We all know our design portfolios are what mostly get us hired. Thankfully, I’ve managed to get some work despite knowing my current portfolio page has always needed improvement. Well, at least it was enough to get a few potential clients asking for more, so I get to send them a better and more comprehensive PDF portfolio. Admittedly, it isn’t good practice to put up an online portfolio that isn’t good enough and just hope it will get us some jobs anyway. It’s almost like going for a job interview carrying a beat-up case with poorly organized pieces or pages falling off.
So now, I finally have time to work on my portfolio page and hope to have it much improved and up in a few days. Here’s what I’m doing and if you’re also feeling that your page needs updating, I hope you find this helpful.
Making it Presentable
It depends on what kind of work you do and how you feel is the best way to present it. As this is my identity portfolio, I’m all for using thumbnails on one page. A note on using thumbnails, it should be large enough to show the most relevant part of the work itself, like just a logomark, if you prefer not to show it along with the company name. It annoys me when I look through portfolios with thumbnails that show a tiny part of the work and I am forced to click on it, assuming I’m still interested. Potential clients may have less patience. Also, the thumbnails should link to a larger preview or a page with more details about the project. We expect thumbnails to be clickable.
Unless the work is really good, I don’t have much patience for flash portfolios either. If you are presenting your work in flash, consider first if it is really the best way to show your work. (If you specialize in flash websites, of course flash is right for you.)
Putting Together the Content
What we put in our portfolios need not be every design we have ever done in our careers, just those we believe are the best representations of our skills.
It’s always a good idea to include a short description of the project. Some photos or mock-ups will also give the viewer a better understanding and appreciation of the work.
When sharing to potential clients, I would just like to say that you shouldn’t sound apologetic. Be proud of your work because no one else will be proud of it for you (except your mom). Needless to say, all work we do, whether it’s to be included or not in our portfolios, should always be something we are proud of in the first place. When I worked in an office years ago, my boss used to ask me, “Are you proud of this?” (read: I’m not entirely pleased). It’s a question I still ask myself before sending a file to a client.
It’s easy to put ourselves down when we view excellent work done by other designers. The thing to remember however is, we aren’t aiming to be inferior versions of Milton Glaser, we are aiming to be better versions of ourselves.
I’ve gone a bit off-topic there but I think it needed to be said. Anyway, as we become better designers, we replace the weaker pieces of our portfolios with our most recent and stronger ones.
Providing a Call-to-Action
I don’t mean Buy Now buttons, unless you’re indeed selling something, but since we put up portfolios so clients can see our work, we ought to make it easy for them to hire us or discuss some more. So put a link to your email or contact page, invite them to read the testimonials, link to your About, Pricing or FAQ pages. Put all those on the portfolio page. The point is to make it as easy as possible for the client to have a clearer picture of what it’s like to work with you and talk about hiring you.
Improving our portfolios would certainly increase our chances of getting the jobs and clients we want. How about you, is your portfolio working for you? What tips can you share that made your portfolio stand out?
Update 02-015-13: My updated portfolio.