A digital portfolio is the best thing that you can do to build your personal brand.
In an age where smartphones, apps and social networks are ubiquitous, everybody is looking for a digitally savvy employee or business partner.
This especially true given the VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous) conditions of the world today—one filled with pandemics, terrorism, environmental disasters, trade wars, and other maladies.
But how do you start doing so? And what are the benefits of having a digital portfolio?
Why You Need a Digital Portfolio
Well, let us start by listing down the reasons why a digital portfolio gives you an immediate competitive advantage:
- Digital Experience Matters—Most employers or companies value employees or business partners who understand how the digital world works
- Online Transformation—Virtually all companies are going online these days, including brick-and-mortar retailers and service providers
- Degrees are a Dime a Dozen—Certificates alone aren’t enough these days, given the ease of obtaining a tertiary qualification
- Tight Job Market—Good jobs are scant in a tight job market, and most of the plump positions require some digital knowledge or other
- Global Competition—Highly valued technical skills are valued anywhere in the world, which also means that you’ll be exposed to global competition if you lack them
- Everybody is Googleable—If a search of your name doesn’t reveal anything noteworthy, guess who your client or employer will look for next?
- Talk is Cheap—The proof of the digital proficiency pudding is in your projects
In short, a digital portfolio will help you to immediately stand out against your competition and make you a more attractive employee, freelancer, or business partner.
Now let’s look at how you can build yours!
Don’t Wait for a Job!
Those who read my story before knows that I didn’t apply to work in a digital marketing agency before I started Cooler Insights.
On the contrary, everything which I did in the company—which now have over 67 clients and over 3,300 learners—was self-taught and self-made.
I was active on social media for 9 long years before I started doing it for clients, so you could consider me a “veteran”.
Like me, you should also embark on your own digital projects and platforms on your own. You don’t have to be hired by a company to start doing them.
Which brings me to my next point.
Learn Digital Skills—Then Apply Them!
How do you pick up digital skills? Well, there are so many ways to acquire them—sign up for a digital marketing academy, enroll in online courses, read books, listen to podcasts, or watch YouTube videos.
While learning digital skills is important, what’s more important (and convincing to a future employer or client) is your ability to apply these skills. If you don’t apply what you’ve learned, you’ll be wasting all your time, money and efforts picking up these new skills.
But how can you do so?
Volunteer to Help Family or Friends
If you’re raring to show your digital marketing chops but have no clients, do the next best thing—find a friend or family member with a business that you can help.
Naturally, you can’t really charge top dollars. You may even wish to do pro bono work for your first few clients.
What’s more important is to start to gain track record and results from these efforts, and to document them in your portfolio.
Launch Your Own Website
Yes, a website is still the most important piece of digital real estate which you can build. And it also provides you with a place to showcase your digital portfolio.
If you are building a website for personal branding purposes, consider including these pages:
- A portfolio page showcasing a gallery of your works—these can also be school projects
- A blog page to demonstrate your thoughts and showcase your expertise
- Links to apps, games, websites, or other digital projects that you’re involved with
- An About page where you narrate your own brand story
Nowadays, websites can be easily built using Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Square Space, or any of the other CMSes.
Blog! Yes, It Still Works
The fact that you’re reading this now shows that blogs (or articles) are still relevant. Unlike the past though, focus your writing on professional topics that demonstrate your digital credentials.
You can write about the latest trends and technologies in your field. Or describe the step-by-step process you took to build a new app, website, or tool—make sure you include relevant screenshots.
You can also write “How Tos” that address specific pain points of your target audience. Or highlight the latest changes in a particular technology platform.
Record Yourself on Video—and Share It
If writing isn’t your thing, consider recording yourself on a video and publishing it on your own YouTube channel.
Develop a series focused on a specific area of digital expertise. This can be coding, or blockchain, or raspberry pi, or search engine optimization, or wordpress website development.
You may want to do video captures as you walk through the process, or demonstrate how you build something.
PS—if you have a website or a blog, you can embed your YouTube videos in there. Even a simple video presentation has an added benefit of showcasing your work in multi-media formats.
Build Robust Social Media Profiles—and Post and Engage Regularly
Start with your LinkedIn profile because that’s the place where recruiters, employers, and clients are likely to first encounter your personal brand.
List all the digital projects that you’re involved with. Link to your website. Highlight your projects and feature them upfront.
You may also wish to create a Facebook Page and launch Facebook Groups related to your areas of digital interest. Invite friends and associates. Be active on these communities.
It may also be worthwhile to start an Instagram account. Use it to share stories, or record IGTV videos where you share something that you’ve learned.
Beyond setting up social media accounts and posting regularly, you need to also engage with others. Like, comment and share the posts of others—especially influencers or leaders in your field. This will help you to be noticed by these decision makers. Just be sure that your inputs are meaningful and thought provoking.
Invest in Mini Digital Experiments
Finally, consider setting aside some funds to conduct digital experiments of your own. I’m not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps a couple of thousands would do.
What sort of experiments are we talking about?
- Sourcing for some products and opening up an eCommerce store
- Running Facebook or Google Ads to a landing page which you’ve built
- Building a simple landing page or a website
- Recording videos and streaming it live on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube—consider getting a good camera, ring lights, microphones, and a green screen.
- Subscribing to tools that can help you to do better digitally
Just consider this investment as passion projects, akin to spending thousands on a holiday (or tens of thousands on a new car).
I hope that I’ve given you sufficient food for thought on how you can build a digital portfolio for your personal brand.
I’ve done that for years—even before I quit my full-time senior management job back in May 2014. Since then, I’ve never looked back, and I’ve found a sustainable model for Cooler Insights that will see us through to the long-term.