Start a Freelance Business With No Professional Examples

by Rachel Goldstein

So you want to freelance? What should you do if you have no professional examples to place in your portfolio?

When I got out of college. I had an entire portfolio full of Bryce 3-D graphic images. Believe it or not, I was trying to get a graphic design job with these images. The problem was, it did not matter how good these images were, they were not "Graphic Design" images, they were "computer graphics" images. There is a big difference. No matter what type of freelancer you want to be, whether it is a graphic designer, web designer, writer, or whatever, find out what your niche is first.

I am going to use graphic design as an example, but this also goes for writers, programmers, etc. No matter what job you are applying for, only place examples in your portfolio that correspond with what job you are applying for. For example, if you decide that you want to apply for a graphic design position, place examples of brochures, newsletters, mailers, catalogs, and other examples that correspond with the job that you are applying for. You wouldn't want to fill your portfolio with illustrations, 3D renderings, sketches, etc. It is okay to have one example of your illustrative skills, and one of your 3D rendering skills, but that is all that I would add.

There are several ways that you can build up your portfolio:

Dummy Samples - Create fictitious examples of your work. Create dummy brochures, newsletters, logos, and other pieces to demonstrate your range of skills. Even though this seems such a waste of your time, you can use these documents as templates for real projects that you will have in the future.

Non-Profit Organizations - Volunteer your services for free to local community organizations where you live. This is a great way to build up your portfolio. Look in your phone book for religious, educational, social, and political organizations. Make sure that you inform the client that as payment you insist on having your business name and phone number on the finished piece (and if you have a website url, this should be printed on the finished product too). This is very fair. Hopefully you will reach potential clients with your first publication.

Friends - Surely you must have relatives or friends that have a small business. Volunteer your skills out to your friend or family member. Make sure not to get yourself into a situation where this friend expects you always to work for free. Explain up front that this is for free only with the first project. Again, insist that your business name, phone number, and website url are printed somewhere on the finished product.

Web Search - Do a search on the web for websites that you feel could use your service. Look for bad design layouts. If you consider yourself a web designer offer to redesign the website for free. If you are a graphic designer, offer to design this company's brochure or flyers. Don't offer your free services out to everyone until you get a "yes" or "no" response; otherwise you might get ten "yes" answers.

Place Your Profile on Freelance Sites - In another few weeks we are starting a service where we will place your profile on all of the freelance sites with one form .... keep your eye out for this. We also are going to launch a freelance jobs search engine so you can search all freelance job sites with one form. We will keep you posted