What Not to Put in Your Portfolio

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

“Your portfolio isn’t made up of what you SHOOT, it’s made up of what you SHOW.” - Photographer, Ben Sasso

As creatives, we love to experiment with different styles, different media, and maybe even take on requests for work that we don’t normally do for extra income. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the mistake that many creative business owners make is showing ALL their work instead of CURATING their work into a marketable portfolio.

Here are some examples:

◾️A photographer wanting to specialize in weddings includes family and graduation portraits on their website portfolio (taken in between weddings for extra income) and is seeing an increase in family session inquires when what they really want to do is shoot WEDDINGS.

◾️A pop surreal character artist begins dabbling in wildlife paintings and posts these new pieces on social media as they experiment over the next few months along with their usual posts of pop surrealism. Engagement drops as well as sales and the artist feels defeated and confused.

◾️A talented and budding jewelry maker has decided to take the business leap after years of encouragement from friends and family. They open an Etsy shop and list multiple styles and aesthetics they’ve been trying out and expects to attract a broad audience only to find a less than stellar response.

The common thread (and mistake) in these 3 scenarios is that each creative showed ALL their works instead of CURATING their portfolio for the audience they wanted to attract. This created a confusing marketing message which resulted in their businesses suffering in one way or another. That's not to say that creativity outside of paid work isn't important, or that you shouldn't consider additional income opportunities that might be outside your usual scope, but when it comes to marketing an income-producing business, your focus should be exposing what your audience has come to look forward to and to expect.

Presenting a consistent body of work shows focus and expertise. Your portfolio isn’t to show ALL you do and it isn’t for everyone; it’s a curation of your BEST and most CONSISTENT work targeted to a specific audience that’s crazy about that one thing they know you're amazing at.

The moment you deviate from what your audience looks forward to and expects, excitement wanes and you start attracting the wrong clients, or even worse, your audience becomes confused as to what you really offer and they stop paying attention altogether.

Be strategic with what you share publicly. It’s not about what you’re creating; it’s about what you’re SHOWING.

Some final notes:

Sometimes, paths lead creatives into a new style or medium in their business; however, it’s best to create a body of work before you begin to show it and consider marketing it separately if it is completely unrelated to what you currently do. Or, you can slowly drip your new content over time letting your audience know you are going in a new direction so they come to expect the changes instead of being surprised by it!

©Becca Basic, LLC

Becca Basic is an artist who's passionate about helping brilliant artists become brilliant businesses too!

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