Using Your Portfolio to its Fullest
Posted September 13, 2008
As your freelancing and studio work progresses, you eventually will have a body of work that you'll be able to pull from in order to woo potential new clients. There is a tendency for all of us to show our entire body of work. This gives the impression of more experience and a wider variety of work, so that potential clients from all areas will be more likely to choose you. However, is that what you really want?
I'd be willing to argue that it'd be much easier to get the same work by focusing within a certain area, as opposed to trying a little bit of everything. Not only does it make your job easier (albeit a bit more monotonous), but being a specialist, you'll be able to ask for more money in many situations. Of course, if you specialize in something you enjoy, then it's an added benefit.
Organizing the contents of your portfolio
If you have a large body to work from, then it only makes sense to include the kind of work that you'd like to be continuing on. For example, if you enjoy theming blogs, then it would only make sense that you want to keep the majority of your portfolio as blogs that you've done in the past. Likewise, if you prefer to work in flash, then it only makes sense to highlight your flash projects.
What if you're looking to get more experience in a certain area, but don't have that much in your portfolio to show? There are two things you can do to improve. The first thing is to mock up pretend projects. This will give you the chance to improve at that area on your own time, as well as be able to show projects that you have complete control over, and don't have to bend to the design desires of the clients. The problem with this, of course, is time. For those that are busy, this isn't exactly a feasible option – time is money.
The second option is to create a category within your portfolio of the area you're looking to expand. If you have very little work in that category, you might want to broaden the category slightly to “fill it out”, but even just including the category will help you with communicating to the client (and to the search engines, if you stayed away from flash) that you're interested in that area, and have past experience with it.
Designing the Portfolio Itself
The thing that most designers neglect to consider when trying to attract new clients is the portfolio itself. Many consider the portfolio their chance to show their true colors – while this is true, this is not the best use of your portfolio. The way you design your portfolio will influence what kind of clients you will receive.
For example, if you have an entirely flash-based portfolio, I would venture to say that you're more likely to pull in clients that are looking for flash work rather than programming work, or even basic brochure website work. Alternatively, if you have a portfolio with a lot of typography and a powerful, effective layout, you're more likely to pull in high-end design work.
What does this mean? Design for who you want to attract. Your portfolio is your advertising. The message is important, but the medium of which it's transported is just as vital, if not more important.