So you've decided what your side hustle skill is going to be. Awesome. You've even got your website up and running and your email marketing campaigns all set up. Check, and check. Now all that's left to do is find some clients…

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But hang on minute. What have you got to show to prospective clients in the way of portfolio samples? Nothing… uh-oh, this is where the wheels can start to fall off the wagon.

Lise to the rescue!Never fear — Lise to the rescue!

I understand, it can be hard when you're just getting started. It can be hard to believe that someone would give you a chance with no real background in your side hustle.

Which is where the rescue part comes in!

Just because you don't have any actual ‘real world' experience in your side hustle, doesn't mean that you can't do it. I mean, obviously, you've got some skills in this area, otherwise why would you even be contemplating starting a business around it, right.

So with that in mind, stick with me and we'll have a fancy portfolio set up that will knock the socks off any of your potential clients, whether they're your first customer or your 10th!

Creating Portfolio Samples

So what the heck am I talking about? I'm talking about faking it till you make it… there is absolutely no reason why you can't create work specifically for your portfolio.

And to be honest, there is another reason why you might create portfolio samples over showcasing previous client work — your clients don't want you to show the work you've done for them. This is often the case in instances where you might be ghostwriting a book, creating sensitive documents or they just don't want their competitors to know about you and steal you!

By having a solid portfolio, you're backing yourself by showing that you have the skills to do what you say you can do. And if you want to provide some client work in your portfolio, get testimonials from them instead, they can be anonymous after all.

Ok, enough of the sermon, let's get down to business.

Creating portfolio samples when you have zero clients

Some Examples…

If you're a writer, it's fairly obvious what you're going to do — create a whole bunch of writing samples for your portfolio. If you're focusing in on a specific niche, make the samples relevant to that niche.

For example, say you're a copywriter specialising in writing sales copy for online clothing retailers. What you could provide is a sample about page, a sales letter (try rewriting one you've seen on your fav online clothing store) and some email autoresponders. Make sure they are formatted appropriately and that you create image thumbnails to go with them, so they look great on your site.

Maybe you're a web designer or logo designer. You could create a few different websites or logo's or go about redoing a couple of websites/logos you think you could improve on. This is a great way to showcase your skills and could be a way to reach out to those companies and let them know what you've done! Great press…

Take the time to do this right at the beginning, and you'll have no problem landing clients or providing portfolio samples, because you're already prepared.

It's best to start with 3-5 portfolio samples and then as your business grows, you can continue to add to them, update them and feature clients (with their permission).

Don't forget to include testimonials where possible as well.

More Options…

Another way you can get some portfolio samples is to offer your services for free to a few friends and family. In exchange, they agree to allow you to feature the work you provided to them, free of charge.

You're kinda killing two birds with one stone here, because you can get the portfolio sample and a testimonial from them at the same time. Win:win.

Another variation on the above scenario would be to offer your services at a steep discount to your first 5 clients in exchange for featuring them in your portfolio. For them, it could provide long-term benefits as the page begins to show up in organic searches on search engines. Just make sure you've done your SEO homework on your site first.

Now it's your turn. Time to stop procrastinating and get that portfolio site up and running so that you can start the most important part of your side hustle — finding and landing clients!

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    4 replies to "How to Create Samples for Your Portfolio (When You Have Zero Clients)"

    • […] option is to offer your services to friends and family for free to build up your portfolio, then you have some very legitimate work to showcase — make sure you get testimonials off these […]

    • […] a portfolio website may not be your dream vision of what your online representation should look like, it still offers a […]

    • Darius

      Here are some other ideas of what to include into your portfolio:

      Links to interviews: have you been invited to give an interview for some magazine or whatever?
      Panels/Speak events: have you been invited to talk at some event?
      Instructor/Mentor/Teacher: have you mentored someone?
      Social media mentions: did someone mentioned you on social media for some related reason?
      Side projects: what technologies you used and what problems have you been solving?
      Workshops: did you recently attended to some workshops?
      Organizer: did you organised some event?
      Content online: maybe you have some related content online publicly available?

      Don’t know where to put your work? is the place for that 😉

      • Lise Cartwright

        Great tips Darius, thanks for adding to the conversation 🙂

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