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5 Lessons I Learned Building My Portfolio

#becomeanidol #careerpivot #design #elearning #idolcourses #instructionaldesign #instructionaldesigner #learnerexperiencedesign #portfolio #teachers Aug 13, 2020

● Are you a perfectionist?

● Are you struggling to build your first portfolio?

● Do you feel like you're spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere?

STOP! Right where you are. Save yourself wasted time and effort by learning from my mistakes.

Here are some revelations I had while working on my portfolio:

Set realistic expectations for what your portfolio should look like based on your current abilities and experience as an instructional designer. If you are new to the field, aim to demonstrate your proficiency and understanding, instead of skill and expertise.

While the portfolios of experts and leading industry practitioners are great sources of inspiration, your portfolio will likely not look like theirs. As a novice, you do not have the experience to create a portfolio equivalent to the portfolios that took others years and sometimes a decade-plus to work up to.

Here are some examples of what your first portfolio website might look like:

Christine Prince

Bonnie Lou Davis

Jessie Mathisen

Thao Nguyen


Stay focused on your goal of creating instructional design samples to show potential employers & clients. While having a well put together website to display your portfolio samples is certainly important, it is a secondary priority. The purpose of your portfolio is to get hired to do instructional design work, not to design websites.

If you a perfectionist who tends to get stuck in a loop of making endless improvements, consider finding a website builder with limited customization like Google Sites or Weebly. Avoid wasting time trying to design the perfect website and see how you can complete your portfolio in just 45 days.


Let your storyboards, eLearning examples, and other portfolio content dictate the layout of your portfolio website. Having work samples prepared before you start building your website tends to make the process go faster and smoother.

If you have a limited amount of samples, consider doing a case study approach. Leave out extra sections like testimonials and awards if you do not have any.

If you are starting from scratch, Kristi Oliva of IDOL courses Academy explains how to build a portfolio even with no experience. Keep in mind that you do NOT need to create an entire course to effectively demonstrate your abilities. Your goal is to create a minimum viable product to show what you can do. Ant Pugh, an eLearning freelancer, suggests using the 3-by-3 technique for building eLearning samples.


Make your content easy to find and understand. Who you are and what you do should be apparent within the first few seconds of looking at your website. How to get in contact with you should also be apparent for potential employers and clients no matter which page of your website they are on.

Make your portfolio website easy to navigate to increase the chances that people viewing your portfolio will see all of your work. The fewer clicks it takes to get to examples of your work, the better. Consider putting your portfolio on the homepage of your website. Here are some great examples of portfolio-first websites:

Liz Melendez

Erika Rellstab

In addition, make sure to use headers, images & graphics, and spacing to break up your content into digestible chunks of information.


A portfolio is a brief snapshot of your best work at a certain point in time. Building your portfolio is an iterative process that will never be truly finished because it evolves with you. (See why IDOL courses Academy member Tabatha Dragonberry recommends WordPress. ) Once you have at least one piece of high-quality, presentable work, push the publish button, and then keep creating!