Your Portfolio

So you've got your portfolio

Wait. You do have a portfolio right?

If you don't, you should just leave now.


I'm waiting.

Ok good. So the rest of you with real dreams and portfolios.

Your book is your way in. It's your neon sign saying "Hey everybody, come see how great I look." It's your foot in that proverbial door.

If people like your book, there's a chance they'll like you. If they see that you can think and do the work, then there's a chance they'll want you to think and do the work with them. If they see something that makes them go "Man, I wish I thought of that!" there's a definite chance they'll want to hire you and pretend they thought of that.

Either way, your book is everything.

Let me repeat that for emphasis. Everything.

What to Put In Your Book:

If your book is okay, go rework things, add things, take away things until it's good. If it's good, go rework things, add things, take away things until it's great.

Only include your best work. Even if it was produced, if it's not great, don't show it.

Have around 5 campaigns in it, showing a range of clients, techniques and mediums.

Have at least one fully integrated campaign that shows a big idea going across several mediums - from print, TV, OOH, web, mobile to ancient hieroglyphics and space satellites. 

If you're a writer, show off your writing. Have at least one headline campaign and one long copy campaign.

If you're an art director/ designer, have some visual solutions, some interactive design and some well-laid type executions.

Work on big brands, challenging brands, and brands that allow you to exhibit your creativity, strategic thinking, problem solving skills and writing/design ability.

Don't do things for brands that already do amazing work unless you can do something even more amazing than they have done.

Don't do anything that has already been done.

Don't do a website, social media extension or mobile app unless it makes sense and is something new, cool and useful.

Avoid typos.

Avoid typos.

Be concise. Make sure everything is quick, easy to read and digest. If you aren't there to show them, can they get it quickly? Only feature what is most important.

Do a video case study where necessary, but also consider using one key frame with a brief description (especially in your physical book) so they can glance and get it right away.

Put your best work at the front and the back. Start and end with your strongest.

Nothing in your book should be weak. People will remember your strongest and your weakest piece. Make sure your "weakest" is at least a 7 out of 10 so no matter what, you're still above average.

Spread the campaigns out across your book. Don't put similar clients next to each other. Mix things up between medium, execution type and look and feel. Follow up a copy-heavy piece with something simple and visual. Follow a detailed integrated campaign with a one-off or artsy piece.

Only include your ad work. If you're into poetry, photography, blogging, fashion design, taxidermy, put that on a separate link on your site. It's cool to show your personality, but right now, we're looking at your work. So focus on the work.

Your Book Is Great, Now What?

When it's great, start sharing it with creatives out there who you meet, research, respect and/or stalk. Shoot them a little email and say you'd love some feedback to help make your work better.

Don't ask for a job, don't ask for a hook up. Just say "Hey I think you're great and I want to be like you. Tell me how I suck."  Be as engaging and creative as possible, hook them in so they have to click.

(And don't feel bad if they tear your work apart. Feel bad if they don't respond. And you shouldn't really feel bad about that either, people are busy and shit.)

Send your link to as many people as possible. Young, old, leftist, sexist or French. Collect the feedback and look to see what is most consistent and what makes the most sense for who you are and what you want to show of yourself.

If you can, go to portfolio reviews. Sit down with folks, shake hands, take notes, ask questions, collect business cards, schmooze. 

Then work on your book some more.