The 5 Key Ingredients to a Killer Portfolio

Feb 14, 2017

As a graphic designer, your portfolio of work is one of the most powerful tools you have. Not only does it display your talent, but it’s also a high-vibing magnet for your ideal client. Which is why, naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio kicks serious ass.

When you are selecting which pieces to include in your portfolio, I recommend considering the 5 key ingredients:

1. Your ideal client

This might seem like a no-brainer, but the objective of your portfolio is to impress your clients with examples and samples of your work. But not any old client … your IDEAL client.

Once you know what type of clients you would like to attract, you can craft a portfolio that appeals to them! For example, if your ideal client is a female entrepreneur within the health and wellbeing industry, I’d recommend popping relevant samples from the same industry and demographic into your portfolio.

Action step >>> Detox your folio & cull any design work in your folio that would not help your ideal client connect with you and make sure you only choose the items that convey the type of work and projects you’d love to accept in the future. 

2. Be selective

Let’s be real, everybody is short on time these days. Which is why your portfolio doesn’t need to include every-single-job you’ve ever taken. Instead, and in order to have the most powerful impact, you should keep it short and sweet and be selective in what pieces you choose to include in your folio.

Pro-tip >>> Only include work you are PROUD of in your folio. 

3. Tell a story

Even though portfolios are primarily visual tools, you shouldn’t be afraid to include more written information about your clients and weave an emotive storyline too. You can let your audience know how you worked with the client and even include a testimonial next to the work.  Another good way to tell a story is by showing the step-by-step process from sketches to proofing and then to finished product. By telling a story, you are selling your potential client with feelings of stability and trust and enhancing their respect for you.  For a frikken amazing example of a folio that ticks all the boxes check out Emma at Soul Stirring Branding here. Emma was one of my mentor client’s and she is absolutely killing it with her thoughtful folio.

Pro-tip >>> If you are interested in working with me as your mentor, book in yourFREE business audit here & we can discuss your folio & much more.

4. Keep it up to date

Ever looked at a portfolio that hasn’t been updated in years and wondered: ‘Er, are they even taking on clients anymore?’ This is just one of the many reasons I recommend that you keep your folio up to date. Make sure people know you are still alive!

I recommend updating your folio bi-monthly just to keep it fresh and let people see how busy and creative you are. This will also keep them checking back all the time. Double tick!Action step >>> Be honest. When was the last time you added some fresh work to your folio? do it 🙂 

5. Make it interesting

In the old days (like 10 years ago) when most design work was print based, we would have to plan and set up elaborate photo-shoots of our printed design work. And let me tell you now, it sucked the big one. Time-consuming and frustrating was the least of it. But these days it is so much easier to present your work beautifully.

Here are a couple of options:

Buy or find FREE PSD mockup files. For my online portfolio I create digital mockups, which are images displaying my design work. How this works is that you basically buy or find the PSD file, paste your design into the appropriate layer within the file and then – voila, bob’s your uncle!

You can find PSD mock-ups from these sites:




You can always just show your work and not bother with mock-ups. If you choose this option you just need to be a bit clever about how present your work. After all, if a designer can’t be creative and original on their own website who can?! When creating the layout remember two things – the grid and white space. Use both to your advantage.

So with all of that said & done, take a look at your folio and ask yourself these big questions….

+ Is it selling what you are good at?
+ Is it directed towards your ideal client? industry & style-wise?
+ Is it up to date?
+ Is it telling a story?

Now go forth & create a folio that kicks arse 🙂 




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