A picture is worth 1,000 words.
Keep that in mind when you go to your next potential client meeting. You want to make a great first impression and win the account. While what you say and how you act are very important, ultimately, the client wants to know that you can deliver.
However, you’re probably not the only freelancer your client is interviewing. You need to wow them, and you can do it with your portfolio – and your accompanying presentation.
What you’ll need:
- Portfolio binder/case (found either online or at your local art supplies store)
- Adhesive (tape, rubber cement, etc.)
My simple, black zippered portfolio – purchased at Michael’s – holds pieces up to 14×20. Since many of my projects are multiple smaller pieces, I used painter’s tape to secure them to the backing material semi-permanently. This allows me to customize my portfolio for the client I’m meeting.
There are also a million ways to build a physical portfolio. This is just one option. Share how you build your portfolio with us by leaving a comment.
Put your most impressive piece first to wow them right from the get-go. Put another premier piece at the end of your portfolio to leave a great final impression. Then order the less exciting pieces in the middle.
You may choose to order your middle projects chronologically, by project type, by client/job, by layout, or simply by an order that flows nicely.
I always start with my infographic resume (and it’s always a big hit), and I put all of my landscape projects together so I minimize the amount of times I have to turn my portfolio.
Include projects with stories
If your potential client is considering several freelancers, chances are more than one of them are going to have really nice portfolios.
What separates you from the pack?
Why should they pick you?
That’s why you need to include projects with stories to show that not only can you create great work, you can think critically about how to best meet your clients’ needs.
When I present my portfolio, I showcase a cost-effective, 2-color product label design as well as a brochure that I worked directly with press operators on to perfect flesh-tones.
Choose projects they want to see…and you want to show off
Know what your potential client is looking for – if they’re considering hiring you for a logo, for example, bring samples of other logos (if you can).
But don’t pigeon-hole yourself by only showing what they want to see – add some additional projects that complement their needs. You might be able to up-sell them later.
Have you ever heard, “You can do <insert design project here>, too?! Wow, that’s great, because we need…”? Me, too.
It might seem obvious to you, but many clients don’t realize freelancers can handle a variety of projects.
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My portfolio projects range from packaging to infographics to zoo posters to newsletters to a published writing sample to order forms. This shows that I’m a well-rounded designer who can take care of the majority of their needs.
Put something in their hands
It’s all fine and great to have your potential clients observe your projects, but bring extras that clients can touch and inspect, especially if they’re double-sided or folded. This helps engage multiple senses as well as that person at the far end of the table, increasing the likelihood that they’ll remember you.
I bring extra brochures, postcards, and invitations to pass out while I’m speaking about them. I also bring props – the actual bottles the packaging labels fit on as well as buttons that go with a promotional campaign.
Perfect your presentation pitch
Practice showing your portfolio to your spouse, roommate, best friend, or favorite pet. Explain each piece, timing yourself from start to finish.
Your entire presentation should take no more than 10-15 minutes. Don’t forget to include time for questions here and there.
Finally, don’t be afraid to show pride in your work. This is your very best work, so it’s okay to be excited about it.
What doesn’t belong in your portfolio
While there are exceptions to these guidelines, it’s best to avoid the following:
- Personal work. Clients want to see real-world solutions (student work is fine if you’re just starting out, but you should start to phase out everything but the most impressive as you finish client work).
- Software specifications. Unless they ask or it’s something special, your potential clients probably don’t care what software you used. Make a general statement like “I work primarily in the Adobe Creative Suite,” and share something more interesting.
Don’t underestimate the value of a killer physical portfolio!
- In one interview, my client told me to stop halfway through showing my portfolio because he was so impressed he didn’t need to see any more.
- In another, the client told me my portfolio presentation won me the account. (And I don’t have the fanciest, most expensive portfolio!)
Has your portfolio impressed a potential client and won the account? Tell us about it! Leave a comment on this post and share your tips and stories about how you create and present your physical portfolio.
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