Online Portfolio: Asset or Liability?

portfolio wireframe

Portfolio Wireframe

Do you have an online portfolio? Why? What does it do for you?

I’ve never had one before, but I’m preparing one as part of a certificate course in Web design. My preparation includes getting a reasonable idea of what to expect once it’s been built. So I asked around.

Now, I didn’t take a scientific survey, but here’s my general impression:

  • I shouldn’t expect new clients to find my site and call me.
  • If someone is already interested in talking to me, I can show them samples in a professional setting (my site), rather than emailing them.

And that’s it. The online portfolio is a better way to deliver samples.

But even it’s that’s true, is it really a good idea?

Physical portfolios are different

Last year I attended an engaging and powerful webinar on creating and showing a physical portfolio. It was run by Jack Molisani (who also runs ProSpring Staffing and Lava Con).

One thing Jack said is to avoid sending email samples! Bring in your portfolio. He said that a physical portfolio is only partially about showing samples. Instead, it’s instead mainly about two things:

Guiding the interview and Showing that you’re an expert.

A physical portfolio, as opposed to an online one, isn’t an alternative for sending samples. It’s a powerful interview tool.

Check out Jack’s PDF from the link below to see more about this, but among other things, he suggests including a project plan in your physical portfolio. This plan shows all the gotchas that you’ve thought out and learned to avoid through your years of experience.

You show the plan to the interviewer, but you DO NOT GIVE IT to the interviewer. Getting professional stuff like a good project plan is part of what they get when they hire you.

But that’s not something you can show—and then take away—on a web site. And obviously, you’re not guiding an interview with a web site.

I think that maybe when we send people to look at an online portfolio, we’re robbing ourselves of an excellent tool. We’re giving the samples without forcing the prospective employer to see all the things that prove our worth.

On the other hand, we may be showing that we’re comfortable with the web and web sites. Is that important?

What do you think?

See:

Jack Molisani’s PDF: Portfolios and Interview Strategies

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One Response to “Online Portfolio: Asset or Liability?”

  1. Ben M
    October 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    You raise a great question, especially given that university programs like the one I graduated from include building an online portfolio as part of regular coursework.

    Of course, we weren’t required to buy a domain name and a hosting plan so our portfolios were public, but we may have been required to deploy them to our university-provided Web space. I don’t remember.

    It would be good for any instructors requiring online portfolios to describe the issues in your post.

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