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Marketing yourself as a freelance designer: Six simple tips for your CV and portfolio

So you’re a budding young designer straight out of university or a middleweight, even an established creative or a freelancer looking for work in an agency. What’s the first thing you need to do? Your CV, right?


Well, it seems these technologically advanced times we live in are having an impact on the humble CV and not a good one in my opinion. Being a well-established agency we receive many CVs and I’ve noticed that the general quality of them seems to be getting worse over the last couple of years. Since when has it been acceptable to apply for a design position with a CV thrown together in Times New Roman in Microsoft Word? Never to my mind.


CVs and work samples are such a massive opportunity to impress potential employers, and as the saying goes: ‘you only get one opportunity to make a first impression’. This is even more critical in the design industry. It’s a potential foot in the door, a step up the creative ladder, your CV is an extension of you and your portfolio, a way of showing your typographic and layout skills before a work sample has even been glanced at.


I have nothing against digital CVs at all. As we all know time is precious. But when our inboxes are inundated with hundreds of emails this method of delivery can sometimes go unnoticed or not attract the attention it deserves. These days if I receive an envelope or package it’s a given that I open it and it’s refreshing to receive something tactile and well thought through that creates an impact.


Six simple tips for your Freelance Design CV and portfolio:



  1. Keep your introductory letter short and to the point.

  2. Your CV should ideally be 1-2 pages and clearly laid out, keep the experimental fonts for the right projects.

  3. Work samples in print format should be an extension of your portfolio, create an impact, show us what you’re made of.

  4. Digital work samples ideally in PDF format, clearly laid out with brief descriptions of each project i.e.: who it was for and what the brief entailed.

  5. Also it sounds simple but label your PDF with your name so it’s easy to find, ‘work_samples08? or ‘D:/documents/portfolio.pdf’ aren’t going to stand out when potential employers are sifting through their folders.

  6. Online portfolios work well and are easily accessible, but again keep it simple and focus on your work.


At the end of the day, if you are a good designer your skills will show through, but for what it’s worth I would advise anyone whether looking for your first job or your last to really take time to make sure your CV reflects the level of work you can produce, treat it like you would any other project and make it communicate on the right level, as you never know where it will take you.

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