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For graphic designers, web designers, and photographers, there is no greater business generating tool than having a well put together portfolio. You can spend all day talking or all the money in the bank on SEO, but if you don’t have a thoughtfully, beautifully designed portfolio of your work, potential clients will ultimately choose someone else who does.

A lot goes into making a top-notch portfolio, and there is no right or wrong way to present your work, but there are good and bad portfolios. Here are five tips to help keep your portfolio on the right track.

1. MAKE IT CLEAR, EASY TO NAVIGATE, AND TO THE POINT

When building a portfolio, remember that it is intended to present your work. Make sure everything you do keeps the focus on your work, and not on extraneous elements. Put a lot of thought into navigation: how many pages will there be, how will you organize your work, and how will you label the navigation tabs to make content easy for the end user to identify. This process doesn’t have to be cut and dry, you can still incorporate your style and voice, but keep in mind that your portfolio is meant for a public audience, and should be treated as such.

 

2. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!

A successful portfolio doesn’t show a designer’ life’s work. If you review a successful portfolio, odds are projects from ten years ago aren’t going to be shown (unless they are stellar). We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” and it rings true. Edit your photos as well as your words, keeping only the strongest images and removing anything that isn’t compelling. If you aren’t a great photographer, hire someone who is, because photos will make or break your portfolio. When it comes down to choosing which work is portfolio-worthy, remember this: QUALITY over QUANTITY. Only your best work should be shown. If it was a project close to your heart, or something that solved a particularly difficult design problem, by all means add it and talk about it. But summarize the project in as few photos and words as you can.

 

3. DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF YOU

Yes, your portfolio is meant to be seen by others, but don’t forget you’re selling yourself and your design style. While it’s good to include a range of work to showcase your diversity, it’s also important to include elements that set you apart from other designers. Your portfolio is also meant to attract new clients, so be sure to add more of the kinds of projects you enjoy, and less of the projects you don’t like doing. If you love logo design but hate brochures, emphasize your passion with a larger selection of logos and deemphasize brochure design by leaving them out completely.

 

4. A DESIGNER’S WORK IS NEVER DONE…

Don’t design your portfolio and forget about it! It’s important to revisit and revise every now and then to refresh content and show off newer work. Constantly look at the projects you have showcased and ask yourself: is this really what I want to be judged upon, is this one of my best works, and have I made something better or more relevant since then. Critiquing yourself and refining your portfolio will only make it, and you as a designer, stronger.

 

5. CLIENTS MATTER, TOO!

Realistically, you’re building your portfolio to attract clients, so why not add client feedback and testimonials? Testimonials show that even though your portfolio is about your work, your work is created with the client’s needs in mind. If someone is looking to hire a designer and they are trying to decide between you and someone else, good client feedback might just be the persuasion they need to choose you.

Keeping these five tips in mind will help you create a fantastic portfolio and if you need inspiration, check out our article on the Top 10 Portfolio Building Sites where you will find links to thousands of professional portfolios.

Do you have any other tips, tricks or information you would like to add to this post? Leave us a comment!

About the Author: Shannon spends most her days as a graphic designer at Pixel Productions, Inc. where she enjoys fantastic coffee, awesome coworkers and creating professional design work for clients of all shapes and sizes. She has an eye for detail and her talents include design for branding, packaging, web development and custom illustration.

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