If you’re an artist, photographer, or another creative type, you’ll eventually want to put together a portfolio of your best work. This can be useful for finding new job opportunities, advertising your best pieces, and generally showing off your abilities.

So how do you create a portfolio of your creative work from scratch?

Consider the Medium

First, consider the medium of your portfolio. Depending on your work and the purpose of your portfolio, it may make sense to create copies of your portfolio in different forms. For example, you could have a webpage dedicated to showing off your creative works in a kind of digital portfolio, while simultaneously printing saddle stitched booklets you can bring to an in-person job interview.

Most creatives benefit from having multiple functional mediums in which they can present their portfolio.

Understand Your Goals

Next, work on understanding your goals. You’re probably developing a portfolio for a specific purpose, such as getting a job, landing a spot in a prestigious art school, or selling your work to partners and clients.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll probably pursue some combination of the following:

·       Demonstrating your talent/skills. On some level, your portfolio is meant to demonstrate your talent and skills. When people see the type of work you’ve created in the past, they’ll have a good idea of what your abilities and experience are capable of. This is especially important when you’re interviewing for a job.

·       Showcasing your range of abilities. Portfolios are also about demonstrating your range of abilities. You might be very talented and experienced in one area, but how do those skills translate across different mediums and in service to different types of goals? For example, you may excel at painting, but can you also create digital artwork?

·       Standing out from the competition. A sufficiently compelling portfolio can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. There are probably countless artists like you, working in this medium and pursuing similar goals, so what makes you unique? Why should a person hire you or buy what you have to sell, rather than going to one of your competitors?

·       Selling creative pieces. And of course, portfolios can help you sell your creative work as well. This can serve as an introduction to your abilities, help you show off pieces of art that you want to offload, and open the door to interesting commissions.

Get Inside the Mind of Your Audience

Just as business owners and marketers need to conduct market research, you as an artist should take steps to better understand – and serve – your target audience. What types of people are going to be looking at your portfolio? What are they going to look for in your presentation of work? Make adjustments to better serve these specific target demographics.

Choose Anchor Pieces

The first and last pieces of your portfolio are arguably the most important. The first piece establishes a first impression, while the last one ties everything together. Accordingly, you should choose strong anchor pieces to be emblematic of your abilities and create a cohesive compilation.

Select Pieces to Showcase Your Range

After choosing your anchor pieces, you should select a handful of complementary pieces to showcase your range of abilities. Focus on the following:

·       Novel mediums/formats. When appropriate, show off pieces of artwork from different mediums and in different contexts. If you create interesting artwork across many different genres and mediums, you’ll be even more impressive.

·       Controversial or unusual pieces. Consider including one or two controversial or unusual pieces. It’s a way to demonstrate that you’re capable of thinking outside the box.

·       Different types of clients. You may also want to include work you’ve done for many different types of clients, so you can show off your niche expertise.

Say Something About Each Piece

Ideally, you’ll have one or two sentences of explanation for each piece included in your portfolio. Talk about why you’re showing this piece, what you like about it, and why it was successful.

Apply the Finishing Touches

After you’ve assembled everything, you can apply the finishing touches.

·       Ordering. Make sure all your best pieces aren’t so crowded together that they obscure each other.

·       Editing. Typos and other simple mistakes can undermine your professionalism and call the quality of your work into question. Always take the time to proofread.

·       Touchups. Your art may be misrepresented in digital or in print; touchups may be necessary.

·       Quality checks. Always test your website and flip through your printed portfolio pages to ensure a near-perfect presentation.

Your creative portfolio should be an ever-evolving document. As you continue making marvelous creations, be sure to return to your portfolio and update it with your latest demonstrations of talent.