptop mockups?
Isn’t it cool to have the resources to produce portfolio pieces that will stand out and cause clients to look at your website and say, “Heck ya! That’s what I want for my business. I’ll reach out to this expert!”
We know you find inspiration all around you, and especially online. But we also know that it’s sometimes hard to be at your creative best (especially when you’re busy and tired!). For our studio, it gives us peace-of-mind to know where to turn when that “uh-oh, now what?” feeling arrives.
Rock Your Graphic Design Niche
Now you know what to include in your portfolio, how to feature your projects professionally using online resources, and how to attract clients to see your portfolio. You’re ready to go.
But, we know that this article is short and you might want to have a slower, more methodical explanation with time to think and even more practical instructions. If you’re in the early stages of launching your freelance business, you might also be interested in our self-paced, online course called the Freelance Starter Kit.
At Aventive Academy, our free workshops, blog articles, and courses are designed to provide you with practical value that will lead to a freelance business of expertise and strength.
Your portfolio’s effective connections to your ideal clients could grow your business into a graphic design studio, just like ours did! We hope you feel encouraged to pursue your dreams for a freelance career that is exciting, freeing, vibrant, and fulfilling. Today’s your day to start!