8. Building Your Portfolio and Getting Your First Projects

Most Important

The most important thing you can do right now is to build your portfolio. Working on projects, especially for other people, will help you learn new skills, provide content for your portfolio and potentially expand your professional network (and your references).

You can strategically position yourself and your portfolio to showcase what it is you do really well.

Sell Yourself

Whether you’re looking for a career or your next client, you will be selling yourself. Get conformable talking about your skills and how they help you do great work. Confidence is your greatest asset.

Sign up for LinkedIn and fill out your profile. Add projects as you complete them.

Build free stuff for PEOPLE

If you don’t have a portfolio how do you get clients? If you don’t have clients how do you build your portfolio? Build free projects for people to seed your portfolio with references and nurture professional relationships (reciprocity rule).

What makes a Good First Project

Always move up. Look for projects that take you out of your comfort zone and help you level up your skills. Build for someone who works in a highly visible company. They may just be a middle man, or woman, but it looks really great when you can say you built XYZ project for John Doe who worked at Tesla, Microsoft, Apple, etc.

Where Can I Find Projects?

Now You Have a Project

Ask clarifying questions to make sure they know the vision and functionality. Don’t stop asking questions until you understand the project thoroughly. Get wireframes, vision, spec doc and any other documentation the client has created.

This project is a stepping stone. Always think two or three projects out (otherwise you’ll get comfortable and won’t want to move on).


Don’t be long-winded. Keep it short enough to ask a question or to give a status update. Remove all the fluff.

Check out Team Treehouse to grow as a programmer! starthere.fm/treehouse