How to Prepare a Job-winning Folio

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If you’re a creative, your folio could mean the difference between your winning or missing out on a job. Folios represent your work; like a product sample, your folio makes a clear statement about your skills. It also says something about the kinds of work that interest you, the clients who put their trust in you, your creative process, and how committed you are to quality output. There are a few golden rules you should follow as you put together a folio of your work. These are the ones I try to stick to in compiling my folio. 1. Choosing the work In choosing which pieces to put into your folio, consider the job and the work it entails, then match the folio pieces you have to the job requirements. If you’re compiling an online folio for your business, you may not have a specific job in mind. That’s fine; identify the types of work you want to do and choose pieces that reflect your experience with that kind of work. If you’re trying to move into a new area, try to choose folio pieces that  indicate that you have the skills to work in that area, even if you haven’t yet. In selecting pieces, make sure:
  • you’ve included a range of executions (for example, if the project is designing a membership-based web service, you might include a range of examples of membership-based sites you’ve designed)
  • you can explain the creative process and rationale for each piece you’ve included
  • you’re proud of every piece in the context of the current creative and technical environment
How many pieces should you include? For a folio presented in person, for a specific project, the rule of thumb seems to be that you should include around 10 pieces — no more; possibly fewer. In some creative disciplines, prospects may want to see a concept’s development, so initial and developmental sketches and drafts may be appropriate. Consider this as you formulate your folio. 2. Arranging the work The way in which you order the work within your folio will depend, at least in part, on whether or not you’re preparing a folio for a specific job. But the key considerations for arranging your work apply in both cases. Project Type In many cases, it’ll make sense to arrange the projects by type; for example, I might arrange my folio into content I’ve produced for print, for electronic media, and for voice. Client Type
You may group pieces by industry, or some other client-based factor (such as separating work you’ve done for corporate clients from that you’ve completed for small business clients). These kinds of groupings are likely to be dictated by the needs of the prospect you’re pitching to; if, for example, they deal with both corporate and small business clients, they may want to easily compare executions you’ve produced for both groups. Strength of the Piece It’s good advice to start and end your folio with your strongest pieces. Once you’ve chosen those, you may want to choose the less-stunning of the  pieces you’re including and ensure these are scattered, not lumped together in your folio. Consider breaking them up with other items that are guaranteed to wow your prospect. Note that by “less-stunning” I’m referring to those pieces which aren’t the strongest! For example, you might include a piece that reflects your skills in a certain area, but may not be reflect the target audience of the prospect you’re pitching to. Again, you should only include pieces that you feel are amazing examples of your brilliant talent — pieces you’re extremely proud of. If a piece doesn’t fit the bill, leave it out of your folio. Flow and Suspense I’ve found this the most difficult factor to address in compiling a folio. But to me, it means trying to avoid chopping and changing too much or too quickly, and trying to create a natural flow. So, for example, in my copywriting folios, I try to move gradually from long copy items to short executions, rather than jarring my prospect by skipping from one to another and back again. I might try to mix executions, client types, or media within a certain grouping or work, to maintain the prospect’s interest. Ultimately, I think intrigue — the What’s Next? factor — is what will keep the prospect turning the pages of your folio, so it’s important that each piece leads on from the one that came before, and inspires the prospect to want to see the one that follows. How — and how well — you achieve this will depend entirely on the nature of the work you’ve done, and how you put it together. You might try compiling a couple of different folios for a given project, and running them past a friend or colleague to see which may be the better option. While it’s true that viewing a folio is a fairly personal experience, and it’s difficult to predict your prospect’s reactions to your compiled pieces, showing the folios to another party first will help you identify any glaring issues, gaps, or overloads. 3. Presenting your folio If you’re prepared a folio for a specific project or role, you may well end up presenting it to the prospect. I find more and more that I’m sending folios via email, and if your folio’s online, it really will need to speak for itself. However, you won’t always have the luxury of hiding behind your folio: someday, you’ll need to present those pieces in person, so it’s important to make sure you can do that when the time comes. Consider each piece in your folio, and think about the projects, the job constraints, the brief you took, and how effectively you met it. If you’ve included drafts of a project that help illustrate your creative process, ensure you can speak about those, too, and explain how your ideas evolved as you worked. I usually prepare a little story in my mind about each piece in my folio that includes who it was for, what the purpose of the communication was, any hurdles I faced in creating the concept and any inputs or client feedback that helped shape the final result. Wherever I can, I try to have information about the success of the campaign or execution to provide as well. If you’re presenting a folio online, think about including “vital stats” about each project: the client, project date, and project goals and outcomes make a nice starting point, and should give your prospects a solid context in which to view each piece. Again, running your folio past an associate prior to your meeting with the prospect will give you the chance to practice explaining your work to them, and speaking with passion and intelligence about the work you’ve produced so far in your career. These are the factors I consider when I put together a folio of my work. What tips can you share form your own experiences with folio preparation?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Preparing a Job-Winning Folio

What is the importance of a job-winning folio?

A job-winning folio is a crucial tool in showcasing your skills, experiences, and achievements to potential employers. It provides a tangible proof of your abilities and can set you apart from other candidates. It’s not just about listing your qualifications, but also about demonstrating how you’ve applied them in real-world situations. A well-prepared folio can make a significant difference in your job search, helping you to stand out and impress potential employers.

How can I tailor my folio to specific job applications?

Tailoring your folio to specific job applications involves highlighting the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Start by thoroughly reading the job description to understand what the employer is looking for. Then, select and present your work samples that best demonstrate these skills or experiences. Remember, quality trumps quantity. It’s better to have a few highly relevant pieces than a large number of unrelated ones.

What should I include in my folio?

Your folio should include a variety of work samples that demonstrate your skills and experiences. This could include projects you’ve completed, designs you’ve created, articles you’ve written, or any other tangible evidence of your work. Additionally, you should include a resume, a cover letter, and any relevant certifications or awards. It’s also a good idea to include testimonials or references from past employers or clients.

How should I present my folio?

Presentation is key when it comes to your folio. It should be organized, professional, and easy to navigate. Consider using dividers or tabs to separate different sections. Make sure your work samples are clearly labeled and include a brief description of each piece, explaining what it is, when and why you created it, and what skills or experiences it demonstrates.

Can I include digital work in my folio?

Absolutely! In today’s digital age, including digital work in your folio is not only acceptable, but often expected. This could include website designs, digital marketing campaigns, social media strategies, or any other digital projects you’ve worked on. Just make sure to provide a way for potential employers to access and view these pieces, such as a URL or QR code.

How often should I update my folio?

It’s important to keep your folio up-to-date, adding new work samples and removing outdated ones. This shows potential employers that you’re continually learning and improving your skills. As a general rule, you should review and update your folio at least once a year, or whenever you complete a significant project.

How can I make my folio stand out?

Making your folio stand out involves showcasing your unique skills and experiences, as well as your creativity and professionalism. This could involve using a unique design or layout, including a personal branding statement, or incorporating multimedia elements such as videos or interactive content. Remember, your folio is a reflection of you as a professional, so make sure it represents you well.

What mistakes should I avoid when preparing my folio?

Common mistakes to avoid when preparing your folio include including too many or irrelevant work samples, poor organization, lack of descriptions for your work samples, and not tailoring your folio to the job you’re applying for. Additionally, make sure to proofread your folio carefully to avoid any spelling or grammar errors.

Can I use a digital platform to create and present my folio?

Yes, using a digital platform to create and present your folio can be a great option, especially for jobs in the digital or creative fields. There are many online platforms available that allow you to easily upload and organize your work samples, and share your folio with potential employers. Just make sure to choose a platform that is professional and easy to use.

How can I get feedback on my folio?

Getting feedback on your folio can be incredibly helpful in improving it. Consider asking mentors, colleagues, or professionals in your field to review your folio and provide feedback. You could also seek feedback from career counselors or professional development workshops. Remember, constructive criticism is a valuable tool for growth and improvement.

Georgina LaidlawGeorgina Laidlaw
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Georgina has more than fifteen years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. With a background in marketing and a passion for words, the time Georgina spent with companies like Sausage Software and cemented her lasting interest in the media, persuasion, and communications culture.

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