Creative freelancers have an advantage over other types of service providers; you can easily show potential clients what you’re capable of when submitting a scope of work, quotation, or proposal template. Most creative designers do this with the use of a portfolio. Here is everything you should know about putting your freelance design portfolio together for the first time, as well as polishing up your existing portfolio for the best possible presentation!
There is a temptation to include every job you’ve ever done in your portfolio, but this may not be your best option. In fact, it’s best to really consider your USP (Unique Selling Proposal) and consider showcasing work that carefully aligns with this branding position. If you're amazing at creating such infographic templates, then you should definitely share them. If you want to differentiate yourself as a talented designer with a specific set of skills, make sure the bulk of your featured work is an example of this.
On the flipside, avoid showcase portfolio pieces for tasks you hate doing. Sure, you may be skilled in a particular software, but if you’re determined to not have to work with it again, it’s wise to avoid even offering it as an example in the first place. Make your portfolio reflect the work you want.
Be mindful of industry goals. For example, if you’re looking to attract clients in the non-profit space, feature work you’ve done with charities at the most prominent place on your portfolio site. If you’re hoping to get into green technology, look for work you’ve done that aligns with that mission (other tech projects or environmental design work, for example.)
Before you start thinking about how to build a design portfolio, keep in mind that the biggest challenge for a freelance portfolio is showcasing work you haven’t done yet. If you’re hoping to get into green tech, and you haven’t actually done anything in that space, you won’t have examples to show. Likewise, the newer designer will have a very limited set of samples to highlight and may feel that they have to display everything they’ve done – relevant, or not.
In truth, it’s sometimes better to show your best, most applicable work, then to appear that you’re more experienced. That’s because people reach out to designers who embody the work they are looking to have done. If they connect to your past projects (however scarce they seem to be), it will not matter that you don’t have 100’s of examples to show. One very relevant past project has more value to prospecting than a dozen that don’t quite hit the mark.
If you don’t have any professional samples that communicate your mission, it’s OK to do some samples for yourself. A few mock-ups in the desired tech, software, or style of your USP is always a good idea. It is never wasted time, as it also gives you additional practice in the skills you’ll need for future work!
While most freelancers assume that it’s always OK to showcase work you’ve done, it’s important to pay attention to privacy terms. Your graphic design contract should provide language that allows you to show screenshots or thumbnails of pages you’ve developed, for example. You should have no resistance to this, assuming they are a traditional business client. In fact, some will be happy to be featured by a talented freelancer, as it might send traffic to their business site, too!
There may be an instance in your career, where it isn’t possible, however. A government client or someone dealing with proprietary technology may not be comfortable having you feature them on their site. They may also be asking you to do work for them as a contractor who appears to operating under their corporate umbrella. To appear that all work is done in-house, they may have you agree to confidentially terms that state you cannot tell others you did their design work.
While this isn’t a common occurrence, it’s wise to get their terms up front and know exactly what you can and can’t share. If they don’t let you share their name or pictures of your work, you can always list them in a generic, non-identifiable way in your client list. Something like “automotive AI developer” – without naming their name – shows that you’ve worked in that industry and counts as experience. (Vague work still counts as work.)
Yes. There really is no realistic situation where a design portfolio would be a negative for your freelance business. Even if you are brand-new and have little work, it’s good to start building one right away. Whether you choose to prominently display it, however, is another issue.
Some new freelancers use their portfolio as an internal holding area for their work that they add to over time. They may choose to show it to prospects only after they get to the point of sending a proposal. While the eventual goal should be to have your portfolio open for anyone to see (preferably on your business website), you can choose to only supply your samples upon request. Eventually, you should have enough work or your own samples to prominently display to everyone at all times.
Opinions are mixed on the best way to create your design portfolio, and many ask how to make a graphic design portfolio to impress. The savviest freelancers can find a way to create a custom portfolio that utilizes the very technology they use in future client contracts. For the sake of time and effort, however, many just use some of the built-in portfolio features of typical web-site builders to display thumbnails and descriptions of their work.
Common ways designers build and host their own portfolios include:
You can also use the existing technology for a marketplace site to create your portfolio. These options are usually already set up to easily upload your designs and descriptions, plus you will be featured alongside thousands of successful freelancers, too. Many businesses looking for designers check here first. You don’t have to worry about hosting fees or optimizing SEO for search.
The negatives to having a site host your work like this is that they do have the right to share some of your portfolio. They also are the ones responsible for keeping your work displayed. If they change their business model down the road, or go out of business altogether, your portfolio will go with them. You will then need to recreate what you’ve done on their site for your own needs. (That’s why it is highly recommended you make a copy of everything you share on a hosted portfolio site.)
Some freelancers also believe that self-hosted options (WordPress, etc.) are more professional. Putting a custom domain with your URL on your business card instead of a Dribbble URL, for example, may give a better impression to new prospects.
Regardless of where you host your portfolio, there are some basic questions you should ask before you place any of your work to be featured. Your work should meet most (if not all) of these requirements to make the cut:
As you advance in your design career, you’ll continually add more work (and remove other work) to craft the perfect branding message you want to impress upon visitors. Just be sure to be selective in what you showcase. A portfolio is, after all, a curated selection of your best talents. Use that space for only your most amazing projects.
Use Bonsai and apply your branding to proposals, contracts, and invoices - sign up for a free trial today.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?