A portfolio is tool contractors use to show the best work they've done, to list their areas of expertise, and to show positive feedback from past clients. Nowadays, most contractors have websites on which they show their portfolios. That being said, it's always a good idea to have a book version of your portfolio you can bring to interviews and meetings to impress potential clients on the spot. As you build a successful career and branch out, your portfolio can also include any press you've received, relevant articles you've written, and awards or honors you've earned for your contracting work.
Make a Website
It's essential that you have an online portfolio. While it is a good idea to have some hard copies of your portfolio, you will find that most potential clients are going to learn about your contracting work by visiting your website. Even if they hear about you through recommendations, they still might look at your online portfolio before they call you. If you have little in the way of web design experience, hire a web designer. Your site should be simple, clean, and easy to navigate. The focus should be on visual images of the work you've done and quotes from you and your past clients about the high quality of your work. Make sure that contact information, such as email address, phone number, and mailing address, is easy to find.
Document with Pictures
Pictures are the key to your portfolio. They show your clients the kind of work you're capable of doing. Take plenty of before and after photos. For example, if you specialize in upgrading bathrooms and kitchens, get some pictures of the bathroom or kitchen before you started working on it, then get photos that show in detail the ways in which you improved individual elements. Avoid too many distant shots or obscure shots that make it hard to see the detail of your work since this can make potential clients suspicious.
List Your References
References show potential clients you have experience doing the job right. If you have a number of different areas of specialization, you can benefit from having references for each area. For example, if you do landscaping and pool installation, you'll want satisfied customers giving positive feedback about both of these areas. For contractors who are just getting started and may not yet have a full portfolio, do some low cost or even free work to build up some experience and earn references early on.
Writing articles about the kind of contracting work you do is a great way to make your business more inviting to potential clients. For example, if one of your specialties is woodwork, write a how-to article about taking care of wood furniture. Include tips for polishing and tarnishing wood. Even if you can't find a publication or website in which to publish your articles, making them available for free as part of your online portfolio is a great way to not only make your contracting business more approachable, but to keep potential clients who visit your website more interested in your work.
David Nelson has written about business, management and career guidance for companies such as Conjecture Corporation and Valley Direct Media and has worked in management and as a college level writing tutor. He has a Masters degree in writing from the New School Writing Program in New York City.