4 Design portfolio tips to get yours in front of potential clients

As a graphic designer, you’ve built up a solid portfolio of impressive work. But it won’t do you any good sitting on your desk or on a website that nobody knows about, right?

A portfolio is only useful if it gets you jobs, and for that reason, it’s important to know how to get it in front of your prospective clients. Here are 4 tips you should keep in mind if you want your design portfolio to live up to its potential.

Keep both a digital and physical version handy

Digital and physical portfolios each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Physical portfolios are more immersive and allow recipients to engage with your designs on a more personal, intimate level, creating a lasting impression. Digital portfolios are incredibly easy to distribute, browse and access—and it doesn’t cost anything to create as many copies as you like.

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Some potential clients will want to get up close and personal with your designs, while others prefer the simplicity and convenience of digital. If you want to be fully prepared for any situation, it’s a good idea to have both types of portfolios on hand. Make sure you keep them both up-to-date with your latest designs.

Choose the right dimensions

For example, take a look at this example of how many different portfolio sizes. Notice how they can be as small as 9 x 7 or as large as 15 x 10. A few inches here or there might not seem significant enough to make a huge difference—but it will if the prints of your designs exceed the limitations.

You’re going to want a physical portfolio with dimensions large enough to include all your best materials, but you’re also going to want it to be as light and mobile as possible so that it can reach more people. The best practice is to choose dimensions that exceed your largest design print by about an inch.

That will keep your portfolio un-burdensome without cramping the designs inside.

Identify and pitch desired clients

If you’re extremely lucky, new clients will come across your portfolio on their own and contact you with their requests—but if you want regular business, you’re going to need to be a bit more proactive than that.

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Perform extensive research into the types of clients that you want to work with. If you’re targeting a specific industry niche (such as cosmetics or the entertainment industry) or a particular type of design work (web, packaging, illustration, etc.) – take that into consideration.

When you contact a prospect, don’t use a fill-in-the-blank template that you would use to mass-target multiple people at once. Instead, custom-tailor your pitch to that specific client. Take a close look at the type of work they’re doing and adjust your pitch accordingly. For instance, notice how many of the designs on a T-shirt website like 6dollarshirts, teespring and redbubble are fun and casual. If you were pitching designs to a company like this, you’d want your email to convey a funny, playful tone similar to their brand.

Don’t bog things down with a long biography bragging about your experience and past work. Keep it simple and focus on the most relevant information: your design specialties, your rate, and (of course) a link to your portfolio.

Share your portfolio with key influencers

Sometimes the most valuable contacts who can get their hands on your portfolio aren’t clients at all. Rather, they’re influencers: people with a significant audience or network with whom they can share your designs.

If the right person tweets a link or writes a blog post about your portfolio, you could potentially get hundreds or even thousands of people to see it as a result.

The trick is to identify who those influencers are. You’re not just looking for people with a lot of followers. You want to find people with a history of sharing the type of content you’re providing them with.

Design galleries and blogs are a good place to start. Many of them will showcase one or two of your designs that really stand out while also including a link to the rest of your portfolio.

You should also consider contacting your previous clients and asking them to share designs in your portfolio (particularly the designs you’ve created for them). This is especially effective because it provides a benefit to them (increasing the exposure of their brand) and acts as social proof; the fact that they’re sharing it demonstrates to others that they’re happy with the work you did.

Again, don’t create a single mass email that you send out to your entire address book. Instead, contact individuals in a way that’s personalized to them. Keep it light and conversational so you don’t look like a random spammer.

Any thoughts?

Do you have questions or comments about any of these tips? Know of any other good techniques for getting more eyes on a design portfolio? Share them in the comments!

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About Lori Ohman

Lori Ohman was raised in Southern California in a family of entrepreneurs. After completing her degree in Business for Organizational Leadership she set her goals high. Lori’s passion is present in assisting small business owners succeed, building leaders and establishing expectations of daily personal development. Lori can be contacted regarding any business related needs @Lori_Ohman on Twitter, while her work on personal development and leadership can be found at www.LifewithLori.org.


  1. Thanks for sharing Lori. I’m not sure hard copy portfolios are still used. Most employers/clients I’ve encountered are happy with pdf slides or just a walk through over an online portfolio. I guess it depends on what you specialise in tho. I’m logo and web so not so important. I guess if you are into brochure design with fancy finishes then it may be more suitable.


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