You need a portfolio. Yes, I know you know that. But do you actually have one? If you do have one, when’s the last time you updated it? If you answered anything other than “yes” and “recently,” you’ve got work to do. If you’re unsure how to build a portfolio or unclear on what to put in the one you’ve already got, we can help.
Here’s the deal: portfolios aren’t just for writers and visual artists. Product pros, UXers, content producers, and anyone else who builds or designs needs to be able to show off their work to a recruiter or networking contact at a moment’s notice.
5 Rules for Building a Great Portfolio
Keep it recent. Digital moves fast. Focus on recent products, stories, and technologies. To avoid coming off as dinosaur or someone clinging to past successes, avoid going back more than five to seven years. An exception to this rule would be if an older project was groundbreaking, award winning, or made you famous.
Stay Relevant. If you want to build consumer-facing apps with simple, user interfaces, that’s what your portfolio should showcase. If you design digital marketing collateral for start-ups is your thing, that should be the focus of your portfolio. See where we’re going here?
Stay On Message. Don’t cram everything you’ve ever done into your portfolio. Doing this dilutes your personal brand’s signal-to-noise ratio and distracts your audience from what you want really want them to see. If you’re an editor, don’t include photos of the cat sweaters you sell on Etsy.
Provide Context. Putting your work in context makes a huge difference, but few people do it well. Don’t neglect it. Don’t just show me a cool piece of graphic design. Explain the story behind it. Why did you create it? Who was the client? What was the product? How was it received? A paragraph or two is more than enough for each piece in your portfolio.
Proofread the Damn Thing. Honestly, people. Proofreading isn’t hard, and it’s damn sure not optional. After you’ve written your bio and the blurbs for each piece, go back and read them again. If I had a dollar for every portfolio I’ve seen that was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, I’d be doing something a lot more exciting than writing this blog post.
Where do I start?
You could hire a developer (unless you are a developer) to build you a snazzy portfolio. Or you could use a platform like these:
Writers and Editors: I’m particularly partial to Contently for a number of reasons. One of which is their portfolio builder. Their layout options are great and adding clips couldn’t be easier. I keep my own humble portfolio over there. If that doesn’t float your boat, however, try Clippings.me.
Designers and Visual Artists: Cargo Collective is amazing. Getting an account requires an application, but I’m sure they’ll welcome you with open arms. If you don’t like explaining yourself, however, a good old Tumblr works just fine.
Product Managers and UXers: Seriously? You guys should build your own.