Finding work as a web designer can sometimes feel like a never ending cycle. You can’t find work until you develop a portfolio, but you need a portfolio to find work. If you think that you must include work that you did for an employer, think again. Now is your chance to highlight the best projects you worked on in school, the pages that you created for others and even your own website.
Make Your Own Site
Build a web design portfolio before you graduate with your own website. One of the first websites that you create in school is a website devoted to your life. This website typically includes your contact information, links to projects you worked on and a few basic mockups that you created. A Student’s Guide to Web Design recommends that you create an online portfolio that highlights the best projects you did. The project should follow a clear line that starts with the best pieces and slowly gives way to the pieces you don’t like. Many employers will only look at the first few projects or pages and never even make it to the end of your portfolio.
Do a Design Internship
Start your portfolio early with an internship. Web design internships put you into the real world, let you work with clients and handle a variety of projects. These internships can involve working for a company with thousands of employees to working at a smaller company where you are the only designer on staff. Make sure that you ask permission from the company before using any of your designs in your portfolio. Depending on the contract that you sign at the start of your internship, the company might retain the rights to your work.
Create Mock Designs
When you need to fill out your portfolio and can’t find work elsewhere, don’t be afraid to create a few mock designs. The point of showing your work to an employer is to show what you are capable of and the designs that you can create. Research the job and the company ahead of time to learn what the company needs, and create sample websites using similar information. You can even take the extra step and create a few sample pages relating to that company. This will show that you can follow directions and give your clients exactly what they need.
Work For Free
Don’t be afraid to do a little work for free to pad out your portfolio. Talk to companies in your area about creating free pages for their websites. Those companies can pay you if they like your work, or you can offer those pages for free if the business owners use the designs. Consider this a bartering process where you trade services. The company gets a new page for its website, and you get a link that you can add to your portfolio. The University of Kent suggests using an online portfolio with a copy of your resume on it that you can send to prospective employers.
Use Your Friends and Family
When you need to create pages and designs that wow and amaze, call on your family and friends for help. Maybe your little sister wants to create a blog that her friends will love, or maybe your family wants to set up a website for an upcoming reunion. You might even find that a close friend wants to create an Internet based business. The work that you do for your loved ones can go a long way towards showing employers your skills and adding something special to your design portfolio.
A good portfolio can help you land your dream job or help you find freelance clients. Your portfolio must include a variety of different designs that you created that cover both personal and professional sites. Use the work you did in school, projects you completed in an internship, your personal site and work you do for family and friends to create your first portfolio.