What is a Creative Portfolio & How to make it effective?
We are artists and we put everything we own into creating that one piece of art, but often forget about putting effort into the presentation of that art as much effort as we have put into creating it. It is said that one should put at least three times more effort into promoting and presenting your work. It’s a very easy formula in the world of commercial arts, or in simpler words, if you have spent four days creating that beautiful piece of art, then spend at least 10 to 12 days promoting that. I personally prefer to promote my creations until they get sold or bring me a client. Coming back on how to present your work at your best level so that it attracts more work opportunities for you and to understand that you must know what a creative portfolio is and what makes it a killer one.
What is a Creative Portfolio?
– The type of portfolio that shows or represents the best of your creative works in order to get a paid job or paid project is known as a creative portfolio. It is a term widely used among artists and designers and among those brands or companies who work with any creative community. As the name suggests in itself, your portfolio must have most of your creative works in it.
What are the Creative Portfolio must haves?
Your creative portfolio must show how versatile you are in your area. It must also show how prepared you are in presenting your work, and the design of your portfolio must speak for how better you can communicate through your design. Please go through the following points and check if your portfolio has all those elements in it or not.
- Make it Sober.
It should not be more than 20 pages. Yes, when I opened an internship program for a watercolour artist, I received over a hundred portfolios in just one week. Now think from the client’s / agent’s perspective who are dealing with portfolios every day and night, and ask yourself, will they scroll through those 50 pages and end up rejecting that because they were not impressed? No, they will disapprove as soon as they open the portfolio and see that it has 50 pages in it and they don’t have much time to go through everything you have mentioned in there.
- First Impression is the Last Impression.
Try to design the first five pages of your portfolio as best as you can. If you don’t have any expertise in the designing part, try taking help from a designer friend or you can also use Fiverr to hire someone to design your portfolio. The reason your first five pages have to be the best is that that’s where you’ll be able to leave an impression. If I have to go through over 100 portfolios, I might just go to the first five pages and switch to someone else’s portfolio if that particular one didn’t hit me.
- Keep it Short & Straight.
Never put everything that you have ever created in your whole career in that one portfolio. Everyone knows that you work hard and we all appreciate that. Just because you have spent more hours creating that design, this does not mean that it is right for the portfolio. The overall purpose of a creative portfolio is to present the best of your works which takes less time to go through or in other words it should be less time-consuming. Also remember, not all beautiful things can make sales. Pick the best of your works to create an appealing presentation. Use Photoshop to create mockups of your designs and give a visual of how your designs will look on an actual product. This will create a huge impact in the viewer’s mind about how awesome your design is and how impressive they will look on an actual product. Again never add too many mock-ups. Try to find the balance between your actual works & mockups. The fact brands often ignore mock-ups and believe directly looking at the designs is because mockups are usually designed to make your works look good. Adding some mockups will give the recruiters a brief about the final product but you’ll get hired only if the actual design does the justice with the mockup itself.
- Add variations of your designs.
Let’s say, for example, you are a line artist and you draw beautiful illustrations in that specific style. As a brand or a hirer, I might get impressed by your works, but what if I want you to do the same work in a different style. For eg. I want the same work but in the watercolour format? In this case, if you are having a variety of skills, you can add a few different styles to your work that you do in terms of theme,( florals, animals, birds etc) & medium (watercolours, gouache, pen etc ), You’ll have a higher chance to get hired.
Now that doesn’t mean there are fewer opportunities for an artist working on one style. If you are an artist who is working or is known for having a specific style, you have even more chances of working with clients closely. You will get hired because of your own style and you will get an opportunity to mark your steps into a larger audience. All you need to learn is how to pitch the right client and present the best of yourself.
- Tell a bit about yourself.
Your portfolio must have an insight into who you are and where you are located. By mentioning the location details one gets an idea about how comfortably you can work in different time zones. It will also help the person to schedule a call on the timings which suits both of you. When I say add a bit about yourself, it should be a very brief but very straightforward introduction. Your intro must highlight your career background, how long you have been doing arts, what type of brands you are looking forward to working with in the future. Your portfolio must have a section of software skills with designs created in each software as an example. This will help the viewer to understand your proficiency in that respective software. Do not add generic software like MS Word, Notepad or MS paint and all.
- Work on Collections.
When you put your work out in front of the recruiter, they see the possibilities on how much more designs can be created with this in order to plan for a collection for multiple products. You offer this beforehand. Use your main illustration file and create different variations of those designs digitally. Try to create a collection by adding more similar designs to that collection. One collection must not have more than 6 to 8 designs. You don’t have to create a whole new design for the collection. You can use different colourways, placements, or even extra designs with polka dots and stripes to make the collection look put together.
- Show’em what they need.
Okay, so this is going to be a bonus step. Brands believe in numbers and if you have a good audience on social media, use that as a tip to attract more clients. As I said, brands believe in numbers. So if you have enough numbers you can easily promote your work which is directly promoting their products. Never put those numbers as a priority to pitch clients and it should be in detail on the last page of your portfolio to reflect that you are more serious about your work and less about the metrics but it is also important to get the numbers into viewers’ notice. So you can seamlessly add those numbers in your pitching email and the first five pages of your portfolio preferably in the intro part itself.
- Show your face.
Let the viewer know who they are reading about. It will help in identifying the gender of that person. Trust me, names do not justify who they are talking to. I still get addressed as Mr/Sir sometimes, of which I feel offended and that’s why showing your face is very important.
Your picture must represent the professional ethics of your work and should best represent you as an artist as well.
- I am at my studio which shows a glimpse that I am a serious artist and also owns a studio.
- I have my works hanging in the background which shows that I love my work and I respect them.
- Drawing on iPad shows I work on both modes i.e. digital and conventional.
- Comfortable sitting position and props (here cushion) shows that I feel comfortable the most when I create something in my studio.
- A big smile to invite people to work along.
All these are the points we often ignore to observe from the teachers, but these small things make a huge impact on your work and professional relationships.
- Add your professional experiences.
You must have a dedicated page about the client you’ve worked with in your past. You can add a series of logos if you have worked with quite a few brands or if you just had worked with one brand add the project you have done for them along with the logo. Don’t forget to add the list of features you have received, it will add more value to your portfolio. Also if you haven’t worked with clients before or never received any features for now that’s completely okay you can skip this page and put efforts into emphasising your work in the rest of the portfolio.
Well, these are the most effective and important must-haves in your creative portfolio. If you have all these things right away, you will be killing it !! Trust me.!!!
Now coming to the most interesting part. Before writing this blog, I was asked a few questions on my Instagram story. So I thought I could put more light from a learners perspective. So here are some of the questions and answers that I think can help you better.
1) How important are the theme, layout and overall feel of the portfolio? (by Anubhuti Jain from @anubhuti.jain)
Your portfolio should be very simple yet creatively appealing. At the same time, every content should have enough spacing around them so they can breathe and do not look like messy one. I know this is a confusing part so if you are just an artist and do not know how to speak through your designs, this is the reason why I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that you should hire a professional graphic designer if possible or take help from your Designer friend to design it for you. Apart from that, you must also know the basic things on how to present your works beautifully by yourself, there are tons of videos on YouTube which you can refer to the basics of graphic designing. I mean what’s the harm in learning a bit more about something new.
2) How to filter through what’s good for a portfolio and what’s not? (by Navya Arora from @navya_arora_ )
Try to detach for a moment from your work and observe your designs. Ask yourself, will you buy the product with this design on it? Keep this feeling aside that you have spent a thousand hours in that particular design and just think from the end user’s perspective and ask yourself, will you buy this if you see it for the first time? If the answer is yes, then it goes straight into your portfolio or else let’s keep that aside for now.
3) Shouldn’t it be solely focused on Art or can include other non-art particulars also? (by Anisha Mandhania from @bloominggraphy)
If you’re creating a portfolio for a generic pitch which means for your own website and so you must want to add about every single skill you have that can attract any client but if you are sending a portfolio to a brand or company you’re willing to work with, then NO !!…. Why?? This takes us to our next question.
4) Do we need to make changes in the portfolio for different possible clients or does one work for all? (by Aarzoo from @thepinkleafstudio)
Yes. Let’s imagine I am a brand selling luxury home furnishing items like curtains and rugs and the vibe of my brand is vintage. What if you send me a portfolio that is generic and has everything in it. Will that work? Think from the brand’s perspective. Before pitching to any possible brand you must alter designs that might suit their existing vibe. Do some research about the brand before pitching them. Have a proposal prepared with unique ideas that can help your pitch to be an effective pitch.
5) How to write the content for the portfolio precisely? (by Asawari Kisan Nawale from @meticulousme_)
Your content should be very limited and up to the mark. It should not be more than 200 or 250 words and must cover a piece of brief information about you and your brand, the type of companies you want to work with, how long have you been in the industry and all. It should be fun and informative and also gives a brief detail about you as a person and your brand or work
6) What should be the best platform or format of your creative portfolio? Will having an Instagram page alone will work as a portfolio? Behance or LinkedIn or all? (by Nikita Saraph from @nikita.saraph)
Okay, so I want to start with “Instagram is not equal to a portfolio !!!” Instagram is designed to attract an audience who can be a client or non-client. The purpose of having an Instagram account is to create an audience or community by posting similar types of work repeatedly but that doesn’t mean you can only do one type of style. On the other hand, a portfolio must reflect different styles of your work. Having portfolios on different platforms can attract more audience and exposure. I will suggest a Behance portfolio presented in a very creative way, a website with a variety of your works and a PDF format (not more than 50 MB which can be shared via Google Drive link or a Dropbox)
Well, that’s it for now and thank you for sticking till here. I hope this long blog will help you in creating a beautiful and effective creative portfolio and of course, I know I can’t cover all your questions in this blog so please feel free to drop your questions in the comment section below so I can help you out once again.
Last if you need more deep guidance building your career as a successful artist, Hop on a one hour call with me and I will guide you with my personal experience or if you already have a portfolio and unfortunately it’s not working, you can also book a 15 min call where I can personally review your portfolio and will suggest you change in how to make it more effective.
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See you again.!!