5 Tips For Putting Together an Outstanding Creative Portfolio

Design Instruct has always been about creative professionals and students. As you know, we’re creatives as well and from time to time, we’ll put together a portfolio that we can show clients for different jobs. In fact, I’m putting together my own portfolio website right now which is why I thought I’d share some tips on how to go about creating an outstanding creative portfolio.

1. Pick Only Your Best Work.

It’s tempting to include a lot of pieces in your portfolio because you’re probably thinking that it shows how experienced you are or how many clients you’ve worked for. However, experience doesn’t always equate to good work. In fact, I’m sure most of you will agree that not all of your projects were winners. Not all of your work was good.

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Sure, showing off a lot of your projects can demonstrate experience but the creative industry isn’t just built on experience. On the contrary, most of the time clients and prospective employers are looking for a demonstration of great ideas and unique perspectives. Make sure you include work that show that.

2. Sneak in Some Self-Initiated Work.

A professional portfolio can have personal work included just as long as you think the client can see value in them. Personal work can represent the side of your skillset that you’ve yet to use on a professional level and when your client sees that, it’s exciting. It opens up possibilities that would otherwise not exist.

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So don’t be afraid to include some of your personal, self-initiated work. They offer a glimpse into your thought process and your idea generation which tells clients volumes about what it might be like to work with you.

3. Curate Your Portfolio.

Look at your portfolio as a whole. Each piece you include should reinforce a singular message you’re trying to communicate to your client. If they’re looking for new ideas, make sure your portfolio demonstrates your innovative nature. If they’re looking for a certain result, make sure your portfolio shows how you can provide that.

A good portfolio will have a story (I don’t mean a literal story with a narrative). However, it should demonstrate how you work; how your ideas form and how you’ve evolved as a creative. It should convey your value to the client without even uttering a word.

4. Show Off Your Skills.

Don’t look at your portfolio as just a record of what you’ve done. Take it as an opportunity to show off what you’re capable of doing. Take it as an opportunity to show off what makes you unique. Show off your ideas and what your client could expect from you.

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5. Constantly Update Your Portfolio.

Just like any self-respecting professional, you should constantly update your portfolio with new work and take out old projects that don’t represent your current skillset. With every new project, you’ll undoubtedly learn something new and might even mean that you’re able to take your work in a new direction. Make sure your portfolio always represents your current capabilities.

Just like a resume or a CV, you have to constantly keep your portfolio updated so that it represents what you can do right now; what your client can expect from you right now.

Final Thoughts

If you still have doubts as to what to include in your portfolio, just show off the work you love or the projects you can be enthusiastic about. If you love the work you’re showing to clients, chances are you’ll have an easier time convincing them why they should love it also. And enthusiasm goes a long way! If you’re enthusiastic about your work, your clients will have a hard time containing their enthusiasm about you as well.

These are just a few things I thought about as I was putting together my own portfolio over the weekend and I thought I’d share them with you. I’m sure all of you have your own tips on how to put together an outstanding portfolio as well. Share them with us in the comments section below!

  • Gustav D

    These are all good advices. In my experience it is very easy to add too many images to your portfolio. The portfolio will look much more professional if you showcase only the very best images.

  • Hey,
    I was looking for the best portfolio sample and i found very good advice in your article.
    Thanks.

  • Informative article. I’m impressed with the ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  • Robert

    Are you the stick man who asks “What can you do”? Or are you the stick man answering “Umm… I can fly.”?

    Seriously though, “Sneak in Some Self-Initiated Work.” and “Curate Your Portfolio.” are the ones to watch for me.
    The first one, because I do not have enough of that (not much time for more than sketches, doodles, and notes. So I don’t forget.)
    The second one, because I didn’t think of that one.

    Thanks!

  • Mary Brennan

    I was looking for advice and help finishing up my portfolio and I came across your article. As artists, we can be very critical of our own work. I fell into that boat and had hard time getting that ‘enthusiasm’ or confidence to show off my work. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. Your article has provided such in depth information that certainly gave me more confidence ‘enthusiasm’ to add and complete my own portfolio. Thanks!

  • Ana

    Hi. Its being a while and i would like to put but art work together… i need some advice, is it ok just put pictures of my art work in my porfolio? I had a flood and some of my work got demaged, lucky me have picture of my work … thank you.

  • Brenda Thigpen

    Iam a nurse attemptin a portfolio I really need to see an example of a similar portfolio

  • Hayley

    I am only just starting photography as a business although I have been doing it as a hobby alongside my fashion design portfolio, I hope to merge the 2 disciplines one day, for around 8 months in the surrounding areas of my home on Isle of Wight.
    As far as I’m aware I am the only wheelchair using photography on the island. I really need advice on whether I’d be wasting my time trying to make some extra pocket money for myself (my health and benefits go against anything full time)
    Many thanks in advance for taking the time to read my question and respond!!