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How to Create a Professional Portfolio

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Applicants for creative roles will often be asked to show examples of their work to clients and employers. A professional portfolio is a chance to demonstrate your best work and skills and provide examples of the scope of your experience. This article explains how to create a professional portfolio to reflect your expertise and increase your chances of obtaining a job.

What is a professional portfolio?

A professional portfolio is a collection of your work that showcases your talents. This is particularly important for roles that require creativity, as examples of your work are the best way to show an employer how your skills could help them. Although portfolios are traditionally physical folders containing pieces of work, a digital portfolio is an option that can be included with an online or emailed application. Many applicants have both so that they can take a hardcopy to their interview to show the interview panel after applying online. 

Popular jobs that may require a professional portfolio

There are several types of roles which traditionally require a portfolio:

  • Artists such as painters, sculptors, photographers or clothing designers can provide details of any shows they have been included in or exhibitions of their work. 
  • Web designers, graphic designers, illustrators and advertising creatives can include examples of their work, linking to the websites they have worked on or including screenshots and image links.
  • Computer programmers, app developers and video game designers can include links to gameplay footage, details of their app functionality and information about the programs they have created. 
  • Interior designers, makeup artists and cake decorators can show examples of their techniques by describing their methods and including images of their finished work.
  • Writers can include links to their current work online and details or links to their previously published work. 
  • Videographers, animators and those in related fields may wish to show clips of their work which can be hosted on a viewing platform, uploaded to a file-sharing site or included on a personal website to allow easy access.

In any job application or profession that requires a portfolio, you will want to present a well-organized collection of your best work.

How to make a professional portfolio

Follow these steps to guide you through the process of putting a professional portfolio together:

1. First, collect samples of your best work

Consider the skills you want to showcase and find the best examples of your work that demonstrate how you have used these skills. Select the most relevant and the most recent to show a hiring panel or client the most helpful examples of your work. 

2. Second, be discerning about what you include

Think about the type of job you want, and consider if there is any kind of work that you don’t want to do. If you want to take your career in a particular direction, consider leaving out samples of work from other areas and focus on examples of the specialty you want to specialize in. 

3. Third, show something new

If you are doing something different or innovative, then make sure you include that in your portfolio. Employers and clients often prefer creatives who have flair and originality, so make it easy for them to see your most imaginative work and show them your approach to meeting clients’ needs. 

4. Fourth, consider the layout

After gathering your materials, choose how you will format your portfolio. It should be easy to navigate, so group similar projects together and label them clearly. Make it clear when a piece had a specific result, and include eye-catching images that create a flow from one piece to the next. Include mockups where appropriate, notes about how you have addressed clients’ concerns and details of how you resolved any issues that arose during the project.

5. Fifth, review the job description 

Before you send your portfolio to anyone, check the job description for the position you are applying for. Verify the key skills and qualities they are looking for and make sure your portfolio shows your experience in these areas. If they are looking for something specific, include anything that shows you have worked on a similar project or that demonstrates expertise in that area. 

6. Sixth, keep it current

Finally, once you have created a portfolio, it is important to maintain it. Check the links regularly, update it with the latest projects you are working on and adjust it to reflect your career growth or changing goals. Collect feedback from your colleagues, managers and clients, and keep anything that shows the positive impact of your work to include in your portfolio.