What agencies look for in the ‘perfect portfolio’

Over the past 12 years, we’ve hired more than 2,000 creative freelancers for a wide variety of projects and facilitated over 200,000 paid jobs via FreelancerClub.net. On every occasion without fail, the portfolio has been the deciding factor when choosing who to hire. Price, personality and professionalism play a role but the portfolio is the make or break.

Putting together your portfolio requires a fine balance to attract the top clients and entice the collaborators you want to work with. The Freelancer Club dipped into it’s little black book to ask one of London’s biggest modelling agencies, M + P Models, to provide us with a breakdown of what they look for when critiquing a portfolio.

Here are the six things you need to know:

SIZE MATTERS

A portfolio shouldn’t be more than 14–16 pages. Chances are most clients will skim through portfolios and judgement will be quick, so it helps to keep it streamlined. If you’re showing your work online, categorise your portfolio into sections with unique URLs so you can send a link with the appropriate type of the work to the client.

QUALITY NOT QUANTITY

The quality of your portfolio images reveals to the viewer more than you may think. An agency can quickly tell how experienced you are, how good you are and the type of creatives you’ve collaborated with from a single glance at your work.

“Each page must impress so it is essential you are selective. Quality over quantity is vital.”

PRESENTATION MATTERS

A major bug-bear for many agencies is the quality of the portfolio book, layout of the work and standard of the prints. You’ve worked hard at your work so why skimp out on the presentation?

Images should be printed professionally and laid out in a manner that tells a story about your work. The touch and feel of one’s portfolio says a lot about how you value your images.

ADD A PINCH OF PERSONALITY

Good images will not only show off a freelancer’s work, they show personality and confidence too.

Freelancers in their first couple of years often have an eclectic mix of work. Old shots from uni projects, test shoots, and recently client work. Over time, your style should show itself and become recognisable. Agencies will often choose freelancers who have a distinctive style over a ‘general look’ as they can show the client the type of work they can expect.

DIVERSIFY, OR NOT

When presenting your portfolio to an agency, ensure that you curate the work to suit the agency’s brand. When you’re not sure what they’re looking for, it’s best to include ‘categorised diversity’ in your portfolio for general consumption. Try not to jump from random project to random project rather take the viewer on a journey of your work.

It also pays to be able to talk about each project if you get the chance. Agencies will want to know about your process, the team you worked with and the client.

KNOW WHEN ENOUGH IS TOO MUCH

Over post-produced images can be as detrimental as weak images. Retouching can be an art form as much the work, however, an image that looks like it’s been Photoshoped to an inch of it’s life shows a lack of craft and confidence. Agencies want to hire you for your talent not your retouchers ability.

“If styling, makeup and setting are all over-embellished it will detour from the model’s beauty. Avoid this where possible.”

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