How to start a portfolio career

how to start a portfolio career

It’s a conundrum.

How to expand your portfolio career when you don’t currently have a portfolio of clients or even any portfolio work to show.  But there is a way.

First of all, remember that just because you don’t have a traditional set of clients doesn’t mean you don’t have a portfolio of experience.  Giving up before we get started is just that; giving up.

And even if you do decide that you have some work to display on your portfolio website, what if your work’s not good enough?

The good news is that everyone starts with nothing at the beginning. We are all equal.  If you have just one project – even if it’s a personal project – you can lay the foundations of your experience that can be used to create an online portfolio. Here’s how.

­Starting Out

Remember that one project, the personal one?  Good.  Now take your one project and make your entire portfolio a case study of that project. It doesn’t matter if it’s client work or self-initiated.

If you have your own website, focus on telling the story of that one project and really selling it. Create scannable sections for each phase or project element. Use strong images and headlines to pull us in. Now create a section on that same page with your bio and contact info. Take your one page live under your own domain name and you’re done. You have a portfolio.

There are also those frustrating times when you may be working under a non-disclosure agreement where you’ve legally agreed to keep your work private.  Or it may just be that the project hasn’t launched yet or you’re working for a large, corporate company that doesn’t allow you to say you worked on the project at all.

While you have to be more careful in these situations, you may be able to find a solution. Some portfolio directors often share the logo of the company on their site if the brand carries some weight. If you are smart, you will negotiate your NDA before the project begins, so you’re safe to share the nature of your work, later.

While it all depends on the company and the project, you can usually find a way to make it work.

Imposter Syndrome

Many new to the portfolio director market may have plenty of work for a portfolio but simply do not feel ready to share it.

If that’s the case, congratulations. You’re part of the club.  Almost everyone feels like an imposter on some level. But remember that being a perfectionist and delaying the launch of your portfolio career isn’t actually delaying it; it’s cancelling it before it ever got started. 

A wise man once told me “Good is good enough, perfect will never happen!”

If you are ready to start working on your portfolio, start by choosing an online community or network to promote your skills and expertise to your peers.  Virtualnonexecs is the UK’s largest non-executive and portfolio community.  Also check out – a networking platform for portfolio directors to connect with founders and professional advisors.

Whatever you use to build your online portfolio, don’t wait around for anyone to give you permission. Just begin and keep it simple. The best way to get more work for your portfolio is to launch your portfolio, and then keep working!


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