How To Make Your Portfolio Even Better

Your portfolio is a dynamic representation of the services you offer to your clients – at least it should be! However, months after you created your portfolio, it can be easy to neglect your portfolio as your business grows and your responsibilities expand. But your ability to score new jobs will largely depend on keeping your portfolio up-to-date and as robust as possible. To help you achieve that end, we’ve put together a few tips for following up on your portfolio after you’ve been in business for a few months.

follow up on your portfolio

Complete your Portfolio – Fill in the Holes

The first iteration of your portfolio is not going to be an all-encompassing venture of everything you’re able to do. As your skills become more advanced and diversified, so too should your collection of work in your portfolio. Perhaps your initial portfolio includes great examples of icon and button designs, but lacks samples of your work on banners and infographics. Or maybe you have a healthy collection of sites for small businesses, but don’t have any examples of e-commerce solutions. As you take on more and more projects and hone your craft, you’ll need to fill in the holes in your portfolio with a greater variety of work. But how do you do that?


Bid Low

Let’s say you’ve built up a nice collection of designs you’ve done for your local salon and flower shop. With those experiences under your belt, maybe you want to venture into working with other types of businesses, such as law firms and medical clinics. A great way to get that new business (and expand your portfolio in the process) is to offer your services at a reduced price.

bid low

Remember when you’re placing a bid on a project that you’re competing against any number of other designers. Whatever bid you submit needs to be low enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Bear in mind that in order to get the business you need to improve your portfolio, you may need to settle for earning less than you want. There are challenges with offering a low bid, however. First, be wary of offering a price that’s too low. You don’t want to shortchange yourself and make the new project something that doesn’t allow you to at least make a small profit. Second, offering a really low price may set the client up to think that future work will also be offered at that low price. This also makes it more difficult to charge your actual rates for future work with that client.

To get around these concerns, make it clear that you’re offering a “first time” discount that’s a one-time-only thing. Offering 10% off your hourly rate or $50 off a complete website design might be good places to start. Another great solution would be to just be honest and say to the client “I’m working on improving my portfolio and {this aspect of your project} is something that I want to showcase so I’m giving you a special one-time rate” (enter relevant aspect in the {} ). Another good idea is to offer bonus features at no charge. For example, you could offer to throw in an about page or provide basic SEO services for free. By offering to work at a discounted rate, you’ll have many more opportunities to expand your portfolio and demonstrate to potential clients your increasingly large range of talents and services.


Follow Up With Previous Clients

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that once you’ve designed a website for a client that your work with them is done forever. Previous clients often make the best new clients! Once you’ve demonstrated your worth to them by designing an awesome website, check in with them after a few months to see how things are going. This can benefit your portfolio in several ways:

  • Former clients can provide insight into the range of benefits they’ve gotten out of the website you designed. Add these benefits to the project description as an easy way to update your portfolio. You can also ask previous clients to provide a testimonial for your website to further your credibility.
  • Previous clients might have discovered a new feature they’d like added to their website. Checking in can get you that business and you can use that new job – no matter how big or small – as an additional portfolio piece.
  • Past clients are excellent sources for jobs with new people. Dropping them a phone call or an email after a few months might remind them to connect their friend or family member with you for a new project. Again, you can add new jobs you get from previous clients to your portfolio to keep it fresh.

Getting the “Money-Stats”

golden egg

Reaching back to your clients to find out how your designs impacted their business and later post it on your portfolio can have a huge impact on your portfolio’s conversion rate into leads. This is the “golden egg” most designers tend to leave with the chicken once they are out of the chicken coop. Some of the stats you should find out about are:

  • Higher CTR on a banner you created
  • How many more leads per day have been generated as a result of your design?
  • Social shares of your infographic design
  • How has your re-design of their homepage reduced bounce rates?

Of course, this will also teach you what’s not working well so you can avoid doing the same mistake on future projects.

Posting these stats on your portfolio is exactly what business owners want to see – how their investment is going to turn a profit.


Portfolio Optimization

Another great way to follow up on your portfolio is to maximize the impact it has on potential clients. This means determining which projects are most and least impactful, what information clients find the most helpful, and identifying weak areas that you need to build up. There are several ways you can go about doing this.


Ask former clients what made them pick you

Consider contacting previous clients for feedback about your existing portfolio pieces. They can provide insight into what drew them in and the factors they found most useful when deciding to hire you. Additionally, they can provide valuable feedback about aspects of your portfolio that might need more attention. Think of it like an exit interview – you want to know what their experience was like with your portfolio. When seeking feedback, think about asking these questions:


  • Which portfolio project was most impressive, and why?
  • Which portfolio project was least impressive, and why?
  • What aspect of the portfolio did you find most helpful or informative?
  • Are the project descriptions detailed enough to provide insight into the services I offer?
  • What skills or features do you look for in a designer that I currently do not list in my portfolio?


Check with Colleagues and Find Free Resources


As we mentioned in an earlier post on steps to take for building a new web design career, your colleagues in the design industry are excellent resources for feedback and inspiration. Use the knowledge and insights that former teachers, fellow designers, friends on Dribbble, and acquaintances from design conferences have to offer with regard to making your portfolio all it can be.

There’s also a wealth of free resources that you can utilize to build portfolio pieces. If you haven’t yet tried a website builder, it’s an opportunity to create portfolio pieces that will demonstrate vastly expanded skills and services you can offer your clients. Your colleagues can also be an excellent resource for quick and easy projects to fill in the gaps in your portfolio. Perhaps a designer you follow on Twitter just released some free infographics that you could customize for use on one of your sites. Or maybe a contact you made in design school created some great new fonts that would enhance the look and feel of a design you have in progress. The point is you don’t have to create all your portfolio pieces from scratch. Take what others have to offer and make it your own!

Keeping your portfolio fresh and ensuring you have a good range of work samples will keep potential clients interested and keep the money rolling in. If you’ve got a fail-safe solution for keeping your portfolio well stocked, let us know in the comments below!


Photo Credits:
Money by 401(K)2012 via Flickr Creative Commons
Macbook Computer by VFS Digital Design via Flickr Creative Commons
Golden egg by 401(k)2012 via Flickr Creative Commons


Erez is the online marketing director of IM Creator. Erez writes about web design as a business, online marketing, and website building tips.

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