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“Nearly one-third of all online freelancers are software developers,” reported Hackernoon in July, 2019. Developers are one of the most in-demand professionals in the so-called gig economy, and the demand for web development talent is only growing.

As more and more developers consider switching from full-time to freelance, it becomes imperative to stand out from the crowd. Building a great freelance developer portfolio is one of the first steps to organizing your work experience and getting hired. Here’s what you need to know about building a great developer portfolio.

Be explicit about your skills

Even if you aren’t a front-end developer or web designer, your portfolio must be able to convey the work you’ve done and the skills you have. Be explicit in what you bring to the table. Instead of saying “I write code” list out the languages you use. “Don’t be afraid to get a bit technical here,” writes Skillcrush. “People who don’t know what you’re talking about will probably just be impressed, and people who do will appreciate knowing upfront what you can and can’t do.” Listing your specific areas of expertise can help recruiters who are doing a simple Google search find your site. Add keywords like Ruby on Rails, Python, or JavaScript.

Give your information upfront

Recruiters don’t spend a lot of time reading resumes. The average recruiter will spend 10-15 seconds reviewing your portfolio. Make sure in those 10 seconds, you’re giving them the information they need right away. Your name, contact details, and key skills should be the first thing a visitor sees. Keep the design straightforward and simple: “It’s much better to have an elegant landing page with a few key sections (ex. Showcase section, a Project section, an About page, and a Contact page) than a 10–15 page site with various articles and other tangential content,” writes one expert.

Showcase your personal projects

If you have personal projects you can share, do so – show a sample of your source code so a potential employer can see for themselves just how talented you are. If you’re not comfortable sharing the code, or it’s proprietary to a client project, then talk about the process you went through to create the site. “Mention any roadblocks or challenges you faced in creating that final product, as well as how you overcame them,” suggests one expert at Toggl.

Link to your GitHub profile or social media profiles to provide even more context. Many recruiters will look to see if you’re active in developer communities before making contact. Your GitHub profile and Medium posts can show that you’re staying ahead of best practices, learning new skills, and collaborating with the developer community. It can give your listed skills and experience added credibility.

Consider the UX

Make sure your portfolio is user-friendly and accessible on multiple devices. Approach this task from two angles: the look and feel of your page and the technical aspects – load time, mobile-friendliness, and site security, for instance. Consider the following elements: 

  • Domain name
  • SSL certificate
  • Site navigation
  • Colors, fonts, and logo
  • Licensed photography

The look of your website isn’t as important as the work you’ve accomplished, but it can make the difference between capturing the attention of a recruiter for more than 10 seconds and getting lost in the shuffle. Try a site like Squarespace or GitHub pages for easy-to-use templates you can customize quickly.

Use testimonials

“Even in the tech age, word-of-mouth recommendations are a powerful sales tool, and adding a testimonial page to your portfolio is a great way to keep the work flowing in,” writes The Balance. Freelance developers often have to overcome the barrier of “culture fit” when getting hired; recruiters pay particular attention to soft skills like empathy, communication, and leadership when hiring a developer who can fit in well with an existing team. Ask your former colleagues, past clients, or university professors to provide a short blurb about you that you can add to your “About” page. This strategy can also help you stay on the radar of people in your network who might help you find your next opportunity.

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