The thicker the folder, the thicker the applicant

March 19, 2013

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freelance portfolioAs I prepare for an in-person new client meeting this morning, I’m reminded of an old college admissions officer’s saying: “The thicker the folder, the thicker the applicant.”

It’s always tempting to bombard a prospective client (or employer, or college, or girlfriend/boyfriend, etc., etc.) with a mega-compilation of just how wonderful and accomplished you are. But if you’ve ever sat in the recipient’s chair — as a stack of unprioritized samples lands with a thud — you’ll know why that tactic doesn’t work.

Show me only your best samples. Respect my time. Better yet, show me that you did your homework, and that you understand what my business does and how we operate. If a magazine writer’s guideline says to send 3 pdfs or links of published works, don’t send 2 or 4.

All that said, I’m trying an experiment this morning. Over the course of the years, I’ve downsized from a large artist-style portfolio (which unhelpfully dwarfed my smaller samples) to a more compact 9″x12″ version. Today, I’ve loaded my iPad with a couple of key samples and links that can be clicked through and then files sent to the client post-meeting.

Interestingly enough, many of the best meetings I’ve ever had did not include a show-and-tell portion. My rule is to only open my portfolio if asked to do so, or if there’s something specific that will underscore my expertise in some respect.

Otherwise, my time is best spent by asking questions that reveal the client’s pain points and needs — and discussing how I can address them. And if the iPad remains shut, that’s just fine with me.

Photo courtesy of MamPrint.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori March 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

Must be spring-cleaning season, Jake. Cathy Miller just had a post up about cleaning up the office and the writing. I like your approach — clean up the portfolio. :)

Dava March 22, 2013 at 6:24 am

I hope the meeting went well. I much prefer a slimmer, more to-the-point collection of samples, but often find that clients want to be overwhelmed. Just as I always tried to keep my resume to one page, then worked with a group of recruiters and saw them consistently choose candidates who submitted 6-8 page monstrosities. Maybe it would be better to work with the clients smart enough to know that more isn’t always better!

Dr. Freelance March 22, 2013 at 7:06 am

Haha, Lori, it is that time of year. Not to mention the taxes that are in my future this weekend…

Thanks, Dava. Actually, the meeting was mediocre–and the topic of my new post. Yeah, you never know what a client is going to want, so best to be prepared!

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