Portfolios and creative applications

How you can present your skills, achievements and goals to potential employers varies between industries.  When applying for a job in the creative industries, your CV will often need to be accompanied by examples of your work in a portfolio or a showreel. Here is some advice on:

Creative CVs

A creative CV usually makes up only part of the application for a job or commission. It is likely that you will be asked for a portfolio or showreel of your work as well.

What you include in a creative CV is essentially the same as a standard CV. If you are sending your CV to a gallery or music producer then only include information that is relevant to your work as an artist, but if you are applying for a job in a creative industry you will still need to show your qualifications, skills and relevant experience.

You may decide to brand or style your CV to showcase your creative talents, or present it in a format that is more suitable for the industry. Whatever you choose, it is always important to make sure that the information is easy to access and read: the content of a creative CV is just as important as the layout and design.

As with any application you should tailor your CV and your portfolio to the job or commission you are applying for.


A portfolio is a collection of your work that showcases your creativity, technical skill and achievements. Writers, designers, musicians and artists will all need to have a portfolio. The earlier your start work on this, the better.

Portfolios may consist of physical pieces of work (for example prints, photographs or paintings), digital or printed collections of your work (for example pdfs of writing samples or photographs of your work) or video or multimedia files (animators, musicians or graphic designers).

You might want to make your portfolio available online to allow employers to easily access examples of your work via a link in your CV.

Creating a portfolio

  • Spend time selecting the pieces of work you include. Impress employers with your best work rather than every single piece you have done.
  • Organise it intelligently and with simplicity in mind.
  • Have you thought about the way it will all flow and work together?
  • What about the practicalities of actually presenting it to someone else?
  • What do you think will they be looking for?
  • Show someone else your work and ask them if it all flows well.

Presenting your portfolio

In some instances you may have the opportunity to present your portfolio directly to an employer, but very often you will be asked to submit it.  If you are invited to present your portfolio to a potential employer or investor, plan carefully.

You won’t always know how much time you will have in advance to go through the portfolio, so try to develop a strategy or plan of action. Be prepared to be flexible on this though.

 Even if your portfolio is available online, make sure that you have a back-up plan in case there is no available internet connection. Take some pieces or printed copies along that you could use if this happens.

Present the most relevant piece of work first. This will show that you have thought about what the employer will be most interested in. If you have the luxury of more time you can show them more.

If your portfolio consists of larger physical items you will need to think about the logistics of getting it to and from the meeting.

  • How are you going to get there: by train, car or bus?
  • How far will you need to carry it from the station or bus stop?
  • How will you bring all your work into the meeting in a professional manner?


A showreel is a must-have for animators, video, film and motion graphic artists, composers and musicians. It is essentially your CV. It aims to give potential employers an overview as well as showing your skills and abilities.

When composing your showreel consider the following points:

  • Do some research about the company you are sending it to and focus on the most relevant examples of your work.
  • Keep it short (around 2 minutes) and to the point. Employers usually know within the first 30 seconds whether they are interested in seeing more of your work.
  • Ask someone whose opinion you trust to review your showreel.
  • Make it available online and as a CD or DVD. Having your showreel online will make it much easier for potential employers to see. You can put a link to it in your CV or covering letter.

Get your portfolio/applications checked

Contact your local careers centre to book an appointment.


Looking for Opportunities in Art and Design (pdf)
This leaflet has information on sources of job vacancies, commissions, residencies, competitions, exhibitions and funding. You'll also find advice on preparing creative applications and portfolios, as well as tips on networking.


Click on the image above to download this guide from FutureRising (pdf)

Creative CVs