After managing hundreds of freelancers and reviewing countless applications and portfolios in my media career, I’ve developed a finely tuned filter for fakes, flakes, and mistakes.
In our highly competitive media environment, some freelancers try too hard, others not enough. Neither may have misguided intentions. But the challenge in succeeding as a career freelancer is striking the right balance between confidence and growth, between what you know and what you can learn.
If you want to stand out to potential clients and publishers, you must convey that balance in your portfolio of work. You not only must showcase the work you’ve done, but position yourself for the work you want to do. Yes, it’s a dance — and it takes a little more self-awareness than most are comfortable with — but it’s a dance worth perfecting.
Follow these seven key mantras, or principles, while crafting your CV Portfolio, and you just might go a long way in catapulting your career as a freelancer.
Ninety percent of any job is just showing up. So your most important job as a freelancer is to prove you’ll “show up” and deliver. Thoughtfully write your personal bio, choose your best work, convey your value, and conceptualize your portfolio as a marquee for your own business.
Niche is the new norm. Unless you’re an established journalist with the education and experience to objectively cover any subject, most brands do not want generalists. Establish yourself as an expert in a particular genre or content type, and you’ll likely attract better clients.
Focus is your fire. How you approach your portfolio, and by extension, your work, can be gleaned in an instant by a potential client. Be smart and deliberate. Use language that would resonate with your ideal clients. Clarity matters more than creativity in expressing your value.
It can’t be said enough: Context is everything. Always describe your roles and contributions as objectively as possible. Be true to the work and honest to the outcome. Creative media is a collaborative process. You want to convey you’re a team player, not a megalomaniac.
Presentation counts. Show you’re invested in yourself by using the most thoughtful images, headlines, copy, and assets to represent your work. If you don’t care about your own work, what would lead a client to think you would care about theirs? Conscientiousness shows.
Put clients first. Although it might be counterintuitive, your portfolio shouldn’t be all about you, you, you. Ultimately, it’s about what you can do for clients. When describing your work, try to convey the value you provide to your clients. That’s how to convey professionalism.
Keep moving forward. Treat your portfolio as a living art exhibit that’s constantly evolving and attracting new patrons. Freshen your portfolio with your latest work and occasionally showcase older work in a new light or context. Don’t be afraid to be your own critic, or to change.
Be true. Be you.
All the best,
Former Director of Marketing, ClearVoice
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