As a designer a great portfolio can be the difference between landing a job and just being interviewed. The good news is, having a great portfolio isn't rocket science. You must also be ready to talk about it, and remember your presentation goes a long way.
1. Keep it Fresh. If you portfolio is the same as it was last month, then you're letting it get stagnate. Keep in mind as a designer, you should always be growing. Rarely do I look at a piece that I designed last year without seeing a million ways it could be done better if I was doing it today. That's what it's all about!
2. Go Digital AND Paper. We are living in a digital society but that doesn't mean you should "force" your prospective boss or clients to go digital as well. In the busy grasp for time, many may rely on a paper they can easily look at on the go rather than a digital CD or Web version of your work. My suggestion? Show your versatility and do both.
3. Include Awards and Recommendations. Any prospective employer will be impressed by the number of awards and recommendations you have collected. Allow your work to speak for itself through these commendations. Don't have any awards? There's no excuse! Look online for design competitions. Yes, the entry fee my be a little pricey but the results and prestige are well worth it!
4. Focus on the Details. If you include a cover letter be sure it's addressed to the right company. When looking over applicant's for a new designer at the ministry, I received a resume and cover letter addressed to another company in town. What did this tell me? The designer didn't have much of an eye for detail, meaning, they weren't somebody I even interviewed. Don't let a careless mistake make you look bad!
5. Include a Memorable Resume. An integral part of any solid portfolio is an up-to-date resume. Your resume should include a brief summary of your most recent positions and your overall skills. Limit this item to 1 page, front only. You may want to consider printing it on speciality paper or something noticeable, like a metallic card stock.
6. Show Variety, but Start with Your Greatest Strength. If you specialize in Logo development don't start your portfolio out with a Web design. Start with your strengths to "wow" your prospect, then follow up with your other work to show your versatility.
7. Be Ready to Answer Questions. One of the first questions I ask a prospective designer that wants to work for me is to tell me what their favorite piece in their portfolio is. This is always very insightful for me to see what the designer truly deems their most important piece.
8. Include "Real" Samples. If you do book typesets and business cards, don't just "show" the printed pages in sleeves, include real books, cards or brochures. Allow the employer or client to "touch" and "feel" the pieces. This will brand the images into their mind, and cause your name to be remembered.
9. Have Professional Contact Information. One of the biggest turn-offs for someone looking to hire a freelancer or new staff member is contacting them via an email address like [email protected] Don't do this. Make sure you have an email address that is fed through your web site and sounds professional. If you leave your cell phone number make sure your voicemail message is also professional. Change it if you need to. Remember, the first key to selling yourself is presentation!
10. Use Your Creativity. It's cliche, but you must think outside the box. Don't go overboard and in so doing, overwhelm your client. Professionalism will get you a lot farther than flamboyance, but be impressive. Show them you mean business and can think creatively.