There are many great reasons why you should become a freelancer. Setting your own schedule, increasing to income potential, and that feeling of being “your own boss” are just some of the reasons why people switch to freelancing. And if I haven’t emphasized it yet, freelancing can be a very lucrative career path!
That being said, just like with any career path, starting out with freelancing is not that easy as setting up your profile picture and splashing pitches to different job or project offers here and there.
One of the challenges for anyone who is starting out with freelancing is their lack of portfolio. This is especially compounded if you also don’t have a job experience on the field (e.g. you’re a student who wants to freelance to supplement his/her income or you came from a different field than the one you’re freelancing for).
Because of this, some new freelancers struggle or even quit freelancing at all. At the back of their minds, “How can I get clients and win jobs if I don’t even have a portfolio to show for?”
If the lack of portfolio is keeping you from freelancing, then this article will help you overcome it. This applies to UX/UI freelancers just as it applies to fields such as graphic design, writing, and even marketing.
If you’re struggling to get clients because you don’t have a portfolio or don’t know how to get started because you don’t have any portfolio to show for yourself, keep on reading!
4 Tips on How to Get a Freelance Job Even If You Don’t Have a Portfolio
1) Offer to work for free
If you’re into freelancing, you’ve probably heard about this advice. It goes something like, “Work for free until you build your portfolio”.
If you’re starting out and you don’t really have any portfolio to show for, working for free can be your best way to entry. This is because clients will mostly accept you since they have nothing to lose for if you messed up – other than the time, perhaps. Needless to say, do your best in your free (and first) gig and make the best impression possible!
But here’s what you need to remember: you don’t need to work for free forever. Many people get stuck in the “work for free” mentality that they still hesitate to charge their clients even if they have 7 or 8 projects on their belt. Don’t get stuck on working for free. Once you’ve done at least one or two projects, you should be able to charge your clients since you already have a portfolio to show for. You don’t need to have 5 projects done before you can charge your clients – in fact, having one project done is good enough as a portfolio!
Note: If you’re getting clients from freelancing websites, be sure to know about their rules on “work for free” practices. Some freelancing websites like Upwork bans this practice and you’ll be banned (perhaps, together with your client) even if you like to work for free.
2) Be honest about your lack of portfolio
Working for free is one way to get onboard the freelancing ship, but it’s certainly not the only way! You can get started on entry-level jobs and be paid on your first project. But here’s the catch: even entry-level jobs tend to ask for portfolio!
So, what to do about it? How to pitch to your client if you don’t have any portfolio to show for?
I saw this video from Dan Lok, and it’s a pretty simple way to approach your client about your lack of portfolio: just be honest about it.
Be honest to your client that you don’t have a portfolio, and be honest that he or she is your first client. But let your client know that you’re willing to do your best for their project and, in return, ask them to give you a good review if you did a good job.
3) Make your profile as professional as possible
Even though you’re just starting out, make the best impression possible by making your profile as professional as possible. Check your profile bio’s grammar, be sure to add all relevant skills, and have a professional photo as your profile picture.
It’s one thing to lack a portfolio, but if your profile – something that you can totally work on – is messy (i.e. bad grammar, no profile picture), then do not expect that clients will get to trust you.
4) Try different freelancing websites
Some people start out by focusing on one freelancing website only. While this is more practical compared to juggling on different freelancing websites, signing up and trying different freelance websites opens you to more opportunities and possibilities. For example, you’ll be open to more freelancing jobs if you sign up to two or more freelancing website than if you stick only to one.
That being said, you don’t need to sign up to every freelancing website, but don’t stick to just one or two. As a general rule, if the freelancing website/s that you signed up for isn’t working for you, then you might want to explore to new freelancing platforms.
Final Thoughts: Your Lack of Portfolio Is Not the End of Your Freelancing Goals
Contrary to what many people fear, the lack of portfolio will not stop you from getting your first freelance job – and ultimately, to live the freelancing life that you’ve probably dreamed for! In fact, in the bigger picture, portfolio does not really even matter. So long as you have the work ethic, commitment, and ability to produce the results that your client wants, you will succeed in freelancing!