This Week's Question: How did you build your portfolio when just starting out?When starting off as a new illustrator or designer fresh out of school it's pretty difficult to figure out how you're actually going to get any clients and great work to build your portfolio with... let's not even talk about how you're ever going to get paid for anything (that's another story). When I started out I had quite a few projects from my University days that were okay (ahem, eww), as well as a few personal projects that I created specifically for my portfolio. These projects showed off what I could do, my different styles of illustration, design work, my creativity, hand drawn typography, and branding projects.
Another way I gained a lot of work and a little recognition to start was by working on projects for free or by trade. I may have worked without getting paid, but it was worth it in the end to have something I'd worked on with a client to present in my portfolio. This way I also learned how to deal with clients, how long a project would take, and other important things about working for yourself before actually working with paying clients (who are a little more demanding since they of course would like their money's worth.) I was fortunate to have been contacted by other people or small companies just starting out, looking for illustrations on the cheap, so we helped each other out. Definitely mutually beneficial! You could even contact another up and coming company yourself and propose a trade.
At the beginning I think my portfolio had a little bit too much. It was all over the place, totally unorganised. It would have been better if I just showcased a handful of projects that I was really pleased with rather than everything and anything I'd ever created. I would stick to what you're really good at, and leave a few great projects out just to have some great projects to show off to clients when contacted. If you're seriously good at several things, such as Illustration and Photography, then have two separate portfolios.
Once you've gotten a few free/trade projects under your belt and your portfolio looks professional and nice you can start to ask for payment for your work. Exciting stuff!
P.S. I wouldn't even bother with a regular in your hands portfolio. Go digital!