1. Choose pieces that represent the types of jobs you want.
When you’re first starting out as a freelancer in the design world, you will probably take on jobs that pay the bills, but aren’t necessarily your passion. That’s completely fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to display all of that “making-ends-meet” work in your portfolio.
Have you heard the expression “dress for the job you want?” Well, it’s the same idea here. If you show work that is in line with your dream clients and projects, you will attract more people looking for that type of work.
2. Be selective.
Tip #1 segues nicely into this second tip. Be very picky when it comes to choosing pieces for your portfolio. Quality over quantity is the rule here!
It’s ok to have a limited amount of work in your portfolio, and in fact, it’s preferable to filling it with fluff just to increase its size. I would suggest having at least 8-10 projects in your portfolio. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend including more than 16-20 pieces. People have incredibly short attention spans and sometimes too much information can confuse and dissuade potential clients.
If you’re just starting out and have a very limited number of items to show, consider doing self-led conceptual projects where you come up with a fictitious client who has a specific need and problem to solve using your design skills. Or use a resource like this website, RookieUp, which offers a Portfolio Starter Kit that will help you get started for a small fee.
3. Show your process.
It can be really helpful and eye-opening for clients to get a look at your process. It’s one thing to describe it on your website and another thing entirely to show images of each step.
As a graphic designer who creates brand identities for my clients, I create tons of sketches and versions of the branding elements I design for each project. Sharing these allows me to show how much effort and creativity goes into each project. It also helps people feel more comfortable working with me because they’ve gotten a glimpse into what the journey will be like when they are the client.
4. Present it beautifully.
How you present your portfolio is just as important as what you present in your portfolio. Make sure you display your portfolio in a clean and organized way.
These days it may not be necessary to have a physical portfolio; an online presence may suffice and even be the easiest option for all involved.
I design websites on Squarespace and am able to provide beautiful, modern online “homes” for my clients to show off their beautiful work. Whatever platform you choose, make sure the presentation is simple and easy-to-navigate, that each piece is chosen and displayed thoughtfully, and the overall arrangement flows well.
5. Keep it current.
Styles and trends come and go and your skills will improve over time. Be sure you are consistently updating your portfolio so that is reflects your current aesthetic and skill set.
Try to edit existing work and add new work on a quarterly basis, if possible. Schedule some time in to do it along with your quarterly tax and accounting tasks and you’ll always have a fresh, relevant portfolio.
Your portfolio is the heart and soul of your design business. It shows what you can do and what you have to offer. So get to it – design, curate and confidently show off your amazing work!