How to Create a Freelance Marketing Portfolio

The best way to amplify your application for that amazing contract marketing gig is to have a killer freelance marketing portfolio.

The gig economy is becoming the norm for businesses in the United States. Currently, 36% of U.S. workers are now working as freelancers. Moreover, at the current rate of growth, it is expected that more than 50% of workers will be freelancing by 2027. While the practice of using a remote, contract workforce is now commonplace, that does mean that the field has become more competitive.

A well-rounded and well-presented marketing portfolio is an excellent way to set yourself apart from other freelancers vying for the same gig. It can also help you command a higher rate as a desirable candidate.

Let’s break down the components of a winning marketing portfolio.

What is a Marketing Portfolio?

You may be thinking: “I have a great resume. Why do I need a portfolio?”

The primary purpose of a portfolio is to take an additional step beyond what you can convey in a one- to two-page resume. A resume says what you can do, while a portfolio shows what you can do.

A marketing portfolio provides visual proof through a collection of case studies, references, and work samples of projects you have completed in the recent past. You can present your portfolio as a printed and bound document, as a digital PDF or eBook, or as an entire website.

I prefer printed or eBook documents for portfolios when recruiting new freelance marketers. That format is clean, easy to navigate, and I can file them away in contractor records. I don’t have to chase down a link.

What Should I Include in a Marketing Portfolio?

Before you start to spiral through the dark depths of overwhelm, let me assure you that putting together a portfolio is pretty straightforward. A little dedicated legwork upfront, and you can supplement and add new content every six months to a year.

When you’re building your portfolio in a printed document or an eBook, you want to have these essential components:

  1. A Cover Page
  2. A Table of Contents
  3. A Current Resume
  4. Five to Six Work Samples
  5. Awards & Recognition
  6. References & Testimonials
  7. Contact Information

Let’s take a moment to talk about items 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, and then we’ll do a deep dive into your work samples.

Your cover page can be designer/graphic centric, or simple, straightforward text. As a marketer, keep in mind that most hiring managers will want you to have an eye for design. How you present yourself is a representation of how you will present them. Canva has several presentation cover templates to use. Just make sure to check your dimensions if you are opting for a print portfolio versus only an eBook format portfolio.

Make sure you include a table of contents. I have seen portfolios that range from 10 to 100 pages. Most of the portfolios I see fall somewhere in the middle. While that amount of heft tends to speak toward an experienced marketer, it can be tedious to sort through every little thing. Having that table of contents shows clarity of thought and attention to detail.

Your resume and contact information page are relatively straightforward, make sure it’s up to date and matches any other copies of your resume that you’ve already sent to the prospective client while discussing this gig.

Include any awards or recognition you’ve earned on your own or as part of a team throughout your career.

Every hiring manager is going to (or should) ask for your references. Demonstrate initiative by including quoted testimonials and reference contacts. Ideally, these quotes will come directly from your documented reference contacts so they can be easily verified.

How Do I Choose Work Samples for my Marketing Portfolio?

Now for the meat and potatoes of your portfolio – the work samples. Most marketers are going to come across two challenges in this process: Either you have too many options to choose from or not enough.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least one case study for each primary skill you offer. For example, social media content development is different than social media ad management – so you would have one case study for each. Also, search engine optimization is different from blogging. The list goes on. So, select five to six skill categories that you do very well and choose the best project case study for each of those skill categories.

If you find yourself at the beginning of your career, it is acceptable to use the same client in multiple case studies if you are focusing on different skill categories or a different project. Just make sure that as your experience grows, you swap out some of those work samples for a new client.

Once you have established your five to six categories and selected your successful work samples for each – it’s time to do your write-ups. Each case study should be one to three pages – no more. We’re just looking for the basics, not every single thing that happened.

Use this format for all of your case studies to maintain consistency and a streamlined presentation:

  1. Name the project.
  2. Tell about the client – one paragraph at most.
  3. List the project objectives.
  4. Describe your process and rationale – use links and images from the project if possible.
  5. List the results and your analysis.

This information will provide the hiring manager with insight on how you approach a project, and how you define success. This benchmark will help them determine if you’re the right freelancer for their business or organization.

What Should I Leave Out of my Marketing Portfolio?

As any good marketer knows, what you leave out of a presentation is just as important as what you include.

For your portfolio – the main thing to consider is your agreement with the clients you want to reference. Did you include a statement in your previous contracts that you could use that information on your website or in a portfolio? If not, you’ll want to get express permission. If you are referencing experience as an employee, you’ll want to check with your former employer. The last thing that you want to do is to use proprietary information in a portfolio.

You’ll also want to get rid of any case studies that are more than five years old. In the marketing industry, technology and best practices change at break-neck speed. If all or most of your work samples are dated – you probably won’t get the gig. The point of the portfolio is to show that you can use current resources for great results. Be sure that your case studies reflect that.

Finally, grammatical errors are not acceptable in a portfolio. Use a tool like Grammarly to make sure that your copy is tight and error-free.

Do You Have Questions About Creating a Marketing Portfolio?

If you have questions about creating a marketing portfolio, feel free to reach out in the comments!

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