How To Send a Portfolio (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 28, 2022

Published October 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Portfolios are collections or folders containing documentation of a candidate's most impressive professional achievements. They make excellent additions to an application package, as they can illustrate a candidate's creativity, problem-solving, communication and design skills. If you're planning on sending a portfolio to a potential employer or client, you might benefit from learning how to submit it in a proper and professional way. In this article, we discuss the definition of a portfolio, describe how to send a portfolio in six steps and provide some tips for conveying your professional materials successfully.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a compilation of a candidate's best professional work. Candidates can send their portfolios to clients or potential employers to show examples of their past projects. Portfolios may also include explanations of the work and other professional documents. The content of portfolios can vary based on the industry. For example, a graphic design candidate may have a portfolio filled with various types of design, such as product design, advertising, video game art, web design, illustrations and corporate design. A photographer may have different types of photos like headshots, family album photos and wedding photos.

Portfolios are often for professionals in creative industries who develop products or implement systems. Portfolios can be physical or digital. Here are some professionals that may use these tools:

  • Software developer

  • Writer

  • Editor

  • Creative director

  • Filmmaker

  • Model

  • Artist

  • Cake decorator

  • Architect

  • Engineer

A good portfolio expresses the diversity and quality of your skills, qualifications and accomplishments in your field. An excellent portfolio also epitomizes your personality and identity, showing the viewer your enthusiasm for the work. If you're new to the career field, your portfolio can persuade employers or clients that you have a large amount of potential, you're ready to excel at the job and you're a smart investment for them. It also communicates you were thoughtful in developing your application and ave a lot to contribute to their business or life.

Related: How To Make a Digital Portfolio That Gets You Hired

How to send a portfolio

With the right planning and care, you can send a portfolio that's an excellent representation of your professional capabilities. Here are six steps to send a portfolio correctly:

1. Perfect your portfolio

The first step to sending your portfolio is making sure it's perfect before you do. Check and double-check that your writing or visual material has no errors or mistakes. This can show employers or clients your strong attention to detail which is an essential skill in many professions. Make sure your collection is only the best of your work even if you're new to your career. It's also important to show work relevant to the responsibilities of the job position. This can show the recipient you're ready to complete the tasks of the role.

Here are some common components of a professional portfolio:

  • Resume: While not always necessary, including your resume in your portfolio could help viewers put your work into a professional context. They could connect the samples of your art, writing or designs to real-world work accomplishments, making you seem like a fitting candidate for the role.

  • Brief biography: In some situations, it can be a good idea to include a short summary outlining your personal life. This may be especially helpful if your personal life relates directly to your work, which may be true for artists or other professionals in creative fields.

  • Philosophy statement: Your philosophy statement is a sort of mission statement about who you're as a professional or creative. This encapsulates your identity, your perspective and the purpose of your work.

  • Samples of your work: The primary purpose of a portfolio is that it contains samples of your work. Make sure to include the best, most relevant works of design, writing, photography or other creations.

  • Awards and honors: If you've received any certificates for awards or honors that apply to the position, it may be beneficial to include them in your portfolio. This can show potential employers or clients your credibility in the field.

Related: How To Make a Stellar Graphic Design Portfolio

2. Create brief descriptions of each work

It can be helpful to develop concise descriptions of each work in your portfolio. This may be a description as simple as one line or caption naming the title and date of the work. For a more complex example, you might describe what the piece is or how it fits into a larger project. If you're including an excerpt of a larger essay, book or other written research, outline the fact it's an excerpt and mention the pages you're including. These descriptions help explain your portfolio to readers and put it in context.

3. Save your files in an accessible, high-quality format

Certain files can be challenging to open on different computers, so it's important you send your files in a universal format that's available to users on all sorts of devices. For example, if you send your documents in a Microsoft Word format, your recipient may not be able to open them as they may not have the Word application on their computer. However, saving your document to a PDF is typically a safe choice because most users have Adobe Reader or another program that can read and open PDF files. This ensures your document's text and structure remain correct.

It's also important to save your files as high-quality pictures so recipients can see your work clearly. An ideal file type for detailed, high-contrast digital art is PNG as this form supports millions of colors. It also has lossless compression, meaning it maintains quality no matter how many times users open and save an image. However, to keep up with the quality, PNG files are much larger than other forms like JPG. Whatever file formats you choose, be consistent as this can keep your portfolio organized and understandable.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed.

Related: How To Send Large Files

4. Give your files professional names

Along with saving your files in a readable format, it's also important you give them professional, descriptive titles. When your recipient opens your message and finds your files, they see your file names. Consider including your last name, first name and title of your work for each filename. This helps potential employers or clients identify and keep track of your files easily. Making the process of viewing your portfolio as easy as possible can make you a more attractive candidate for many jobs.

5. Send it to someone as a test

Once you save and name your files and finalize your portfolio, it can be a great idea to send it to a friend or colleague as a test. Send it in the exact way you plan to send it to an employer or client. Your friend or colleague can ensure they can open and view all the files. They can also check if the files are clear and high-quality rather than pixilated.

6. Sent it to the final recipient with a proper message

Include a strong, contextual message to say in the email or message you send to the recipient. Mention the reason for the message and everything you've included in or attached to it. You might also clarify you're available to answer any questions if needed. Here's an example message:

Hi Paul,

It was very nice meeting you today. Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the graphic designer role. I've attached my portfolio as per your request. It includes my work on the special social media project we discussed. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you again,
Cara Munch

Related: How To Make a Good Impression After Your Interview

Tips for sending a portfolio

Sending a portfolio can be a great way to tell a potential employer or client more about yourself. Your portfolio is a wonderful opportunity to express your identity and creativity but it's also important that it's a reflection of your professionalism and seriousness about the role. Here are some tips for sending a portfolio successfully:

Send it as soon as possible

If you're sending your portfolio as part of an application, send it in the same email with your resume and cover letter. This helps the recipient keep track of your documents, and it means they can find your application materials all in one place. This makes the process easier when they want to review your application and it can be more convenient for them to find your contact information if they want to call you and set up a future meeting.

If you're sending your portfolio after a potential employer or client requested it, send it to them as soon as possible. Ideally, you could keep a version of your portfolio ready to send upon request. Consider sending a version of your portfolio to yourself in an email so you can access it from any device. Sending the collection and following up with your interviewer in less than 24 hours can show your professionalism and consideration for their time. If you send it quickly, it's also likely you can be a more memorable candidate.

Consider getting a website

Consider getting or building a website to display your professional portfolio. For example, if you're an artist, a website could be a great place to present high-quality photographs of your previous artworks and explain whether you've been in any shows or exhibitions. Having a website means that if an employer or client requests to see your past work, you can give them a simple web address or link to visit. You could even give them a physical business card with your name, contact information and website so they can find your information quickly.

You can also include your website on your resume in your professional social media profiles and in your email signature. This can help you raise awareness of your credentials, build your professional network and find more job opportunities. For example, if you include your portfolio in these places, viewers who like your work may reach out to you with business proposals. Including your website addresses is a form of "Always be closing" strategy. This technique refers to the idea that there are chances all the time for you to pitch your professional qualifications to others.

Read more: How To Build an Online Resume Website

Keep it straightforward

It's important to keep your portfolio straightforward and concise. For example, if you're a writer and you want to include a 20-page paper, try including brief excerpts of the best, most relevant parts of the paper instead. If you're an engineer and you're describing a project, try to keep your description limited to one or two short paragraphs. Potential employers and clients may be reviewing hundreds of candidate applications so it's important they can scan your portfolio and understand the main idea quickly. If you use powerful examples of your work, your portfolio can capture their attention.

Check your messages after you send it

It's a good idea to check your messages regularly after you send your portfolio. This is because it's possible that your recipient could respond to your message with a question about your portfolio or an issue with opening it. By checking your email, you can respond to their response promptly. Even though you may have tested the email beforehand, it's still possible there could be a technical error. Providing immediate assistance to the recipient can show your willingness to help and your skills in timely professional correspondence.

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