Building a Portfolio as a Contractor: Fundamentals and Examples

Blog written by Kyrstin Kempf.

A white woman with shoulder-length brown hair smiles closed-lipped at the camera wearing a teal shirt with white polka-dots and gold dangle earrings. She stands in front of a blurred background of a city bike path and trees.
Kyrstin Kempf

When building a small business or providing freelance services, a portfolio is an important part of that process. In fact, the second most common way freelancers bring in work assignments is through a personal website or portfolio [1].

What exactly is a portfolio?

A portfolio is your story; it’s a living, breathing body of work that showcases your skills and your voice.

It’s also a way to provide your contact information and illustrate your network by showing who you’ve worked with.

One of the key benefits of creating a portfolio is being able to control the narrative around what you do [2]. If you have more experience in graphic design than in photography but you prefer photography assignments, a portfolio can be used to focus on what type of projects you want to attract in the future.

If you like lots of color or a minimalist look, this can be portrayed by your work as well. By creating a portfolio that focuses on what you enjoy doing and creating, you attract clients that align with your work interests and style.

When you think of a portfolio, there are several formats that may come to mind: deck, social media, website, etc. The format of your portfolio is entirely up to you; however, your portfolio should be continually updated to add your best work. Approaching your portfolio with an open-ended approach can make the entire process less intimidating. It’s a snapshot of what you offer now, with room to grow and change.

What should be included in a portfolio?

On a basic level, your portfolio should have your contact information and work examples. However, it’s important that your portfolio conveys:

  • who you’ve worked for,
  • context for each example,
  • your artistic style or technique,
  • and your story with pictures of your work process.

For example, if you created a marketing video for a client, you could include a paragraph with information on the goal of the project and mention the company you worked with. Along with the finished video, you could also include snapshots of the editing process showcasing your story and your artistic style.

Even if you feel unsure about your portfolio pieces, put your work out there for clients to see! Going back to the open-ended portfolio approach - see your portfolio as a current snapshot, not as a permanent definition of your work. Plus, by showing your process clients can get a better idea of what you do and be a part of your growth as an artist and freelancer/business owner.

What Are Some Examples?

Youmee Lee, Chris Hamilton, and Meeya Tjiang are all deaf freelancers/business owners that benefit from having a portfolio. Seeing how they set-up and manage their portfolios may help guide you.

Youmee Lee, a designer, filmmaker, printmaker, artist, and teacher, use Instagram with a link in her bio to a website with more details on her work.

Chris Hamilton, a photographer and retoucher has his website home page set to his food gallery. This focuses the narrative on food photography with less focus on his initial work - wedding photography.

Meeya Tjiang, a visual designer and illustrator uses her Instagram to display her most recent work including a Google Doodle - showing who she has worked with.

Where Can I Learn More?

Check out this webinar led by Brian Milburn, co-founder of Design To Glow. He walks through the best practices of building a portfolio and uses examples from Sheena Stuart-Milburn’s portfolio – co-founder and creative director of Design To Glow.

How to date your brand

Blog written by Teraca Florence.

The image depicts a black woman with long ombre braided hair in shades of black and gray. She is wearing a black and white striped t-shirt and is standing in front of a lush green forest with tall trees and thick foliage, giving a serene and natural vibe to the scene.
Teraca Florene
Instagram | Twitter

Let’s just be real for a minute here… I know our personalities can be different, but we can’t deny the basic and simple pleasures in life. We love to be surprised. We love to be entertained. We love to be catered. We love to be stimulated by an amazing conversation. We really can’t say no no no to what we really desire in life, can we??? We know dating and building a friendship can be fun and complex nowadays. There are stages we will need to go through to find the right soulmate. Dating your brand is just like that. The only difference with this is you own your brand for life.  

Hi, Brand…  

The Honorable Michelle Morris says the brand begins with you. Period. End of the story. Literally, it’s not the end of the story, but you get this part, right?? It does not matter what field you are in (i.e. technology, entertainment, arts). You are an expert in your rightful place. You know your stuff. The brand does not do the work itself; YOU gotta do the work to make the brand stand out from everybody else. The recipe to building your brand is your knowledge, expertise, and experiences. It requires putting yourself out there for the world to know your brand. Everything will look fabulous and fall in place if you take the time and energy to invest, research the logistics (i.e. your audience and today’s trends), modify, and be consistent with your brand. Your brand is the foundation of your dreams and works. 

What is Your Story? 

What’s your story? Who are you doing this for? Do you know your people (aka the audience)? What is your commitment? Your brand is your story. The Working on You phase is where you become a storyteller and builder for the brand. You build the narrative of your brand to the world. This is the time to focus on you and the brand with less distractions. As you build your brand, you ask yourself these questions to ignite your purpose and vision with the not-yet-revealed or revamped brand. You should ask why consumers should buy or follow your brand. You must identify your target audience and the promise you want to convey to the audience. It is okay if your brand changes over time.  

Who has Apple products?? YOU (or not). Steve Jobs and Steve Wozinak, college dropouts, had a vision to create products to enrich people’s daily lives. They thought differently and wanted access to technology into this world. As a result of executing the vision and promise with the products, Apple Computers Inc. was founded on April 1, 1976. Bottom line: It is about authenticity. You are what you give me. If you are not clear with your purpose and vision, it can be challenging to convince people why they should invest their coins into your brand. When you know your purpose and who you are as a storyteller of your brand, it gets easy to put yourself out there to the audience.  

Let’s Make a Plan to Put You Out There 

This second phase, Putting Yourself Out There, is the time to find the “sweet spot” to win the audience’s heart. The difference of your brand matters to the consumers. What your brand does best counts. The magnification of the dating market is real. So are the marketing ideas of your brand! You would want to have a plan if you want to target and acquire the audience to invest their coins and eyes on your brand. You must have a clear tunnel vision of who you want to attract and for people to find you. Having too many interests may not be effective for your brand. It is a great idea to constantly check in with your audience. Here are the four strategies to use when you develop your brand: 

Arm wrestling requires time and money. It is acceptable for people to have preferences. If you think about the competition between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, there is no clear leader. The competition is neck and neck; no one wins. People still buy them regardless. It requires you to be innovative, creative, and patient. If you want your brand to stand out, it will require a lot of your time and energy. 

For instance, if you are in the entertainment industry, having a niche would be the best move. Niche is a sub-segment that has unmet needs and does not take the lead head-on. The leader matches and focuses on a very specific audience. Whole Foods Market was created to target a specific group of food shoppers who want to buy healthy and gluten free food. There are some groups who are not willing to pay a lot of money for food. 

To reframe the market happens when there is a breakthrough or market change. The strength of a leader is irrelevant. The creator targets those that look different, but not new. It puts a lot of emphasis on the benefits and the features of a product. For example, Tesla is a car, but it is not new. There are plenty of cars such as Honda, Audi, BMW, and etc. It specifies a consumer’s lifestyle. Tesla is an electronic car that aims to reduce the carbon footprint.  

Change the Game is where there is no existing market. The leader is an automatic leader without competition. It attracts the consumers faster and communicates the benefits of your brand. It constantly innovates. For example, Uber is the first to establish the concept of ride sharing using regular people’s cars. It is almost like a taxi, but it is not new. It is innovative and revolutionary because Uber has independent agents and allows the riders to book via app.  

Where Do We Meet? 

The Dating Game is the third phase to choose a location to meet your audience. You decide the location. It can be on a social media platform (i.e. Instagram, Facebook), website, email, or magazine. It is okay to explore different places for your brand to be shown and seen. You decide what makes sense to your brand. Choosing the right location is important. Sometimes having a website may not work because it is a lot of energy, effort, and not compatible with the niche of your brand. If you are an actor or photographer, a website would be a good idea for credibility purposes. You do not have to do everything for your brands even if you really want to.   

Talking to people can be awkward. Showing your brand is like you showing yourself out to the world. How you feel about your brand impacts how we interact with people. It is encouraging to pay attention to the feeling. The content of your brand is where it will exist and reveal to the audience. Your content should have goals and align with the ideas for the content development. The voice of your brand is the creation of its personality and the tone is the mood you set for your brand. What you present your brand is how you establish the tone to the consumers. Is your brand professional, calm, or serious? Is your brand attached to the identity of a tech company, non-profit organization, educational institution, or a government agency? You must identify the goals if you aim to attract, engage, subscribe, convert, excite, ascend, advocate, or promote your brand by having a newsletter, vlogging, photography, website, or otherwise. The engagement with the audience is so important.  

Congratulations, you’re official! 

To officialize a relationship, communication is imperative instead of assuming. You agree to be in a relationship. Defining the Relationship phase is where your brand becomes official. Your brand and audience meet at last. It is not finished. You as the creator of your brand must constantly check in with your audience to see where they stand with you as an owner. To maintain the relationship with your consumer, it is beneficial to get feedback. You can do the analytics to figure out what would make things better for your brand. Just like all types of relationships, it is okay to break up and start over. You can take the time to revisit your story, strategy, content, or community to close and revamp the brand.  

Social Media for Contractors: How to Grow Your Business with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest 

Webinar led by Katherine Lees and Michelle Lapides of Dozanu Innovations.
Blog written by Ruth Jackson.

African American young woman with auburn wavy dreads past the shoulders wearing an African print V neck shirt and a black lace cami.
Ruth Jackson
Instagram | Linkedin | Website

Social media has become an integral part of our lives, and most of us use it to share pictures, videos, or our daily experiences. However, social media has also become an effective tool for businesses to connect with their customers and grow their brand. As freelancers, it's crucial to understand how to leverage social media to promote your services and expand your business.

Why Freelancers Should Use Social Media 

There are over 4 billion people on social media. 75% of people use social media to research brands. 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations. There is no reason not to use social media for your business.  

Social media is an effective tool that every business should consider using to connect with customers and promote their brand. By leveraging the different social media platforms, businesses can engage with their audience and increase their brand awareness.   

In the past, businesses relied on expensive traditional advertising methods like television commercials or print ads to promote their products. In 1995, a 30-second ad played during the Super Bowl cost over $1 million.

Nowadays, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest provide businesses with a cost-effective way to reach a large audience. While social media is free, it does require time and effort to use effectively. 

Establishing Your Brand on Social Media 

The first step in using social media for your business is to establish your brand. You can achieve this by making regular posts that feature your products, expert insights, or interesting articles related to your business. This will encourage your audience to like your page, ensuring they receive updates and new content in their newsfeed, increasing brand awareness. 


Facebook is the largest social media platform with over 2 billion active users. This makes it a great platform for businesses to interact with their customers and potential clients. Here's how businesses can use Facebook: 

  • Create posts with pictures, links to articles, or other expert insights related to your product or service. 
  • Ensure your fans like your business page to receive updates and new content on their News Feed. 
  • Use Facebook ads to target specific demographics, increasing the effectiveness of your campaigns. 


Instagram is a visual platform where businesses can showcase their products or services using pictures and videos. The platform is great for businesses that have a strong visual presence or those that want to engage with younger audiences. Here's how businesses can use Instagram: 

  • Post pictures and videos that appear on your followers’ feed.  
  • Use Instagram Stories to create short, real-time, visually appealing videos that will disappear after 24 hours. 
  • Use Instagram Reels to create short-form videos that can be shared on your profile, Explore page, or in the Reels section. 


YouTube is the second largest search engine and provides a great way to improve your ranking in search results (also known as SEO). By creating quality videos, you can showcase your business and demonstrate your expertise. Here's how businesses can use YouTube: 

  • Post high-quality long or short videos that provide value to your audience. This can be videos that help your audience learn about your business or show them a step-by-step process about something you know how to do well. 
  • Use YouTube ads to target specific demographics, increasing the effectiveness of your campaigns. 


LinkedIn is the largest professional network, with over 900 million active users. It's a great platform for businesses to connect with other professionals in and outside their field. Here's how businesses can use LinkedIn: 

  • Post a variety of content using hashtags to generate traffic to their specific product, service or cause. 
  • Connect with other professionals in your industry or field to expand your network. 
  • Use LinkedIn ads to target specific demographics, increasing the effectiveness of your campaigns. 


Pinterest is a platform that allows businesses to promote their products, services, and resources. Users can easily click-through live links and pictures to make a decision to buy. When someone 'pins' a photo of your product or content with a link to their board, it not only provides free promotion, but also has the potential to generate more traffic and increase your online visibility. Here's how businesses can use Pinterest: 

  • Create visually appealing pins that showcase your products or services. 
  • Use Pinterest boards to organize your content and make it easier for users to find what they're looking for. 
  • Use Pinterest ads to target specific demographics, increasing the effectiveness of your campaigns. 

Social media is for everyone, and it can be used for every industry. As a freelancer, you need to figure out which platform is good for your business, has your audience, and fits your style. Once you have figured out which platform is right for you, it's essential to provide clear calls to action. Tell your customers to visit your website, call a specific number, or follow you on your social media platform(s). 

What are you waiting for? Join the conversation, connect with your audience, and watch your business grow! Whether you have a product, service, or organization, social media is the key to unlocking your potential and reaching your customers in the digital age. 

To learn more about social media strategies and how to grow your business, check out our webinar where Dozanü explained more about social media below: