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April 18, 2012
Overexposure: Be Selective With Your Online Portfolio
“Stop showing all of your goodies; give them a reason to get to know you,” I overheard the older lady tell a group of young ladies. I guess she was giving them life advice, but it got me to thinking:
Advertisers need to stop showing all of our goodies.
You see it everywhere these days: online portfolios for individuals and/or agencies that have every piece of work in it. It’s all out there for the whole world to see — everything! What are we thinking?!
What happened to showing just enough to get them interested? What are we presenting during the interviews or meetings if they have already seen all the work in our portfolios? Why should they even call you for a meeting if they’ve seen everything you have?
It seems like we’ve forgotten how to create suspense or intrigue. And if we can’t do that for ourselves, how can we expect clients to believe we can do it for them?
I get that everyone wants to make themselves attractive to potential bosses or clients, but are we looking attractive or desperate? Are we giving away too much, too fast?
Portfolios used to consist of our best work, not every piece of work we’ve done. Only the really good stuff made it into our portfolios — that’s not the case anymore. We blinked. Somewhere a potential boss or client asked, “Is that all?” and instead of explaining that this is the work that best represents our capabilities, we panicked and started showing everything. We started to believe that volume trumped quality and that has never been the case, and it still isn’t. Portfolios should only be our best work.

Stop showing all your goodies.
And the digital era has made this even worse. Take a look at what we are doing with online portfolios and agency websites. Instead of giving them a seductive glimpse to pique their interest, we went all “full Monty” on them. There is no conversation, no opportunity to explain why you did what you did or what you were thinking.

This is a poor use of digital. The idea should be to create an interest or a need to talk to you, not think that they know everything about you. Because guess what? A resume and portfolio is not the full story. It never has been.
And we know better. Advertising professionals have been complaining about that client who wants to cram everything in an ad since the beginning of advertising. We used to counsel clients that placing too much in an ad only makes it harder to get a clear message to the consumer. So, why are we not following our own advice?

Less is more, especially when there is a noticeable difference in quality. Editing is an important skill for all of us to master. Let’s put some thought into the organization of the samples (NOT PORTFOLIO) that we show. We need to edit down the number of pieces that we are showing without a meeting. No more showing full portfolios just because they looked your way. It’s okay to show a little leg and maybe a bit of cleavage, but let’s stop fully exposing ourselves without at least an in-person meeting. Make them earn the right to see everything you have to offer.
“But what if they go somewhere else?” you ask.
Well, if the samples you select do not make them curious enough to talk to you, more than likely increasing the number of pieces won’t help either. Your samples should be representative of the variety of your full portfolio. It should be enough to show your capabilities without trying to tell the whole story — you want that phone to ring.

Be honest with yourself. Only certain bodies of work deserve to represent your abilities, so be very discriminating in the selection of the pieces that go into your samples and your portfolio. Have a plan. Put some thought into what you want out there representing you. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count.
Stop showing all your goodies.

So, where are my samples and portfolio? Not online, not yet. I control who sees what and when. I have a plan; a method to my madness. I can’t tell you too much, not yet.

Don’t be afraid to take a different path. This whole digital realm is still young. There are no hard and fast rules that we have to live by. And if you want to get noticed, you need to stand out from the herd. Put some thought into how you want to present yourself.
They are your goodies. It doesn’t hurt to be a little selective.

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Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising, out of the big city of Columbia, S.C. He is on Twitter as @dereklwalker
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