In this week’s episode, we dig into everything to do with your portfolio. As designers, our portfolio is like our shop front for the world. This week we really go deep into what makes a good portfolio, the steps it takes to improve what you currently have, and how to present your work in the best light. We also think outside the box, when it comes to our social medias beginning to take over as our modern day portfolio in many respects.


Other Ways to Listen: Soundcloud | iTunes | Stitcher

Meet Your Hosts

The Honest Designers Show started when our founder Tom found he was regularly chatting and sharing tips with top designers; Ian Barnard, Lisa Glanz and Dustin Lee. We soon organised a weekly call where we would help each other with areas we were struggling with and try to give each other actionable feedback. Soon we realised that the collective experience of the group was proving so valuable for each of us, that we thought ‘why not share these conversations with the world?’.

And so, The Honest Designers Show was born! This podcast is an insight into how to succeed in the creative industry, as well as giving you a totally transparent, under the hood look at some of the tougher, less glamorous hurdles to overcome! We also tend to get a little goofy along the way, so this is a chance to get to know each of us a little better :). We’ve loved recording this show for you, and we hope that you find value and enjoyment in listening to it.


Please find full show notes for this episode below:

[1:15] This week we talk about how you can make your portfolio as good as it can be
[1:30] Tom feels that designing your website and portfolio is one of the hardest things a designer must do
[2:30] Selling yourself can turn into a very long process
[3:30] Some designers will do their portfolio customer centric and others will make it more about them and who they are as a designer
[4:00] There are too many options which makes it harder to decide which way to go
[5:15] There are two aspects to a portfolio: the content and the look
[5:45] Put out the content from the work that you want to be known for
[6:15] Make the few things that you’re really good at the main focus for your website and portfolio
[7:00] It’s best to find your niche and look professional rather than spreading yourself into too many directions
[7:50] Feature the work that gets the clients through the door and then upsell them the other stuff
[8:30] Ian gives his very popular example of the builder and explains that people will prefer specialists over builders that say they’re good at everything
[10:00] Clients won’t usually search for graphic designer, but will go for what they are interested in such as logo design or lettering
[10:40] Tom advocates for quality over quantity, when it comes to designing a portfolio
[11:40] Show the process of how you got to the final project
[12:00] Ian suggests thinking like a client
[12:40] Show work in progress to highlight that your work is original
[13:10] With the client’s approval, share their brief and some of the testimonials you get for your revisions
[14:30] Dustin remembers his biggest mistake was not asking enough questions at the beginning of the project
[15:30] Ask the clients for feedback at the end of the project and give them direction by using the right questions
[16:30] Make sure you review your portfolio often and remove old or irrelevant stuff
[17:20] Show the before and after work when your clients are having a rebranding or a refresh of their website
[18:20] Use stats and figures were possible, to highlight how the new design has improved the client’s business
[19:10] This way you can prove to the client that the work will pay for itself from the increase in revenue they will eventually get
[19:40] Your portfolio needs to make a great first impression and build trust by showing great results
[20:15] Ian found out that his Instagram has helped him get more work than his website
[21:10] Some people tend to curate their Instagram feeds and show a certain style to attract their clients
[22:20] Social has become the modern-day portfolio and it’s much more fluid and live compared to a traditional portfolio
[23:00] Social allows you to show your work in progress and give a more in the moment view of the work
[23:40] Social can also help build relationships with your clients as they will feel like they know you better because they’ve seen your work
[25:00] Show consistency through your social media channels
[26:00] One big project that you’ve put a lot of thought and work in can bring more value than several smaller projects
[27:20] Same goes for the projects you add to your portfolio
[27:50] Add posts that follow a theme on social media channels
[28:30] Lisa likes to spend a lot of time on a project to ensure that it is top of the line
[29:00] Ian is the exactly the opposite, and he tends to do smaller and more frequent projects
[30:50] Understand who you are and highlight this in your work
[31:40] Lisa does smaller and more fun pieces of work in between the work for a big project to keep herself motivated
[32:30] Tom found it interesting to see a recent portfolio redesign and he’s sharing a few techniques
[33:10] You should position in your portfolio, examples of work based on the type of work and client you’re trying to get
[33:40] Get analytics to find out where your traffic is coming from and what is your conversion rate
[34:30] Think about split testing and see which version of your website brings more customers in
[36:20] Testing on even smaller samples can help you infer future customer habits
[37:30] You will likely get better and better results by referring to the data from you’re A/B testing
[38:00] Dustin says that from his experience early results on a smaller sample of customers do tend to reflect the later results
[38:30] Tom reiterates the need to look at the data from analytics before even starting on split testing
[39:10] The main purpose of your portfolio is to get more clients and not to give yourself a pat on the back
[39:40] You will end up getting a feel of your clients and what they like
[40:30] Tom used to put out his portfolio and think that his job was done, but fount out that this was not the case
[41:00] Your portfolio should be constantly evolving
[41:30] Your social media portfolio has more scale opportunity as people will tend to share your social media posts
[42:00] Make sure everything in your portfolio leads to the intended end point: e.g. clients getting in touch with you
[43:30] Websites like Dribble and Behance are good for sharing your work but come with limitations
[44:30] Tom asks the hosts if they’ve ever used a referral scheme
[45:15] Dustin used the referral scheme while working in banking and found it worked very well
[46:15] One of the biggest challenge for a designer is how to present yourself
[47:00] Most important thing is to be yourself
[47:30] When you write your profile description, think like a client and what would you like to know
[48:00] Tom finds it appealing when people come across as passionate, positive and enthusiastic in their portfolios
[49:15] Ian prefers to look at Behance profiles before he looks at a person’s website
[50:15] Dustin and Lisa disagree and say most people will choose to look at your website first
[51:30] Ian says this depends mostly on the client
[52:30] Position your work differently depending on the platform you’re using and the client you’re aiming to reach
[53:15] Branding agencies will usually need custom work so they will look for a designer that specialises in a certain area
[53:50] Lisa gets most of her client work through her website
[54:30] Local businesses will want to know you better so they will visit your website
[54:50] The only platform you can control is your website
[55:40] Most clients will however find your website through Google or social media channels, which are out of your control
[56:15] Expand on the ‘back-up nets’ that you can control
[56:45] It’s also a good thing to be innovative and stay ahead of the curve
[57:30] Make the new social media updates work in your advantage
[58:00] Be aware of what’s happening on and around your portfolio
[58:45] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode

The Honest Designers Show Podcast

How you can help

As this is a new show, we’d really appreciate your help spreading the word. If you enjoyed listening and found value in this episode, you can do these two things to help us:

1. Subscribe to The Honest Designers Show in iTunes
2. Leave us an honest rating/review in iTunes

Early reviews can make the world of difference for new podcasts being discovered, and it would mean the world to us if you were able to help.

Click to listen to The Honest Designers Show on iTunes

The Honest Designers Show Podcast

Here is a quick guide for how to leave a review on iTunes

Want Help From the Honest Designers?

We would love to help you with your creative journey! Simply use #honestdesigners on social media, and the four of us would love to check out what you’re working on, join the discussion and try to help wherever we can!

Join the discussion on Instagram

Join the discussion on Twitter

Let Us Know What You Think

We would absolutely love to know how you enjoyed this episode. We’ll be releasing a new episode each Wednesday, and look forward to hopefully answering many of your questions on the show.