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Three panelists at the front of the room, presenting a Portfolio Practice workshop.

Portfolio Practice

Written by Afra Al Majed, Careers & Employability
Published date 06 January 2020

Want to know more about building a portfolio as a creative? We’re doing a throwback to our Portfolio Practice workshop at Creative Start-Up Day, where we learnt all about how to balance all of your projects.

The Portfolio practice talk featured two guests, Halime Özdemir, a visual arts director and producer, and Shannon Bono, an art curator and cultural writer.

For those who don’t know what portfolio practice is, our chair Sophie Risner from Arts SU described it as “simply being you.” Portfolio practice basically means doing a few different things to earn a living.

An illustration featuring three speakers on a panel with a vibrant blue background.
Illustration by UAL student Afra Al Majed.

Portfolio practice can be tricky due to how diverse the work can be but Halime says, “It’s a way of staying relevant and keeping up with the times.” The way creative people work has evolved because of the time and rate in which society processes information.

We usually dismiss how fast-paced and reactive the creative industry is. We often forget that in order to stay in this industry, we need to keep learning. Artists, producers, and creators are expected to be able to balance their tasks and have a variety of skills to help them stay ahead of the game. You’ll have to know how to schedule, create invitations for events, manage mailing lists, how to get in contact with press, etc.

Being a creator that takes on most of the responsibility is described as a poor man's orchestra, doing everything in your process. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, as it brings with it creative freedom and an opportunity to lead.

Though, with great opportunities comes the temptation to say yes to everything. There is a limit to how much you can do and you must be mindful to not exploit yourself. As freelancers, we come to learn how to maintain our image and stay authentic, as it’s not always about who you know.

You can build your aesthetic and portfolio by working on projects that entertain your ideologies and the impact you want to make with your work. In such cases, having the creative licensing in projects can be stressful, especially when you’re afraid of dropping the ball when under pressure. Halime and Shannon both agreed that to avoid this, you need to be able to balance your workload and schedule what needs to be done. “Having my practice which I am so passionate about helps me balance things out. It’s like my therapy,” says Shannon.

For those who aren’t experienced in getting opportunities, you need to learn how to pitch and create realistic budgets for projects. Opportunities facilitate your hunger to get chances to get your work out there. Pitching helps you network and is a happy mix of reaching out to companies and brands and having them in return reach out to you. Being able to get out of your comfort zone allows you to keep learning and get braver with each pitch you make. Creating work methodologies is all about trying to network and grow your contacts.

Pitching can also be collaborating and approaching other creatives. “I just started emailing them and messaging them,” says Halime. The worst thing that can happen is getting ignored, so it's better to keep trying and work out of your comfort zone to contact people and get your art work out there. A great way to understand why you want a one-to-one with certain people is to think of what you would want to hear from them. Ask them for advice – it can catch their attention and get them to meet with you.

So to summarise, the most important three things I took away from the session were a) maintain your visual identity, b) jump out of your comfort zone and c) get involved in everything that interests you!

Written by BA Magazine & Journalism student Afra Al Majed.

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