Aspiring creative professionals might be interested to know how extensive should my portfolio/demo reel be. Landing a job in a creative profession is a little different from trying to get a job in other industries. Instead of focusing on a resume, a portfolio is often more important when it comes to determining whether a candidate gets the job. The following guide is intended to help aspiring creatives determine what, exactly, the scope of their professional portfolio should be.

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Why Are Portfolios/Demo Reels Necessary For Creative Professionals?

Creative professionals of all varieties use portfolios and demo reels to land jobs. These include animators, artists, writers, actors and individuals in similar professions. The purpose of these portfolios is to give potential employers an idea of the artist’s abilities and range of skills. It is a practical demonstration of their work that allows employers to decide if an artist’s abilities, skills and style match what they are looking for.

What Should Be Included

A portfolio should generally include an artist’s best work as well as show their range. When building a portfolio, artists should consider what kind of jobs they are hoping to get and focus their portfolio around those goals. For example, an animator wanting to work in video game animation should primarily include concept art and animations they have done for video games, while an artist who wants to do traditional, 2D animation for television programs should include mostly examples of their 2D animation work. Actors should tailor their demo reels to the types of parts they want to get, but it is also important to show their range so they may be considered for the widest variety of jobs possible.

How Much Content?

It is possible to put together a portfolio that has too much in it. The goal of a portfolio is to showcase the breadth of an artist’s skills and abilities, but going beyond that can mean including items that are superfluous or not the best examples of that artist’s work. Employers only take so much time to look at each applicant’s offering before they make a judgment about whether that candidate is going to meet their needs. Artists want their portfolios to make as strong an impression as possible in a small amount of time. For this reason, it is usually best to display the best work first, and other strong works near the beginning and at the end. That being said, and perhaps, unfortunately, there is no set number of pieces that should go into an ideal portfolio. It will depend on how many quality samples the artist has to display. Another important consideration is whether an employer asks for a certain number of work samples. In that case, be prepared to provide exactly the number they request.

Focus On Pieces For Which You Received Payment

While pieces an artist created on their own time can make excellent additions to a portfolio, it is also better to focus on paid projects. Paid projects demonstrate to a potential client or employer that the artist was viewed as talented enough to be paid by someone else for their work. Of course, artists just starting or branching into different areas may not have much, if any, paid examples. The great thing about being an artist is that they can pursue projects on their own time that are still great examples of their work. If an employer is impressed by the talent on display, they will still be inclined to hire even an artist who has no paid experience. College classes, for artists who got a degree in the arts, can also be an excellent source for portfolio materials. For students who are completing an internship, The Balance points out how artists should be sure to include work from it.

Remove Non-Relevant Pieces

Much like a resume, a portfolio or demo reel should only contain the most relevant examples of an artist’s work for the jobs they want. This means it may need to be tailored for individual jobs or to the niche they wish to work in. For example, traditional landscape paintings are not likely to be as useful for landing a job as an animator on a 3D animated feature film. Artists should only include examples of their work that are for the types of jobs they are aiming to specialize in to better steer their careers. Including everything could send a confusing message or, perhaps worse, result in job requests you are not interested in.

Exclude Older and Proprietary Works

When considering how extensive should a portfolio/demo reel be, it is important to remember that you should be putting your best foot forward. If older works are relevant, prestigious or still show off an artist’s work very well, they can be included. However, it is usually best to go with newer works because they represent an artist’s abilities in the present. Newer works also go to show that an artist has been consistently getting work and are not solely riding on a few past successes. According to The Muse, proprietary works where the artist does not have permission to share them should also not be included, although it is worth asking for permission or including a provision in your standard contract.

Host It

Portfolios are not only used when there is a specific job the artist is applying for. They can also be hosted perpetually on an artist’s site or an external site dedicated to hosting creative portfolios. This is most useful for artists who are freelancers and are always looking for new clients to work with, rather than an artist sending one in as part of a one-off job application. This could also potentially limit the size of an artist’s portfolio – their web host may only allow for a certain amount of storage space. A hosted portfolio is advantageous because it allows for greater discoverability by clients. The artist can also send links to their online portfolio to interested parties. Besides private websites, portfolios can also be listed on popular sites like LinkedIn, Weebly, SquareSpace, Adobe Portfolio, Carbonmade, PortfolioBox and many more.

Putting together a portfolio or demo reel is an art in and of itself. It has to be just right and the right one can land you the job of your dreams. Because of this, artists should be aware of just how extensive their portfolio or demo reel should be.

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