Any freelancer worth their salt knows that making it in today’s hyper-competitive gig economy isn’t just about delivering quality work, building a network of connections, and—time-travel with us for a moment—hiring a good agent. Unless you’re on retainer at the New Yorker or you’ve been miraculously spared the effects of decades of digital upheaval, you gotta hustle on the internet to get work these days.
A marketable digital presence and a strategy to capitalize on it are all but prerequisites for a viable freelance career now. To that end, most freelancers are juggling a repertoire of carefully curated portfolios across an alphabet soup of freelancer-for-hire platforms. And for good reason: without them, you’re missing out on a lucrative pool of potential clients.
Each network has its own tricks to get ahead. We can’t speak to other platforms, but an optimized Contently portfolio (versus one that’s not configured properly or outdated) filled with high-quality clips is your best shot at getting work with our clients.
Think of your Contently portfolio as a content marketing resume-meets-LinkedIn. It’s often the first thing clients and editors see, and the impression it lends is the single-biggest determinant as to whether you’re considered for a project.
So how can you make a strong first impression to land a gig with one of our clients or editors? Let us explain.
1. Use the right keywords in your bio
Some freelancers will simply list the publications they’ve written for in their bios, close their browser, and wait for work to arrive. While these bylines are often impressive, no brand editor is going to hire you for a job based solely on the fact that you have some great lists in McSweeney’s. Our clients search for topics and keywords, not “The New Yorker,” so use your limited bio space to tell us what you write about, not where you place your work.
Besides, if clients and editors want to find the pubs you’ve written for, they can just apply the “Client” filter.
2. Showcase clips that map to the topics in your bio
Once the client or editor is sold by the beats in your bio, they’ll want to read the work you’ve published on those topics. If, for example, your bio contains the keywords “real estate, interior design, travel,” make sure the clips you upload—or at least the most visible ones—reflect those areas of expertise.
You can control which clips editors and clients see first by rearranging them on your portfolio. We’ve outlined that click-and-drag process in the video below.
3. Optimize portfolio titles and clip descriptions
If the title of your best clip isn’t descriptive when you upload it (for example, “Travel Magazine Issue #25”), clients’ eyes may breeze past it, overlooking a winning piece. Even if it’s not your best work, it could be the one that showcases the expertise the client is looking for. Take the extra step toward usability and fix the title to avoid a missed opportunity.
Even better: Writing a brief description of each published story can make it easier for an editor to comb through your portfolio and develop an understanding of your work. If you did weeks or months of grueling reporting to track down multiple subjects, tell us that in the description. If you travelled to a location IRL and gained access to public records, digitizing the information for your article, make that clear. If the piece stirred a traffic frenzy and smashed records for impressions in a single day, by all means—tell us.
4. Add skills and topics to your projects
Clients and editors may use the filters on your portfolio—such as skills and topics—to find what they’re looking for. If you haven’t tagged your work with skills and topics, your portfolio won’t respond well to that level of inquiry, and a potential client may pass you by.
Keep in mind, we have an algorithm that surfaces your portfolio to clients based on what you’ve decided to include in your portfolio. The more information the algorithm has on you, the more effectively it can match you with clients.
5. Update your portfolio at least every six months
To keep things fresh, we recommend updating your Contently portfolio at least every six months. Old clips or a blurry photo could signal to an editor that you’re disengaged from Contently or freelancing generally. One strategy worth considering: Whenever you update your LinkedIn profile, which is probably often, make a point to do a check on your Contently page, too—plus any other portfolios you have out in the ether. (Speaking of LinkedIn, make sure your portfolio links there and to any other social profiles a client or editor might be interested in.)
Applying all of these tips will ultimately help optimize your portfolio to land work. Even with all the extra forms filled out, your portfolio will remain sleek and easy-to-read for the viewer, just like a resume, and it will help increase your chances of work opportunities with clients.