Any tips for creating work for your portfolio that is not commissions? Been struggling to get work but want to improve my portfolio.


  • When you're a junior, working for free is the last thing you want to do. If you're going to do charity work, save that for when you're established, comfortable, and able - because free and low-budget clients are universally the worst you can possibly find.

    Remember that a portfolio has nothing to do with clients. No employer worth their salt will care if your work comes from clients or not, what matters is that the work you present in your portfolio represents you at your best and most motivated. Which is why free and low-budget work does nothing for a portfolio, as bad clients make for bad work, and work you create for yourself will always be more interesting and more developed that your client work (because: no interference).

    So, the simple answer to building a portfolio, self-initiate. There are brief generators out there, though they're often limited and, frankly, boring. But if you've brands or products you want to work on, do that. Got a favourite book, redesign it; make up a brand and develop it, as long as you're into it the work you create for it is going to be significantly better att this stage of your career than anything you make for a cheap client.
  • One idea could be to look at the D&AD New Blood briefs for 2024. Lots of different briefs to choose from, get your work seen by industry creatives and you might even win with your entry.
  • Some tips in here - mostly aimed at copywriters but could be applied to your craft too:
  • Hi Kam,
    One thing I cannot recommend enough is to work on passion projects. Work on projects that you like for industries you like. This will also attract the clients from that industry and I personally find it very nice to let my creative ideas run free.
    Create actual projects out of them i.e. post them on Behance and explain your thought process behind the work. Why you did what you did and what it means. This shows thought leadership and that you know what you're doing. That it's not just pretty design. Clients tend to like seeing more than just the final work.
    If you need any inspiration for what kind of passion projects to work on, I have recently created a graphic design brief bank with many briefs you can work on to build a portfolio. In case you're interested, you can read more here: (I also have a discount code, if you need it, let me know!). Just wanted to put it out there in case you need it.
    Hope it helps!
  • @Nath Day Thanks for the advice Nath. A recent thought I had was to design things that would make me look more employable but I found I was lacking inspiration a lot of the times. I need to shift back to what got me started with design in the first place. I really appreciate the advice, it's helped a lot :)
  • Hi Kam,

    I think the crucial thing that most creatives/designers miss when starting to make work to build out their portfolio whilst not getting a huge amount of commisioned work is you want to make things that you love and that inspire you. This is where your work will speak the most loudly and translate you more effectively to potential clients.

    Don't join the barrage of others who creative souless briefs of some non existent company, who cares right? If you wanted to create a brand that instills ideas or values you hold close then thats another thing, but I would avoid these.

    When I was starting out a couple of years ago and wanted work in the arts, culture and environment sectors, I made album artworks of songs/LP's I loved or found inspiring books/quotes or created projects based around the natural world. After a little while, I had clients reaching out to me asking me to do this exact type of work! Put out the work you want to recieve, and over time it will come. Plus, you'll have loads more fun and improve much more in the process!

    Hope this helps :)
  • Hi Kam, trying completing shorts briefs that you can find online. There are a number of pages on Instagram where you can find shorts briefs to complete. The benefit of choosing these briefs allows you to answer the brief in a way that stays within your style. It also gives you opportunities to complete briefs that are out of your comfort zone.
  • i had the same problem.....but i think if you keep the style from your project Zen Fusion, you'll be on the right path ! good luck

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