7 Portfolio Tips for Designers and Copywriters

By Joyce Bethoney on

As a creative recruiter, I’ve seen hundreds of portfolios—ones that work, ones that don’t, and ones that could work with just a few tweaks. Here’s what you need to know:

1) If you’re a designer or copywriter, you need a portfolio. I repeat. You need a portfolio. If this seems obvious to you, terrific, please move to #2. If this is news to you, it’s time to build one. I see far too many good people miss out on great opportunities because they don’t have a portfolio.

2) Build your portfolio as you go. Gather your best work during contract engagements and long-term roles. If your client work is proprietary, pick up a few jobs on the side to show what you can do.

3) Make it clear which verticals you’ve worked in—Retail, Financial, Pharmaceutical, etc.—in order to paint a picture of your experience. Include a variety of samples, while still highlighting your niche.

4) Keep in mind that paid work always trumps the work you did pro bono or in school.

5) Lead with big brand and agency work.

6) Take the time to invest in your website. I’ve seen great designers and copywriters passed over because their websites were lackluster, unprofessional or out-of-date. Consider how someone would navigate your site. Enlist the help of a professional if need be.

7) Your portfolio is not your Facebook page. Over-sharing personal information looks green and unprofessional. Sharing one or two personal tidbits is ok, but your portfolio should represent your professional brand, not your personal life.

Your portfolio isn’t the only factor in your job search—interviewing, first impressions, relevant experience and more—all come into play. But your portfolio IS a factor. Don’t miss out on great opportunities because your portfolio doesn’t make the grade or doesn’t exist at all.