Every freelancer wants a big, fat folio. A folio jam-packed with examples of our best work. A folio that shinily depicts the many facets of our unique talents.
But highlighting every job you work on may not be the best way to promote or build your business in the long run.
- It can confuse potential clients about your focus and capabilities.
- It can see you type-cast as a generalist, rather than a speclialist.
- It can see your “message” and market positioning change with every project you complete.
- If you publicize jobs that aren’t your greatest just to show you’ve been busy, you can undermine market perceptions of your ability to consistently deliver quality.
As with a resume, a folio—digital or otherwise—or even the jobs you post about on social networks need to contain a selection of work. But how can you choose which jobs to include, and which to leave out? I usually make the decision on the basis of five factors.
Including recent projects is a given: having only dated pieces in your folio can make it seem like your time has passed. At the same time, having only recent projects can make it seem like you haven’t been freelancing long. A balance of both is usually best.
I like the idea that my folio is a call to action: if you see something you like and want to ask more about, you can. So I don’t include any projects that I’ve done with clients I wouldn’t feel comfortable contacting for a reference now. If a prospective client calls me and wants to speak to a client about a project they know I’ve done in the past, I want to be able to put them in touch with that client, without hesitation.
Desired work type
There are some projects I’d never include in my folio because they’re not the kinds of projects I want to work on now. I also tend to avoid including projects on the basis of a kind of “karma”: if the project didn’t pay well, go smoothly, or give me the freedom or control I wanted over my output, I’m less likely to include it in my folio. I don’t build the folio on the basis of outputs I’ve made, but on the basis of projects I’ve worked on.
There’s probably not much point in including work you’ve done for clients or client types you’d happily never work for again. When you’re assessing whether or not to include a project in your folio, ask yourself whether it reflects the client types you want to attract. That doesn’t necessarily mean that, if your want to work with corporates, you’ll only include corporate projects. But it may dissuade you from adding another one to the list without removing one, if you’re trying to strike a balance of some sort.
That balance of clients, projects, and outputs should, ultimately, reflect your positioning as a freelancer. Will adding your latest project skew the folio too far in one direction? Does it make you seem like you’re focused in some area, when you’re trying to position yourself some other way? Sacrificing another, older project so you can include this new one might be the way to go in this case, but again, take care to make a good choice when you’re removing projects.
Not just your folio…
We’ve been talking about your folio, but as I mentioned earlier, these criteria can help you decide which projects to promote in all channels—from your website to social media to your newsletter to client pitch documents. Take care to use the most appropriate projects to illustrate your services and capabilities—whatever the medium.
How do you choose which projects to promote and talk about? And which ones do you keep quiet about even after they’re launched?