It’s not always easy to get a steady stream of clients as a self-employed graphic designer. But without a portfolio, you won’t get any work at all. 

Sounds straightforward, right? Not quite. It can be more complicated than it sounds. The key to a great portfolio is knowing where to begin and how you should present your designs.

This guide discusses how to create a good graphic design portfolio, including:

  • Platforms to use
  • Niche or range of skills
  • Client review and study
  • Passion projects

Mediums to use

Before you start to build your selection of work, you’ll have to decide on which medium you would like to use. There are many to choose from, so we’ll break down a few of the most popular.

PDF

One of your design skills may be in layouts, in that case, you’ve got the option of a nice PDF. It can be a great visual document that you can email over to potential clients.

In comparison to an online platform though, a PDF can be time-consuming to change and clients may want to interact with your work. For example, a website can let them learn more about your projects that interest them.

Behance

Behance is free to use –– upload your work onto the platform with images, videos and an explanation of your work. You can network with other creative people, and they can see your work.

Tip: don’t overload your pages with text. As a designer, your work should speak for itself. Just summarise the brief and your solution.

If you use Adobe’s Creative Cloud (if you don’t, it can  be expensive) you can turn your Behance into an Adobe Portfolio. It’s your very own website put together from the work you already uploaded.

Dribble

A similar alternative to Behance is Dribbble. It lets you upload your work to a community hub of visual creatives for free.

Unlike Behance, it doesn’t have the option to turn your page into a website. What it encourages, though, is to upload works in progress and your finished pieces.

So if you are currently working on projects you’d like to use, it helps to show those off as well. 

WordPress

If you want a website but don’t use Adobe software, you can create your own. One of the most popular site builders is WordPress.

You can create a site from scratch or use their templates with free and paid options. You’ll have complete control over your layouts and how you show off your work.

A website might look more professional to clients, and it also allows them to have more of an experience when they look at your work. 

You can include different sections to organise what you do and include an ‘about me’ page to describe who you are.

For more information on design tools, see: New graphic design technology to use in 2022.

Niche or range of skills

Now that you’ve got a platform ready, time to build (exciting). But wait, hold your horses. You can’t put everything you’ve ever done on there.

You’ll likely have to decide on which projects to upload. That’s going to depend on what kind of graphic designer you are.

One part of creating a good graphic design portfolio is to think about what you want out of it. Do you specialise in one key area like logos, or are you happy to do different work (websites, banners, packaging, etc.)?

If you focus on a specific area, you can present yourself as an expert and use projects to back that up. But if you show a more comprehensive range, you might look less specialised but more flexible to any job.

Client review and study

Case study

You may have experience from previous work with clients. If you do, an excellent way to improve your portfolio is to add a case study.

Case studies can fully explain the entire project and present the outcome from how you signed the contract with the client to the finished result.

New clients may appreciate the opportunity to see how you can work with them and listen to their needs.

Creative process

You can also use previous work as an opportunity to explain your creative process. Talk about how you come up with ideas and where they take you.

(Client’s might appreciate the work more and offer to pay higher rates if they see how much time goes into what you do.)

Client reviews

With previous happy clients, you can ask them to give you a review of your services. It will back up your abilities and communication skills. 

It’s important to show prospects that, beyond creating fantastic work, you know how to give clients what they want. Client reviews help you do that. 

Passion projects

Aside from the past client work, you’ve also got to sell yourself to new ones. You want to seem like someone who is creative and not going to cause any issues.

If you can show off some of your personality, it can go a long way in how you create a good graphic design portfolio. You can include hobbies and interests that you do in your spare time, perhaps. 

It’s often easier to trust someone who is happy to express themselves. Beyond that, an exciting and unique portfolio will help you stand out from other designers and reflect on your creativity.

One way to help build both your expression and work is to participate in passion projects in your spare time. Maybe base them on the latest trends?. It should be graphic design work that you’ve set yourself for fun.

You’ve likely chosen the creative role because you are an artistic person, so show what you can do without the restraints of a client. 

Who knows, if they can see your creativity, then they may be more likely to give you more freedom on a project.

TIP: Sort taxes as a self-employed designer with app

Maybe you’re a new designer or an established one who wants to make things easier for themselves. A challenge that self-employed graphic designers face (apart from getting work) is doing your Self Assessment Income Tax.

Countingup is a business account with built-in accounting software to make financial management easy and accessible through your phone. 

Its tax estimates will help you sort through your money and understand how much to set aside for your returns.

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