Episode 105

105: Portfolio pieces vs just needing the money

All designers go through a stage where they create work they aren’t proud of. What should you do when you’re trying to build your portfolio up, but are working on projects you don’t love because you need the money? In this episode we discuss our own experience with this conundrum and share our advice for dealing with it.

“If you know you’re going to be doing a project that’s just for the money and won’t be going in your portfolio, you might as well be earning the most money possible”

— Charli

Key takeaways

1| The pressure to make every project a portfolio piece comes early on in freelancing because you don’t yet have the body of work that’s attracting the clients that you want. It’s frustrating, and feels like a vicious cycle, to be doing work you don’t love. But at the same time, you need to make sure you’re paying the bills! If you’re in this situation; it’s okay, we all go through it.
2 | Hustle on the side to work on self-initiated projects that are the type of work you want to do more of. This might mean taking on less paying clients (just make sure you have enough to cover your baseline expenses) and working harder for a season, but it will be worth the effort to end up with a portfolio that attracts the right projects.
3 | It’s okay if you end up with work you’re not proud of. It happens, and it doesn’t make you a bad designer. Just don’t put them in your portfolio!
4 | Your role is to be an advisor for your client. Don’t just immediately make every single change the they want if you feel it’s going to be bad for the project. 
5 | When a project goes south, learn from it and figure out where it went wrong. There are probably ways you can improve your communication next time.

Show timestamps

00:00 Intro & a current struggle from a community member
01:55 Catch up
06:30 Putting every project in your portfolio when you’re new
10:00 Our experience with this dilemma
13:30 Other benefits from working on a project
14:15 When you’re embarrassed by your projects
18:10 Your client is not a dictator
23:20 Upselling clients and expanding the brief
27:45 Should you stop taking on projects to improve?

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Our theme tune was created by Camiel van Schoonhoven