Writing Portfolio Copy That Sells

Copywriting 18 September 2014 6 minute read

I bet you've got a pretty nice looking portfolio and some lovely past projects in it to match. However, you may be struggling to get people biting and asking to hire you...

Mo' Portfolios Mo' Problems

I bet you've got a pretty nice looking portfolio and some lovely past projects in it to match. However, you may be struggling to get people biting and asking to hire you.

Below are four simple techniques that every freelancer should know when writing copy that sells.

A lot of the time, actually all the time, I come across new and exciting portfolios that someone has obviously put some serious time and effort into creating. The biggest problem I see nearly every freelancer making is what their site says and how it comes across to potential clients. You know that most of the web is just all text, right? Well, then that means you should be using it to your advantage.

The golden rule of writing catchy copy is not a one size fits all approach. It's understanding, and I mean really understanding, what you're writing about.

Talk About Results

Take my homepage for example. It says "Websites That Improve Business". Take note that, unlike the majority of portfolios out there, it doesn't say "I make websites with HTML & CSS" or something of the sort. The reason the latter doesn't work is because potential clients don't care how you make their website. They're looking to increase business and make more money. They're not going to hire you if it costs them more money than it's worth, i.e. investing in you isn't going to be a very good ROI (return on investment).

Would you hire a designer who told you how they're going to solve your problem or a designer who told you they're going to create a pretty design? I think you know the answer.

On the details page for each portfolio piece talk about problems you solved and put pictures up as proof. A potential client wants to know if you can do the job, not how you're going do it.

I just searched through most of my following list on Twitter for a good example of using language that clearly communicates the benefits the client will receive. I couldn't find anyone who did exactly that.

Use Social Proof (Show Results)

Social proof is when someone feels something is good or valuable because someone else said so. In the case of an e-commerce website, it would be ratings and reviews. On a portfolio website, it's using testimonials.

Take a look this portfolio project page by Headscape (run by Paul Boag of Boagworld). It uses a quote (at the bottom) from the client to reinforce just how fantastic the Headscape team were. It also goes into detail on why the team was so good by saying:

Clients want to know you care enough about the project so you'll produce top-notch results. Social proof is one of the best ways you can show potential clients they'll enjoy working with you and that they'll get valuable solutions to their problems.

If you tell a potential client (via a previous clients testimonial) that you increased checkout completion by 30% it's quite likely they'll at least email you. If you tell a potential client (via a previous clients testimonial) that you're awesome and a are a joy to Skype with you'll never hear from them in the first place.

Note: I got this tip from Sacha Greif in a post he wrote a few years ago titled Common Portfolio Mistakes (And How To Fix Them). Thanks Sacha!

Use Clear Language

Let's say someone is on your site and they want a new website for their bakery. Are they going to hire you if all it says is that you "Create super amazing designs with Photoshop, HTML & CSS"? No, no they are not. If you use normal language, as if you were talking to them in the street about something unrelated to web design, they'll be able to understand what you can do for them and why it's a sound investment for them to hire you.

Using language that clearly, yet friendly communicates to people on the web is hard to do. It's very easy to explain what you do technically but it's very difficult to explain, in normal terms, what you're going to do for that potential client.

This point is a little like the first one when I suggested talking about results. The main thing to keep in mind when you're writing portfolio copy is to always imagine yourself as a business person who's not necessarily that plugged into the tech world. Would you really care about HTML5, CSS, jQuery, WordPress and so on? No, you wouldn't. You'd want to know what this person is going to do to make you stand out and improve your business.

Don't Waffle On

As web designers, we love talking about ourselves and what we do. Web design is fun and it's an exciting industry to be a part of. That doesn't mean potential clients need to hear the same thing spouted out 6 different ways in one paragraph.

My golden rules when writing are to not repeat myself, get to the point in a timely fashion and always be clear about what I mean. If you can do that you're already a cut above the rest in terms of speaking to others through what you write.

Too many times I've started reading an article only to close it within a few minutes because I can tell the only reasoning behind the words I'm reading is for filling space.

Just remember that writing is also about communicating. It's not one-sided, especially when it comes to selling your services. You should always have a reason for every word you write, otherwise, it's pointless and adds nothing of value to the rest of the context.

Final Thoughts

This article could have included five tips instead of just four but then I'd be waffling on and only writing to try to fill up space.

Always keep in mind the person who will be reading your content. This article, for example, is mostly for web designers and developers who need help with what to put on their websites and who want to stand out from the competition so that's exactly who I'm talking to. Be vigilant against writing things that sound catchy or fun if that's the only reason you're writing them. Get to the point and ultimately sell yourself as a solution!

If you need some help with writing your website copy you can hit me up on Twitter.