Trust Marker #3: Portfolio (part 2)

When putting your work into your portfolio, there are more considerations you need to think of.

Over the years as I freelanced, I’d put every project I could into my portfolio.

I think this stemmed from seeing portfolios of designers filled with dozens of logos, site designs, and mockups.

I probably felt a little jealous that they had 42 portfolio items, compared to my six.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that I was comparing myself to a completely different professional standard. And that this was hurting me.

Like I described in part 1, your portfolio is an asset that you create to show potential clients that you know your work, and you know it well.

For designers, the output of their work are the designs (deliverables).

But for software developers like me, the output isn’t the code we write. It’s the results.

(Side note: my highest revenue per time worked project was one where I wrote 0 code. It wasn’t an hourly project but I effectively made four figures per hour of time spent. And the results were worth it to the client.)

No client hires a developer to write code for them because code is pretty.

What matters is the results. A faster website. An improved workflow. Replacement of an aging system.

Those are what your client is paying for.

And arguably, that was a failure of the designer’s portfolio I was trying to copy.

They were showing off their visual designs as proof of their work.

They should have been showing off their visual designs through how they achieved a result for their client. For example:

"This new logo is part of a new branding package to help reach the hip, young market"

So what do you do?

  1. First off, make sure you write your portfolio for your clients. See Part 1 for details on that.
  2. Second, curate your portfolio. Make sure that only your best work is in it. Remove or adjust things to present a single theme and focus.

Especially as part of the curation, you’re going to have to make compromises. Should you show Project A where you did something small for your ideal client? Or should you should Project B where you did a significant change for a not-so-ideal client?

Trust me, this is hard. Finding the right mix will take trial and error. Even then, you’ll never get it perfect. Aim for good enough.

You have to come back in a few months to update it anyway.

Eric Davis

P.S. So what was that four figures per hour contract I won? I can’t say exactly (NDA) but it was a long-term contract. They are my not-so-hidden hidden secret. They are worth the extra 10% of your effort to win.