Compared to industries such as something like heavy current Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering & Architecture, and many others which have physical applications in the so-called real world, the world of design has those of us who work in it a little luckier in that we can experiment in ways that wouldn’t endanger people’s lives should things not quite work out. I mean think about it – if you play around with some concepts for a logo a client wants, getting it “wrong” a few times and then tweaking it as you go along won’t cause the client to drop dead, while getting something like the load-stress wrong in a civil engineering project would definitely put some lives at risk.
This is something to draw on by way of trying to land projects while you don’t quite yet have a portfolio to show prospective clients, as hard as it is to get inspiration to complete top-notch work when you know there’s no consultation fee at the conclusion of that project. Be careful with this way of thinking though – as much as it is indeed an advantage that we creatives can play around with ideas without making too much use of resources can have you devaluing the work you’re capable of producing.
If you’ve practiced putting together some websites a few times over for example, building up a little portfolio of mock-sites you created, your mind can very quickly get used to the exercise of completing what is otherwise your professional work without expecting too much in the way of remuneration for it. So when a client eventually comes around, you run the risk of being so desperate to land the job that you’re willing to settle for the low prices they might be attempting to get out of you.
Work on projects that have the potential to pay you recursively while building up your portfolio
This can best be explained with the example of a creative writer who goes through the whole process of trying to get their book self-published, detailing every step of the way and addressing all the challenges they face along their journey. At the end of this exercise is a book which acts as a portfolio item demonstrating their craft, but more importantly, it can be sold over and over again to bring in recurring, passive earnings.
Your presentation is your portfolio
Looking towards something like the Phoenix HOA management industry for some inspiration on how to approach your portfolio-less pursuit of paying work, by no means is this particular industry a newly formed one with players that lack experience, but it’s a simple matter of looking at the manner in which they present themselves. If you were to visit the offices of one of these HOA management premises, naturally these premises would be presented in a manner which would mirror what you’d expect of the properties forming part of the Home Owners Associations they manage – they would be neat, clean, well-maintained and well-kept. This is how one should present their work – your appearance is your portfolio.