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Portfolio Best Practices

Portfolio Best Practices[accent]A first-rate portfolio showcasing your best and most recent work in a professional, accessible way is an absolute necessity for creative talent searching for a job in today’s market. Your portfolio can open doors to new opportunities, get you leads and, most importantly, get you your next job. Even with this in mind, so many people still treat their portfolio as an afterthought or even a burden. A good portfolio can become a great one with just a little thought and care. Here are some time-tested best practices to make sure your portfolio can help you, not hinder you, when you’re looking for new opportunities.[/accent]

Keep it Timely
A point so obvious, it’s often overlooked: your portfolio should always include examples of your most recent work. In fact, the overall emphasis should be weighted toward recent work. A portfolio that seems to stop three years ago will not convey that you’re an active creative, it’ll convey quite the opposite. Obviously, try to highlight your best work (and some of that may be older), but go through your portfolio a few times a year to make sure it stays current.

Seek Help, Give Help
Your portfolio may show your best work, but perhaps the presentation could use some polishing. If you’re a designer, for example, you might know a copywriter who can help you finesse the set-up and the overall tone. If you’re a copywriter, a designer friend can help you present your work in a more professional way. You want people to focus on your work, not on glitches in how it’s presented or described.

Make it Easy
Simpler is better. Some online portfolios use complicated, non-intuitive, or even mysterious navigational schemes that actually keep people from seeing the full range of the work. Making it easy doesn’t mean making it boring, you can be creative and innovative while still using navigation schemes that keep the focus where it belongs, on your work.


Less is More
Your portfolio shouldn’t be a scrapbook documenting every project you’ve ever worked on, it should be a fine-tuned tool designed to get you more work. There’s no room for flab or redundancy. For example, unless you’re highlighting a campaign, there’s absolutely no need to show every single iteration of a project. And as time goes by, you should become ever more selective about what you showcase in your portfolio, with emphasis given to the kinds of work you want to do more of. If you started doing banner ads five years ago, but have moved on to bigger projects, you can cull out most of your old banners and shift the focus to what you’ve been doing lately.

Be Unique
While this may seem obvious, it’s often overlooked and can be the difference between getting the job or being passed over. Your work may be be outstanding, but if your portfolio is just run of the mill, that’s how you may come off. Try to stand out in some way while keeping your presentation professional. Include an eye-catching logo, add a succinct but catchy tagline, add an About Me section. You also don’t want to turn a potential customer off by going too out of the box. Walk that fine line and your originality will pay off.

Best Foot Forward
Be sure to organize your portfolio in a way that brings your best work up front and center. For example, if you did some great work for the ZZZZ company, maybe “alphabetical” isn’t the smartest way to display your craft. Some organizational approaches that work: reverse chronological (newest work first), by type of project, by client category. In a digital environment, you can even let the readers decide how to organize your work in a way that makes sense to them.

Best-Foot-Forward-FinalSet It Up
People will want to know what they’re looking at. But they won’t want to know every little detail (the budget arguments, the client’s changing direction, the legal change that ruined the headline, etc.). For each piece you share, it’s good to use a standard set-up format to give it some context: who, what, when, where, how, and why, for example. And if you have positive results (“response increased 33% and beat the control package, which was sweet!”), by all means include them.

Show Your Personality
There are plenty of portfolios out there with solid work that continue to get overlooked. Often, it’s because the portfolio seems bland and lacking in any kind of charm or personality. People are looking for good ideas and execution, but they’re also looking for a person they can work with, someone who can bring some wit and wisdom to the team. Although your work is central, your portfolio should express your voice, your outlook and your point of view whenever and wherever possible.

Encourage Action
Your portfolio is impressive, it includes a great collection of your best work, everyone is going to be floored. Now what? You want to make sure the viewer can easily fill out a form to get more information, access your social sites, find your blog or email you. And don’t assume they know you want to be hired. In the end, adding a HIRE ME button could be the best way to get your next gig.


Your portfolio is the calling card for your career so you need to make sure it gets seen to find your next great role. Or do you want to see some great portfolios and hire some top people? Connect with us and see how our team of talented recruiters can help!

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