We’ve talked about creating a portfolio for a full time job, but what about freelancers? The number one feedback I got from the previous article is that I’m right about the differences in the two job types. Where full time jobs usually go to people who can showcase that they can solve problems, freelancer need to showcase that they are visually stronger.

In order to understand how to create a portfolio that will work for freelancers, we first need to look at the market and different types of freelancers.

Let’s look at the types of freelancers first. How I see it, there are two types of UX Design Freelancers. One will work in the office with other people at specific company and will usually get the work through an agency, and the other will work mostly remote, getting jobs on his own. He (or she) will do UX Design, but will also do all the business work himself.

When we talk about Freelancers that work through an agency I believe that the article discussing the full employment will be the right approach, but when we talk about freelancers that run their own businesses, a strong website will do more.

The other thing that is important to understand is the nature of the market.

I went through pages like Toptal, Upwork, LinkedIn … and saw practically no jobs for a specialized UX Designer. All the ads were for professionals that were generalist and could cover more topics at the same time. They might lack the in-depth knowledge, but that doesn’t seem matter to the clients. They search for people that can deliver the finished product.

For these clients the most important thing is to see online what you can do. They’ll be working with you online anyhow and how you present yourself in that space, is more important than your social skills. Soft skills are of course important, but not as nearly as they are in case you’re looking for the full time job. Freelance jobs are usually shorter term jobs that offer you a lot of flexibility, but expect you to be able to run a one-man-show. This should be reflected in your portfolio.

Structure of a UX Portfolio for a Freelancer

The biggest difference in the portfolios between someone who wants to get full employment and someone who wants to work as freelancers is the visual presentation. Where the PDF portfolio needs structure, consistency and very clear showcase of problem solving skills, the website needs clear navigation, visual beauty, pixel perfect design, storytelling, and quantity of projects to showcase.

First start with your website and focus on these:

  • Your website should be your story – show clients who you are
  • Have simple and intuitive navigation
  • Clear CTA (call to action) is a must
  • Add links to social media, make it easier for people to find you and connect with you
  • Portfolio part can have as many projects as you like – I wouldn’t go over 15
  • Make sure there is 0 bugs
  • Test, test, test the page before you publish – go for usability
  • Design should reflect the industry you want to work in – page for games will obviously be different from the page for banking

Once you are happy with the website, continue with the portfolio part. No matter how you present all projects, each should have similar structure when clicked on.

Structure of the project page

  1. Description of the project
  2. Web address to the live/published version – if possible
  3. Final project visualization – mockups or photos
  4. Rewards – if any
  5. Conclusion/Takeaways

When I was searching for good portfolios online, it wasn’t too hard finding visually pleasing websites filled with projects, but it was quite hard finding examples of combination of visual design and functionality. Below are two examples that have both, the second even more than the first.

Fumiko Yu’s Portfolio

Kelly Kim

.Last but not least, look at the website of UX/UI Designer Zach Kuzmic. His portfolio is simple and jet complex with content. Visually it’s nothing special, and yet the UX of it and strong colors call for a drill down to different projects.

Zach Kuzmic

No matter which way you want to go, remember it’s not about having the nicest visuals, it’s a combination of presentation, usability, storytelling, and great projects.

Frequently asked questions about the Freelance portfolio

1. Are you sure having a Behance page is not enough?

Oh, I never said that! Of course you can just use Behance. But, in your case I’d suggest having both and using the same principle as the full time UXer. Add everything to Behance to connect, network, and to build up a name, and have a website with you absolute best.

2. How can I convince people that it’s great working with me?

Do you have any recommendations? Short and on point recommendations will help you getting better jobs. But make sure you NEVER use generic or made up recommendations.

3. Do I really need to post my contact details? Isn’t contact for enough?

Sorry, yes, you do have to post the details online. Really. First of all clients might be interested in who you are generally, they might want to check online if you have a bad reputation, and last but not least, they might need to know where you’re located. A 12h difference might pose a problem for some or they might want to work with people in specific parts of the world because that makes it easier for their business.

4. Which free website creator can I use for my portfolio?

I would highly recommend that you buy a domain and get a proper website. You are a freelancer and you charge big money for your services (you should at least) and your website should reflect that. I don’t mind themes. This page is a theme, and I’ve made it my own, but I would not use the free version of WordPress with an URL myawesomename.wordpress.com or any other free provider that gives you an option to host your website on their subdomain. It costs you usually less than 50 EUR per year to have your own domain and hosting, sometimes way less. You are worth more than a free subdomain name. Be proud of your work and have your own shinny page.

5. I use myname@gmail. Is that a problem?

This question is highly connected with question number 4. If you have your own domain, have an email on that domain. It is usually free and takes you 1 minute to create. Believe me, I’m not a tech type and I managed to set my own hosting and emails. It. is. not. that. hard. Having a Gmail mail for professional use will make a bad first impression.

6. Do you have more questions? Post them in comments and I’ll answer asap.

Until next time,

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Comments to: UX Portfolio for freelancers
  • […] and apparently also in the UX community around the world. I’ve given you my two cents in Portfolio for Freelancers and UX Portfolio for a full time job, so what else is there to talk about? Well, how to break the […]

  • September 6, 2017

    Excellent work, Pia. I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head and differentiated how a freelance designer needs to stand out to potential clients. Keep up the good work!

  • June 25, 2018

    I agree with you that the website is “must have” for freelance. Also, I would say that via Upwork, or for working remotely the ux’er must have plus another skill as a graphic design or development or voice interface design.

    • June 26, 2018

      Hey Natalia! Yes, you are right. UX design is hard to sell as a freelancer, usually a good match is UI as you can present the whole design to them. 🙂 Unfortunately my experience is that in these cases, the UX seems to be a less desired part of the project.


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