Building your portfolio with self-initiated projects.

Last week, I showed you that getting hired for the work you want to do starts with a curated portfolio. Of course, if you’re just starting to niche down to one area, there’s probably one main problem: you don’t have any projects for your portfolio.

You must have done something before

Now, here’s the thing: you must have done a few projects that gave you the idea that you wanted to start doing more of this work as a freelancer, right? If you haven’t done it before, then why are you trying to get hired for this sort of work?

“But, Scott,” you’re saying, “It wasn’t a good project and it doesn’t fully represent what I want to do.”

I get it. I’ve been there. That’s why you need to start doing some self-initiated projects.

The two kinds of self-initiated projects

Here, I’ll just give them to you now, then break them down:

  1. Project based on a real business
  2. Project for a fictional client

Project based on a real business

This is the first type of self-initiated project I did as I was building my logo design portfolio. Think of a real business or company and come up with a problem, then solve it with the work you want to do.

For my project, there was a local coffee shop whose owner I knew personally. I also knew that their current logo didn’t represent the company accurately to their target audience. So, I redesigned their logo.

The cool part about these sort of projects is not only will you have a project for your portfolio once you’re done, you can also take the project to the client to see if they’re interested in using what you’ve created. If they decide to use it, then you’ll have a real-world example in your portfolio. Awesome, right?

There’s much more to share about this topic, but I’ll save it for another week.

Project for a fictional client

The other option is to make up a fake client and problem you can solve with your work. I will admit, these projects can be a bit more challenging. Trying to come up with something that doesn’t exist with a problem that doesn’t exist might take you more time than actually solving the problem. But just look at my 50 States 50 Brands project as an example.

For 50 States 50 Brands, each client was fictional. I came up with a name and background for each business and defined their target audience. It’s challenging trying to come up with a fictional story every few weeks, but the fun part was that I got to create my own desirable situation.

Is there a project you want to do? Make up a situation for a fake client that allows you to solve their problem with a project you want to work on.

Self-initiated work for your portfolio

When you don’t have any work for your portfolio that fully represents what you want to do, you need to start doing projects on your own. Remember, you aren’t going to get hired for work that people don’t know you want to be hired for. To start building your portfolio, start working on projects for real-world or fictional clients where you get to do the work you want to. Then, as you finish these projects, start adding them to your portfolio.

Have you worked on any fun self-initiated projects, or having trouble coming up with one? Tell me below.

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