Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back to School, Back to School...

It's been ten years since I was in a classroom and thankfully tonight I'm just guest presenting. But given my profession, and the fact that I'm workings towards being certifiably insane, of course I'm blogging about it. Plus it saves me from needing to actually type up an outline or create a slide show. Hopefully Akron's Multimedia Production class will learn something.

I like coffee, I like tea
Me, shockingly with coffee in my hand.
I've spend half of my entire life in a world that was "online". I first started learning HTML in 1992, not that there was much to learn. I published my first web page in 1994 or 95 on Tripod.com. Yeah, it was a Star Wars fan page.

In 1998, fresh out of high school, I started working for a medical imaging company, designing their marking website. Sadly the Way Back Machine was unable to pull up anything. It's really a shame, I'm sure. Despite a few diversions here and there, I've been pretty much clicking away on the world wider intertubes ever since.

My presentation is partly about working in web, but my primary focus is the importance of self - and social - promotion. The traditional paper portfolio may still have value, but digital protfolio's seem to be gaining more acceptability. I've seen a number of job applications that specifically ask for a link to your Behance or Cargo portfolio, as well as your blog, Twitter and even Tumblr and Pinterest accounts as well.

And given how easy it is to start one - especially a free one - there really isn't any excuse. Yep, I'm totally the pot today. I'm okay calling the kettle black too. While I've had various online portfolios over the years, I've been extremely lackadaisical at keeping one together. Although I've started a Behance account recently, I've been really slow to get my works posted. If I'd only kept one going all these years, I wouldn't be in this situation now.

Most people think of a digital portfolio as outbound marketing, and it definitely fills that role. It's easy to send a potential client or employer to a specific spot on the web. But your digital portfolio may also be an inbound form of marketing as well.

The Modern Sales Funnel, Hubspot

Simply put, Outbound Marketing is the traditional newspaper advertisement, TV or radio spot or website banner; basic shout-down advertising. Until recently it was the primary form of marketing. Inbound Marketing is making yourself available to be found but people who aren't necessarily looking specifically for you. Regardless of the fundamental differences between the two, it's just as important to develop an Inbound Marketing strategy as an Outbound one.

And if all the so-called social media gurus are right, Inbound might be even more valuable. In the world of Facebook and Twitter, you value your friends opinion as much, if not more, than you do an experts. You find voices you agree with or like and follow the things they follow.

By putting your portfolio online, keeping it up date and promoting it via any social methods available, you're increasing your potential sphere of influence. Submitting your work to websites like For Print Only, The Dieline, Design Work Life or Lovely Package increases that sphere even more. Minimal work. Maximum exposure. And when other people share your work too, well, then you're gaining exposure with no work at all.

So, are all portfolios the same? Absolutely not. Do not post mystery meat on your portfolio. What's mystery meat?

Mystery Meat: Button like images that are meaningless.
Mystery meat are ambiguous links with little or no context. In this case, tiny images with absolutely no detail - and no value. You're a advertiser. You need a designer. Would you click on 20 tiny images to see what kind of work a certain designer does? Or would you scroll though a page of  big images that clearly showcase specific designs with text that explain each project?

Scroll down to see a dozen projects, each with a  project description.
Don't be afraid to share some personality too. Right now we're looking to hire a new Content Coordinator and once we've looked at each candidates skill set, the next thing we look for is personality. We're a crazy, weird group and we spend a lot of time close to one another. Whoever we hire is going to have to not only put up with, but actively contribute to that insanity.

Of course, not everyone company is looking for those specific traits, but personality is rapidly becoming another factor in the hiring process. Certainly my blog is about 80% personal and 20% business, but if I had to submit it to a potential client, I'd be perfectly comfortable that it represents who I am as a person.

Do you run? Brew beer? Play Gears of War 3 until 2am? Wait, am I talking about myself again? Anyways, don't be afraid to open up a bit, show off something about yourself.

And you don't have to only post the hard core business-y stuff. Post that album cover you drew up for your sister's boyfriend's cousin's band. Or that Family Reunion Invitation. Most of my work is designed to please a client and not to effectively convey a message. Sometimes those personal projects better represent your skills.

Ridd replies to at least half of comments directly, even if only to say thanks.
Finally, don't forget to stay active once you post something. Someone leaves a comment, comment back, even if it's just a quick thanks. Someone tweets out your work, retweet their tweet. Acknowledge and thank people for promoting you.

But remember, I'm just a guy that doesn't even have a portfolio online.

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