Wild idea: Work on your portfolio while you have a job
By Tobias van Schneider Published March 31, 2019
I realize my love of portfolio building may be the exception. For many people, working on a portfolio is associated with dread (unless they’re using Semplice, of course). They know they need to do it, yet they always push it down their priority list. A portfolio is always hanging over a designer's head.
Thus, most designers don’t touch their portfolio unless they have to. If they already have the security of a full-time job, they feel they can safely brush it off until later. The task of building or updating a portfolio is usually done in a rush between jobs. When a designer quits or knows they're about to. That’s when their portfolio finally becomes a priority.
But working on a portfolio is best done when you already have a job. Here’s why.
It reminds you what you want to do
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and let months or years pass before realizing you’re not where you want to be. At that point, you’re far down a path going the wrong direction.
Working on your portfolio reminds you to take a step back and decide whether you are pleased with the work you’re doing right now. If you realize you have no projects you are proud to put in your portfolio, you can change that. You can request to start working on a new client or different kind of project. You can focus on getting a new freelance gig that excites you. You can decide to work harder and do a better job with the projects or clients you already have.
If you start building your portfolio and realize you are indeed proud of the work you are doing, it’s energizing. Reflecting on the work you did and the ways you’ve grown will fuel the work you do next. Building your portfolio will build your momentum.
Working on your portfolio presents an opportunity to affirm the path you’re on or realize it’s time to take a new one.
You have access to the resources you need
Unless you are meticulous about saving and organizing your work, it’s easy to leave files on your office server or have them wiped from the company laptop on your last day. When you’re still at your company, it’s all available to you.
Providing you’re allowed to share the work you created, you can collect the materials and publish them while they’re still fresh. It’s much easier than texting old coworkers, asking them to comb the company server and send you some important file you left behind.
Once you leave the company, it becomes much more difficult to access the work you created. So do it now.
It promotes your company & your work
Let’s assume you love your job or the projects you are working on. In that case, a current portfolio can better serve its purpose: It will bring you more of the work you enjoy doing. If you work on your own product or start-up, it will also promote your business in an organic way.
I can’t tell you how many people say they discovered Semplice after landing on my portfolio. My website analytics back this up. This could lead to a purchase, a magazine feature or a new partnership opportunity. I’m not looking to work on anything other than Semplice right now but by keeping my portfolio updated while I do it, I’m opening myself up to opportunities I wouldn’t know about otherwise.
An obvious one: When you’re in between jobs, the pressure is on. You’re networking, reaching out, meeting for coffee. You don’t want to be scrambling to put together a portfolio on top of it. Instead of starting from scratch or overhauling your portfolio during this time, you should only need to optimize or curate your portfolio for specific jobs. If your portfolio is prepared when you leave or lose your job, you already have a head start on the next one. Building it before the job search is a gift to your future self.
Putting off your portfolio until you’re job searching is like working on your “beach body” one week before vacation: Stressful and not likely to produce the best results. Take advantage of the time and security you have now and use it to build your portfolio.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!