Finding work as a creative can be challenging. What exactly are prospective clients looking for? How should a portfolio be positioned to demonstrate that you are capable of addressing a client’s needs? How do you know which pieces to include, and what formats and platforms should be used? Below are some tips, tricks, and tools to keep in mind as you create your portfolio, because finding work as a creative can be challenging...but it doesn’t have to be.
WHO NEEDS A PORTFOLIO?
Anyone who has a creative body of work that speaks to their professional abilities and interests should have a portfolio. This includes any role from a UX/UI designer or developer, to a visual designer, to a user researcher, to marketing professionals. Popular digital portfolio platforms include Behance, Dribbble, and even LinkedIn. But as long as samples of your work are easily accessible, the digital platform doesn’t matter nearly as much as the work represented.
PORTFOLIO DOS AND DON’TS
Keep it diverse. It’s never a bad thing to demonstrate diversity in terms of skillset and interests. Don’t limit your portfolio to websites or wireframes if your skillset extends beyond these. Your portfolio can and should have a focus, but show every facet of your talent even if the medium used or project topic doesn’t directly apply to your future roles. A broad range of creative talent in a variety of media is a good thing, and even better is an ability to explain your thinking and process as it applies to any project.
- Organize your work in a hierarchy. Potential clients want to see how you think. Each piece of your portfolio should be accompanied by a story:
- What was the purpose?
- What was the problem you were trying to solve?
- Who was the client, and who were the users?
- Who did you collaborate with?
- What steps did you take to get the final outcome?
Additionally, it’s not just the story of each project that matters, but your overall story and evolution as a creative. Be sure to order your work in a hierarchical fashion that makes sense and pulls the viewer’s attention to your most important and relevant work.
- Describe your creative portfolio elements in layperson’s terms. Keep your project descriptions and explanations of your process clear and concise. Don’t be vague or wordy. Be sure to distribute images and content in a way that’s easy to consume and understand. Be mindful of potential proprietary and IP roadblocks. If you aren’t able to explicitly list the name of a former client or the name of their product, describe it as best as you can without revealing identifying details.
- Don’t keep outdated work in your portfolio. Examples of your work should correspond with today’s trends in design and/or content strategy. Your portfolio should be constantly evolving, with old projects being removed and new ones added. Similarly, if your creative portfolio resides on your own website, the overall design of the site should also show an understanding of current design trends.
- Don’t worry about quantity in favor of quality. The temptation to retain outdated work is greatest when the priority is placed on stuffing your portfolio with as much work as possible. But the old adage of ‘quality over quantity’ applies here, without question. Include the work that best represents yourself and your current skillset- even if that limits the number of projects represented.
- Don’t restrict yourself to a single platform if it makes sense to use multiple. Some creatives maintain multiple platforms and use different sites for different branches of their entire skillset. This is another effective way to manage and display varying styles or types of media across your larger body of work. Additionally, top platforms make use of a profile search feature, which means that displaying your work through a multitude of outlets can potentially increase your exposure. That being said, when presenting the link(s) to your digital portfolio to potential clients, specifically mention what kind of work or medium can be found at which link. All such links should be added to your LinkedIn profile, as should any links to personal websites.
Also worth considering…
- Many creatives choose to personalize their websites or digital portfolios with a photo of themselves. It can be a good way of showing your personality and putting a face with a body of work.
- If you’re junior, your portfolio can include school projects and/or freelance work.
- Instead of using digital platforms, some folks opt for PDF versions of their portfolios, which can often alleviate any potential sticking points with proprietary laws. Any digitally-transferrable or searchable form works just fine, as long as it accurately represents your work and tells your story.
In short, your creative portfolio is the prized asset that can land you the job. Keep yours clean, well-designed, and inclusive of only current quality work. Don’t sell yourself short by limiting your portfolio to a collection of finished projects without providing any insight as to how you arrived at the final product. Your creative process and problem solving skills are ultimately what can separate you from the rest of the pack!
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