5 Ways You Can Spruce Up Your Portfolio While in Quarantine

It’s time to finally take that project off the back burner

An illustration of a hand up against a laptop holding a paint brush
Working on a portfolio requires attention, and this couldn’t be a better time to do it. Illustration: Aanya Gupta; Sources: Getty Images

As of now, most agencies (if not all of them) have mandated working from home until further notice. And let’s be honest, having your home become your office is not entirely thrilling. We feel like we have all the time in the world for agency work, freelance projects, even proactive initiatives—which makes it easy to get distracted and procrastinate.

As creatives, we barely have free time during work hours to focus on anything else. And although we still have our regular duties, we end up being more productive and finishing our agency tasks sooner than expected, which gives us extra time. One thing you can do with that extra time is work on your portfolio.

We also always complain about not having the bandwidth to work on our websites: collecting the work we want to display, writing the descriptions and trying to learn the platform. It can be very overwhelming. But it requires attention, and this couldn’t be a better time to work on it.

With that in mind, here are five tips on how you can improve your portfolio during the quarantine:

Find websites you like for inspiration

Looking to platforms you like is a great starting point to understanding what are best practices, and what to avoid. When I build websites, I usually dig for references on Readymag and Cargo Collective, and stalk my favorite creatives on LinkedIn and Pinterest, the latter of which is great for layout research. Once I have all the references in hand, I use a blank document or Photoshop file to build a wireframe of my vision. It helps to visualize how many projects there will be and how you want to display the thumbnails, fonts and colors. Not everyone needs to do this, but it definitely helps to build a unique portfolio.

Use the platform trials before committing

Most hosting platforms offer a trial period so you can get familiar with their services before committing to them. You can experiment with design elements such as colors, thumbnails, logos, and whether the padding of the website will work nicely with your projects, as well as back-end features like the quality of its analytics. Hosting platforms can be expensive, so taking a test drive can help you make the final decision. Something to keep in mind when looking for the right one is that you’ll want to make sure you know how to use it and that you feel comfortable with its tools.

Organize the projects you want to upload

This is where most people lose interest in building a portfolio, because it requires time to decide which elements to upload, which elements are most relevant and which elements need to be removed for now. You should opt to include your most recent work, and the work you are most proud of. Don’t upload work just to fill the blank space. I’ve heard from recruiters and creatives that having between nine and 20 projects on your portfolio is good enough. They tend to like smaller numbers of projects, but of course, that will depend on your level of experience.

The best way to organize the projects you want to upload is to collect them in one folder on your desktop. That way, you can easily visualize the amount of work you will display as well as your various assets. When the time comes to upload your work to the website, you will thank me for this.

Write descriptions about your portfolio

This is another thing that makes people not want to work on their portfolio, but you should definitely write a description of each project. When you send your portfolio to someone via email, the creative or recruiter will open the link and check your projects without any background or knowledge of what they are about. If they don’t understand right away, it could cost you to lose points. You’re also giving them a look into your creative process when you write a brief description about your projects.

Put more heart into your about page

Most portfolios I see don’t have an interesting About page. We are creatives; we should do better. Some recruiters have told me the first page they look at is the About page because they want to understand who that person is, what they offer that’s different from other candidates, what their skills are and even what their hobbies are. Use the time you have now to write a more interesting About page. Don’t go crazy long with it; be concise and interesting.

You’ll also want to keep your resume on your portfolio, but add a paragraph that talks a bit more about who you are. The resume will speak to your professional experience. And choose the social icons you want to display wisely—for instance, leave Facebook off your portfolio. Include email, LinkedIn, Instagram (if you post cool stuff) and Twitter (particularly awesome for copywriters).

Bonus: Work on a personal project

This is my favorite part of a portfolio. It doesn’t need to be related to advertising; it can be anything. If you have time now, focus on having a personal project. That’s where your portfolio will stand out from the rest. It will set you apart from the other creatives.

I am a true believer that our portfolio is our business card. It’s our first contact with an advertising agency, and it needs to be presented well. So, work on your portfolio now. And when it’s ready, share it with your fellow colleagues, mentors and teachers. Send it to recruiters and creatives to get feedback. And stay safe, everyone.

Camilla Ciappina is the founder of Pimp My Portfolio and an art director at Publicis N.Y. She was featured on Forbes' 30 Under 30.