Profitable Nomad Couple

80. Building a Standout Portfolio To Unlock Your Digital Nomad Dreams

February 14, 2024 Austin and Monica Mangelson
Profitable Nomad Couple
80. Building a Standout Portfolio To Unlock Your Digital Nomad Dreams
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever feel like your creative potential is bursting at the seams, but you just can't seem to showcase it properly?

In this episode, Austin and Monica unravel the mysteries of constructing an eye-catching portfolio that'll pave your way to becoming a digital nomad, even if you're just starting. 

Tune in as we explore an array of free platforms that are perfect for flaunting your work without spending a dime. Get the scoop on which elements make your portfolio irresistible to your dream clients, and how you can weave in testimonials and stats that prove you're the real deal.

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Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the profitable Nomad Couple podcast. This is a show where we share all of our secrets about building a sustainable location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 2:

We are Austin and Monica. We're a digital Nomad couple here to help you develop an entrepreneurial mindset, ignite your passions and develop a purpose-driven online business.

Speaker 1:

Get ready for weekly insights and inspiring stories to empower you to live life on your own terms.

Speaker 2:

So are you ready to unlock the Nomad mindset and embrace a life of limitless possibilities? Let's dive in.

Speaker 1:

All right, you guys, welcome back to another episode. Today's topic is based off of another question that we have gotten from one of the members of our Facebook group, and that is about creating your portfolio. If you don't have any past experience in the field and if you have followed us for any amount of time, you know that we are big advocates, that portfolios are super important. For either starting your freelance and career or pitching to any type of job opportunity is really important to be able to show off your skills in the form of a portfolio. So I was super excited when this question came in and just excited to talk about it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, to give you guys some context, maybe some background. Monica and I have been in this situation a few times. When we very first started working online, we began as virtual assistants, and we not only did we not have experiences as a virtual assistant, we didn't have any experience with online work. This was straight out of college. We had degrees that were non usable, essentially without further education and a master's degree. We also learned later down the road that we actually didn't want to use them anyway, and so we I mean for a lot of different reasons we started working online, and this was our first go at it.

Speaker 2:

And then the next main scenario that comes to mind for us is about a year, a year and a half, into our virtual assisting careers. We wanted to pivot and we wanted to focus on graphic design. We wanted to focus on web design and on branding. We had never been web designers, and so we were once again entering a field in an industry that we didn't have any past experience in. So this is just to share with you, because we want you to know, if this is you, that we've been there before. All of this is advice that we have is coming from personal experience.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so ways to get things to put in your portfolio. If you don't have any work, if you have zero experience, there are a couple of things that you can do to figure out what to put in there, and the first way is to volunteer, to take on free projects or do some sort of skills exchange with different people in order to gain experience and start building your portfolio. This is something that we often recommend to a lot of people to do to start, because number one it gets you stuff for your portfolio, you get good feedback from a potential client who could eventually become a paying client, and also it builds your confidence. So so much.

Speaker 2:

That's actually kind of how this podcast started. We did a service exchange with the podcast manager and someone who helps launch podcasts. In an exchange, we did her website. So there was no money exchange, it was just the service. So, yeah, that's a really, really good way. We like that one a lot.

Speaker 1:

The next thing you can do is to participate in different online challenges. So, for example, when Austin and I were building websites and wanting to start doing branding and logos, we found a 30-day logo design challenge. Therefore, it stretched us, it helped us like teach us different skills. In this challenge we did. We could submit the logos we made for feedback from other local designers and it just got us in the rhythm of designing every day and we learned so much. And Austin I learned that I hated making logos and Austin was really good at it, so he became our logo maker and he made some really cool projects that we were able to include in our portfolio.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was fun. There's so many different types of challenges like this, and so find one in your industry. Another suggestion we have that our third piece of advice for getting work to put into your portfolio is to do some personal side projects. These would just be passion projects to yours. They're not related to anyone in particular. You're not doing it for anyone. It's just if you have a creative idea you want to explore, start building your own project with it and then, if you like it, if you love it, throw it in your portfolio.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so a lot of we did this a lot. I did this a lot when we had downtime in our web design business, when we were kind of in between projects or in the process of looking for clients. I would look at something that I loved. I love to bake, for example. I love to eat baked goods, and so I made a website for a bakery a fictitious bakery that doesn't exist. Or I would do projects like we also did competitions for a while where we had the same prompt and then we'd build a website and we'd have people vote on the websites we built, or different things like that. So have fun with this. Just use this as time to learn, to experiment. If it doesn't go well, it doesn't have to end up in your portfolio. I definitely made things that did not end up being seen by anybody besides me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, actually you can use like chat, gbt, for example, or Bard, to give you prompts. So tell it hey, I want to design a website, I want to design a logo, I want to write the copy for this homepage. Give me a prompt and then you can have it. Give you a little briefing for a project as if it were a client and then you can build your, build your portfolio piece from that prompt, pretending it's someone coming to you for an actual project that they're paying you for. That's kind of a fun way to do it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I will say you don't have to specify that these weren't actual clients. But I wouldn't specify that they were actual clients. You want to be super honest in that. So don't include fake testimonials or anything like that. You can just put it in your portfolio and allow people to see the scope of your work.

Speaker 2:

So those are our best pieces of advice for creating where to get work to include in a portfolio if you've never done that work before. The rest of this episode are are more about just portfolio tips in general. If this is your first portfolio ever, if you are trying to revamp it, we have some suggestions on how to make the best portfolio out there.

Speaker 1:

The first thing we recommend is to only use your best work. Do not just throw anything you've ever worked on in the portfolio, because as you learn and grow, you're going to have some things that you don't want people to see. So make sure you're constantly just selecting the top three to five things that you did in that category that you absolutely love and you feel like highlight your skills the best.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, choose strong pieces that really showcase your abilities and that showcase the range of your abilities. If you're able to work on different types of projects and create projects for different types of clients and in different industries, showcase that like showcase all of your abilities and the spectrum of what you're able to accomplish. So really what's important here is that you have high quality material and not just a large quantity of material.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely work on pushing yourself here, especially when you're in this stage where you might be working on passion projects to fill up your portfolio. Try to push yourself. So, for example, I realized that I really shied away from bright colors when it came to web design and branding, and so when I was working on passion projects, I pushed myself to use like Fuchsia in my design, or like a bright lemon yellow, and let me tell you, I didn't like all of them. They didn't all make it to my portfolio.

Speaker 2:

But some of them were also the best pieces in our portfolio.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely, and it just showcased the range like oh, she can work with like neutral colors and then she could also work with bright colors, and it was really helpful to have that range in our portfolio.

Speaker 2:

All right. Our next tip is to choose where to build your portfolio. A lot of people ask us this. The short answer is it depends. It kind of depends on the industry that you're in. It depends on the project type that you're working on. It also has a lot to do with your personality and kind of personal preference. The general rule here is there's no right or wrong. It's just kind of what you think is best for you. So here are a couple ideas of where you can build your portfolio. You can host it on your own website. If you own a website, you can host it on Google Drive or on Google Slides and just make either a presentation or like a folder that you could share with someone who's interested in your work. Similar to Google Slides, you could create it on Canva.

Speaker 2:

Adobe, I know, has some portfolio programs that are really nice. I wouldn't have your portfolio only on social media personally, but it's a good place, like an additional place, to showcase some of your work. And then there are some websites and platforms that are specifically made to showcase your portfolio. So, for example, there's Behance, Dribble and GitHub. But again, like any of these options are potentials, are suitable. It just depends on how you want it to look. I would recommend not paying for any platform. I think the ones I mentioned Behance, Dribble and GitHub I believe they all have free tiers to their platform. But I definitely wouldn't pay for any place to put your project, especially if this is your first time creating a portfolio, just because that'd be, in my opinion, an unnecessary expense.

Speaker 1:

And then our next tip would be to get some feedback, especially if this is your first time portfolio building. Ask friends, families, colleagues, put it in Facebook or whatever you need to do to get feedback. This can be a really hard thing to do because it's, you know, brand new and it's your little baby and it's hard and scary to share it. But the more you get comfortable sharing it, it's going to be better for your mindset going forward when it comes to finding clients, but it's also going to give you some really valuable feedback of people who see things that you don't and weren't in the creative process that you were in and might not understand things the way that you do. A really good example is copywriting. Sometimes you understand it perfectly and you know what the voice sounds like in your head, but then, when I read it, the voice sounds different in my head and it doesn't make sense, and so it'll be important to be getting feedback to make sure that you have a really solid portfolio.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, a lot of times we're just too close to our own projects to see things clearly. Our next tip keep it up to date. Your portfolio is a living document and it is not static At least it shouldn't be static. So keep your portfolio up to date regularly and just add new work and add new projects that you create to it. Theoretically, every time you work on a new project, every time you have a new client, you're going to be getting better and every piece of work is going to be better than the last. Ideally, you should be updating your portfolio, adding those new projects in. If you don't like a new project, like Monica said before, you don't have to put it in there, but you don't want work that's in there that's years old, sometimes, even if it's just a few months old, you might have changed a lot in those few months and you want to keep your best, most recent, current, up to date work in your portfolio.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, kind of along those same lines. It's important to cater your portfolio to the client, to your ideal client. So, for example, if you are a social media manager and you really want to work with top fashion brands, don't be including your aunt's dog walking business that you've been doing social media for. Be including the things that speak most to your ideal client and showcasing those first and foremost.

Speaker 2:

Another general tip make it easy to navigate. This portfolio should be clean, should be organized, laid out nicely. Anyone who finds this, anyone who you send it to it, should be a really nice user experience going through it. So just keep it nice and clean and put together.

Speaker 1:

Make sure that you have your contact information there your number, your social media links, your email, your calendar link, whatever it is. That's the next step to get a hold of you. Make sure that's front and center and so people associate this work with you and your brand.

Speaker 2:

Also, more importantly, I'd say, when they see the work and they're like dang, I want to hire this person to do my work. They know exactly how to get a hold of you and it's easy for them to take that next step.

Speaker 1:

And then next, make sure you are getting and including testimonials, and different forms of testimonials is always a good thing. Sometimes video testimonials are good longer form, shorter form, anything you can do to get testimonials, especially when you're first starting out and as you are getting those free projects, make sure that you're getting testimonials from everybody that you are working for. I would also include to it's important to use stats if that is what makes sense for you. So it could be like number of views of a website, it could be number of followers, engagement increasing for different social media things you've been working on. Any of those stats, those numbers that are making sense for you.

Speaker 1:

And then also, I always love to see people analyzing their work or breaking it down or walking us through the creative process. So show me why you put certain things there, why you chose certain colors, why you wrote it the way you did, just like put annotations in there to walk us through your thought process. It really gives us good. It shows us that you are the expert here, that you really have a good handle on what you're doing, and it really shows off that you know your stuff and it wasn't just like a happy little accident that it worked out well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, as Bob Ross taught us, you can turn happy little accidents into great, beautiful pieces of art. So those are our tips, our recommendations for how to create your very first portfolio, especially like if you don't have any past experience like that shouldn't be a deterrent. There's still ways to make your first portfolio, to get some really good work in there, to get some really good social proof through testimonials in there and use that as a launch pad. From there, the more you grow, the more projects you do. It's just going to get better and better and better.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and even if your line of work isn't a super visual thing by nature, it is so important to have some sort of visual representation of your work, Some sort of if you're a tax accountant, show the percentage of tax return increases that you were able to get your clients or the number of dollars people save by working with you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, some kind of visual representation is really going to help you build a really solid, beautiful portfolio. So don't write this off, as this is something only for designers. This could be literally anything for you to put together for any industry.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the universal tips here. Again, this was an episode that we created in response to a question that somebody sent us. So if you have a question that you want us to answer, if you have something that's digging in the back of your mind, something that you really need help with, send us a message. There's lots of ways to get ahold of us Instagram, facebook group, direct message on Facebook email, whatever's easiest for you. Send us a message and we want to make sure that we can get you the advice that you need, that you're looking for, any help that you need to get started. Thanks so much for joining us here on the profitable Nomad Couple podcast. We appreciate you listening to us today.

Speaker 1:

If you enjoyed this episode, share it on Instagram and be sure to tag us. At Austin and Monica, together, we can inspire others to embrace a location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 2:

And while you're there, we'd love to connect with you, so make sure you follow us for more tips and inspiration on living your dream location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 1:

Until next week. Remember that you have the power to shape your own path. So stay curious, stay adventures and stay connected.

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