Kill It With Fire.
You already know what I’m going to say. You’re thinking about that work you did two years ago, that project you just had to throw up onto your portfolio. You might have thought “This isn’t the best website/logo/poster/thing I’ve ever done, but it’s alright. Besides, I need more work to show clients.” Or maybe your first thought was “This is awesome, everyone will want to see this.” Except a few months or years later, you can point out a dozen things you could have done better. Maybe the shadows are too dark, maybe the textures are weak, maybe your attention to typographic details was lacking; for whatever reason, this just isn’t your best piece of work.
I want you take that work and place it carefully into your arms. Embrace it tenderly. Take it out back, and whisper “I’ve never loved anybody but you.” Then shoot it in the back of the head. Burn the evidence. If anybody ever asks you about that work again, just say “What work? I never made anything like that” or move to Canada as a fugitive.
Portfolios & Donuts. A Dozen is Enough.
You wouldn’t walk into Krispy Kreme and ask for 29 different donuts. Your clients won’t visit your website and look at 29 different projects. 12 is often enough.
The amount of work any freelancer or company should display is also dependent on your field. A motion graphics artist might get away with five or six pieces, due to both the length of time it takes to produce them, and having the luxury of compressing work into a 30 second to 2 minute demo reel. A print designer, however, could get away with 15 or 16 pieces, if some were smaller projects like business cards or flyers. Ideally, small pieces of larger projects should be combined. If you designed business cards, letterhead, and condom wrappers for a client; show them all in one shot or page. Ultimately, 12 projects should suffice.
Let’s say you had 29 projects. A potential employer or client might spend time taking an honest look at five or six of them before either deciding to contact you or moving onto another designer’s portfolio. What if that person were to look at your WORST five or six projects? Sure they’re probably not terrible, but you want to increase the likelihood that they’ll view your best projects. So cut it down.
Killing the One.
Most of your portfolios are likely already a good size. If you have a broad range of services, you may need 12-15. If you’re a specialist you could show 6-8. The subject of this post is about finding the single, worst piece of work you currently have online (or on paper), and killing it in cold blood.
You most likely already know which piece I’m talking about. If not, look at your portfolio right now. One of those pieces is lacking behind the others. It could be old work that doesn’t reflect your current skill level, or new work that just doesn’t feel right, or was rushed.
If you have an easily updatable website (WordPress, Squarespace, Cargo Collective, anything with a CMS) this should be easy. And if you built something more complicated from scratch, don’t worry about building a whole new portfolio right now. Just spend time today deleting the images, the page, and every link or reference to it. Never speak of it again.
Just because you deleted a page, doesn’t mean the internet has forgotten. There may be blogs, websites, or tweets linking to your project! If you remove a linked page, be sure to set up a 301 redirect for it. If you don’t know what that is, it essentially is a bit of code you place on your site that automatically redirects users on missing pages to a proper one. So if they click a link to the old project they’d be redirected to your homepage (or portfolio page, etc.)
You could also simply delete links or reference to the project, but LEAVE the actual page intact. No new visitors would see it, but old links wouldn’t be broken. But it would be like being haunted by the ghost of your dead project.
Enjoy the Funeral.
Delete the project (or rip that page out of your printed portfolio), and feel better knowing that the rest of your portfolio has just improved. Finally freed of the scourge that was a kind of shitty project, your new portfolio will soar to grand new heights of… whatever, thanks for reading. Have fun killing.
Tell us what you killed! Leave a comment!
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