New freelancers face a common conundrum: how do you seduce clients when you have no portfolio to show?

It’s normal for freelancers to put their portfolio centre-stage, effectively trading on their reputation. And when it seems that the accepted norm is to build a website around a portfolio, your missing history can feel as obvious as a lost limb.

So how do you tempt clients if you can’t convince them with your work? How can you cover-up your gap-toothed website? How can you get the ball rolling from a standing start?

It’s simple. If you don’t have a portfolio, don’t pretend you do – don’t even mention the word portfolio. Deny the existence of portfolios. Portfolios are dead to you.

Instead of talking about the work you have done (the dead past) talk about the work you will do (the living future). Focus on the services you are offering to clients – focus on the awesome benefits you offer, and how you kick the arse of all the tired, complacent rival freelancers. Talk about what clients gain by working with you, and how your approach benefits them.

By talking positively about the great things you offer clients, you can win them over. And if they do ask about your experience, be honest. If you’ve got a little experience, tell them about it.

Or: get building

Another approach to portfolio-building (an alternative to the portfolio-denying proposed above) is to give away your time to friends, family and acquaintances who have a business, charity or community project. Many people will greatly receive your free help – and in exchange you get the beginnings of a portfolio.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt