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How I deleted my portfolio and made $30k in 6 weeks

Written by Robert Williams

Have you noticed some people kill it without a portfolio?

I regularly meet design firms doing millions of dollars in client work with a website that just says ”coming soon.”

That’s the power of spending time on things that really matter.

You get away with skipping hours and hours of wasted time, working on a portfolio that won’t create a dime of revenue.

When I got fired in 2012, I decided to take my design business full-time. On that day, my professional life became about one thing: getting clients.

And that’s when I realized it. My portfolio was a huge time-suck.

After all, most of my “competition” had similar work. Similar quality. Similar types of projects. So how could clients even tell me apart?

What would happen if I got rid of my portfolio?


This forced me to put my focus on my communication skills.

But what if a potential client wanted to see my work and asked me for a sample?

“I could send them a pdf… I guess?”

This change in strategy, I later found out, was the true deciding factor in client-success. It lead me to craft an offer specifically designed for people I wanted to help.

So, when I sat down with clients, I avoided showing my work or talking in broad terms other freelancers used to describe their experience. Instead of saying “I do user experience design,” I talked about how my designs created more engagement with customers and increased conversions.

Having laser focus on what my goal was, allowed me to stop letting my ego and my portfolio dictate how I was communicating and instead let the results control my actions.

I would ask myself if what I was doing was winning me clients. The answer binary.

It meant my energy and time was spent on the most important thing to my business: making money.

… It also allowed me to see what other areas were a total waste of time. Things that weren’t directly helping me generate revenue were killed… this included; twitter, facebook, blogging, dribbble, reading emails and more.

I stopped letting the success of my business depend on outside forces like others contacting me.

Because of this, I was able to track where my efforts were getting the biggest return.

Before too long I knew approximately how many leads I had to email in order to land a client.

I even created a folder in my inbox for tracking all of this. Whenever a lead would email me back – even just to let me know they were going with another designer – I would put them in a special folder.

A pool of leads to follow up with in the future.

That folder quickly became my most valued source for new work. I’d simply wait a while and then ask them how their project turned out.

A relationships-first approach. No portfolio required.

It just took being helpful.

In the end, constantly updating my portfolio, tweeting, and posting dribbble shots, with no strategy in place may have felt like work, but it was just huge distraction.

To be a successful freelancer I needed to focus on one thing, getting more clients.

Do you know exactly how many emails you need to send to land a new client? How confident would you be if you did?

Better yet, how much money would you make if you could find that number of clients any time you wanted? That’s exactly what I’d like to dive into next.

Part 2: My 5 Favorite Places to Find Clients That Are Ready to Buy →

Robert Williams

I help underwater design agencies fix staff shortages quickly and come back up for air. I run Folyo, a private referral community of product designers, and I host Freelance, a podcast about how to work independently.

The best clients come from referrals

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