Why is having a portfolio important?
The importance of a portfolio, for me, comes in three parts. I’ve broken this down into a pyramid to show what I believe are the important reasons to have a portfolio, but also the hierarchy of what’s important within the portfolio. Okaaaay let’s go.
On the very first level: your work.
The pieces you create are the most important part of your portfolio, therefore the main reason we have portfolios, so show the projects that speak about you the most, as an illustrator and artist: Your favourite projects, the work you’re most proud of, the best client collaborations. This is your base layer - the foundation - and really the crux of why we’re all here. The largest part of the pyramid; it should be the main focus and your number one priority.
We live in a digital world so having a strong website is synonymous with having a good portfolio, so a small note on your website; consider the platform you’re using - personally (controversial opinion incoming) I don’t like Behance. It comes across as too student-like and idle. Really impressive platforms can be expensive, which I'm not going to encourage, because your basics like Wordpress, Squarespace and Wix are super malleable and have the capacity to be highly personalised.
On the next level: the body, the spirit, the human behind the work, you!!
Have a little ‘about you’ section, with your actual face! Have snippets of you working on things. We’re TikTok / reels people now. Do a little BTS video or time lapse. I love watching them, and I know I'm not alone in that. I'm sure others would love it too. It’s important to remember the only thing setting you apart from the rest of the wonderful illustrators out there, is you. This is such a commodity, so show your personality and capitalise on the fact that you’re a human, before AI takes over. Just kidding *eye roll*
On the final, top level: the projections, the hopes and dreams.
As an agent, I want to see your ambition and feel your hunger for the next big project. Rihanna said it best- when you don’t wake up feeling your best, pretend. You don’t have to wait for the perfect project to come to you, before you have a go. Use your self initiated projects as chances to answer a question from your favourite client (BE SURE to always state that it’s self initiated). You never know… they could notice your work, and you’ve joined the dots for them. Bam, you’re hired as their next illustrator on a major campaign. It’s happened before, trust me. This is also an important part of why a portfolio matters because it shows your intentions with your work and where you see it going. This can be a challenge for yourself but it’s a good exercise in knowing, within yourself, which clients and brands really matter.