Building a portfolio that wins you the work you want

Building a portfolio that wins you the work you want

Does your portfolio attract the right kind of clients? Is your portfolio reflective of your current skill set, or is it outdated? These are questions I want you to consider as you read today's guest post by Hannah.

Hannah is part of Ditto, a creative design and branding agency based here in the UK, and her and the Ditto team have pah-lenty of experience in building a portfolio that attracts the right clients with the right budget. Read on to learn how they created such a successful, money-making, client-getting portfolio!

Nesha xo



If there’s one thing that’s made winning business immeasurably easier for our branding agency, it’s been developing a portfolio that plays to our strengths and showcases our signature style.

People come to us at Ditto knowing exactly what to expect, and are much, much easier to convert into paying clients since they’ve seen a portfolio full of work that they already love. It gets them excited to work with us and fills them with confidence, overcoming much of the decision-halting anxiety that often plays a part when shopping for a designer (will they understand me? What if they show me something that I don’t like?).

It wasn’t always this way.

Around three years ago, we were a fairly generic design agency that undertook pretty much any work from anybody. We did branding projects, sure – but we’d also do plenty of one-off projects with tiny profit margins. Most of our clients were super-local; we’d design business cards, flyers – even bus timetables. We made money, but business was frustrating and getting clients on board felt like wading through treacle. Uphill. In a snowstorm.

How to create a brand board

Designers - learn why you should be creating brand boards for your clients and why. Just click on this pin to find out more! #Designers #Freelance #Business #Streamlining & Automating #Design #Branding

After spending the last few months working on my course, Organize & Automate, and recording lessons to help designers automate their design process, I thought I'd share a snippet from the course! So here it is.

Let's dive into brand boards and why you should be creating them for your clients- and how!

A brand board is an at-a-glance document containing all your brand elements- from your main logo to your color palette. You may have seen them floating around Pinterest but not understood what they were. Or, if you're a designer, you may want to start creating brand boards but you don't know where to start. 

Let's start with why you should create brand boards. 

Brand boards show the client every element of their visual brand- all together in one neat document. They're important because they help convey a brand’s values, attributes and personality in one glance.

When you’ve designed blog graphics, prints or anything else for your business (or for your clients), its helpful to look at the brand board and check that what you’ve designed is in line with the colours, fonts, graphics and overall identity that is on the board.

That isn't the only reason brand boards are important though. If you're a designer like me, have you ever thought about what you're going to do if one of your clients comes back to you for work and you're not available?

You'll need to refer them to another designer. If you made a style guide for them, their new designer will be able to use that to expand on their branding without ruining all the hard work you put in to make it look so damn gorgeous in the first place. 

Clients benefit from brand boards because they can easily find their color codes and font names on them.

Would you be a very happy client if you went away from the project with lovely branding, but no idea what fonts and colours were used? No idea how what to use to create additional brand materials in the future? I wouldn't. 

Brand boards are totally different to style guides, so try not to confuse the two. 

Style guides include instruction on how to use your brand elements, such as how much spacing a logo should have around it, or what backgrounds your logo can and can’t be used on… I prefer to think of style guides as identity guidelines. They can be pretty complex, but brand boards are simple boards that only include your brand elements — not instructions on how and where to use things.

(Psst! I talk all about creating style guides, moodboards and other time-saving templates in my course, Organize & Automate.)


Download your free Photoshop brand board template!

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Here's what I include in my brand boards:

1. Main logo

The main logo is used on the client's website, on their stationery and usually on PDFs etc.

2. Logo variation

This is another version of the main logo, with a slight difference. It could be a vertical version, it could have a shape around it, it could be in another color, or it could be textured...

It's a good idea to offer your clients a logo variation because you never know when they might fancy changing things up. Clients don't want a basic brand- they want a brand that's cohesive, but still interesting! 

3. Sub mark

A sub mark is another element that is pulled from the main logo. It's usually smaller than the main logo, and is often used as a favicon or profile picture.

Sub marks are especially helpful to brands with long business names because they provide a simple alternative to their main logo. Sub marks also make great watermarks because they're usually in a circular shape and fit nicely in the corners of photos. 

4. Main color palette

I create a main color palette that consists of 5 colors. These colors reinforce the 'vibe' of the brand.

For example, a feminine brand may choose pastel colors to help add to their romantic brand vibe, and a corporate agency may choose dark or bold colors to give off a feeling of power. 

On your client's brand board, make sure you include the hex codes for their colours. If you want to be even more helpful, you can provide the RGB, CMYK and Pantone values!

5. Supporting palette

A supporting colour palette is a set of extra colours that compliment the main colour palette nicely. These colors can be used in blog post graphics, social media posts and other brand graphics to inject more variety while still remaining cohesive. 

6. Supporting pattern

A pattern is a nice way to add to the aesthetic of your brand. For example, a feminine brand could strengthen their girly vibe with a polka dot pattern! Patterns are usually used on print design, social media designs and PDF designs. 

7. Fonts

Fonts have to be chosen very carefully when creating a visual identity for a client. Just like a color palette, fonts can make or break the brand vibe you're trying to give off.

Script fonts are often used for feminine brands, whilst chunky sans serif fonts could be used for modern brands. Whatever the font, make sure you include all font names and their uses in your client's brand boards. Tell your client which fonts should be used for paragraph text and headers. 

These elements make up a visual identity, but there's also so much more you can add! Once you have the basics in place, you can create social media branding, PDFs, print designs, course designs and more.

Brand boards contain the very core of your client's brand identity. They guide every visual decision your client will make, so make sure you include one in your client's final files. 

Do you have a brand board of your own? If you're a designer, what is your favorite part of the design process? Leave a comment and let me know!

Download your free Photoshop brand board template!

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9 Fruity Color Combinations

When a client tells me their priority is to show tons of personality in their design, I get all excited because it means they don't want full fonts or colors! It's amazing how creative you can get with color combinations, and how much personality various combinations can add to a design. I've used the first two color combinations here and loved them. I really hope I get chance to try out the mustard and pink combo one day! (Use the color picker browser add-on to get the color codes.)

Related post: 5 feminine Google Font combinations 

5 feminine google font combinations

5 feminine google font combinations by

Whether you're a designer like me, or anything from a  blogger to a small business owner, we all sometimes struggle when pairing fonts. That's why I quickly put these fonts together today! They're all available on Google Fonts to use in your blog design or website. If you're not sure how to use Google Fonts, feel totally free leave me a comment! Enjoy!

Designers - Learn the exact steps you should include in your brand + web design process with this free cheatsheet!

Just enter your details below and we'll send it straight to your inbox.


How to create a moodboard for your Brand Or Web Design clients

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Creating moodboards is an essential part of my process as a brand and website designer, and it's also super fun! But a lot of new freelance designers struggle to understand why moodboarding is so vital to the brand and website design process.

Maybe the studio you work for has never incorporated moodboards into their design process?

Maybe you struggle to see how pretty photos of homeware and a few splashes of colour can truly impact your design projects?

Maybe you think moodboarding is a waste of time?

Trust me, moodboarding is essential to your brand and website design process and in today's post, I'm going to show you why + how to create your moodboards!

Why create moodboards for your design clients?

The purpose of a moodboard is to capture your client's desired website + brand style in one glance. The moodboard will help you achieve three things:

  • It establishes a colour palette.
  • It ensures you and your client are both on the same page regarding the aesthetic they're looking for and the vibe they want their brand to give.
  • Instead of continually having to open up their Pinterest board, you can simply open up their moodboard in Photoshop or Illustrator and keep it in view while designing. This helps you to stay on-brand with everything you design. 

Once you have this moodboard, you can confidently move on to designing because you fully understand what style, vibe and colours your clients are looking for.

Why create a moodboard if your client has already created a Pinterest board?

If you're in my course, Organize & Automate, you may already be getting your clients to create a secret Pinterest board filled with design inspiration.

If so, you may be thinking: Why do I need to also create a moodboard?

Here's why: 

Yes, a Pinterest board of design inspiration is the perfect start to your design projects because it gives you a window into your client's aesthetic and wants. But clients can be very complex. They may pin images that are feminine and images that are modern and bold. 

When they do this, how do you know which style you should pursue for their brand? Feminine? Or modern and bold??

That's where a moodboard comes in. 

You can create two moodboards that depict both styles, and give each moodboard its own colour palette. Then you can ask your client to choose just one moodboard to guide the style and vibe of their project.

Here's a look at my design process and how moodboarding fits into my system.

The Step-By-Step Moodboard Process

01. The client creates a Pinterest board.

After my client books their slot in my schedule, I get them to fill out a questionnaire and create a Pinterest board filled with design inspiration.

The  questionnaire will provide me with their goals, purpose, target market and other strategic elements of their business, while the Pinterest board will provide me with a good sense of the design styles they like. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 3.05.17 PM.png

I ask my clients to pin a minimum of 5 logos, 5 photos, 5 patterns, 5 fonts, 5 website designs and 5 color palettes, but they usually go crazy (which I love!) and pin lots more. 

When they're done, I analyze the Pinterest board for patterns. Do they pin a particular colour a lot? A particular font style? Are the photos they pin following the same style?

Looking for patterns helps me see the design style my client truly wants, and stops me from creating designs they don't like.

02. Narrow down the images

As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, sometimes your clients will pin images from a range of different styles. That's why you need to ask your clients to narrow down on their images!

After my clients have completed their Pinterest board, I ask them to leave a comment on the 10 images they love the most. In their comment, they have to say what they love about the image.

This helps me narrow down on the design style they truly want and it helps me see which images I should use in their moodboard.

Psst! Want to learn the EXACT steps you should include in your brand & web design process?
Download my FREE cheatsheet >>

03. Decide how to create the moodboard

There are lots of ways to create your moodboard but just choose one. 

You can use a free online program like Picmonkey.

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Or you can create your moodboard in an Adobe program like Photoshop or Illustrator. As a designer, I prefer Photoshop.

If you prefer Photoshop or Illustrator, you need to create a few moodboard templates you can simply re-use in each project to save time and hassle.

I made 5 FREE moodboard templates for you! Click here to download them.

I also made a quick video tutorial to teach you how to use them in Adobe Photoshop:

04. Create the moodboard

Use the images from your client's Pinterest board to create their moodboard.

If they pinned a variety of styles, create two moodboards depicting the two style they pinned the most. Then ask your client which one they prefer!

If some images don't quite fit with the others in the moodboard, look on Pinterest for similar images that go well with what your client has already chosen.

Important: Try not to include other people's logos and web designs. This can sometimes overly-influence your clients. You may end up with your client asking for a logo that is exactly like the one you included in your moodboard! 

Take a look at the moodboards below. They're great examples!

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05. Send the moodboard to the client

When you've completed your moodboard/s, share them with your client! I like to use a project management tool like Asana to communicate with my clients, so I share the moodboards and all other files through that. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 3.40.53 PM.png

If you don't use a project management tool, send it over email, Dropbox or Google Drive!

Related Post: 5 Reasons Why You Should Use A Project Management Tool

06. Revise The Moodboard

I like to offer one revision round for the moodboard. My clients message me through Asana with their thoughts and feedback about the moodboard, then I make changes based on their feedback!

It's important to emphasize to your clients that the colours in the moodboard can be altered during the design process; they aren't stuck with the moodboard colours from that stage onward. A moodboard is simply a foundation for the colours and brand style. You won't make huge changes to the colours and style as you move forward, but you'll probably make small changes. That's just the evolution of good design!