A professional portfolio is key for seeking out new clients. What to include, how to present your work, and how often to update your portfolio are all important considerations that could set you apart from your competition, or leave a less-than-lasting impression on potential leads.
With practice, creating and maintaining a stellar portfolio won’t feel like a chore. Setting a few guidelines for choosing, displaying, and rotating your pieces will streamline the process and keep it from becoming overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll discuss why a portfolio is important for all professionals. Then we’ll share some tips on how to create and maintain your portfolio so it stays fresh and helps you attract new clients. Let’s get going!
Why a Portfolio Is Crucial to a Successful Career
While they used to be purely the domain of creatives like designers and writers, portfolios are now becoming more widespread. Professionals in other fields are finding portfolios useful additions to traditional resumes.
This is because a portfolio can show potential clients or employers so much more than a resume can. It’s difficult to demonstrate what you’re capable of in a bullet point list. However, exhibiting specific projects you’ve completed in the past gives your work the chance to speak for itself.
Portfolios are, by nature, more visually oriented than a resume. Even if you’re showing off spreadsheets and presentations instead of elaborate graphic design, your work is likely to be more memorable than your list of accomplishments and skills.
Maintaining your portfolio so it’s always ready to go ensures you’ll have your best work on hand when you need it. You never know when an opportunity might arise to show your work off and advance your career.
How to Create and Maintain a Stellar Portfolio (3 Key Tips)
Whether you’re in a creative profession and portfolios are standard, or you’re in a field where portfolios are just emerging and you want to make a good impression in a job interview, these tips will help you put your best work forward.
1. Choose Pieces That Represent Your Professional Identity
When choosing pieces for your portfolio there are three main factors to consider: quality, individuality, and variety. The combination of these aspects gives anyone who looks at your portfolio a window into who you are as a professional.
It probably goes without saying that you’ll want to put your very best work into your portfolio. However, determining which projects are your best could be difficult. One method is to focus on the work that gives you the greatest sense of pride.
Another is to prioritize pieces created to advance the goals of the client or company. Showing off a spreadsheet that not only organizes data, but also helps predict customer behavior and boost sales, demonstrates benefits you can provide beyond technical skills.
You’ll be competing with several other people with similar qualifications when you’re presenting your portfolio. Choosing pieces that show what you do differently can help make your work be more memorable.
For example, you might include a piece to demonstrate an uncommon design technique you’re highly proficient in. If you’re not in a creative field, a presentation on an innovative project you lead could make a similar impact.
Finally, you want to be careful not to seem as if your work is too niche or specific to be adapted to the job you’re seeking. Showing you’re capable of excelling at a variety of projects demonstrates flexibility and a wider range of skills.
For example, if your portfolio includes only professional headshots, you may have a hard time getting hired as a wedding photographer. Even if the headshots are high quality, potential clients may doubt your ability to do other kinds of work.
2. Display Your Work Clearly to Minimize Distractions and Confusion
It’s vital you display each piece in your portfolio clearly. After all, a portfolio won’t help you much if the people looking at it can’t grasp what they’re seeing. Even if the work itself is of good quality, a poorly-displayed portfolio won’t translate to viewers.
Size and resolution are important both for physical and digital portfolios. You don’t want any images to be too large or too small for viewing, and you should choose resolutions that won’t cause them to come out blurry or pixelated.
For digital portfolios, file size is important as well. Overly large files will slow your site down, which could cause frustration leading to page abandonment. Your portfolio won’t have much use if you have trouble getting people to take the time to look at it.
Including captions or short statements to accompany your pieces ensures potential clients or employers notice key features. Written components can help explain more technical aspects of your work clients might otherwise miss.
Media galleries present your work in an organized and easy-to-navigate fashion – a plus for digital portfolios. Display options such as lightboxes can also improve the visibility of each individual piece, while minimizing visual distractions so your work has the spotlight.
Implementing displays such as galleries and lightboxes is simple when employing dedicated WordPress portfolio plugins. You could also look into a portfolio theme with these features built in, to make sure your entire site shows off your work in its best light.
Lastly, make sure you don’t include too many pieces and overwhelm anyone looking at your portfolio. Ten well curated pieces will speak louder than dozens of repetitive examples.
3. Update Your Portfolio So It Continues to Be Accurate
How frequently you need to update your portfolio will probably vary depending on your profession. How often you search for clients and complete new work can expand or limit your ability to update your portfolio.
Freelancers, for example, tend to have to search for new clients quite frequently. They may need to update their portfolios more often than someone who works for a company.
Also, if your work tends to have fairly tight turnarounds, such as writing copy, you may be able to add new work to your portfolio every week. In contrast, if you work on projects that take months or even years to complete, weekly updates aren’t really an option.
Even so, there are a few factors that are important to consider when thinking about updating your portfolio. Any time you learn a new skill, for example, adding a piece to demonstrate that skill will incorporate more variety into your portfolio.
Changes in your personal style or technique could also indicate a need for an update. Think of your social media profiles – an outdated profile picture leads to an inaccurate portrayal of yourself. Old work no longer reflecting your style can have a similar effect.
Some suggest updating your portfolio on a continuous basis, examining every project as you finish it to determine if you want to include it. This prevents you from having to sift through a large amount of work when you decide to search for a new job.
For others, a regularly scheduled annual update is enough. If you only complete a few projects each year, you’ll be able to do this without having to spend a lot of time going through your work.
A strong portfolio will help you shine in front of potential clients and employers. Making sure you choose the best examples of your work, present them in an appealing way, and keep your portfolio up-to-date are essential to standing out among your competitors.
In this article, we’ve explained why a portfolio is so important for professionals in all fields, and shared some key tips for compiling, displaying, and updating yours. When it comes to creating and maintaining your portfolio, remember to:
- Choose pieces that represent your professional identity.
- Display your work clearly to minimize distractions and confusion.
- Update your portfolio so it continues to be accurate.
Do you have questions about how to create or maintain your portfolio? Let us know in the comments section below!
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.
Excerpt: A professional portfolio goes beyond a traditional resume to show potential clients and employers the full scope of your abilities. Having one is becoming more crucial to landing desirable jobs.
In this article, we’ll discuss why a portfolio is important for all professionals. Then we’ll share some tips on how to create and maintain your portfolio so it stays fresh and helps you attract new clients.