Excuses for Not Having a Portfolio

As background for anyone that I don’t know – I help contract Instructional Designers find work with clients. Given that role, I meet a LOT of contract instructional designers. I basically sit down once per week and meet them for coffee.  My invitation always includes one thing:  bring your portfolio!

Whenever I find a potential contract position for a consultant, the client usually asks for one thing:  samples!

Based on this, you can imagine how likely it is for a consultant to find work if he or she doesn’t even have a portfolio.  I talk with consultants all the time that don’t have a portfolio of samples to show a client.  If you’re serious about working as an ID consultant – you need to get a portfolio. Let me repeat that for emphasis – you need to get a portfolio!

I’ve compiled the excuses I hear most often and my response to them:

Excuse #1 – Clients Own All My Work 

This is a valid excuse. If you read my post from 2011 about building your portfolio you’ll see that I constantly remind you that the client has to provide permission.  But I have to ask:

  • Have you asked for permission?
  • How long have you been using this excuse?
  • Can’t you build non-client owned samples?

Excuse #2 – I Don’t Have Time To Build Samples

That is fabulous news! This means that you are working at full capacity as a consultant. You have no need to meet with any staffing companies and you have a full list of clients.

However, if this is not the case…. if you have free time – why not spend a few hours building a portfolio? If you just make it a project you’ll find it’s not that difficult.

Excuse #3 – I Don’t Have a Project I Can Use for a Portfolio

A sample you show a client doesn’t have to be specifically for a client product, process, or software.  It only needs to showcase that unique skill that sets you apart from other consultants.

  • Do you know how to build great content to enable sales capability?  Then build a course on how to sell widgets! 
  • Are you a Captivate simulation whiz? Then build a course on how to use LinkedIn or some other public domain software!
  • Do you build amazing visuals?  Then build samples of visuals about something that interests you – like cooking or architecture. Anything!
  • Is your forte leadership development? Then build a sample of a course based on a concept in a Leadership book.
  • Is documenting a procedure or process your best option? Then document “how to tell time” or something else that is simple.

The client isn’t interested in your content – it’s your style and skill they want to see.

Excuse #4 – I Don’t Know How To Build a Portfolio of Online Courses 

portfolio sampleThis was a valid excuse – 10 years ago.  However, each month it gets easier to showcase online work.  Here are some methods I’ve seen that are very effective:

  • Dropbox.  You can put your course in your dropbox and share the link with the client. 
  • Blogs.  (yes – just like this one!)  You can load your samples in a simple blog. They are free!
  • Websites. This is the most time consuming method I’ve seen. Some consultants have their own website with pages and pages dedicated to their portfolio. (And you’re competing against this consultant for work!)
  • PDF. Yes – I’ve seen powerful portfolios build as a PDF.  (example left) One creative example featured one page for each portfolio item. Each page contained screen captures of the program (ILT or eLearning), the business requirements, a description of the solution, and how the learner was engaged.

Search for “instructional design portfolio” and you’ll samples from other instructional designers.

Other resources:

ISD Professionals: Building a Portfolio

How To Develop an Instructional Design ePortfolio

Instructional Design Portfolio Resources

Here’s Why You Need An eLearning Portfolio

Call to Action: 3 Big Reasons You Need a Portfolio

Building Your Portfolio

Creating an eLearning Portfolio

ASTD Infoline Book:  Build Your Training Portfolio – Greg Williams

Leigh Anne Lankford is an instructional designer with more than 21 years’ experience in the field of HRD. She is a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros in Atlanta, working closely with training and development departments of large organizations to identify, attract, and on-board contract employees for very specific and specialized training and development needs. You can reach Leigh Anne at leighanne.lankford@training-pros.com. 

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  1. […] Excuses for Not Having a Portfolio | Ileighanne’s Blog […]

  2. […] As background for anyone that I don't know – I help contract Instructional Designers find work with clients. Given that role, I meet a LOT of contract instructional designers. I basically sit down …  […]

  3. […] Excuses for Not Having a Portfolio: If you find yourself saying, “I know I should have a portfolio, but…” this post is for you. […]



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