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what to include in a portfolio to get the first job

  • # June 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm


    I studied web development at Uni for three years, I graduate next month, and now I am free to concentrate on really developing my skills and landing my first job.

    University was great experience and it was at uni where I was introduced to web design, but non of the work I done for uni are worth displaying in a portfolio, so if I don’t “feel” the work, I’m sure clients would hate them even more, and if anything they downgrade my abilities.

    Now considering I have nothing and that producing new work would take me some time (two weeks-ish per site or slightly more depending on complexity). how many peaces should I aim to get in my portfolio to start with, i am aware ideally it could be over 10, but considering all this, what do you think?

    also do you think it would be a good idea to have a “demos” section in my portfolio (similar to the downloads page here) where I would show small project: which this way I can show my ability in a wider range of things and (ultimately most importantly) learn new things quicker.

    I searched around the forum and the web and there are loads of questions about portfolios (not specific to these 2 questions though) so I am sorry if I am asking a “pointless” question to a wider interest, but I would truly appreciate it would could share your opinion

    # June 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Certainly don’t need 10 items in your portfolio. Quality over quantity. If you have 2-3 things that you are really proud of, then you should use them.

    Don’t put up things that you think could hurt you just for the sake of having them.

    # June 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    TheDoc’s right. Show off something cool you’re really proud of, doesn’t have to be a client or school project. Just do something you think is fun and flex your skills. Show them you want to push yourself and work on interesting projects.

    # June 15, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Definitely stick to less than 6. as long as the 6 show something different if they all look like a standard wordpress theme then only show one!

    When i had free time i would create some mock ups / concept websites in a corporate style sites, a couple for small local businesses, local builder/decorator etc, one for a blog and things like that, even if you only show an image of the site rather than a link to an actual live site that would be OK.

    It would show your design ideas and that would be enough for me as a potential customer.


    # June 15, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I spent over a year working for myself, creating websites for fun etc, to get the experience I needed. Here in the UK the number of employers who will take on a graduate with no experience is pretty much zero, and graduate schemes are massively over-subscribed. So it was my only choice, I had to slum it out working part-time, and working on websites for next to nothing in my free time. But it worked, and now I have a full-time job.

    In other words, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that you need to spend maybe another few months or a year “learning” and doing a crappy job part-time whilst you build up the experience. You should definitely never expect or get your hope too high that soon as you graduate you’ll get a job, just doesn’t work like that any more.

    # June 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I happen to enjoy design, and tend to get nice ideas, so I have some nice web designs (photoshop designs); which I didn’t have time to create the functionality for (which . But I didn’t think it would be “good enough” to have them in the portfolio without the “live demo” (as @bi5on said).
    I asked two people and they said that I should not include anything without a live demo (we all know that a live demo is better then only the designs, but they kind of made it sound as it I would get “penalized” if I do such a thing) – They they two other students so …

    @Brightonmike I live in UK I am getting that idea (by talking to others and so forth), but as you all, I love this work and Im ok with that, I know that I need to work on this. But it is fantastic when others confirm the same thing. thanks.

    thanks to all for your advice it is very helpful

    # June 15, 2011 at 11:37 am

    @akurtula That’s the difference, if you want something bad enough, you believe in yourself, you’re willing to constantly learn and there is some genuine talent you can build on…….then you will get there eventually. It’s just about motivation and persistence.

    Even when you get a job, you’ll still spend a lot of time learning. My job constantly challenges me, so I have to keep learning. I learn just as much during my job as I feel I did studying.

    Good luck!

    # June 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    @akurtula – I don’t think there is anything wrong with only having designs posted in your portfolio. A live demo is great, but only if you control it (in other words, linking directly to a client’s site can have negative effects, as they are sure to ruin it in some fashion!).

    The best option would be to have a live demo of the entire theme on your own domain – maybe have a few that users can swap through.

    # June 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I agree with @TheDoc. Additionally if they choose to go a different route in a design down the road, linking to their site would have a negative impact. It would also cause you to update which is more work for you.

    The best option would be to have a live demo of the entire theme on your own domain

    # June 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    At the moment I dont have any clients so everything I’m going to do will be on my domain; but yes I will have to keep it in mind when I get the clients

    The best option would be to have a live demo of the entire theme on your own domain
    Just out of interest (for when I get the clients): would clients be ok with the idea that I am keeping a copy of their website on my domain – or is the website still considered mine? Or would it all depend on the clients mood.

    # June 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Depends on your contract. I have never had a problem with using a client’s site in my portfolio – just make sure to ask them.

    # June 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks everybody, for the great replies to this. I relate to the author in that I too just finished school and am looking for work. I studied graphic design online with an emphasis on web and print design. The only thing I have to add to this, and is something a friend told me. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential employer and look at your portfolio through their eyes. A graphic piece without a live demo could be fine, or it could hurt you. I think it all depends on your surrounding site and how you ultimately present your content, and yourself if you get an interview and a chance to present your work. Employers are seeking workers to do tasks they need help with. Show them how you can accomplish what they need, plus how you can add other valuables to the company. Things like a positive personality, honesty, and other traits of a genuine person can go a long way. If you’re like me, you don’t have much experience freelance-wise to accentuate your resume, so try to take other aspects of your life and relate it to your career path. How can skills you picked up somewhere else directly (or even indirectly) benefit you and the work you will produce for whatever company/client you are looking to work for.

    I will be looking forward to other people’s comments to akurtula’s question. Thanks for being thought provoking and insightful everybody. Respects.

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