Preparing & Presenting Your Portfolio

A portfolio is a showcase for your talent and experience, and should be put together in a relevant way that is right for the stage of the self-marketing process you are in. For example, you will need a digital portfolio to send with your CV to offer a taster and a traditional/manual portfolio to take to any book showing, interviews. If you are a web designer, a website is essential.

Your portfolio brings to life what you have told a prospective client on paper and is your strongest selling tool. It ‘walks the talk’ and is worth investing time in.

The length of your portfolio should be between 12 and 22 pages. More than that will end up exhausting your time in the interview and overwhelming the interviewer. Fewer than 12 pages will imply that you do not have adequate experience.

Present your thinking - just because scamps are scruffy does not mean they should not be included. Client's love seeing thought processes; more often than not than the finished article……. so add them in.

Try to include images of how the project looked at the time of completion and within its environment. For example, if you have designed billboards, then include a photo of the billboard in situ. It is important to get the interviewer to be able to see what the final product actually looked like.

Getting hold of samples

It can be very difficult for freelancers to get hold of work, due to confidentiality; however there is always a solution. Even if you only showcase a few pieces, showcase them well.

Consider adding to your portfolio any dummy work/own projects.

Which work is best?

It’s tempting to put all your work in a portfolio but by far the best approach would be to tailor your portfolio to the prospective client’s portfolio. This is time consuming but very effective. If you only want one portfolio, pick your best pieces that clearly demonstrate your core experience and skills.

The work you consider to be best isn’t necessarily what the client will consider your best. It’s great to show your most exciting work, but also work that gets creative within tight corporate guidelines, or detailed annual reports.

Often it is the less exciting work that gets given to the freelancer. If you lack commercial experience you could try approaching local companies or charities and offering to work for free. You could ask to be rewarded with a portfolio sample.

Ordering your portfolio

Don’t take a client through your best work first and then to work you are least proud of. You will end on a negative. Put your best pieces at the front and the back, and perhaps the more ‘nuts and bolts’ work in the middle.

Explaining each piece

Always include a short summary against each piece. What was the challenge and what was your responsibility? A client can’t make a judgment of your abilities without having a feel of ‘before and after’ and which part of the final piece you were involved in.

Presenting your portfolio

Presenting your portfolio is even more of a demonstration of your ability as a freelancer. At this stage it is about your work AND about you and your confidence and passion. You would do very well to rehearse your presentation.

Make each piece a success, highlighting the challenge, your thought process and why you felt it was important to showcase. If you didn’t like the piece, say why. This will further demonstrate your thinking and approach.

Don’t spend too long on each piece; though do ask if the client would like you to expand. Perhaps ask how long you have got at the beginning of the meeting. Or even better, ask before you get there and time your presentation to perfection.

Don’t be too flashy. Let the work be the hero. A flash presentation may look great but will be distracting. A print portfolio and live samples are always more preferable to a digital one, as the work has life/energy and makes for a more interactive meeting

Here at Beyond The Book, we aim to make Freelance work a positive experience and success all round. We want you to have a successful career and hope you have found this information useful. Should you need more tailored and specific advice according to your circumstances, we would be more than happy to chat with you. Please contact us on 01789 451 510 or