How to show NDA protected Work on your Online Portfolio

This episode is part of a series called Portfolio Principles. In this series, I help people to build a more effective portfolio. Get weekly portfolio building tips.
All opinions my own.

You have just finished your best work and you are dying to show it to the public. Adding it to your portfolio will give your career a boost. Unfortunately, you can’t. The project is protected by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This prevents you from showing crucial parts of your project. Exactly the parts that make the project stand out.

Maybe this is the first time this has happened to you. Maybe it happens to you all the time. Due to the NDA your portfolio might even remain empty. To the public it seems you haven’t been busy, but the opposite is true. In reality, you have done some of the best work of your life, but you cannot show it.

Do you feel like you have done all the work for nothing? Are you confused about how to show your NDA protected work? Do you wonder if there is a workaround?

How to show NDA protected Work on your Online Portfolio.

As obvious as it may sound, the first thing to do is to understand your agreement. Not every NDA contract is the same. Some agreements are very restrictive, whereas others aren’t. Sometimes you cannot show anything but sometimes simply hiding the client’s name is enough. Understanding the agreement is key to be able to push its boundaries.

Study your NDA. Over and over again. Study it until you fully understand it. Even talk to your boss if necessary.

Now let’s imagine a world without NDA. A world where you can just show everything you worked on. Sounds good, right? Think about how you would present your protected project on your portfolio in this world.

How would you present your project if it wasn’t NDA protected?

What images would you show? What text would you write? What parts of the project would you highlight? Would you focus on the product or the process?

Now come back to reality. Unfortunately, we cannot deny the existence of NDA. If NDA did not exist, you wouldn’t be reading this article, right? However, now you can actually imagine what you are missing out. Now you can better understand the value your protected work could have had.

Would it demonstrate a particular skill? Show people you worked for a famous client? Convince your visitors you can work in teams? Or maybe show people what you are truly passionate about?

What value are you missing out due to the NDA protection?

There is one thing you should know about the value of any project. You care about your final product more than your visitors. Your product is your baby, you are emotionally attached to. Most visitors, however, hardly care about your final product. They just look at your material as a way to identify your skills. Not your destination, but your journey reveals the most of your skills.

After you have identified the potential value of your protected work, you can think of alternative ways to communicate this value.

So how do you alternatively communicate the value of your protected material? The biggest mistake people make is to hide or blur the NDA-protected material. It is the lazy method. A blurred image does not communicate any value. It only shows the image is NDA protected, but it does not take an effort to do something about it.

You need to start looking at your portfolio as a book. A book in which every project is a chapter with its unique story.

How would you feel if you were reading a book and one of the crucial pages got missing? Or even worse, the author decided to blur it?

Hiding or blurring pages takes the reader out of the story. Rewriting pages keeps the reader in the story. That’s why it is always better to replace protected material than to hide or blur it. If your agreement allows it, the replacement material can even be fictional.

Always replace your protected material, instead of hiding or blurring it. Don’t take the visitors out of your story.

These are many ways how you can communicate the original value of your protected material.

  • Instead of hiding the client’s logo, you can replace it with a fictional logo that you have created. Just add a disclaimer saying that you have added fictional content for presentation purposes.
  • Show a photo of you modeling clay, without revealing details of the model itself.

Depending on your level NDA, you may have to think beyond the project.

  • Write a blog post about what you learned working for Company X to show your expertise.
  • Come up with a side project in which you demonstrate similar skills as in your protected project.
  • List Company X in the clients section of your portfolio, to show you have worked for them.

How you finally decide to alternatively present your value really depends on the value you originally intended to show.

Concrete Takeaways

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements are not an excuse for an empty portfolio. You need to identify the value of your protected material and look for alternative ways to communicate this.
  • Your project is like a story, don’t take people out of this. Rather than censoring content, replace it. This may require you to create fictional, dummy content.

This episode is part of a series called Portfolio Principles. In this series, I help people to build a more effective portfolio. Get weekly portfolio building tips.

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