Why you should keep your portfolio updated – especially if you have a job
by Tobias van Schneider
I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking what people did with their portfolio once they got a job. The results were both surprising and not surprising.
The question: “After you finish your portfolio, do you keep it updated even though you have a fulltime job? Or do you forget about it, and only update when job searching again?”
The results: Of the 1,026 people who responded, 68% of people said they keep their portfolio online while they have a job, but don’t update it. Of the remaining 32%, 11% said they take their portfolio offline completely and only 21% said they actively keep it updated.
Meaning, 80% of people completely neglect their portfolio when they have a full-time job.
Based on my own experience as a designer over the last decade or so, it seems obvious why it’s important to keep your portfolio updated. But at the same time, I know how easy it is to put off when you have the security and comfort of a full-time job. Here is why it’s worth spending the time to keep your portfolio fresh, even if you don’t plan on job hunting anytime soon.
1. It shows you care about your work
Letting your portfolio fall by the wayside is the equivalent of dressing up for your interview and wearing sweatpants once you’ve secured the job. It says you don’t care much about your work beyond the paycheck. Keeping your portfolio updated, on the other hand, shows that you consider yourself a designer, not just someone with a design job.
And people will notice: your employer, potential clients, recruiters, fellow employees, other designers. A portfolio gives you an identity outside of your team at work. It says that you care enough to refine your skills, think about what you create and share it proudly with others.
2. You don’t know what opportunities you might be missing
You may be perfectly satisfied with your position right now, but you don’t know what you might be missing by failing to update your portfolio. It may be a side project that fuels you at your current job, a collaboration with another creative, a freelance gig that teaches you a new skill or a new job entirely.
If you’ve forgotten about your portfolio, on the other hand, a recruiter or a client may land on your page, see it’s outdated and move on. Or you may not have that one recent project online that demonstrates exactly the skills and style your dream company was looking for. All without you ever knowing you were on their radar.
They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but you also don't know how it could have helped you. Keeping your portfolio current with your latest work and skills is an easy (an even rather passive) way to keep your options and opportunities open.
3. Reviewing and reflecting on your work motivates you to get better
We always say you should put your best work in your portfolio, the work that makes you most proud. Curating your portfolio this way requires you to reflect on it.
When you continually do this at your current job, you are forced to step back now and then and consider the work you’ve done and are doing. Does it make you proud? Are you happy with the direction you’re heading in your creative career?
If you are pleased with the work you’ve been doing, it motivates to keep at it and outdo yourself. If you realize a lot of your work doesn’t make you proud, you can reset and refocus on the work you want to be doing.
4. A little thing called SEO
If you keep your portfolio online and continue to update it, it’s more likely Google will crawl and index it. Nobody fully understands the mysteries of Google’s algorithm, but search any term and you will see Google gives you the most current yet established results it can find.
Your ranking will impact if and how you show up when clients or magazines look for local designers. So if they search “animator in New York” or “3D designer in Amsterdam,” your updated portfolio will be more likely to show up than your coworker Ralph’s, who hasn’t updated his site since 2009.
5. An outdated portfolio (or lack of a portfolio) just looks bad
Put simply: Having an old, outdated portfolio is in poor taste. Either you have some clunky website online that doesn’t accurately reflect the modern design you do, or you hide it because you know it’s outdated, and then it looks like you don’t have a portfolio at all. Considering how easy it is to have a website these days, and the importance of the web itself in our industry, both of these options don’t reflect well on you.
Don’t assume just because you have a job nobody is searching for your portfolio. It’s likely a potential client will search the creative team before deciding to work with your studio (believe me, they do). If you’re not concerned about how your old portfolio makes you come across, consider how it affects your team.
6. You can’t predict the future
You may be happy at your job right now, but circumstances can change fast. An agency loses a client and employees abruptly get laid off. Your partner gets a great job offer and you need to move to a different city and find a new job for yourself – in a month. You see your dream job posted online and decide to apply.
Keeping your portfolio updated is a gift to your future self. No matter whether the circumstances are positive or negative, within your control or not, you will be thankful your website is already fresh and ready to go when you need it. The alternative is scrambling to get something online as fast as you can, which is not only stressful but rarely gives you great results.
I know I have a personal interest in this narrative, given I work on a portfolio-building tool. But whether you use my product or not, I urge you to make your portfolio a priority. It may sound cheesy, but investing in your site is investing in your success as a designer. In an increasingly online world where you might never even meet your employer or client face-to-face, your portfolio is the first impression you give to others. A portfolio with old projects and a dated design is not a great first impression.
For those just getting started in their career who want something simple and easy for their online portfolio, I highly recommend Carbonmade, which just re-launched with the new Carbonmade 4. You can update your portfolio in less than an hour with Carbonmade, and it's incredibly easy to use. If you're a bit further along in your career and want something more advanced, try Semplice. Semplice offers a lot more power and flexibility to create a custom portfolio in a simple and beautiful way.
Whatever you decide to use for your site, just do it! Update your portfolio anytime you launch a new project. Make your site something that evolves with you in your career, and I promise you'll be better off for it.