7 Tips for a Better Portfolio

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When it comes to putting together your portfolio, there’s a lot of things to think about.

What platform should you use? How many projects should you share? How do you get people to actually check out your website?

Here are 7 tips to keep in mind when getting your portfolio setup.

1. Quality over Quantity

Avoid “filler” pieces and only show the work you’re most proud of. I’ve been sharing Simon Pan’s portfolio as an example a lot recently, but seriously- take a look if you haven’t already! At the time of writing this there are only 3 case studies shown, but each one is oozing with details about the process so potential clients or employers can see at first glance that he’s an expert.

2. Show work for the job you want

This is one of those tips that may feel easier said than done. Because it’s just.so.tempting. to share each project that you’ve worked on to "prove" that you have a range of experience and skills. However, the truth is that when potential clients view your work - they’re making judgements on whether or not you will be a good fit for the project they’re looking for, and they’re making these judgements based on the work you’re presenting. You know that saying “like attracts like”? Present projects in your portfolio that you want to get more of and more will follow.

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3. Share Side Projects

Side projects are smart for a variety of reasons. They can make great portfolio pieces, especially if you’re having a hard time landing gigs that you’re interested in - you can do “self initiated” work to present in your portfolio. They’re also a great way to refine or learn new skills. Not to mention, illustrates that you’re passionate and engaged designer. 

Related: How to Find Your Niche as a Designer

4. Share in-progress projects

Don’t just share shots on dribbble (where a lot of potential clients might get distracted and click away). But try sharing in-progress or behind the scenes pictures on your blog (don’t forget to share strategies and reasoning behind your decision making. Perhaps it can be a monthly blog feature that gives you something to promote, shows you’re actively working on projects and can drive visitors to your site.

5. Share compelling case studies

Detailed case studies are the best way to take your portfolio site from amateur to expert. You can outline your process, from the researching & brainstorming phase to final deliverables. Do your best to get a client testimonial which really helps with that social proof! Perhaps, put together a “project survey” of sorts to send to your clients after you wrap a project so that you can learn about what they liked best about working with you (use this as your testimonial), and what you can improve upon.

Related: How to display your portfolio projects + get hired

6. Stop grading yourself

There’s no need to give yourself a “72%” rating on your photoshop skillz or “36% HTML & CSS”. When someone sees this, they’re first thoughts are, “okay you’re decent at photoshop but don’t really know how to code”. What if the employer simply wants someone who has standard knowledge of HTML & CSS? You’re instantly turning them off with your 36% but in reality have a strong understanding. These percentages mean different things to everyone - it’s best to leave them out.

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A couple other somewhat related tips: share a professional headshot, it will help “humanize” the person behind the portfolio. Don’t worry about sharing your age or when you graduated, if you have the skills- it doesn’t matter and you don’t want someone taking you less seriously.

7. Get Marketing

Having marketing skills is something that has not only benefited my clients, but also helped my freelance business. Marketing can be hard for creatives because it feels a little out of our comfort zone. But utilizing strategies like call to actions, email lists, blogging and social media will really help get your portfolio out there and will ultimately help you in getting the jobs that you’re excited about.