Choosing your portfolio as a web freelancer: Focus on what matters | Evan Kimbrell | Skillshare

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Choosing your portfolio as a web freelancer: Focus on what matters

teacher avatar Evan Kimbrell, Director at Sprintkick

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Welcome to the class!

    • 2. First thing to do

    • 3. Building portfolios upfront

    • 4. Tricks to grow your portfolio faster

    • 5. Thoughts about portfolios

    • 6. Finding free work with Catchafire

    • 7. Keep the learning going

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About This Class

A lot of people struggle with their portfolios and it's no wonder because let's face it - building your official portfolio sits low on the procrastination list (see what I did there) - somewhere between updating your iTunes library and cleaning out the basement. Getting started can be a total pain in the -

Your portfolio is the eye to your bank account balance. We want to make sure that you're maximizing what you've got while minimizing that gap between amateur and established.

Maybe you already have a portfolio or maybe you've got nothin'. You might have too many portfolio items or you might have too little. Regardless, this class will help you choose the best way to build and choose those items from a client perspective. You'll be given a basic framework for how to understand your portfolio along with growth hacks and other strategies - and yes, there are strategies to this seemingly easy yet awful thing. Let's get it over with, shall we? 

What you'll learn:

  • Tips and hacks for growing your portfolio faster
  • What clients look for
  • Common mistakes people make
  • How to find free work to add to your portfolio

What you'll do:

You're going to play (constructive) critic by scouting for portfolios that need improvement. If you want to scout for impressive portfolios instead that's fine too. Browsing through portfolios will help you brainstorm how you want yours to look, feel, what to include, how to format etc. It also helps to check out the competition. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Evan Kimbrell

Director at Sprintkick


Hi, I'm Evan Kimbrell.

Thanks for checking out my classes.

Currently, I'm the Founder, Director of Sprintkick, a referral-based full service digital agency based out of San Francisco. Over the past 4 years, I've overseen the development and launch of over 100 web and mobile apps. Clients range from 1-2 man startups bootstrapping their initial idea to multibillion dollar Fortune 100's like Wal-Mart, Dick's Sporting Goods, & GNC.

Prior to Sprintkick, I worked as a VC for a firm called Juvo Capital, based out of L.A. I spearheaded the firm's expansion into the Silicon Valley deal flow and into the Consumer Web tech category.

Before working for Juvo, in the long, long ago, I was a co-founder for an educational software startup called ScholarPRO that raised a ton ... See full profile

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1. Welcome to the class!: Hey, guys, I'm Evan Kimbrell, and I'm the director at Sprint Kick, which is a Web and mobile development studio based out of San Francisco, California In this class, we're gonna tackle one of the biggest problems, but most rarely addressed problems for Web freelancers. How do you build and choose your portfolio now? It's probably not a huge surprise to say that what you show off in your portfolio is a huge determinant and whether or not you close a sale, whether or not you get a project or whether or not you make a collaboration or partnership . But how do you go about choosing what goes in it and what are strategies for building it special if you're in the case where you don't have a lot of portfolio items to work, a lot of beginning freelancers struggle with this. They don't know what to choose to put in their portfolio, and they don't really know how to target potentially good portfolio items. This is a real quick and easy class. I'm gonna introduce to you a basic framework for how to understand your portfolio. I'm also going to impart some of my experience as to what works and what doesn't with this information? Hopefully you couldn't go and have a more stress free experience building your portfolio. Do this class. We're gonna fun project. It's actually a little bit like a scavenger hunt. We're gonna look for bad portfolios. You're gonna go and find them and tell me why you don't like them and why they're bad. Alright, guys, I hope you're excited to take this class and I won't see you inside. 2. First thing to do: Hey, guys, welcome back to the class. So I have an assignment for you really quickly. I want this to be the first thing you dio eso at the bottom of the skill share page. It says discussions, the clip discussions, and then you can click new post. I want you right now to go and do that and introduce yourself. You don't have to tell me a lot of information. You can just say your name or your from. But what I'd like to actually hear from you is one. What do you struggling with? And to what are you looking to get out of the class? I think this is something that helped immensely with the class. I really like to make my classes as engaging as possible. I respond to everyone, and I want to make sure that as I'm teaching, I'm meeting your goals and I know exactly what I'm trying to fix. Okay, so this is the first thing. Just go down to the bottom of the page. Do that now. Don't skip it. You can skip it if you want, but I think you'll miss out. All right. Seeing the next lecture 3. Building portfolios upfront: Hey, guys, welcome back to the course. So let's talk about portfolios. I'm gonna answer the question. How important is your portfolio? You probably thought, in your head. Yes, it's very important. Evan, we know this, but I really just want to talk a little bit about why they're important, Um, and better ways of thinking about it. So portfolios are obviously very, very big. If, since you're new to Web development or maybe you are just knew in general, you probably haven't noticed that every single freelancer has at least some form of a portfolio. That's the way that we show clients what we're capable of and who we work with. Now, it's no exaggeration to say that if you do not have a portfolio, you probably will not make a sale. The exception to this is if you make a sale through some sort of an inside connection inside connections, maybe they don't need a portfolio. So now that we've pretty much gotten out of the way, you need to have some form of a portfolio. Let's talk a little bit about what clients look for now. There are a lot of big things that clients look for and the more important ones are the things that are actually happening subconsciously, things that they're not consciously looking for or thinking about. So the three things that I have noticed over and over again clients first look to see whether or not you have consistent high quality across your portfolio. Then they're gonna look for whether or not they recognize any of the applications or sites that you have in it on. And then after that, they're gonna look to see if there's any example in your portfolio that is similar to what they're doing, either in some technical regard, design regard or just in general. OK, so the first thing that they look at is is their consistent quality across your portfolio. Now, why is that worth pointing out? If I look at five websites or APS you made, I'm going to expect that each one is going to be consistent and how good they are, How functional, How pretty they are now. If I were to look at 51 is fantastic. One is terrible. And then three or Okay, what is that signal to me, it signals to me that I don't actually know what I'm going to get right because one out of five chances say that you're gonna come back to something terrible and 60% of the time when I come back with something that's OK. So typically clients, whether not they recognize us, they're more interested in whether not they can see, that you constantly produce the same quality. Now it's better to have slightly lower quality that's consistent, then, to have quality that's all over the board. When you have quality, that's all over the board in your portfolio. They just don't know what to think Now. The second thing is, do they recognize any of the apse? If they do, that's a huge plus for you. Um, for some reason, there's just some psychological effect going on that when they know you've built something that they use, they feel like all of a sudden you are much more substantial. You are much, much more capable than you really are. Not to say that you're not capable. It's just that for some reason, if I know that you've built something that affects my life already or affects lots of other people, I'm obviously gonna put you on a much higher pedestal. now, the last thing was, they're gonna look for things that specifically apply to their project. That's obviously a smart thing for them to do, right, Because if you can build something similar to what they want you to build, chances are you can build whatever that is. They're asking for much more effectively. That is something. Honestly, when you even look for subcontractors, look for people that have done work before. That's similar to what you work on or what you're hiring them for now. If you took the strategy of picking a specific needs to go after, then you're probably in luck in this category because they're probably to see something that similar that what they want you to build. Now, if you did a more generalized strategy, you're probably at a disadvantage. But in general, if you pick a wide spread of different things, you might get lucky and they might find something. It also is the case that a lot of times will specifically ask for something, or if you're in a actual contact with them, you can show them something that similar. Now just be aware at the very beginning of this whole process, you're gonna be a huge disadvantage. But I'm gonna share pretty much all the hacks I know that you can use to get to a point where you know you're not at a huge disadvantage anymore. Now, one big take away I want you to get from this lecture is that a lot of people don't realize this. But almost all big companies out there, how much all perspective clients are only going to show 5 to 10 portfolio items, and on the client side, they're going only gonna look at maybe 5 to 10 portfolio items. Now, what does that mean? That means that you, the upstart, maybe with no portfolio at all, you actually only need to get to that range after which that point, there's not a huge advantage to being a large, established company, at least in terms of portfolio. A lot of companies out there have hundreds of thing of portfolio items. They're not gonna show all of it. It's unrealistic to show it, and even if they do, clients don't look at that many. The biggest vintage they have is that they can pick 5 to 10 that have consistent quality and probably have some type of name recognition or they picked probably their best projects . So keep that in mind. You do not need 100 portfolio items to establish the same amount of trust that you can get with 5 to 10. So that's a big advantage for you. And just keep in mind, I You just need to get to the 5 to 10 range. Okay? Any questions posting the group discussion and the next lecture going to keep this going, we're gonna talk a little bit more about easy ways to fill your portfolio and how to tackle that. 4. Tricks to grow your portfolio faster: Hey, guys, Welcome back in this lecture, we're gonna cover some of my favorite kind of tips and hacks for growing your portfolio much faster at the very beginning on to close that gap between established firms and you, your upstart, in a much quicker amount of time. So this is one of those things that, like you, would not have the slightest idea about this unless you have some experience in development already. So what are the very biggest issues when you're starting out? Your development business is that clients almost immediately will ask for a portfolio or some kind of statement of work, something that shows what you've built before. Your response probably is going to be something along the lines of hoops. Now, a lot of people, they just quit right there. Because realistically, if you can't prove that you built something before, well, then it's really hard to land a contract. Now, what a lot of people don't realize is that there's some really easy ways to build out a portfolio. We're gonna cover more techniques later in this section, but we're gonna go over a couple of my favorites right now, So number one and This is one that no one realizes this. You can list your own projects Now. What I mean by this, you probably have projects from the past that you were part of you built yourself you had built for you. You are part of the team. For now, you can list those as your portfolio. Why? Well, because presumably you had an intimate relationship with the application, and the final product quality had a lot to do with you. Now, why is that acceptable? Well, when people this portfolios, they list their portfolio items in totality, they list a website that they worked on, right? But you don't know exactly what they did on that website. A lot of times, we'll annotate it. That's probably what you should do is well. But you have to understand, if you participated in that project, it's worth posting it just to show you're part of that team. You released high enough caliber toe work with that group, Um or at least to show that you know, at least this portion of it is from me. Now you can list on your portfolio what exactly you did. But you also don't really need to scream that you didn't build it yourself from scratch 90% of a time. Clients won't even really ask you, because it's not a huge concern to them. If they ask, you just specify what exactly you did. War. If you want, avoid that entirely. Then just post it along with your portfolio. Now I did this with my side projects when I started. I had done a lot of outsourcing projects previously, and so obviously I can show off what I've built because clearly I'm capable of rebuilding that in the future. That's the point. Portfolios are basically like snapshots of what you're capable of making. Now. If you follow the subcontracting path, another thing you can do is that you can use your contractors portfolio. They personally have things that they have built. And so it's realistic to say this is something that I can build, assuming that you're going to be using that contractor at the very beginning of Sprint kick , I worked with a firm and the firm would tackle entire projects for me. So it made sense to show what they can build, considering that what I'm offering is the M plus me again. What's important is that you show what you can do, not necessarily what exactly you have built yourself Now. At the very beginning, this could be kind of a growth hack. It's something that you can use to out of the gate. Have something to show. Obviously, it's not going to be perfect, right? Unless you're working with a contractor for the long term, and they have an amazing portfolio. But it's something at the very beginning. That'll do. It's a kind of a stopgap strategy over time. Realistically, what you should do is start curating your portfolio, start cycling out the items that you did not do the entirety of, um, and focus more on better projects, projects that you did kind of in totality over time. Also, you're gonna start pruning it a little bit. You're gonna look for consistency in your portfolio items. You start getting really picky as you build more and more projects. But the very beginning, this is perfectly fine. It's great to get smaller contracts or lower pressure contracts pretty much up front 5. Thoughts about portfolios: So in this lecture, we're gonna dive a little bit deeper into portfolios, and we're gonna talk about what are the common mistakes that everybody seems to make when they're picking their portfolio and putting it together? Now, you might just want to take every single thing you've ever done and stick it into a portfolio. And that's kind of an amateur mistake. Don't worry that I just called you an amateur. I did that, too. I took everything I could possibly think of, stuffed it into a pdf, and that was my portfolio. Now, why do I say this? Because portfolios are kind of tricky. Psychologically, when you look at someone's portfolio or someone looks at yours, they're automatically going to judge you by your worst item. That is kind of the assumption across the board that people will make your worst portfolio item is probably representative of what they're gonna get from you now. That night. That's not necessarily true, but that's what they think, right? And this kind of comes back to like what we talked about the previous electrify five portfolio items and one of them is terrible. Why would I work with someone that one out of five times produces something that's very low quality. Now I can imagine that, like if you had five portfolio items and four were phenomenal and one was terrible, what would you think? You might be ecstatic that the four were great, but also, realistically, you're probably worried like what happened with that 5th 1 So when you pile everything in together, you have no control over the consistency of the quality. Um, and what ends up happening is they're always just gonna take the worst item. So it's better to take a smaller portfolio that's curated, um, and presented in a positive way. So keep in mind, pick the better ones, keep a smaller group that you show off. And like we talked about before, consistency is key. Make sure that whatever you show is consistent in quality. Now, another thing that you need to keep in mind about with portfolios. If you're doing a development project, people, when they look at development portfolios automatically biased towards good graphic design, and that's completely irrational. From our perspective. Poor graphic design or poor user experience will, no matter how hard and technologically advanced the APP is, it will make it look bad. Unfortunately, people always think that good design means good app. Even some of the most experienced people out there when selecting providers make this basic mistake. Because remember, at the end of the day, the person making the purchasing decision there also consumer, and they're probably going to pick something that looks good to the end consumer because they want a good in product. So if you have the option, pick ones that look good over ones that show off your technical prowess. Now the client specifically asked for something that looks complicated or specific to their use case. Then you can provide it to them. You can also pre emptively do this when you know someone's looking at your portfolio, you can send that to them. You can see design polish, but it's very hard to see technical prowess. So at first, focus on simpler but better looking items. And as you get more and more portfolio items to choose from, you can expand from simpler into more complex as long as you keep the consistency of quality of the same so main takeaways. Keep your portfolio small. Be aware of what the worst item in your group is. And if you have to choose pick ones that are simpler but look better technologically advanced sites, they don't. It's not immediately obvious that they are so technologically advanced. 6. Finding free work with Catchafire: in this lecture, we're gonna cover some opportunities to get portfolio items done quickly. Now, this is an option. We're gonna go over. That's essentially you do it for free. Now. A lot of people know that at very beginning your portfolio is of the utmost concern. And it's even so important that you might want to do a couple small projects for free, but they don't know where to start. So in this lecture, we're gonna cover some opportunities and places to look for projects that can be taken over projects that can be made and then projects that could be ultimately included in your portfolio and how to go about doing that. So let's go to screen cast. Later on, we're gonna talk about tagging and one of the strategies of finding people who need free work in exchange for tagging. And that's a marketing strategy. But as a strategy for building your portfolio, a lot of times you kind of have this chicken and egg problem right. It's very hard to build your portfolio without your portfolio. Why would someone trust you if you have nothing in your portfolio to show them so at first it's it seems like it might be out of your reach to even charge money. So one thing you can do and this has worked very successfully for us and other development firms in the past is that you can offer your services for free for preset amount of time in exchange for using whatever you build or whatever project you're a part of as a portfolio item. Now, if you listen to the previous lectures, we talked about how anything you work on Congar. Oh, in your portfolio. So So this is a great example of a site that you can do this on. There are other ones out there. This is probably the largest one, and you'll notice a lot of Web development. Firms that are aspiring or freelance professionals that are expiring will use this website to get essentially free portfolio items and also to give back if that's something that you're interested in doing. Okay, so the way that this website works is this an exchange? Nonprofits and I believe social enterprises, which is just another way of saying ah for profit that has a social mission. They post small projects that they can't afford to have done or it's inconvenient for them to pay for. And they look for professionals who are willing to donate their time. So organizations join. They list out what they're doing, then the less things they need. And professionals can go through and pick some things and send them a message. Um, and that's pretty. It's pretty simple. It's just a basic marketplace for people who need stuff done and professionals willing to donate their time. And so the way that you would find a project is very, very simple. You on Lee have to pick out two of these things right here. Let's just start with what are you good at? So what are you good at? You're gonna be good at Web development. If you're someone who is a previously a freelancer in design and you're coming out this, um, as a way to grow your design freelance business, Then you can pick that. And if that's what you're more comfortable with, you want to use design? Go for it. In this case, we're just gonna talk about web development. What do you care about now? This is really up to you. If there's something that you're specifically more passionate about. You can definitely pick something. Um, it really does it for our purposes. It doesn't necessarily matter because we're just looking for somewhere to point our free effort towards, so it makes sense to send it towards a nonprofit that's trying to benefit society. Um, but past that it's really up to your personal preference. You could be really callous and say, Oh, I'm only going to go for the one that has the most, Ah, visibility. I'm going to pick something that looks the best to my portfolio. Um and yeah, I think honestly, in that case, then maybe you might want to look this more from a business sake. If you are someone who focuses on start ups and educational app startups. And if you want to go for education, if you're something that's worried more about, you know, if you have a specific niche, maybe you gonna find something in that specific niche. If you want to go for visibility, maybe you do things around, um, government or international affairs or something that has high visibility, blog's or high visibility things. So this whole thing it's completely up to you. I suggest going for something you're passionate about. And then once you're actually into the list, you can decide if it's whether or not, you know, projects too small for your purposes. That's really up to you. Okay, so right off the bat, um, we have 52 projects, and this is just kind of immediately what's available. If you keep searching every other week, you'll notice that more and more add on, um, this is something that we do occasionally when we have lean time. Not because we need a portfolio because of portfolios full. But it is something that, um it's nice to point your extra effort towards because a lot of these people just need really small stuff done. Um, and it's not particularly difficult, so some of these are a little bit bigger. Um, and some of them are quite a bit smaller. So right at the top, it says what they need. And then, um below that it says, how many hours? Um, you just need Teoh. Ah, kind of calculate in your head. What do you think it's worth it. Um, whether or not you have the bandwidth to give up, get a big project or whether or not you're really looking for something to put 5 10 hours in and get out. Um, like, for instance, this is something that would be, you know, they say 35 48 out, 45 hours. But if it just wordpress website construction, then it might not be the case. You spend that much time. You guys also might be a little concerned about the turnaround time. Um, and if that's the case, maybe you want to look at the timeline over here, so maybe you want something that's shorter. So there's a lot of different things here that you can ah, put yourself into. You know, it's really this is something the strategy that's completely up to you if you decide to take over someone's website redesign or to develop some widget or at that helps someone nonprofit do something, that it's kind of entirely up to you to make it look good, make it function well so that you can put it in your portfolio. Keep in mind what you're going for in your portfolio. Keep in mind basic tenants we talked about before about portfolio consistency, and then just try to keep in mind how many hours you want to put into this and when you need your portfolio item, um, done. It is something that you can dedicate, you know, three months to then go for it. If it's something that you, your mawr, interested in getting something smaller done quicker, didn't look for something that's only a couple weeks. You can also do this just manually. You can always look for non profits in your area, nonprofits your specifically passionate about and contact them. This just saves you a lot of time because it's already people who are looking for something . There's a lot of things out here that seem pretty nifty and pretty cool. You can really fill your entire portfolio with non profit things that are all over the world and various different sectors. Obviously, in that case, be careful because you don't want your entire portfolio look like you only work with nonprofits unless obviously that's your strategy. But it's not really something you can go wrong with. So be conscientious about how much time you have to give. Be aware of what exactly you need out of it, and it's definitely something that can help you and help someone out there as well 7. Keep the learning going: Hey, guys, I just wanted to say thank you for taking this class, and I hope you learned something. I hope what I said made sense. And I was clear, if you have any questions, any concerns, just posting the group discussion, all respond to you. You could even send me a direct message if you want to. I want to give you a quick word of how you could take the skills that we learned in this class and how to bring it to the next level. Learn some other related skills. So in this class, we covered how to pick your portfolio and how to pick the message that your portfolio delivers to set yourself up to get the best clients are the clients who specifically want. Now, if you want to learn more about being a successful Web freelancer, I have a lot of other classes you should check out. Specifically, I think you should check out the art of the proposal. That class I'm gonna show you how you can go and create web proposals that close sales. Another one we're checking out is called managing clients. As a Web freelancer in that class, I'm gonna show you the best practices for keeping your clients, keeping them happy and making sure that they bring back business to okay. If you want to go further with your skills, check those out. Otherwise, again, Thank you for taking the course.