You already know why having an Upwork portfolio is important for helping the right clients find you and hire you for high-paying freelance writing work.Maybe you’ve even added a sample or two to your portfolio already.
But what if you already have work that you’ve done in your niche — but you created it for someone who won’t let you share it, or you don’t have access to it anymore?
Or what if you’ve done work that’s sort of related to your niche, but it’s not really… work, per se? Like, you wrote a Facebook post about your kid’s school because the school desperately needed funding for a project, and your post got shared over 200 times in less than a day and the principal called you personally to thank you because they wound up getting a couple of totally unexpected and seriously large donations as a direct result of your post?
Suppose you taught your mom how to use her computer to make scrapbooks full of pictures of the grandkids. You sat down with her and walked her through the entire process. Then you wrote down a little cheat sheet for her so that she would know what to do even when you weren’t sitting next to her. And now you’re marketing your skills as a writer who can explain complex concepts in ordinary language and create trainings that anyone can understand? Can you really use your mom as a work sample?
Yes. All of these can make amazing additions to your Upwork portfolio, if you add them in as case studies.
In fact, pretty much any work that you’ve ever done in your life can easily be turned into a case study that you can use in your Upwork portfolio.
What Exactly is a Case Study?
You’ve probably heard the term case study before. And you might even think, “Hey, I totally know what a case study is.” Awesome. So, miss smarty-pants, define case study for me.
Right. That’s okay. Case studies are one of those fuzzy vocab words — the ones we think we know, until we actually have to define them.
Anyway, a case study is when you take something that happened and describe it, with plenty of details. A case study can be a real event — you sitting with your mom to teach her how to make digital scrapbooks — or a hypothetical one — a business that needed lost data and needed to recreate it — that you use to demonstrate a process, how to apply certain knowledge, or drawing specific conclusions based on evidence.
For our purposes, we’ll focus on things that actually happened, but we might not offer up people’s identities.
How to Write a Case Study
Now that we’re clear on what a case study is, writing one isn’t difficult or complex. In fact, the more straightforward you can make your case study, the easier it will be for people to follow and understand it.
Even better: when you know how to write a great case study, you’ll have another skill you can market to your clients in your Upwork profile!
To get started, simply describe what happened and what you did. For example, with that Facebook post mentioned earlier, you could say something like:
A local school needed to drive awareness of a fundraising campaign to increase donations. I wrote this post, which was shared over 200 times in a single day. Several donors responded to the post with unexpected donations that were significantly larger than the school had anticipated.
What about helping Mom? Here’s how you could present that:
My client needed training on a new software product. I provided a hands-on tutorial session and created a job aid that users could refer to in the future. The training took about two hours, and the client reported that the instructions were completely clear and understandable by everyone, even those with no previous technology skills.
Case studies for clients are typically longer than the two or three sentences we’ve written here, but they follow the same basic idea. You ask the client to describe the situation.
WidgetMoveGlobal (WMG) is one of the largest widget transportation systems in Europe, moving over 100 million widgets annually. The system incorporates buses, planes, cargo ships, scooters, and delivery vans.
WMG needed a solution that would enable them to anticipate traffic delays and reroute deliveries efficiently.
Next, you explain the first thing your client did, which might be a needs assessment, or an outline of the solution to be provided. For example:
AmazingSolutions completed a comprehensive technical analysis of the existing setup, including determining what information was needed and how it was used. Here are lots of specific details on all of that information, in addition to specifics on the budget and space constraints for the new solution.
Then describe the solution your client provided, in as much detail as possible.
We installed our flagship product that provides all these cool things and lets WMG know exactly where every widget is at every moment. The solution incorporated these 7 things, each of which is detailed extensively, and we took special care to think about these three things that our competitors overlook in their solutions.
See? You can create case studies for just about anything.
Add Your Case Study to Your Upwork Portfolio
Once you’ve written up the description of what you did for your own case study, it’s time to add it to your portfolio. Give your case study a descriptive title. You could use something like Engaging Social Media Posts that Drive Traffic and Results for your Facebook post. For the work you did with your mother on the digital scrapbook, you could try a title such as Training Program and Supplementary Documentation.
I recently added an email marketing case study to my portfolio. Guess what? It's an email marketing campaign I wrote FOR MY OWN LIST.
You can also add screenshots to make your portfolio items more visual. Your Facebook post provides an easy and obvious screenshot — just use the post itself and circle the number of times it was shared.
You can use an image of the cheat sheet you made for your mother, or just write Training and Documentation in a nice font and take a screenshot of that. It’s simple to create an appropriate screenshot or image that will give your case study a more professional feel.
Yes, it’s really that simple, and yes, you really can do this. Upwork even encourages it. There’s NO RULE that samples have to be paid work or work done for someone else. Fill your portfolio with work that flaunts your ability.
Strong portfolio items will help your Upwork profile to stand out, and can even help you attract the attention of clients who will invite you to relevant writing jobs.
What questions do you still have about Upwork portfolio items? What’s keeping you from adding some to your profile today?