How do I find the first portfolio projects?



Would love to hear your opinions & suggestions please!

Compiling my first UX portfolio - what would be a good way to find my first two or three projects? I want to grow my confidence and learn the process so I can apply for actual paid jobs - what would you recommend? What worked for you to get started?

Background: I’m a mid-senior graphic designer (freelance) moving into UX, with a UX and coding bootcamp courses under my belt. Love the UX design process of investigating what works for the user!

Creating a Killer Portfolio
A career change

Check out this post for some great advice on building a UX portfolio (including finding projects).


Hi @maxplathan OK I love this question, because the answer is – use exactly the same process as applying for paid work. I know you probably didn’t want to hear that :slight_smile:

I recommend reaching out to online businesses in your area - ones that you have identified that “may” need your services.

As all potential relationships do - it needs handling with care. Building a relationship with a “cold” lead, is all about consistently adding value to that particular person over time.

Here are 3 ways you could get on their radar the smart way:

  • Sign up for company email news - if they have any. Engage in conversations they are having online.
  • Thank them for sharing a piece of information that you have used to get results (show him the results). Write a blog post about them and how they have inspired your work.
  • Share their work, and tell your audience why they should check it out.


Offer FREE work (perhaps a usability test that you could share the findings of with them) but remember you have limited time so you need to be quite selective about who you offer free work to and what you offer them.

Let me know how it goes, would love to hear more on how you applied the above and any successes you may have had.

Thanks! Louise


Thanks, @HAWK ! That article is really interesting, lots of good pointers there. I just love the generous spirit of this community!


@Louise - you’re a star! I can’t imagine why that idea didn’t enter my head earlier! :laughing:

It’s a confidence issue as much as anything - I just want to find those three portfolio pieces so I feel competent enough to apply for actual roles :wink:


Louise IS a star :slight_smile:

After you have some portfolio pieces, make sure you tell a compelling story about how each project came together. Don’t just show them. Employers/clients want to know how you think and what your process is. UX is all about the story - how did you go from abstract idea to concrete product and what were the results? Hope that helps and good luck!


@maryshaw, that’s great advice, thank you!

Just wondering - how would I best structure the story? How much detail should I go into? Currently I’m doing something like:

starting point - brief - research process - research results - old website design - my new design - results

How many pages (A4 PDF) would you ideally like to see for a project like this? I know that’s a bit of a “How long is a piece of string?” question, but any guidance on the level of detail would be helpful.

Thank you again for your replies, everyone :smile:


@maxplathan, my pleasure!

[quote=“maxplathan, post:7, topic:2252”]
starting point - brief - research process - research results - old website design - my new design - results
[/quote] This is a good framework, but might benefit from a few tweaks.

Unlike traditional graphic design, I don’t “work to a brief” as a UX designer. Rather, I collaborate with clients and teammates to identify user pains and problems and agree on a proposed hypothesis/solution. The output of this activity sometimes results in a one-page project brief to get everyone on the same page, but it depends on the client.

I also don’t think it’s necessary to show the old website design unless the result is a drastic, easily-recognizable improvement.

Regarding the story, keep it short and sweet. I like to intro each slide with a short paragraph (3 sentences max) describing the problem, how we came up with the proposed solution, and the results. I realize that keeping it short with that much info is a challenge, but force yourself to be as specific and succinct as possible. If someone is viewing your portfolio online without you there to walk them through it, they will need as much context as you can give them.

I can’t really tell you how many pages it should be. The most important aspect is clarity of communication. People will keep reading if the material is focused, engaging and they think you can help them. Also, getting feedback from friends/colleagues before you send your portfolio off into the wild will also help you gauge the appropriate length. Hope that helps!


This is all great advice. One of the first websites I designed was for my soccer club - this had a number of advantages in that it was a no-pressure situation, it had clear functional needs, I could experiment to my heart’s content and it mattered to a small group of people who could give me immediate and ongoing feedback.

So while I agree with Louise’s suggestion, broadening it to include local community groups is worth considering. I also agree with maryshaw about writing up your projects. I do this usually by writing a blog post where I explain the context, what techniques I used, any quirky points or things I learned and any software that was useful. I do this for all my projects, pro bono and paid.

I’ve been freelance for over 20 years and have built more than 200 websites, but I still do pro bono projects for local community groups like scouts, soccer and surf clubs. I recommend it.


Thanks Hawk!