And what CD's are looking for.

When I finished folio school in the olden days, my creative tutors told me I had to ‘get a really nice folio’ to show my work around town in. So I went and spent like $150 on a really nice folio. Most of the agencies I tried to talk to just asked me ‘if I had a website’, because the internet has been around for a long time and that’s where folios live now. (To be fair, some CD’s appreciated the physical folio, but you don’t need one anymore. Just build a nice site.)

So, here’s some completely subjective advice on your website. Now this will mostly be for junior creatives, but there might be something in here for everyone. And that doesn’t just mean creatives. Personally, I seriously rate strategists, and even suits, that keep an active folio. Everyone is involved in the work we do. A ‘non-creative’ that has a folio of work they’re proud of tells me one important thing - that they give a shit. An invaluable trait in this business.

Here’s some general advice based on the websites I’ve seen and the questions I’ve been asked over the years.

Should I put personal work on my website or just ads?

I remember a young creative coming into the agency years ago and pulling her website up in the boardroom. There wasn’t a lot of work there to show, she was nervous, and you could tell she lacked confidence talking through it. As she was scrolling, I noticed a different looking tile hidden right down the bottom. So, I asked what it was. She sort of dismissed it as ‘oh it’s just like a thing I did with a friend, it’s not real work’. I asked to see it. She then, far more confidently than anything prior, explained that it was a magazine she’d made with a friend. Not a concept, an actual magazine she’d made from scratch, that focused on female creatives. This was the coolest thing on the entire website, and I almost never saw it. So, the answer, is hell yes put personal work on your website. If you’ve come up with an idea and then followed through and made it, and it represents you and how you think and shows that you’re proactively creative, then I would tell the world. That is ‘real work’ to me. In her defence, she did say that someone else had told her to ‘only show real advertising work’. You’ll get different opinions in this business, but as far as I’m concerned, that is absolutely terrible advice. CD’s are hiring a personality and a brain. We’re not hiring ‘ads’. We’re hiring the way you think, and how you execute, so show it.

Should I put spec ads on my website?

Sure, if that’s all you’ve got. And if you’re a junior, it might be. But they better be good. And look good. If you can’t draw or mock stuff up yourself, get someone to. Throw a slab of beer to an artistic friend or someone already in the business to make your ideas translate quickly. There’s this notion that gets thrown around that ‘it’s all about ideas, if the idea is good you can just draw stick figures’, but I’m pretty sure none of the people saying this have ever hired someone based on stick figures. So I’m calling bullshit on that advice. Make your spec ads look something like an ad. If you’re in direct competition with another creative who has good ideas that look better, your stick figures are dead in the water. Some junior creatives now even make a case study video for their spec ideas. You don’t have to go that far, but your competition is. So, keep that in mind.

Should my website have a ‘concept’ itself?

Tricky one, this one. I’ve seen some crazy ass websites over the years. I remember one that was built like a 90s PC desktop, one that was like a comic/graphic novel, it’s impressive if you want to show off that you can code and craft digitally. But, here’s the caveat. If the creative layer you’re putting over your website is prohibitive to viewing the work - don’t. If it actually makes it harder for me to grasp who you are and how you think, it’s just an obstacle. You’re prioritising a ‘nice to have’ over the ‘must have’. But, if it just makes your work and your personality sing, then go to town. It’s another string to your bow.

How many things should I put on there?

There’s no straight answer to this. So I’d say, put as many as you want, but as you start doing better and better work I would argue that less is more. You should be aiming to kill off your existing work with better work, rather than continuously adding to it. And put the good stuff at the front. People are time poor. We might only look at the first 2 or 3 things on your site. I would order your key pieces by both quality and relevancy. It’s better to have fresher work at the front, but if you’ve got an older idea that’s an absolute banger that people immediately recognise, I’d still keep it at the top of the batting order. You’ll get different advice on that, but this is just me. Timeless ideas are just that.

What are some other tips that you can think of off the top of your head as you write this off the cuff blog post?

  • Keep your site updated. You won’t always, because we live busy lives, but try to make it a practice. When I put a piece of work out, I included my website as part of the PR run. So I would get all my assets, write the press release, submit the work wherever it was being showcased, and then update my website as part of that process.

  • Include quotes/testimonials/endorsements. It’s a small industry. A lot of CDs all know each other. If you can get a nice, genuine comment from someone you’ve worked with, then include it on your site. It might prompt us to check in and ask about you.

  • Use your bio as an opportunity to not write a corporate e-mail about your achievements, but showcase your personality. Have some fun with it. Be conversational. Be funny. Treat it like a brief, not a chore.

  • If you’re a bit of a multi-disciplinarian, think about how you want to be perceived. I’ve come across some people over the years that do lots of different stuff, they write, they design, they direct, they’re a bit of a jack of all trades. But the end of that idiom is, of course, a ‘master of none’. And that’s often what their website looks like. Tailor one as a copywriter. Tailor one as a filmmaker. Tailor one as a visualiser. Assume the role of the job you’re going for. (You can still include all that other stuff, but if you’re being hired as a copywriter then present yourself as one.)

I’ve tipped over 1,000 words which is usually where I draw the line on these posts, so I’ll stop here. If anyone has any other questions, let me know, and I’ll try to answer them via here or on LinkedIn.

Hopefully this helps someone out there.

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