Negotiation Strategies for Freelancers Without Portfolio
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Highlight Your Skills and Experience
  2. Leverage Testimonials and References
  3. Use a Value-Based Pricing Strategy
  4. Offer to Do a Small Project or Test Task
  5. Provide a Detailed Proposal
  6. Negotiate Payment Terms
  7. How to Handle Rejection
  8. Why Building a Portfolio Matters

Entering the freelance world can feel like stepping into the unknown, especially when you don't have a portfolio to showcase your work. But don't let that deter you. There are effective negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio that can help you land that dream project. Let's dive right in!

Highlight Your Skills and Experience

As a freelancer without a portfolio, it's essential to place your skills and experience front and center. Remember, you're more than just your past work—your skills and experiences are unique assets that can set you apart in the freelance marketplace.

Start by listing your skills: It could be anything from web design to content writing, or even project management. Be specific and clear about what you can offer to potential clients. For instance, instead of saying "I'm skilled in graphic design," you could say, "I specialize in creating engaging social media graphics and print designs."

Next, talk about your experience: Have you worked in a particular industry before? Have you handled similar projects? Translate those experiences into tangible benefits for your clients. For example, if you've worked in the healthcare field, you can leverage that knowledge to create content that effectively communicates complex medical information to a lay audience.

Remember, the goal is to make your clients see that even without a portfolio, you are equipped with the necessary skills and experience to get the job done. This is your first step in the negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio.

Leverage Testimonials and References

Just because you don't have a portfolio doesn't mean you don't have proof of your abilities. Testimonials and references are powerful tools that can paint a picture of your skills, work ethic, and reliability. Here's how to use them in your negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio:

Gather testimonials: Did you know that a whopping 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know? That's the power of testimonials! Reach out to your previous employers, colleagues, or anyone you've worked with, and ask them to write a few words about your work performance. It could be about a project you've completed, your work attitude, or even your problem-solving skills.

Use references: Having a list of people who are willing to vouch for your skills can be just as effective as a portfolio. Make sure to inform your references ahead of time, and let them know what skills or experiences you'd like them to emphasize. This way, when a potential client reaches out to them, they’ll be ready to shed the best light on your abilities.

By leveraging testimonials and references, you can give potential clients an insight into your skills and abilities, even without a portfolio. This is an essential part of negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio.

Use a Value-Based Pricing Strategy

When you're a freelancer without a portfolio, it's common to feel like you should price your services lower. However, there's a different approach you can take: value-based pricing. This strategy is all about pricing your services based on the value you provide to your clients, not the hours you put in.

Identify the value you provide: Are you a whiz at creating engaging content? Do your design skills breathe life into a brand? Focus on these values and clearly communicate them to your potential clients. Remember, not every freelancer can offer what you do—it's your unique selling proposition.

Price according to value: Once you've identified the value you provide, it's time to price your services accordingly. This doesn't mean you should charge sky-high rates, but it does mean you should get paid what you're worth. This is a key aspect in negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio.

Using a value-based pricing strategy allows you to showcase your worth, even without a portfolio. It's a powerful negotiation tool that can help you secure better deals and build a successful freelance career.

Offer to Do a Small Project or Test Task

Even without a portfolio, you can still demonstrate your skills and expertise. How? By offering to do a small project or a test task. This can be a game changer in your negotiation strategies as a freelancer without a portfolio.

Offer a small project: Let's say you're a web developer. You could offer to create a small section of a website or fix a bug. If you're a writer, offer to write a blog post or an article. The idea here is to give your potential clients a taste of your abilities.

Suggest a test task: Another way to show your skills is to suggest a test task. For instance, if you're a social media manager, you could propose to run a small campaign. The goal is to provide tangible proof of your abilities and build trust with your client.

No portfolio? No problem! By offering to do a small project or test task, you're showing your clients that you're confident in your skills and ready to deliver value. And that's what negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio are all about.

Provide a Detailed Proposal

After showcasing your skills, it’s time to present your potential client with a detailed proposal. But why? Because it puts you in the driver's seat, strengthens your negotiation strategies, and increases your chances of landing the project as a freelancer without a portfolio.

Break down the project: Detail each step you plan to take, the time you will need, and how it benefits the client. Make sure you're clear about the outcomes they can expect. This shows that you understand their needs and have a plan to meet them.

Include a timeline: A clear timeline gives your client an idea of when they can expect to see results. Remember to be realistic with your estimates. It's better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.

Quote your price: After outlining the work and timeline, provide a quote for your services. Be clear and transparent about your pricing. If you're unsure about what to charge, research market rates for similar services.

Creating a detailed proposal not only helps your potential client understand what they're paying for but also positions you as a reliable and professional freelancer. So, even without a portfolio, you can tip the scales in your favor with this negotiation strategy.

Negotiate Payment Terms

Now that you've got a detailed proposal in place, the next step in your negotiation strategy as a freelancer without a portfolio is to discuss payment terms. This is where you establish how and when you'll be compensated for your work.

Set clear expectations: Be upfront about your preferred payment schedule. This could be half upfront and half upon completion, or you could break it down into multiple project milestones. The key is to ensure both parties are clear about expectations and there are no surprises down the line.

Discuss the method of payment: Whether it's through PayPal, a bank transfer, or any other means, make sure you agree on a payment method that's convenient and secure for both parties.

Don't forget about late payment policies: It's not uncommon for payments to get delayed. Highlight your policy for late payments. This could be a gentle reminder after a certain period or a small late fee if the delay is significant.

Remember, when you're a freelancer without a portfolio, it's even more important to ensure your payment terms are fair and clear. This not only protects your interests but also builds trust with your client—crucial in any successful negotiation strategy.

How to Handle Rejection

So, you've put forth your best negotiation strategies but still faced a rejection? It happens. As a freelancer without a portfolio, it's vital to remember that rejection is part and parcel of the job hunt, and it's not an indicator of your skills or value.

Don't take it personally: Rejection can sting, but remember it's not about you as a person. It could be due to a myriad of reasons: budget constraints, internal changes, or simply a better-suited candidate. Take it in stride and don't let it discourage you.

Ask for feedback: If you're comfortable doing so, ask your potential client why they decided not to proceed. You might gain valuable insights that could help you improve your negotiation strategies for future prospects.

Keep improving: Use every rejection as a stepping stone to better your skills. Keep learning, keep growing, and sooner than you think, you'll be turning those no's into yes's.

Most importantly, keep going. In the world of freelancing without a portfolio, every no takes you one step closer to a yes. Remember, it only takes one yes to kickstart your freelancing journey. So, chin up and onto the next one!

Why Building a Portfolio Matters

While negotiation strategies for freelancers without a portfolio are essential, it's also important to understand the value of building a portfolio. You might be wondering why bother creating a portfolio if you've already mastered the art of negotiation? Good question. Here's why:

A Showcase of Your Work: A portfolio is like a visual resume. It's where you can showcase your past projects, the breadth of your skills, and what you can bring to the table. It gives potential clients a glimpse of what they can expect from you.

Builds Trust: When clients can see your work, they're more likely to trust your abilities. A portfolio can act as proof of your professional experience and expertise, making clients feel more confident in hiring you.

Helps You Stand Out: In a competitive market, a portfolio can be the differentiator. It's your chance to show off your unique style, your innovative ideas, and your problem-solving skills. It can let you shine among a sea of freelancers.

Attracts the Right Clients: Your portfolio can also help attract clients who are a good fit for your skills and style. It can serve as a filter, ensuring you attract the kind of work you love doing and the clients who appreciate your unique talents.

So, while you're mastering those negotiation strategies as a freelancer without a portfolio, don't forget to invest time in building a solid portfolio. It's an important step in the long-run success of your freelance career.

If you're looking to up your negotiation game as a freelancer without a portfolio, we recommend checking out the workshop 'The Ultimate Role-Getting Portfolio Layout' by Jasmine MacPhee. This workshop will provide you with the knowledge and tools to create an effective portfolio that showcases your skills and talents, making it easier for you to negotiate better deals and land more freelance gigs.