To get my portfolio projects done, I apply the classic triangle of project management to make decisions.
Does this sound familiar?
“deliver a quality project that meets the scope within budget and on time”
In truth, there is no perfect project that meets all three sides of the triangle. Murphy’s Law kicks in. Things happen. Something must always be adjusted.
As we begin each portfolio project, it is important to look at which one or two of the three sides are the most rigid and inflexible. These one or two sides are required for the success of the project. The remaining side(s) may be adjusted throughout the project.
For example, I have produced many client-facing courses that were a critical component of a larger project.
In this work, most of us are familiar with time restrictions:
“deliver the course by X date”
We know about limited budgets and resources:
“Kathy can give you advice and work with you for an hour or two next week.”
“Dave can help you with the publishing.”
“No, we don’t have budget for X tools.”
“If you need more help, let me know.”
What if Kathy, Dave and that other help or that tool doesn’t come through?
Sometimes we change our goal to be:
“deliver a quality project within budget and on time by working weekends and evenings”
Or we simply adjust the scope or quality of our presentation to fit the limited time and budget. Our goal then becomes:
“deliver a quality an adequate project within budget and on time”
Those high pressure client-facing projects are common in our line of work as instructional designers. Everyone is paid, and many times our clients do not know we cut the scope or quality. However, from an instructional design standpoint, most of us are not happy about the quality or the learning experience.
A portfolio project is a different mindset. Scope or quality is important in a portfolio project; it’s your first impression. Your portfolio project is not a one-time event that everyone forgets in a month. It is something we want to have longevity. We hope work done today can be used a few years from now.
So make quality your top priority for your portfolio project. Then plan a budget for time and money, and see what kind of scope and quality fit your idea. For a portfolio project, our goal may be:
“deliver a quality project that meets the scope within 25% of budget and within 25% of estimated time”
Portfolio work is done on your own time. It can take you a few weeks to build a project you are proud to show off. This is why we should plan time to build our portfolios while employed. No one delivers a quality portfolio piece on demand in a couple of hours.
Money for our portfolio comes from our own pockets. Set a budget for each portfolio project, and then work within that budget. If needed for quality, be prepared to spend a little more.
With portfolio projects, the scope is very important.
Let’s say you give yourself a challenge to do a project in two weeks, 20 hours total, 10 per week. You are willing to spend $100. Now, how can you choose a project that fits that budget and timeline, but still has the quality you want?
Look carefully at the scope. Maybe instead of making a 15-minute course, you create a 5-minute course? Instead of writing 3,000 words, you write a concise clear 1,000?
Whatever your choice for your portfolio project, think small scope and high quality for a winning combination. Grab someone’s attention in 1 to 5 minutes. Brevity is in. Be concise and clear in your example with respect for the viewer’s time. It will help you meet your time and budget goals as well.