We designers love to experiment with different styles. It’s practically expected if we wish to stay ahead of the curve and wow our clients. However, this can result in a mishmash of different types of work in our portfolios, which can confuse clients and make it difficult to establish yourself as a designer with a distinctive voice.
Do you have 2 or more different design styles that would clash in one portfolio? Let’s look at how and when to separate your work.
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Don’t let one type of work upstage or outshine any other type. If something is getting more attention than something else that’s equally deserving, it may be a good idea to direct people to a separate portfolio specifically for that kind of work.
A specific example of this is if you’ve become known for a specific project you did in the past – say a series of unique, vector logos – and you’d like to keep directing viewers to that work while also rolling out your new focus, which might be something completely different.
It’s always good to have a niche specialty for which potential clients know you and can seek you out. This ensures that you will always get the best clients and have a fulfilling career as a designer. But, if there are several things you are good at, and you don’t wish to stop doing one or the other, it’s probably better to keep them separate.
Wildly different styles usually call for different portfolios. It can get confusing for potential clients to see a mish-mash of work. Also, it can be seen as less professional looking, depending on the types of work you do.
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Do keep in mind, however, that some types of work goes naturally together, and can actually improve your standing in the eyes of a potential client. It’s up to you to assess your particular specialties and where they fit in the industry you’re working in.
For example, if you are both a designer and a copywriter, like me, I would recommend that you proudly advertise this fact to your clients. Clients love to hire freelancers who can do a variety of tasks, and your value to them will increase depending on what they need from you. Splitting up your design and your copywriting services will not do you as much good as keeping them together, because a client who only sees one of the services you offer may not know that you also do something else they might need.
Changing your career focus? Probably time for a new portfolio. Otherwise it can look sloppy and confused. Potential clients will be browsing through the past several years of logos and web design work, then suddenly come to your flowing, hand-painted script lettering and go ‘wait…what happened’? To them, this kind of abrupt change in your work will signal that you are unsure of what image you want to present to clients, and they will pass you over for someone who is more organized.
There are plenty of reasons why you’d want to change your career focus – maybe you were offered a more specialized job, you took on a new job purely for financial reasons, or you simply grew tired of the work you were doing. Changing careers can be fun, because you can transfer the skills you learned in your old career over to your new one, and impress your clients or boss with your unique skill set.
But each time you change careers or career focuses, it’s important to clear out your portfolio of all the work that is no longer relevant. You may not have to start completely from scratch – or, you may have to do exactly that. It all depends on the kind of work you plan to do in the future.
Have you been extremely criticized or been the victim of cyber-bullying? A new portfolio can be a fresh start. Unfortunately, sometimes a designer’s critics can get so nasty and out of hand that they will have no choice but to abandon their former online persona and adopt a brand new one, just to get out of an impossible situation. Other times, you may attract the wrong kind of attention – a weird, obsessed stalker, perhaps – and you need to withdraw your online presence and lay low for awhile.
This is very rare, in my experience, but it does happen, and it can be devastating to a designer’s ability to make a living. The best thing to do in these types of situations, is to simply start over with a new portfolio. Perhaps you will even need to change the name people online know you by. This is not usually a problem when it comes to getting paid, but you may need to check your area’s local laws about doing business under an assumed or business name.
When do you think it’s appropriate to have separate portfolios? Have you ever had two or more separate portfolios online for different types of work? Does it work for you and your design career?
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