Creative professions are one of the few disciplines in which your online portfolio holds more weight than your qualifications. The accessibility of free online learning means that these days, with a healthy dose of gumption, ‘creatives’ can find high quality educational content without forking out for expensive qualifications. That, and the allure of creative work also means that there is more competition than ever for jobs. Your portfolio is your ticket to getting your hands on more exciting work. I won’t pretend to know everything, but I can provide you with some powerful steps to help you shine.
Step 1. Make up your mind
Imagine your dream creative job – what would you be doing? How well does your portfolio reflect the work you’d like to be doing? You’ll need to make up your mind as to whether you’d like to specialise in one area, or work with a wider breadth of skills. Go through each piece/project in your portfolio and assess how well it presents your suitability for the role you’re searching for, then continue to step two.
Step 2. Cut out the dead wood
Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest piece. Identify it and remove it, or bring it up to standard. Do so until you have 10 strong pieces, and increase that number if you feel it’s necessary. If your portfolio is comprised mostly of personal projects, it might be a good idea to find some charities, churches, or local clubs in need of creative work. That way you’ll be gaining some valuable experience while creating ‘live’ examples of your work.
Step 3. Put it into context
Okay, so your pictures are looking pretty, but what does each piece represent? If it was a personal project, what did you intend to learn from it? How well did the project turn out? Is it live somewhere? Can we see it? Make sure each piece/project has some descriptive element to help potential employers understand more about the way you work. Be honest and open about each project – you might have to describe them in an interview.
Step 4. Be accessible
Picture this: a creative director has seen your portfolio and likes your work – now they want to get hold of you, and your details are either not present, or frustrating to find. To avoid such tragedies, make sure a method of contact is visible on every page. In addition, check that your portfolio pieces are easy to download. Are they covered in horrible watermarks? Potential employers might want to download examples of your work to discuss with colleagues. Make it easy for them to do so.
Step 5. Make it Granny proof
Could your Grandmother navigate your portfolio? Avoid tiny thumbnails and pretentious navigation systems (unless they’re really straightforward). Your work should take centre stage, big and bold, easy to flick through. If you don’t feel comfortable building your own online portfolio, there are hundreds of cheap/free options available online. Bear in mind that a standalone portfolio isn’t totally necessary these days; sites like Behance (owned by Adobe), Coroflot and Carbonmade are perfectly acceptable (and free) methods of displaying your work. The personalised URLs they provide are short, and will still fit nicely on your business card.
- Google yourself. Delete incriminating content, close unwanted accounts, hide your Facebook profile, refine your professional image.
- Keep a hard copy of your work on a laptop/tablet/portable device, so you can show it on demand.
- Push new work on Twitter, Facebook, Dribbble, etc. Pick one or two social channels that work well for you and focus your efforts.
- Consider including a PDF version of your projects to make it easier for potential employers to download/share your work.
That’s my two cents, but it’s far from an exhaustive list. Let us know what you find frustrating about the creative portfolios you’ve seen online. Do you have any advice for fellow creatives?