Private then Public?
There are solid reasons for making a portfolio private:
- It’s your first time trying a new skill or tool, and you are not sure how it will come out compared to the professionals who have used the tool for a long time.
- You want to bounce your portfolio ideas off others and refine the piece.
- You have chosen a subject that makes sense to a specialized line of business.
Most of us start with private portfolio pieces, and we slowly move toward making them public.
My first few portfolio pieces were private. I produced sample courses in a PDF to showcase my writing skills. I created a 10-minute course to teach in a panel interview by extracting content from longer courses. These examples were good practice. I had to choose a subject that was understood by a specific audience, and I was forced to adapt my work to fit a much shorter format.
Private publishing is often available in many hosted formats. Let’s take the example of a video. YouTube gives you the ability to privately publish videos. You can test out your ideas and see how they look, e-mail the link to your friends for review, or show it to your family or significant other. You can keep working on it. When you are happy with your final video, then you can publish it for the public.
I do the same thing with my blog. I can draft it privately, and look at it for a day or two until I’m ready to publish it. This gives me flexibility in changing and fine tuning the content.
Collaboration tools like Google Docs or DropBox can be helpful. You can create documents, and invite others to share your work. You can collaborate by email, phone or video easily.
As you gain confidence with private portfolio pieces, the next step is to share with an audience you do not know personally or intimately.
I’m here! Where are all the followers?
It is important to understand that putting your work on a large publishing platform does not necessarily guarantee an instant audience, a following or even honest feedback. Very few people go viral. Understand the nature of each platform.
For example, YouTube is huge and popular. I do publish videos on YouTube, but mainly because I wanted to understand the benefits, limitations and techniques used on that publishing platform. The number of topics and publishers on YouTube is so vast. It didn’t take me long to realize my videos were simply a drop in an ocean of information. I have a hard time finding experts and their content on YouTube directly; it is just too big.
To me, YouTube is a good a video hosting and publishing platform, but not where viewers find me. I still have to drive viewers to my videos through my blog, social media or direct emails to those who are close to me.
SlideShare.net has turned out to be a much more rewarding, controlled publishing platform for portfolio pieces. SlideShare attracts many business people and educators. It is easy for me to find experts and examples on SlideShare, and it is easy for people to find me.
As you look at each platform, get to know the tools and think ahead to the end result. If you are going to publish your work on X platform, then what is the ultimate end to that publishing? What keywords would you use? How do you categorize the information so it can be found? Who are you looking for in that community? Who else shares with your intended audience?
Being reciprocal is the nature of many platforms. This is something WordPress does well. When I started publishing my blog on WordPress, it was helpful to be in a community dedicated to blogging. I gained a small following from other bloggers on WordPress.
Every single time I picked up a WordPress follower, I could immediately check out their personal blogs. In most cases, the blogger had found me through the keywords and categories from my posts that matched their content. So then I started actively searching for other blogs that discussed the same things I did. Once I found the like-minded bloggers, by following them, they followed me. Some bloggers compile content from others; I was pleased to be picked up in a few of these compilation posts.
Commenting is a bit of an issue when you publish online for the public. We have all seen what happens in Twitter when people start going at each other. People are often more rude online than they would ever be in person. Letting the public go at your work with no filters may not be a good idea if you plan to use your blog as a showcase for a potential job.
Most blogs or hosting sites offer moderated commenting, where you may review comments before they are posted. Most hosting sites, like YouTube, allow you to turn off commenting completely.
I noticed in WordPress, a certain percentage of comments may arrive because others are interested in advertising their business on your blog. Fortunately, WordPress gives me tools to help with these comments. I highly recommend moderating or eliminating comments on portfolio pieces.
One of the easy ways to accomplish going public is to work within an established community that practices sharing like a LinkedIn group.
LinkedIn groups of your peers are a powerful place to share information. In LinkedIn, we connect with peers and coworkers for the purpose of business networking. Within LinkedIn, groups are established for discussion and sharing of information. In some groups based around a tool, we often open up discussions around examples or problems.
Start by observing each group, reading what ground rules must be observed, and the nature of the posts and discussions.
Once you find a group compatible with your portfolio topics, you can bring in a piece that solves a common problem for the group or you can open up a discussion around problems you are solving for your piece. In the dialogue with your peers, you are likely to gain new insights. Don’t forget to look at their discussions and posts too. If someone shows interest in you, then you should do the same.
The Portland Connect Example
Some LinkedIn groups go live and take the whole selling you to a new level.
When I was job hunting, I found a Portland area LinkedIn group designed for business people with an in-person networking element. The group existed online for discussions and sharing for individuals and businesses seeking work.
Once a month, the group met live on a weekday morning. The format was simple; we placed cards in a bowl as we entered. Then we went around the room with 35-50 people, each one of us giving a quick 1 min. elevator speech about what we had to offer an employer or a customer. A name was drawn from the bowl, and the winner was invited to speak for a full 10 minutes on their pitch with the group prompting them with questions if needed. The meeting ended with an open networking session, where people walked around and chatted further with those they were interested in meeting based on the elevator speeches. At this point, people exchanged cards, and they could take their common interests to a new level at a later time through coffee meetings, emails or online collaboration.
This is where I met Patrick, the graphic artist who collaborated with me on a portfolio piece, as well as Ashley, a local stylist, and Rachel, an attorney with a technical writing background. Every one of my conversations with Patrick, Ashley and Rachel turned out to be beneficial for the both of us. Groups like Portland Connect work. Look for them.