How to: Build a Professional Portfolio
Ask any seasoned professional working in a creative field, and they’ll tell you just how important it is to have an impressive portfolio. A portfolio is something to show potential clients as proof of your skills and past success. And in extremely creative fields like makeup artistry, event & wedding planning and interior decorating, having a strong portfolio is a huge asset. Potential clients want to see what you’re capable of right off the bat, and a portfolio showcasing your best work is the best way to do this.
Here at QC Career School we understand that an attractive and well-designed portfolio can go a long way in helping secure clients and run a profitable business. So, we consulted with our team of creative professionals, and here’s what they had to say!
The whole point of a portfolio is for your clients to see proof of your past projects. Word of mouth is great up to a point, but a picture is truly worth a thousand words when you’re trying to prove yourself to a potential client. So as a professional in a creative industry, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity. At every job you complete, always be aware of possible opportunities to capture stunning photos of your work. And we suggest taking pictures of everything. No detail is too small, as you never know what a future client will want to see.
Now, we know that many of you reading this article are currently students with QC Career School, and may not have had the opportunity to work in a professional setting as of yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start documenting your work and building an impressive portfolio. We simply suggest creating a mock client scenario in your own home and setting up a small, informal photo shoot. Makeup students can apply makeup to a friend or family member, design students can stage or decorate a room in their own home, and event students could stage a small tablescape in their dining room.
Now chances are you’re not a professional photographer (hurray if you are!), and for the purposes of building up your portfolio we suggest hiring someone who’s skilled with a camera. They will know how to capture your subjects in the most flattering way, which is essential. Potential clients will immediately be able to tell the difference between a photo you took with your digital camera and one taken by a skilled professional. Think about approaching your local college and seeing if a photography student would like to use this as an opportunity to expand their own portfolio!
Presenting Your Work
There are multiple ways to do this, but we suggest beginning by creating a print portfolio (in the form of a book) as well as an online portfolio (i.e. a website). Having a physical copy of all your work is great when meeting with potential clients, as it’s nice for them to be able to flip through the pages of your portfolio while you discuss your services and fees. That being said, having an online presence will only benefit you, and these days it’s almost mandatory if you want to be successful in a highly competitive creative field. People now expect information to be readily available at their fingertips.
Creating a Physical/Print Portfolio
The important thing here is to present your portfolio in a professional manner, and in a way that allows potential clients to clearly see your photos without the chance of them getting damaged. Invest in a black leather binder (or something along those lines) as well as plastic sleeve inserts. Photos for this type of portfolio are typically 9 x 12 or 11 x 14.
Once you have your photos edited and printed (we suggest staying away from a gloss finish as it doesn’t read well in all types of lighting), there’s a bit more work to be done before you slip them into those plastic sleeves. We recommend matting your images in black, white or taupe. Spending some extra time on this step will add a lot of pizazz to your finished product; just be sure to keep all images and mattes uniform in size and color.
Another thing to consider with matting is the adhesive. Never use tape. We prefer using high quality spray mounts, as you’ll never need to worry about the corners of your images curling up or bending. Just be absolutely sure you’re happy with the placement before adhering your photo down to the matt, as chances are it won’t come off cleanly. We suggest making a few copies of your photos in case you make a mistake or two. And always keep your originals!
As you’re just starting out it’s perfectly acceptable to have a single print portfolio. But as your business expands you should build multiple portfolios for different subject matter. For example, have one for florals, one for tablescapes, one for wedding ceremonies, etc. Another option is to build one large portfolio that encompasses everything, but keep things organized and include a table of contents. Make sure your client can navigate through it with ease.
Creating an Online Portfolio
This type of portfolio will be an investment of your time rather than your money. Long story short you’ll need to purchase a domain name, set up a website (or blog), and post your images to your site.
Choose a Domain Name
The domain name is one of the most important elements of your site. It should be clear, easy to interpret, and memorable. You want potential clients to know exactly why they’re visiting your page and what they’re looking at, and you want it to make an impression. This step might take some time, as you will need to first find a domain that isn’t already taken. Be prepared to get creative! If you’re a current student of QC , you can find more information on searching for and obtaining website domain names in the business components of your course.
If you’re not already a coding pro you might choose to hire some professional help for this next step. It’ll cost you, but it’ll be worth it. Another route would be to sign up for a free, user friendly blogging platform like Blogger. There are also many websites that cater specifically to this need. At the end of your day you’ll just need to make sure you do some research and find a site that best suits your needs. Online portfolios usually come in three different forms – a website, blog, or dedicated solution (something like this).
Post Your Images/Content
When posting your original images online it’s best to make it clear that it is your property. Before uploading content to your site watermark all your images with the copyright symbol and your name, or simply include your UR – something as simple as what’s been done in the image below. It’s important to remind your site visitors that none of your images may be used without your permission. Some of our favorite (and free!) photo editing sites are Pixlr and PicMonkey.
We’ve obviously only covered the basics of creating an online portfolio in this article. There are in fact many other elements to consider, especially where building connections is concerned – it’s important to link your site to various social media platforms in order to boost your online presence. So stay tuned! We’ll be covering those topics and much more in the coming weeks here on the QC Blog.
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