How to Prepare a Portfolio for Your Profession

A lady creating a graphic design portfolio.
Table of Contents

    Introduction

    As a service provider, a portfolio is an important document your client will ask for before hiring you for a project. A portfolio shows an in-depth demonstration of your creative and professional talents. The content of your portfolio depends greatly on your business niche, however, there is certain information that cuts across all professions. Since you will need a portfolio throughout your career, it is important you learn how to prepare a portfolio.

    In this article, we will discuss what a portfolio is, how you can make one, and some important factors that can make your portfolio effective.

    Key Takeaways

    • A portfolio is a collection of work samples that shows one’s skills and capabilities in a particular business niche.
    • Online portfolios are a great way for service providers to showcase their past projects, certifications, licenses, and skills.
    • Portfolios also provide referrals or feedback from previous clients and trainers.
    • Regularly update your portfolio to include new projects you have done. 

    What is a Portfolio?

    A portfolio is a collection of work samples that shows your skills and capabilities in a particular niche. It helps a prospective client to understand what you can do, how experienced you are, and what tools you use. A portfolio will also contain references, testimonials, recognitions, and a photograph of yourself. 

    Why is a Portfolio Important?

    A portfolio is important because it allows potential clients to get a clearer view of your skills and experience. Rather than writing about a project you did, you give a more detailed explanation of what you created with pictures and links where necessary. A portfolio shows people more about your brand, unique proposition, and business statement. With a well-written portfolio, you can entice people to hire your services. 

    A study showed that the quality of one’s portfolio can influence the hiring decisions of clients. So, whether you are a graphic designer, digital marketer, project manager, plumber, electrician, or offer any other services, you need to prepare a well-written portfolio that showcases your work best.

    How Can You Create a Portfolio?

    Several options can help you create a portfolio. Here are some of them:

    • Website
    • Online niche platforms
    • Social media

    Website

    You can decide to create a website that showcases your past projects. You can use some free websites platforms like GoDaddy, Wix, Canva, and Squarespace for this. This custom website can help increase your search engine visibility.

    Online Niche Platforms

    Niche platforms like Behance, Dribble, Flickr, Cargo, Notion, Indeed, and WordPress allow certain service providers like designers, writers, and marketers to publish their past work for free. They keep their portfolio updated and add links to it when sending applications to clients or on their email signatures.

    Social Media

    LinkedIn is a professional social networking platform you can use in creating a free portfolio. You can showcase your work, add images, and links, and write articles that discuss your profession. You can also get recommendations from past clients and feedback on projects. 

    Steps to Follow When Preparing a Portfolio

    When you decide to prepare a portfolio, here are some proven steps you should follow:

    • Compile your best project samples creatively
    • Sectionalize your projects
    • Attach samples of your project
    • Add a personal statement about your career goals
    • Write out your skills and expertise
    • Add credible referrals and testimonials
    • Mention recognition awards or certifications you received
    • Add references

    Compile Your Best Project Samples Creatively

    Identify your best project samples and compile them creatively, i.e. keeping them in an engaging order. Whoever views your portfolio may not have the time to read through it, so make sure your portfolio is laid out in an easy-to-read manner.

    Sectionalize Your Projects

    This is especially important if you have done a lot of projects. To make it easier for people to navigate your portfolio, create sections that are easy to follow. Consider adding numbers and a table of content to your portfolio for easy navigation.

    Attach Samples of Your Project

    People are more attracted to physical evidence than written sentences. So, instead of a long article on what you did, how about you attach pictures or links to your project? For instance, if you are a writer, you can add links to your blog articles and websites you have written articles for. As a photographer, you can add a gallery of your best pictures. If you are a plumber, you can add pictures of places you have rendered services to. As a builder, you can add pictures of buildings and work plans you have drafted for clients in the past.

    Add a Personal Statement About Your Career Goals

    What goals do you have in your profession? In the next five or ten years, where do you see yourself? Currently, what are your aims and objectives? You need to outline your short and long-term goals in your portfolio. By doing so, you give the potential client an overview of your work ethic, philosophy, and professionalism.

    Write out Your Skills and Expertise

    When you prepare a portfolio, consider what skills your client will require the most. Write out skills that complement your profession the most and explain in detail how you have applied them throughout your career. Aside from hard skills, you can mention soft skills that you have displayed professionally.

    Add Credible Referrals and Testimonials

    Credible referrals from your previous co-workers and employers (if you have any) are important attachments to a portfolio. You can request for testimonials from your former clients who were satisfied with your services. Make sure you include the contact information of the clients so that people who read your portfolio can verify its credibility.

    Mention Recognition Awards or Certifications You Received

    If you have any recognition awards like a certificate, add them to your portfolio. Recognition can also come from social media platforms, in that case, add links to them. For certifications that are issued by a regulatory body, you can take a picture of the certificate and add it to your portfolio or you might list the recognition you received based on the date and issuing authority. E.g. Google Illustrator – 2019 by Google.

    Add References

    If there are people who love your work and wish to help you in promoting them, you can include them as references in your portfolio. These people can be your colleagues, mentors, past clients, or family members. You can write out the reference based on basic information like name, email address, and phone number.

    Helpful Factors to Consider When Making a Portfolio Effective

    The following are some factors or tips that can make your portfolio effective:

    • Keep quality in mind
    • Don’t make it bulky
    • Think about what to include
    • Don’t plagiarize
    • Add attachments where necessary
    • Keep readability in mind when writing the portfolio
    • Keep your portfolio in several formats
    • Let people know your expertise
    • Let others review your portfolio

    Keep Quality in Mind

    You do not need to add a lot of information to your portfolio. Instead, place more emphasis on the quality of the portfolio. Are you discussing more about your past projects? Are you including evidence about the quality of your work samples? These things are more valuable than writing full paragraphs about your personal statement or recognition awards.

    Don’t Make It Bulky 

    Research has shown that the average human has an attention span of eight seconds. If you want to get the attention of your potential clients, you need to make that done quickly. Think of how long anyone will spend reading the portfolio and add important details or information that they need to know early in the portfolio. 

    Think about What to Include

    You don’t have to include all your projects in your portfolio. If you have done several projects that are related to your business niche but showed different skills, highlight how each skill relates to your project. This way, you pick a few of your work samples that relate to important soft and hard skills you possess.

    Other things to add include a website link, a logo, or your social media links. You can also add pictures of works you have done in the past and links to them too.

    Don’t Plagiarize

    Do not copy from others’ original work. Learn from them, not copy them. Your portfolio needs to contain the best description of your actual projects. So avoid taking a sample from others and copying everything that is written on their portfolios.

    Add Attachments Where Necessary

    Apart from writing long notes to explain your work samples‌, add attachments where necessary. These attachments can be links to the content you created (if any) or pictures of you working. These help readers understand your projects better.

    Keep Readability in Mind When Writing the Portfolio

    It is cool to use funky fonts when you prepare a portfolio, but will it be easy for others to read? You want your portfolio to be easy to read and navigate. Think of how to make this possible. Add pictures in the right place and use clear fonts.

    Keep Your Portfolio in Several Formats

    If possible, keep your portfolio in multiple formats. Depending on your business niche, you might need a physical or a digital format, so it is wise to have both handy.

    Let People Know Your Adaptability

    Having different content with different expertise will show potential clients your adaptability. They will see how creative you are and understand that you are flexible and can adapt to different circumstances. 

    Let Others Review Your Portfolio

    Allow your colleagues or peers to help you review your portfolio. Another person’s perspective can help you discover areas in the document that need improvement. You can ask people from different sources such as your peers, online communities, mentors, and family to help you with this. You need to be clear with the purpose and reason for your review request and if possible, provide questions for the reviewers. Be open-minded and appreciative of the review you receive, and use the feedback to improve your portfolio.

    Problems You Might Face and How to Solve Them

    A portfolio is more than a visual representation of your work. It helps to discuss ‌what you have done in the past. But what if you do not have work? Or what if you are not allowed to showcase your work because of intellectual property agreements?

    Here are a few situations you might face and how to solve them:

    • When you are new to your profession
    • When you are not allowed to showcase your work
    • When your past projects are not visual

    When You are New to Your Profession

    If you just started your career or you are going through a career change, you will have nothing to add to your portfolio. In this situation, it is time to get creative and look for ways to get work samples. You can offer to assist people to do certain projects for free so you can have something in your portfolio. Creating mock samples that display your skills and expertise is also an alternative.

    For instance, a new wedding photographer can decide to cover some weddings for free and add pictures of the weddings on their social media for potential clients to see their expertise.

    When You are Not Allowed to Showcase Your Work

    In some situations, you are not allowed to share your work legally with others. This can be due to an NDA or contract you signed with your former clients. When this happens, you need to choose your words carefully when explaining your work samples. For instance, if you write for a blog that wants you to remain anonymous, you can write something like; I have written SEO blog posts that helped in improving website visibility for three years for some brands. If possible, write mock articles that demonstrate the skill you described better to others.

    When Your Past Projects are Not Visual

    Your project doesn’t need to be visual to tell a story about it. You can creatively write a detailed explanation of what you did in a way that helps people get a visual representation of what is written. You can also create infographics that represent your work.

    Conclusion

    A well-written portfolio can help you start a business with your skills. It explains in detail what you have done in the past, your skills and expertise, and credible referrals that potential clients will appreciate. Before you create one, think about how it will represent who you are. Never forget to share your skills and passions with others. You want to stand above others, so make sure you brand your small business with a high-quality portfolio.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is a job portfolio?

    A job or work portfolio is a collection of your best project samples that showcase your skills and recognition to potential clients. You can decide to create this portfolio online on niche platforms or using LinkedIn.

    What should be in a portfolio for a job?

    Your portfolio is a good way to showcase your skills. Some things you can include are past projects in your niche (graphic designing, photography, plumbing, and writing), licenses or certifications, and recommendations from former clients.