I was running my slow pace early this morning when this song came on. It’s one of my current favorites and most of the time I sing along without thinking much about it.Continue reading “These days, I’m singing all the love songs to myself”
The balance of acceptance and intention is so important.
It’s walking with two hands open: in one hand, complete acceptance of what is, as it is. In the other hand, clear, pure, focused, white-hot desire of what I will to be.Continue reading “All of us in this moment”
Mara came in our room last weekend, flopped on the bed, and said, “How do I get rich and famous?”
I asked her why she wanted to be famous.
“Well, if you get famous, then people want to do stuff for you, and they give you stuff, and you get all kinds of cool free things.”
So, I asked, is the point of being famous to enable yourself to be rich?
“Yeah, pretty much.”Continue reading “How to become wealthy”
When we moved to Puerto Rico, we left behind a strong, connected community.
Well, we’d already left behind a community, in a sense, when we let go of the church. But we still had friendships and connections. Our relationship with that community had lessened, shifted significantly, but it was still there.
We also had a lot of family in the area. Lifelong/since-middle-school best friends. A decade’s worth of professional connections. A little neighborhood quorum of families. And a hybrid, hilarious, immensely supportive group from all sorts of backgrounds who came together once a month for potluck dinners.
Our first year in Puerto Rico felt, in comparison, like a friendship desert.Continue reading “Community expands to fill the space we give it”
Requirements to sustain life: not much, really.
Water. That’s important.
Food. Also important. But we don’t need a special kind of food. Any kind of food will do. Any kind of food will keep us alive. Yes, there are a few exceptions. You can’t live on peanuts if you have a deathly peanut allergy, obvs. But those are—what?—the exceptions. Exceptions don’t invalidate a principle; they just show its limits.
What else? What else do we need to live?
We need protection from the elements: shelter of some kind. Warmth when it’s cold. A cool place when it’s too hot. Some protection from the extremes of nature. But it doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be ours. Shared, basic, dirty, clean, small, large, it doesn’t matter. And we need the kind of shelter that we wear: clothes, shoes. Again, any kind will do. It just needs to be functional to, well, function.
That’s it. Those are the basic requirements of life.
There are other things we need sometimes: care and medicine if we’re sick, assistance and aid if we’re injured or incapacitated. Those are situational needs for most of us. They come, they go.
Sustaining life requires very little.
So what’s all the fuss? All the work? All the effort for more, more, more? Is it about need?
Sometimes, sure! Sometimes we’re in a situation that requires more than usual.
But most of the time? No. It’s not about need. It’s about the illusion of need.
I live, currently, in a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment with my husband and our four kids. We’re looking for a bigger place, because one bathroom and six people is kind of awful.
But do we need it? No. We do not need a bigger home. We can believe in the illusion of need. We can come up with all sorts of reasons, and validate them by comparison and logic. Logic! Logic is such a great tool, so handy for justifying all the extra work we have to do to get all the things we think we need.
We don’t need that much.
We want more, don’t we? Yes! We want so much more.
Water and cold water and sparkling water and frozen water to put inside my non-frozen water! Also, I’d like things to add to my water so it doesn’t taste like water. And I’ll also have some hot water and things to put in my hot water so it becomes more than water (magical life-giving elixir) and then maybe some other things to add to the hot-magic-bean water and that should just about do it.
Food, but not just any food! Good food, fresh food, organic food, various combinations of food, snacks, fruits, no not that kind of fruit the other kind of fruit, vegetables yes, but please only vegetables that taste a certain way. And I’d like some special types of food that I use to enhance or disguise other types of food. Also, there’s some food I want that has no value for helping me survive (and may even make it more difficult to survive). Oh, let’s not forget the food that I won’t ever eat, those jars and cans and boxes that get shuffled around for months and thrown out when I move from this perfectly sufficient shelter to the other one that I like better.
Shelter! A perfectly sufficient shelter has walls, a roof, a floor, electricity, running water. Really, that’s a luxury shelter. The floor is optional. The electricity is optional. The running water is optional, too. You can get water elsewhere and bring it back to your shelter. But this is about what I want, and I want a good shelter. I want a luxury shelter. I want a better shelter than the one I have. Why? It won’t help me survive. It adds no necessary functionality. A house doesn’t improve your survival rate because it’s got fancier floors, more walls, a higher roof, and more taps from which to access that running water.
And clothes, the temporary, wearable, transportable shelter we take with us. We are weird about clothes. Not only are we insanely picky about them, we often pick the ones that hinder rather than aid our survival. High heels? Are you kidding me? Have you seen these things called Spanx that they sell for women? Necessary? No. Suffocating? Yes. Men: what is the function of the necktie? How does it help you survive?
Ah, you say. It’s because we are animals. Intelligent animals, yes, but animals nonetheless. We use our better food, better shelter, better clothes to attract a mate. To procreate.
Hm, okay. But you can live a long life without mating. Sex is necessary for procreation, yes, but it’s not necessary for life once you’re already here.
Ah, you say. It’s because we are social animals. We have an advanced civilization with many complex social rules. We use these things—food, shelter, clothes—to indicate our status in our society, to advance, to succeed.
Hm, yes. We do. We wear certain types of clothes to indicate what kind of group we belong to in this complex and advanced civilization. But group-belonging is not necessary for survival. It used to be, back when ostracization from the tribe literally meant death.
Did you realize you can live a long, healthy, happy life without belonging to any sort of group, these days? Fascinating.
All of these things—the better food, the fancier water, the bigger shelter—are to fulfill wants, not needs. We do not need more than necessary for survival. We want it. We want more than survival. We want comfort. We want connection. We want belonging. We want meaning. We want adventure. We want fun.
But what are all those things? Comfort, connection, belonging, meaning, adventure, fun, etc.? Where do you find them? How do you know when you have achieved them? How much more/better is needed to achieve those wants? They’re intangible. There’s no measure. There’s no standard.
You know because you feel it, right?
You know you have comfort when you feel comfortable. You know you have connection when you feel connected. You know you’re having fun when you feel like you’re having fun.
So, what do we want?
We want the good feelings. We want the feeling of comfort, joy, love, connection, fun. And we work hard to get ourselves the things we need in order to have those feelings. Sometimes we have to endure a lot of pain to get the bigger/better things we need so we can have the good feelings we want.
What if—just an idea, a crazy one, but hear me out—what if we paused our frantic rush for bigger/better/more? What if, instead, we spent some time thinking about the feelings we want to have? What if we figured out exactly what’s required to experience those feelings? More of them, lots of them, maybe even all the time.
We might not need to work so hard. We might not need bigger/better/more. We might find out that those experiences—those good feelings—are available right now, as we are, with what we have.
It’s certainly an idea worth exploring.
Photo by mein deal on Unsplash.
A content dashboard is a central place for doing all the things you, or your team, need to do to work with content.
Ideally, a content dashboard is a simple as possible.
A complex interface often creates more options than you need. Simple decisions and tasks become more complicated and effort-filled than necessary. The result is inefficiency and frustration.
Of course, a content dashboard that can’t do what you need it to do is equally frustrating. That’s probably what you’re dealing with now, and why an article about building a content dashboard drew your attention. “Ah,” you think, “This is the way to solve the frustration of not having everything in one place, of feeling behind, feeling like I don’t have a big picture, feeling like I spend more time figuring out how to do the work than actually doing the work.”
A content dashboard may help solve the issues that contribute to those feelings. It’s certainly helped me.
What do you do with content?
Before you can picture (or build) the kind of content dashboard you need, you need to know exactly what you’re doing with content.
Here’s what I do with content, more or less.
Your process may be slightly different. Before you can picture the content dashboard that will serve you well, define your content process. Name the stages of your content workflow, the big-picture moves.
You don’t have to break down all the steps you (or someone) will take in, say, the Creating stage (research, outline, draft, edit, revise, create assets, work with design, proofread, etc.). When you do that, your big-picture becomes a zoomed-in, detail-filled focal point and you lose sight of the whole process. At the right time, that’s appropriate! But now is not the right time.
When you’re trying to picture and build a content dashboard, you need the big-picture view of your content workflow.
Think of stages, rather than steps.
What you need in a content dashboard
Now that you know the stages of your content workflow, you’re ready to think about what your content dashboard can do—or should do—for you.
Here’s the important thing to remember: a content dashboard does not need to have all the features necessary to do the work of each content stage.
The content dashboard needs to be capable of three things:
Tracking: Show you (and others on your team) where each project or assignment is, which stage it’s in, and how far along it is in that particular stage. I call this tracking. It’s kind of like scheduling, but with more flexibility. The emphasis isn’t on getting a certain task done at a certain time, but on forward movement: following a natural flow, enabling autonomy, and working efficiently.
Sharing: Make it easy for you (and others on your team) to access what they need for each stage and, if possible, for each step or task within that stage. It’s resource and information sharing: what is needed to complete the next task? Here it is. What’s shared could be a link, a document, a draft, a checklist, a discussion, etc.
Logging: Hold notes or some other record that shows what’s been done (and, preferably, when and by whom). It’s the way you ensure that completed means completed. It helps you notice what isn’t working (inconsistencies, inefficiencies, frequent errors) and what is working (ideas, improvements, follow-up notes, themes).
If you’re a solo creator, it’s easy to settle for a content dashboard that works for you and you alone. I think that’s a mistake.
First, we tend to tolerate our own disorganization and procrastination far more than we should. If you wouldn’t work “this way” in a team, or when a client is watching, why force yourself to work that way anytime?
Second, we tend to discount the value of systems and defined processes for solo work. That often means we end up working inefficiently, feeling frustrated, and thinking that it’s all our fault.
In a sense, it is: we are being too hard on ourselves.
We aren’t giving ourselves the tools and information we need to do the work we want to do. However, we think our failure is all our fault in a much deeper, more detrimental sense: that we’re flawed, somehow. That we’re incapable. That we’re unqualified imposters, and the only answer is to work harder, work longer, do more, suffer more, and try to keep our shit together long enough to reach some mythical productivity castle-on-a-hill in which all secrets will be revealed, efficiency enlightenment will rain upon us, our self-doubt will dry up, and we will finally know that we are good enough to do the work we want to do.
If any of that rings true for you, here is the somewhat harsh but freeing realization you might need: the only castle on a hill you’ll reach is the one you’re building, right now. Build it out of poor materials, with a haphazard plan, frustration, bad timing, and undefined standards and you’ll get a junk pile. You don’t want that. You don’t have to settle for that. In order not to end up with a junk pile, you need to see the value in doing things right, right now, even if you’re the only one who knows about it.
Doing things right does not mean delaying the real work so you can test out a hundred tools, play on fifty different platforms, and waste your time fiddling with overly complex systems. That’s why it’s important to define the work you actually do, the stages of it, before you start building a content dashboard. Define what you need so you can picture what you need. Then you’ll be able to identify the right materials and build the thing.
How to build your content dashboard
Here’s the step-by-step breakdown.
1. Identify the stages of your content workflow.
Don’t worry about naming all the steps or defining the purpose for each stage, or otherwise getting lost in details. Just name the stages. Maybe there’s only one stage. Maybe three. Maybe eleven. List them.
2. Think about the tracking, sharing, and logging that you want for each stage of your content workflow.
What kind of files do you share? How much information moves back and forth? How does it all have to work, for it to keep working? What can change? From this thinking, list the essential features that a content dashboard needs to work for you.
Here’s my list:
- file and image uploading
- notes with formatted text (essential for links and identifying the key information)
- a way to discuss or share notes, ideas, comments, questions
- labeling, tagging, or other organizational method to sort various projects/assignments, and to identify which stage each one is in
- available and synced on my laptop and phone/ipad
- usable offline
- ability to back up data (automated if possible)
I have some other features on my list, too, as “preferred” but not necessary.
Now that you know precisely what you need from a content dashboard, you can find a tool that fits. There are many. You can sort through them however you want, just beware of the infinite nature of this pursuit. Give yourself a time limit, and honor it.
You could dedicate an hour to researching tools, pick your top three, and then start a trial for each one. Use one for a day or so, then the next, and so on. At the end of the week, pick the one that is easiest to use.
As far as setting up your content dashboard, don’t.
Instead, just start using it.
You’re going to change your initial configuration anyway. Skip the part where you try to guess what your ultimate setup will be and dive in.
Start using it.
Input the information you need as you need it. Put things in place, and move them around. Don’t become loyal to any element of your organization, which will happen if you’ve invested time and energy into a particular setup. Become loyal, instead, to making it easy to do good work. Follow that trail, and you’ll find a setup that may not be obvious but will actually work.
Our systems are always in flux, so there is no perfect system, ever. But smart use of systems, like a content dashboard, can make your work more efficient and easier. It’s a really nice feeling to have a system you use and can trust. It frees your brain from detail chasing and email answering, and gets you back to creative thinking and making. Have fun.
All confusion comes from lack of clarity.
Confusion itself doesn’t present a threat, or give us pain, necessarily, but it does make us aware of potential pain.
Complexity is fine. Avoiding complexity just because and idolizing simplicity just because isn’t wise; it’s naïve.
There’s nothing truly simple in the universe we inhabit.
We keep trying to distill complex things to their simplest essence, and the damned things erupt into more complexity. We find, in our quest for simplicity, that we can go infinitely outward or infinitely inward, and find ever unfolding layers and levels and patterns and overlaps and pieces and connections and dependencies and always movement, always change.
The quest for simplicity is a futile one, if we’re honest.
Also, if we’re honest, we don’t really want simplicity, if by simplicity we mean fewer options.
What we want is clarity: clarity lets us scan all the options, and find the few that are important right now. Clarity lets us wade through the noise and hear the signal.
The problem isn’t too much noise. The problem is that, without clarity, we don’t recognize the signal when we hear it. We don’t know what we want, what we’re after, so we can’t find it. It may be right in front of us (usually it is). But until we have clarity, we can’t tune in. We’re twirling the dial, hearing the static, hearing the noise, and trying to define the signal while we search for it.
It’s like trying to tune a flute while you’re playing the flute. You can’t do it. The nature of the first activity—tuning—necessarily interrupts the other activity.
It’s the same when we try to find the signal while we’re still figuring out what the signal is. Until you know what you’re listening for, how do you know when you hear it?
I’ve worked with many clients who don’t quite know what they want from their content marketing.
They know they need content. They know they’re supposed to be creating it, lots of it. They know they’re supposed to market with content, somehow? Right? And they know that the content should be related to their business, and helpful to their customers, and, you know, not crap.
They usually have a content goal like
- increase website traffic by X%
- increase conversion rate by Z%
- get better search rankings for XYZ keywords/topics
- get more list subscribers
- make more sales
- increase readership
- establish expertise in XYZ topic/area
- get backlinks.
All of those things are fine, and can be specific, measurable, achievable. In other words, they can fit the “right definition” of a SMART goal.
But that doesn’t mean there’s clarity.
Clarity is the WHY that supports your goals.
Clarity gives you the reason to keep working toward your goal when the initial motivation’s gone, your energy is low, and you keep hitting obstacles.
If you don’t have clarity, you’ll start second guessing your goals. You might second guess them even with clarity. But having clarity will bring you back, help you remember WHY the goal matters to you.
If it doesn’t matter to you, why put yourself through pain to achieve it?
And let’s be honest: reaching a goal—any worthy goal— will bring some pain into your life. A worthy goal is one that stretches you, pushes you, expands your reality in some way. In order to reach the goal, you have to become more than you are now. You have to venture into unknown territory. You have to change something about yourself, your choices, and/or your behaviors to reach new places, to create new results. There’s going to be some pain involved.
This is true of both personal and professional goals.
Goals aren’t a good starting point.
Goals are what you define after you sit still and quiet long enough to get clarity, to answer your own question: WHY?
WHY am I putting effort into this area? WHY do I want to change what’s happening? WHY do I want different results? WHY do I want something other than what I already have?
One WHY leads to another WHY which leads to another WHY. It’s a trail that takes some time to follow.
Don’t rush it.
If you walk the clarity trail long enough, you may find a shortcut. No, not a shortcut to clarity, but a shortcut to getting whatever it is you really want.
Sometimes the goals are distractions. Sometimes they’re goals that sound good, look good, and make us feel good. We pick goals we can justify, goals that make us feel more like the kind of people we want to be.
That’s all well and good if the goals line up with what we’re really after, with the big WHY underlying all our choices and actions. If the goals don’t line up, though, we’re either wasting our time or … Well, we’re wasting our time.
We may burn out before reaching the goal because deep down we know it doesn’t really matter. Or we may reach the goal because we’re good at self-discipline, but reaching the goal won’t give us what we want, sooo… it still doesn’t really matter.
I don’t know about you, but I do not like wasting my time. I do not like spending my energy on meaningless pursuits, no matter how good they sound or how much my ego lights up at the idea of having a new “braggable” achievement.
Clarity is hard to get to because it requires gut-level, ego-free, childlike honesty.
We have all these internal filters that keep us from operating in that kind of honesty. Oh, we’re honest people, mostly. I’m as honest with you as I can be. The limit of my honesty with you is this: how honest am I being with myself?
I can’t be honest with you about something when I’m refusing to be honest with myself about it.
Honesty with self is the real challenge. Clarity requires some good old-fashioned sit-still-and-think time because most of us are not in the habit of being truly freely perfectly unfiltered and honest with ourselves.
So that’s our challenge. It’s a tough one for those of us who value things like efficiency and productivity and who are Type-A overachievers. (Hands up! I see you.)
Let’s remember that effectiveness is as important as efficiency. Let’s take time to be still. Let’s give ourselves time and space to get to the why, the underlying answer, the real motivation.
Clarity first. Goals second. Action third.
You can get clients and make money as a freelancer without these five things. But having these will make it much easier.
I’m writing this both as a freelancer (18 years and counting) and as someone who frequently hires freelancers (for my own projects and for client work).
1: Your own (owned) space on the Interwebs
You need a website. Your own.
Please make one. Please have one. Please put all your freelance stuff on it and please, pretty please, stop sending me to your Linkedin profile because you don’t have a website.
I want to know more about you than Linkedin will tell me. And I don’t want to have to run around the worldwide web to find it. Yes, I’m going to search your name and check out your online reputation. But I don’t want to have to visit five different sites to learn the basics of your expertise and how you might be able to help me.
As a freelancer, here’s why you want your own space:
- You can decide what’s most important about you as a freelance service provider, and highlight it the way you want. Maybe you don’t your Harry Potter fan fic to be the third thing that potential clients find about you. However, if you’re depending on your Linkedin profile and some scattered clips to be your ‘professional online presence,’ you don’t get to control what people find. And trust me: they’ll look, and they will find.
- You can filter all the potential clients and focus on the ones who are the best fit. You do this by clearly stating your core services. You weed out the people who want something you don’t offer.
- You can keep track of all the work you’ve done, in one place. It’s quick and easy to share a webpage with a list of your best clips. It’s time-consuming and frustrating to recreate that list for every client query.
- You can get more clients through the introductory funnel and into the part where they actually pay you. By providing clips, basic info, an easy way to learn more about you, and a contact method all in one place, potential clients are much more likely to become paying clients. They want to work with freelancers who are easy to work with; having all your important freelance info available in one place makes working with you easier for clients.
- It also makes things easier for you! All the questions you answer for potential clients can become blog posts or pages on your website. Some clients will educate themselves. Others will still email and ask you, but now your answer is readily available: send them the link or copy-and-paste. Either way, you’ll be more consistent and you’ll be able to do this preliminary work faster and with less effort.
Here are some ways to get started:
- WordPress. Use WordPress.com if you’re not tech savvy and want a quick, simple solution. Create a self-hosted WordPress site if you want to put a bit more effort and/or money into it. Not sure what those terms mean? Then you want to use WordPress.com, and perhaps hire someone (check Upwork or Fiverr) to help you do it. It’s a worthy investment.
WordPress is reliable and full-featured and it’s been around for a while. Yes, there are alternatives (Square, Wix, etc.) but these are babies compared to WP. Remember that many Internet-company-babies do not survive into adolescence.
- There’s a cool upsurge of text-based website platforms, such as Blot and Small Victories. If you can create a Word document and save it in a folder, you can create a website. There also very affordable.
2: A biography, in several versions
Nobody really enjoys writing about themselves, but it’s an essential part of being a freelancer.
You’re meeting most people—potential clients, colleagues, collaborators, etc.—online, rather than in-person. You have to provide enough information to fill in the gaps that exist when we’re not physically present with someone.
The biographies you need:
- A long version. This is the “full life history” version of your biography, but remember that the long version is still only a page or so. You’re still condensing to the most important information. Provide some personal background, then use that to lead into your professional education and development, career choices, work expertise and experience. Cap it with a summary of what you’re currently working on and offering. This is the biography that can live on your About page.
- A short version. This is the ultra-condensed version. It’s similar to an elevator pitch — you could write it as an elevator pitch. It’s what you’ll send in when you submit a guest post. Pop it at the bottom of your newsletter or put it on your social media profiles. You’re going to drop most of your personal history. Focus on two to three important work achievements or areas of expertise. Add a briefer version of what you’re currently working on and offering.
- Various tailored versions. When you need a bio for a specific use, you’re going to use your short version most of the time. Take 10 minutes to tailor it for every use. This is a quick and easy move, but it can make a big difference in how you appear to clients, readers, editors, etc. When tailoring your bio, consider these three things:
- the expertise you want to emphasize,
- the audience you want to reach,
- the action you want to produce.
3: Your core services and rates
You don’t have to put these on your website. Many freelancers don’t publish their rates online (to my everlasting frustration).
But you should—at the least—have a list of your core services and the standard rates you charge for these services. Here’s mine, if you want to take a look.
Then, when you receive a client query—or want to pitch a new potential client—you have your services and rates ready to send.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Your core services don’t have to be your only services. You can adapt, expand, and adjust to work with specific client needs. But your core services give you a starting point, and your rates help you to more accurately estimate what you’ll charge for specialized work.
- Defining your core services helps you to focus and specialize. This is the fastest route to gaining a good reputation and a roster of repeating clients. If you’re a new freelancer, focus and specialize. Focus and specialize. Later, once you’ve established a reputation and have more completed work to show, you can expand in all sorts of directions.
- Baseline rates: set a standard rate for each of your core services.
- Generally, you need to make your baseline rates higher than you think they should be. Every now and then I come across a freelancer who has vastly overestimated the value of their services. But it’s rare. Far more common are freelancers who vastly underestimate the value of their services.
- Avoid hourly rates. They limit your income-earning potential because they tie your income directly to your time. This is a trap. Avoid it. Per-service, per-deliverable, and per-project rates give you more flexibility. That said, I understand that some services are almost always based on hourly rates. Some freelance platforms (such as Upwork) are based on hourly rates. And maybe you’re cool with hourly rates. If hourly rates make sense for you, use them. Just understand that when you use hourly rates you are limiting your income-earning potential. If you are okay with this, cool. Personally, I am not okay with this, so I avoid hourly rates.
- Raise your rates annually. Do it. It can be a small adjustment. It will add up to be a significant change over time, it will help you raise level of service you provide and are known for (from “average” or “new” to “expert and worth it”), and it will help you raise the quality of your clients.
- Give discounts, but not pointlessly. Discounts are great, but don’t ever give a discount just because a client asks for one. Give a discount when there’s a good reason to give a discount:
- When a client purchases a package rather than an individual service.
- When a client contracts for multiple services or deliverables.
- When a client wants to have an ongoing work agreement (an ideal situation for a freelancer, unless you really dislike the client).
- When a client is providing extra resources or time or is contributing some other type of value.
4: Your No list
This is a simple but powerful list.
It can be known only to you. It is a list of the services you do not provide, the projects you do not take on, the work you will not do.
It will help you focus and specialize. It will raise your standing in the eyes of your clients, because saying no is something you can do only from a position of power. It’s not about being arrogant or unapproachable: it’s about knowing what you’re good at and what you want to offer. You’re the only one who has the right to make those determinations, so start making them.
If you’ve done a certain kind of project and absolutely hated every minute of it, put it on your no list. Use your brain, of course, and figure out what it was that is a No for you. Maybe it was just a needy client; in that case, it’s not the type of project you want to avoid, it’s a particular type of client.
Define what you will and will not accept. Define what you will and will not offer. Write it down, and stick to it.
If it feels aggressive or unhelpful to make your No list public, don’t. Keep it handy, where you glance at it daily and can refer to it as needed.
However, do consider that you can use a No list as a simple way to filter out the clients, jobs, and offers you don’t want. I’ve had a No list on my website for several years and a few of my favorite clients approached me specifically because of it: they liked my clarity and thought we would be a good fit. And they were right.
5: Proof of your skills
A general rule of thumb that I’m making up right now is this one:
- For every core service you offer, have at least one proof of your ability.
If you’re providing expertise in a certain topic, prove your expertise with your writing or completed projects.
If you’re offering a specialized service, give me a way to see something similar that you’ve already completed.
The more advanced and expensive the service, the more proof you need to provide that you’re able to do the work and do it well.
You can also offer testimonials from clients as proof of your skills, but I consider those secondary. I don’t trust everybody’s judgment. Your Client X may have been super happy with your design work, but their standards may be way different than mine. Provide testimonials and positive feedback, sure! They are powerful. But also provide actual proof of the work you’ve done: links, screenshots, even written descriptions are powerful.
Of course, the best place for all this material is your website! Aren’t you glad you have one?