Launching a Creative Portfolio: The Fear, Nerves & Excitement of Getting Your Work Out There

 
 

Now my website and portfolio are live, I should maybe be thinking that the hard part is over. The photos have been taken, the content has been written and it’s now out there – and shared as much as I can bear. 

However this new step in my work life is really still right in front of me, yet to be taken. 

Most of my work over the past three years has been from word of mouth, checking out graduate websites for listings, and networking. Which is all fantastic and has seen me off on a really good start. 

But now I’m entering the realm of putting myself out there, handling pitches, wondering if it’s too aggressive to chase potential leads, being vulnerable, and feeling like a total imposter – a feeling all-too-familiar for people the creative industries (and, unfortunately, for some more than others, as some individuals still feel/are excluded from areas such as publishing). 

So, the website has happened – and the blog has been reawakened after two-and-a-half years of slumber. It’s a little scary, and can be daunting when you’re first thinking about getting yourself out there. If you’re not there yet but are thinking how you can make a start, here are a few things that you might consider to break you in.

Share your latest projects on social media

Until recently, I didn’t share any of my work on social media. And I’ve only really shared a couple of posts still. But it’s something I’d like to ingratiate more into my Insta and Twitter feeds, but I’m conscious of trying to do it in a natural & authentic way.

I’m thinking there will still be a little bit of trial and error to find the right tone, and variety between straight up work posts and everything else. The last thing I want to do is annoy people with too much self-marketing! 

Yet gradually starting to introduce your work into your social feeds (where most of your followers are still probably your friends and family!) can be a nice first step to letting people know what exactly it is you do in your creative work and generating the confidence to share more. 

Double up with an offline PDF portfolio

Having an offline portfolio as well as something online like a website can be a good way to go, especially if you are applying for in-house as well as freelance roles in something like design, marketing or advertising as advertised roles tend to ask for this. 

There are probably other ways of going about this than just in PDFs. You could save your designs as a series of images and upload them onto a iPad/tablet/other digital device. But that seems time-consuming, if all you want to do is share your work as quickly as possible to secure some new clients, and restrictive if you don’t already have the tech. 

So a good old PDF can be best. Plus, if you’re a whizz at InDesign, you can even make your PDF interactive. But really I don’t see the harm in creating just your usual flick-through-with-the-arrow-keys PDFs that should work perfectly adequately for your needs. It may be perfectly fine to just keep it simple if that’s what works for you. 

Not sure how to design your portfolio? Check out this useful article. You could take a different direction and develop a print portfolio. More tips on those here.

Order your business cards (and don’t forget to bring them to events!)

You’ll probably still find, if you’re going to networking events, that your first point of contact will still be in person. But then you’ll need to point them to your portfolio. 

When you remember to put them in your bag or pocket on the way to an event (which I frustratingly forgot to do at the SYP AGM last week!), whipping them out when someone you’re chatting to expresses an interest in your work gives them an immediate point of contact for you and, if you’re website or online portfolio is ready, a place for them to view your work. If not, you’ll probably have your social links on there, where they can find more about your work if you post this to Twitter and Instagram (which you will do if you follow my point above). 

Saying that, don’t leave thinking that the ball is in their court and there’s nothing more for you to do. Following up with them a day or two after you meet – for instance, if they also hand you their business card, invite you to DM them on Twitter, or they are stalkable on LinkedIn (but don’t be too creepy!) – could swing it one way or the other for you landing work with them, or a firm industry contact to add to your network. 

I recently had a chat with a fellow freelancer about etiquette with regards to following up with leads. From their experience it’s completely OK to follow up if talk of a potential opportunity or partnership comes up. Most people will be thrilled you’ve kept in touch and your follow-up email may land in their inbox at just the right moment. More here on how to do this well. 

Tell people in your network

Yes, okay, okay; I did tell people that this site was coming last Friday, so I’m legitimately the worst person to talk to you about this. 

However, I have had a lovely amount of support from my network of publishing professionals when I’ve been telling them that my new site launch is imminent. They would hopefully have been looking out for it when it did launch, and will perhaps be able to give me a little boost (both metric-ly and emotionally!) with a comment or a share. 

Even if you’ve not completed your portfolio or website, speaking to friends and contacts in your industry, or people you bump into at networking events, about your work a little more can make you think about maybe how far you’ve come, and will help those people contextualise your work (and maybe think of you if they spy a job or collaborative opportunity*). 

*Of course, it’s absolutely not the job of these people to find you work, and something they send your way may come to nothing. But you never know what you may hear of through your channels when you start to open up about the particulars of the work you do, or just that you’re seeking new/your first clients. 

THIS is what I love about publishing people. They don’t become wrapped up in competition; they are extremely good at offering support. There’s still a long way to go to consider how we continue to support people who feel excluded from publishing, or like they need to fight harder than others to even get a foot in the door. But I think the structure and ideas are getting there; we just need to see more action, and each year (or day, minute or hour really) is a new chance for this. 

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So, tell me. How did you first start marketing yourself and your work as a freelancer? How did you secure your first or most recent clients? And if you’re just starting, feel free to ask me anything. 

Looking for more info on networking in the publishing industry? Check out the SYP. We also have some exciting news coming up very soon about freelancing in publishing, so keep your eyes peeled on @SYP_LDN on Twitter.

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