How to create a portfolio & keep it up to date
Most of us have done at least one portfolio in our lives, and most of us DREAD IT. I mean job hunting is a nightmare just because of how much work creating a portfolio might mean. Don’t worry, it isn’t just you. It can be an overwhelming process, but let me tell you the bad news first…
YOU NEED A FREAKING PORTFOLIO.
(Sorry, but you do.)
Yes! YOU! The happiest worker in the company, or the unhappiest. The truth is that we ALL need one. I’ll go into more details about why later, but I think we can now go into the good news. If you break down the process into easy-peasy, itty-bitty steps, it becomes a lot more doable. I promise. I pinky promise.
So, Why? I am just going to give you four reasons, but you can keep adding to them.
- Job security in our field is like finding two prizes in a cereal box. Hard to find.
- Versatility and change push creative souls to experiment and create better work every time. In a few words, change is key to master your own skills and get a new perspective.
- Every employer in our field will ask for a portfolio. If your work does not reflect who you are as an artist, the chances you find a good fit for yourself are minimal, if not zero.
- Having an easy to maintain portfolio allows you to do less work every time you have to update it. This is like going the dentist to check for cavities every six months in comparison to 5 years; you are saving yourself a crap ton of pain, if you ask me.
I have redone my portfolio at least five times since I graduated school four years ago. So, I have pretty much nailed down this process to the best of my capabilities, and I want to share it with you. I think you will find it is a lot less scary this way. :) This process starts with you having nothing to show to an employer, and it ends with you ready for interviews. There is a whole lot in the middle, but I want you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a bit like this.
Let’s imagine we are on a journey from point “A" to point “C." Think of point “A" as your home or starting point, “B" as the checkpoint in which you realize if you are on the correct path, and point “C” as your final, happy place. Trip A to B has around 4 baby steps, and trip B to C another 4.
So let’s begin, shall we?
THINK. WRITE. REPEAT.
When starting a journey, it's always important to know where you are going, how long it will take you to get to your destination, and why you are taking the journey in the first place. With the "why" being the most important. Without the "why" there is no reason to take the trip at all. In simple words, set yourself a goal, a timeframe and a constant reminder of why you are doing this. I would recommend writing them down and being realistic about them. Take your time, no rush. Once you feel good about these, then we can move on.
Still nothing? If you are having trouble setting your goals, I can help a bit by showing you an example of how this might look if you are a designer.
Example 1 - Goal: I want to be a freelancer. Why: I want to be financially independent. Time: 1 year
Example 2 - Goal: I want to work for an agency. Why: I want to push myself outside my comfort zone. Time: 6 months
Example 3 - Goal: I want to be an illustrator. Why: It makes me happy Time: 3 Months
GET INSPIRED. PIN PIN PIN. FIND PATTERNS.
This is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. Finding & gathering inspiration. There are many ways of doing this, but for me, the easiest is using Pinterest. Now, don’t just pin away, make sure every image you pin speaks to you. Imagine you have to pay for each image you are collecting. So, be choosy! You will realize that the pickier you are, the easier will be for you later. Make sure you have a good variety of inspiration, meaning typefaces, colors, textures, layout, anything that speaks to you as an artist in a special way. Let your gut do the picking and sorting. Bring all those images into a page and analyze your picks. Soon enough, you will notice there are things in common. (If it is taking you too long, try setting aside the odd picks; sometimes it helps) These things are what I would call “your own aesthetic,” and later, it will help determinate your brand assets' look and feel.
BE PICKY. BE CHOOSY. BE A PAIN TO PLEASE.
This is a tough one, mainly because this is the stage where you realize: YOU HAVE NOTHING YOU ARE HAPPY WITH. It is okay if you don’t. Most designers/creatives have to start somewhere… and only a few get jobs that allow them to fulfill their own aesthetic of what is “cool to make.” Don’t get discouraged. If you got zilch projects that you love, think about it as an opportunity to have a blank canvas. At least, now you know what type of work you enjoy and have an idea of what you want to be creating. If you do have some work you are SUPER SUPER proud of, clean it up and save it in a special folder; you will need it later.
THINK. MAKE. SHARE.
You know that feeling when you are done cleaning up your closet, and giving all your old/not fitting clothes to Goodwill? That feeling of emptiness, sadness, but excitement because it means is SHOPPING time! This is exactly how you should feel now. It’s time to create some cool art. Now, don’t freak out on me. Let me solve this by stating the main causes why you aren’t creating art you love. "I am not inspired! I’m too tired! I have no clue what to do! I work on a demand basis! I need a job that makes me do it! "… We can keep going on about all the reasons why you aren’t making art. The only fact you need is: You can start anytime. There are so many tools to avoid not knowing what to do, many challenges on Instagram accounts, many workshop books, and there is always Skillshare! Take a class. Go on a small trip. Find whatever you need to make it happen. Create, create, create. The more you create, the wider your pool to pick the very best work. Once you create the work… don’t keep it to yourself! Share it. Maybe you aren’t the social media kind… then show it to a friend or family. Preferably someone that knows what they are talking about and can give you some feedback. Constructive feedback, obviously.
Once you have enough art you are happy with, you've reached a checkpoint. WOOOOOHOOOOO! You are half way there! That's right! Take a break! Relax and celebrate!
We will continue this blog post very very soon! :)