This week, I had the privilege of launching the new REP Branding Co. website.
It was particularly exciting for me because this is a site I actually want to showcase in my portfolio.
I don’t showcase all my work. In fact, I’d say most of the web design work I’ve done I have never highlighted anywhere in my portfolio. Not on my website, not on my Instagram, not even in conversation.
Why? Well, funny you should ask. There are many reasons to be picky, but these 3 ought to convince you that sharing everything you ever create… well, it’s usually not exactly the best idea.
Reason #1: Like Attracts Like
In the last six months alone, I’ve helped launch a pest control website, two wellness sites where the owner took over the design halfway through the project, the website for a financial advisor, and a landing page for a software product–none of which did I talk up on social media. Well, the financial advisor’s site got a couple plugs, because he wants to work with the same people I do… but none of the others got so much as a blip on the radar.
If my calendar has been full and I’ve been cranking out websites every single month, why not share that with my audience? Frankly, because I learned early that if I do a good job on a website for, say, a dentist, then I’m going to get requests from 5-10 other dentists who want similar websites.
Sound amazing? Not for me! While work is work, I don’t particularly want to be the Dental Website Designer of New England; so I’ll take that first gig when it comes along (gotta pay rent!), and maybe even a couple of future gigs that are similar, but I’m not going to allow myself to become pigeonholed by shouting from the rooftops about what a great job I do building dental websites–especially when the people I most want to work with are creatives and online businesses.
Instead, when a project comes along that really reflects the kind of work I want to attract (like the REP site), I share that on all my platforms, and feature aspects of the work over several months to get as many future leads as I can out of it.
Reason #2: Some Work Isn’t as “Good” as Other Work
I know a lot about websites. I know what should go on a homepage that will inspire visitors to click around. I know the sorts of details a small business owner should include on her “about” page to encourage customers to visit and press to want to write a feature piece on the company. I know when, where, and why to include social links, and I even know how to write copy that speaks directly to a consumer I’ve never met.
But sometimes my clients have a different idea about what they want over what I recommend. I’m not questioning their vision–I’ve certainly known in my heart from time to time that something was right for me, even if everyone around me saw things differently. In the same breath, though, I don’t want to share any work I’ve done that isn’t an accurate reflection of my skills as a designer, my knowledge of internet behavior, or my ability as a copywriter. So when my client takes control over a project (as happened with those two wellness sites I mentioned), I don’t broadcast that the final product as my work. If I’m being completely honest, it isn’t.
It takes a lot of willpower, but it’s worth it to wait for a project that does reflect my skills. The REP site was a project that allowed me to show off my web design, photography, and even some of my copywriting ability–and the client, Robin, was happy with the result. We found that sweet spot between her brand aesthetic and the sort of web design was going to help her meet her business goals. That’s the kind of thing to showcase in a portfolio of work.
Reason #3: Niche Work Serves the Long Game
Annie Lebowitz is known as a high-fashion photographer for a reason. Tom Brady is known as the quarterback GOAT for a reason. J.K. Rowling is a billion-dollar author for a reason.
All of these very talented people went all in on one area. I feel confident in saying that Annie Lebowitz gave up doing newborn shoots and senior portraits long ago in order to focus her energies on fashion photography. Tom Brady could have played another sport, or other sports casually in the off-season, but he dedicated his workout regimen, his diet, and his mental energies all to becoming an excellent football player, and it paid off. J.K. Rowling clearly has one of the most creative minds of her generation, and she poured all of that for decades into going deep on a single character.
I know of plenty of other web designers who are happy to share a range of work–a single portfolio could feature both banking websites and children’s book illustration websites. But I know that I want to serve a particular community that I believe is impacting and shaping the world in a specific way. I’m willing to go “all in” on this demographic, even if it means only showcasing websites every few months, because in the end, I believe I will make a higher contribution doing so… and, truth be told, when word gets out that “I’m the girl” for that sort of project, I’ll be able to charge whatever I please and work with whomever I choose because I’ll be coveted in that role.
Case and point: Robin, the owner of REP, told me in our first face-to-face for this project that she had gotten quotes from 10 designers, but after talking with each of them, she’d found reasons not to work with them, and had decided even before our sit-down that I was going to be the designer if I had availability.
Oh, Robin. I always have availability to work with my ideal customer! (Wink)
So what’s your takeaway? Do you think changing up what you showcase in your portfolio could help shape your future projects? Let me know in a comment below, or come visit me on Instagram, @alexisthegreek. I can’t wait to hear what you think!