How to Upgrade Your Portfolio in 10 Minutes

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland



advertising-portfolioEver put a book down after reading just a few pages?

If you’re getting very little response from your portfolio reviews, it’s quite likely happening for the same reason. You’re boring people. Even fully staffed agencies talk to the people they would love to hire. So if you want to get in the door, don’t leave your work alone.

There is little that can be done about the quality of your work in just 10 minutes. But you can coax the work you have to perform more effectively by doing a few simple things:

  1. Get help. Seek out people whose opinion you trust and respect — and who will be brutally honest. It’s impossible to judge your own work objectively. Do you know at least three people in advertising who have kind feelings for you? Ask each of them to rate your work with a simple 1-10 rating. Accept constructive criticism with professionalism; take consistent responses as truth. Respond to polite refusals graciously. People are busy — don’t ask for more.
  2. Show that you can do “great” over and over. Your portfolio has to show more than great thinking. It must show consistently great thinking. Most agencies like to see between a dozen and two dozen pieces to discern overall ability. Too few pieces (less than a dozen) can suggest a lack of experience. Too many pieces (more than 30) suggest you can’t discern good from bad.
  3. Show the depth of your range. A portfolio that reflects a broad scope of ability and understanding for what makes advertising effective in today’s marketplace will help you appear more experienced and capable of handling assignments with independence.
  4. Edit mercilessly. If you don’t like something in your book, don’t think anyone else will. Kill it. On the other hand, if no one is commenting positively about the work you love, kill it too. And don’t fish for compliments. If they thought it was great, they’d say so. The only thing that matters is showing great ideas. Bad work makes you bad.
  5. Order the work to entice the viewer. Your second-best piece should come first. Your third-best piece should be in the middle. Your best piece should come last. Best and second best can switch positions if you so choose. The point is to hook the viewer and encourage them to move forward — dazzle them in the end.

More tips to enhance your portfolio will be offered later. But take these steps now, and it will reduce the likelihood of you and your work being overlooked.

Topics: Copywriting

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