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3 Ways Designers And Creatives Can Use Portfolios to Boost Their Success

Community Manager
Lena E Community Manager Member Since: Apr 7, 2015
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There are two things that can really clinch new projects for creative freelancers, whether you specialize in UX design, graphic design, video production, or voiceover work:

  • A stand-out profile that highlights your professionalism, skills, and talent
  • A polished portfolio that grabs a client’s attention and showcases your work at its best

That’s why Upwork is rolling out two new features to help freelancers and agencies differentiate themselves from the competition: Specialized profiles that can be used to pitch specific creative skills to new clients, and a new emphasis on portfolios in search results.

Specialized profiles for design and creative skills

Your work history can be critical to securing new clients, but highlighting the right information when you’re pitching for more specialized projects can be a challenge—especially in this competitive category.

Specialized profiles are available to all design and creative freelancers and agencies, and can be used in addition to your general profile. This means you can have one general profile that captures your broad range of experience and up to two specialized profiles that more effectively highlight a specific niche for clients looking for that particular expertise.

With a specialized profile, you can:

  • Customize sections such as your title, overview, skills, and work history to focus specifically on the services you want to offer
  • Set a rate that reflects your expertise in this particular area

Get more tips to help you create a profile that stands out >>

Now in the spotlight: Your portfolio

Did you know that creative professionals who have a solid portfolio on their Upwork profile can earn three times more than those who don’t?

As a creative, your body of work can be the lynchpin that secures new projects. It reflects not just the breadth of your skills and expertise but also your ability to bring your clients’ visions to life. Your portfolio is the perfect place to showcase the best of your work, and many clients will use your portfolio as a basis to help decide whether they want to hire you for a project.

Given their importance, Upwork search results will soon feature images from your portfolio, whether you’re an individual freelancer or member of an agency.

But it’s best to set up your specialized profile first! Once you have created a specialized profile and added a portfolio, the cover image from your first project within your portfolio will be displayed as part of search results.

If you have not yet created a specialized profile, the first project from your general profile portfolio will be displayed. And if you don’t have a portfolio yet, a placeholder image will be presented.

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 6.43.54 PM.png


How to use your portfolio to your best advantage

Remember to keep your profile updated with your best and latest work. This means that, once a client gives you permission to showcase a finished project, you can add it to your portfolio for potential clients to see.

Here are three tips that can help you leverage your creative portfolio in the best way to get more profile views, more high-quality job invites, and possibly even be featured on the Upwork homepage for additional visibility.

1. Focus on quality and relevance

When selecting portfolio items to showcase in your specialized profile, choose the pieces of work most relevant to that specific category of work. You can add up to 20 portfolio items to your general profile, so you can include projects that cover different aspects of your expertise.

For example, if you’re building a portfolio for a specialized profile focused on video production, feature your best video work. You can avoid unrelated projects such as illustration or graphic design—save those for your general profile. However, you can also include work-in-progress examples to help illustrate your design process.

Use clear, high-quality images with high resolution for each portfolio item you add. Try to frame and edit images to utilize the maximum space and provide a consistent viewing experience from one project to the next.

Select a cover image for each project that is captivating, relevant, and puts your best work front and center. The cover images you choose for the top four projects are particularly important—especially the first one. Remember, the cover image from the first project will be displayed in search results whenever your profile appears in search results for that skill set!

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 6.44.18 PM.png
High-quality imagery in a freelancer’s portfolio (Kathleen B., Web Design)

2. Provide relevant information for each portfolio item

To give clients a clear understanding of your role in a project, provide as much information about each portfolio item as possible. You can start by adding a brief descriptive project title such as the client’s name and the deliverable you were responsible for.

As a next step, add relevant skill tags to each project and take the opportunity to link your portfolio projects with your Work History on Upwork. This can help build your reputation and credibility with prospective clients.

In each project description, write a brief summary of the project, including the scope of work, how you solved the client’s problem, and maybe a client testimonial. You can also highlight the skills or tools you used to help create a great outcome for the client.

Example of a detailed project description in a freelancer’s portfolio section (Ivan Z., UX / UI Design)

3. Leverage the power of video

Images are a common choice for portfolios, but some services can be effectively showcased using video, such as animation, video editing, and voice talent. Consider adding a highlight video reel to your portfolio.

When including a video within your portfolio, don’t forget to add a title and description that reference your roles in the production or post-production process (i.e., editor, motion graphics designer, producer, etc.). Try to keep any videos under two minutes long.

If your specialty is voiceover or audio production, you can also use video for your non-visual content.

Currently, videos can’t be uploaded to your Upwork profile directly, but you can embed videos from Youtube and Vimeo so clients can view them directly within Upwork.

Example of a video file showcased in a freelancer’s portfolio (Joseph P., Videographer / 2D Animation)

Example of audio work showcased in a freelancer’s portfolio using video (Ioannis K., Audio Production)

A special tip for agencies

Here’s a tip if you own an agency: Don’t forget to include projects from multiple agency members in your agency’s portfolio to help ensure it’s an aggregation of the agency’s best work.

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 6.45.00 PM.png
Agency profile showing the breadth of projects done by agency members (Wow-How Studio, Animation)

Want to learn more about making the most of your portfolio?

Portfolios are critical to design and creative work, but they can also help you market just about any other type of service you offer. Read more about general best practices to create a more successful portfolio regardless of your skillset.