The British creative sector is in the middle of a major boom period, with employment in the industry growing at twice the national rate, accounting for almost 10% of all jobs in the UK. So it stands to reason that the industry is becoming increasingly competitive, which makes it more difficult for people to secure work on either a full-time or freelance basis. It’s also an industry where seeing is believing, with interviews and pitches relying heavily on experience and creative flair.
One way to help you stand out from the crowd is by putting together a seriously impressive portfolio. This should accompany your CV, and highlight your experience, skills, and accomplishments, but it can be especially tricky if you’re trying to compile your first portfolio. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure you really nail it and land your dream creative role.
Keep it fresh and updated
The further into your career you go, the more examples of work you’ll have to show any prospective employers. However, you should avoid keeping hold of absolutely everything, as it can quickly clutter up your website. As advised by digital recruitment specialist Salt, you should strip out your old work every three years, ensuring that you leave out anything that is no longer representative of your current standard or style.
You also want to focus on showing off the work that most accurately represents you and your art. As you gain more experience, you’re likely to hone your existing skills, and gain new ones. You may even specialise in specific sectors and industries, which your portfolio will need to reflect. This can allow you to target opportunities that you’re genuinely interested in, and can do better than anyone, rather than putting yourself across as a “jack of all trades” who can do everything adequately.
Include a range of styles
While you do want to establish your niche, you also want to avoid showing off work that’s too similar. Potential clients or employers may well be put off if they notice you can only work in one specific style or aesthetic, so you could wind up losing business. Even if you only have a handful of examples that show off your range, try and include them in your portfolio. As noted by Weapons of Reason editor James Cartwright, art directors will often invite creatives, such as illustrators, to collaborate with them to bring an idea to life. In these cases, a good idea and variety of experience is far more important than a “signature style”.
Have an offline version available
As business and the world at large becomes increasingly digital, it makes sense to have your portfolio available through a website. It saves space and allows you to offer viewers a unique user experience through multimedia. If you’re a website developer or designer, it also allows you to showcase your skills in a more creative way.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have an offline, static version of your digital portfolio available, such as a PDF. A static portfolio allows you to go into greater detail about the reasons behind your creative choices, rather than simply showing off your work, making it ideal for job interviews. The Interaction Design Foundation explains that an online portfolio is used for job applications, providing a quick overview of your work, while static pages should be used at the interview stages, where you’ll be explaining your processes.
Get a second (and third) opinion
As someone working in the creative field, you know that a second pair of eyes can often be a saving grace. Spending too much time looking over something makes it easier to miss minor errors in your own work. Someone who hasn’t seen your portfolio before is more likely to spot any mistakes, ensuring you don’t send anything out to potential clients that isn’t 100% accurate.
By focusing too much of your own time on a project, you may also exhaust all your creative ideas. Ask someone you trust, like a colleague or a friend, to check over your portfolio, as they may even have some suggestions to make it better.