7 pieces of portfolio advice from 7 years of running Semplice
by Tobias van Schneider
In honor of Semplice’s 7th birthday, we’re sharing some of the best portfolio lessons we’ve learned over the years.
We launched Semplice in 2014 with no expectations. Like every other tool we've created at HOVS, we built it first and foremost for ourselves. Little did we know, thousands of the world's leading designers would be using Semplice seven years later. And since 2014, we've learned a lot about building good portfolios.
Instead of making excuses, start with just one project and launch. One project. That's it.
Once your site is out there, you’ll find it’s easier to continue refining it. That’s the beauty of moving forward. It creates momentum.
2. Only show the work you want to keep doing
Yes, your portfolio is about presenting the work you’ve already done. But it’s more about the work you’ll do next. So only show the type of work you want to get hired to do more of. It may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how often I see someone looking for a product design job while showing print work in their portfolio.
3. Don’t try so hard
Poetic, buzzword-filled introductions only confuse your visitor. Crazy animations and effects only get in our way. Focus less on making your portfolio a work of art, and more on presenting your existing work in the best possible way.
4. Your portfolio is your greatest, easiest career hack
You could decide you want to run a business and boom, that night your business is established online. You could decide to switch to a UX job, do some experiments through a YouTube course and build your UX portfolio the next weekend. You and a friend could start a new agency, create a beautiful website and nobody would ever know you’re working from your basement. It’s so easy and so cheap to create a website, and the rewards are immeasurable.
5. Templates do your work a disservice
I know I've said this time and time again (and, as the founder of two portfolio systems that don't offer templates, I have a vested interested in preaching it). But it's worth repeating here:
– If you use a template for your portfolio, you're forced to retrofit your work into someone else's layout. You're making compromises and boxing yourself in right from the beginning.
– If you lock yourself into a template, you're less likely to keep your site updated year after year. Why? Because changing templates is a hassle. If you decide you don't like one element of the template (the navigation or homepage layout, for example) you need to change the entire template and essentially rebuild your site. That's daunting. If you use a flexible layout that allows you to customize, you can easily spend 30 minutes here and there updating design elements, adding projects and keeping it fresh.
– When you use a template, we can usually tell you're using a template. If you're a designer, that's a bit cringey. You design for a living but you're using someone else's design for your own site? If you're not a designer, it just appears amateur.
– Assuming you do creative work for a living, your portfolio is the one chance you have for full control. No client feedback or approvals. No stakeholders, template restrictions or briefs to meet. You finally get to tell the story of your work the way you intended it to be told. Why pass up that opportunity?
6. The best time to work on your portfolio is before you need a job
We tend to put off our portfolio until we desperately need one. Do your future self a favor and create one now. Your current self will benefit from it too.
7. Your portfolio is the best investment you can make
Launching your design portfolio means you believe in yourself and your work. Just like you'd invest in company or artist you believe is going to be successful, you're placing a bet on a hunch. You're willing to give something up now (in this case, money and time) on the feeling that you'll one day get something more out of it.
Unlike other investments, you have full control over the success or failure of this one. The only person you’re counting on is you.
Here’s to another year of Semplice and heck, even another seven. We have lots planned for the near future and we don’t plan on going anywhere but forward.