You’re probably like me and you’d love to do some work for Nike, but you don’t actually have a contact there. Or maybe you want to do logos for race car drivers, but you don’t actually know any race car drivers. It’s ok. Make some projects up and do the project anyway!
Here’s why, (and this is a kind of a secret, so don’t tell): nobody cares.
When you first start off your career, you think you have to do a bunch of client work to fill your portfolio. This is partially true.
You end up doing free work for terrible clients, and you rob yourself. It robs you in too many ways for me to elaborate on here in this blog, but ultimately you end up with a bunch of ok-ish work. Your portfolio is now full, and you’re satisfied, but it’s probably full of work that isn’t likely to impress anybody.
It’s not about real or fake; it’s about great.
What do you think is more impressive: A real logo and business card, that you did for free (or next to free) for your uncle’s landscaping company? Or a fake concept ad, that you also did for free, for the latest pair of Nikes?
Seems like a no brainer to me, but I’m also a bit partial to Nike.
Not only is it fulfilling to do your own work just for fun, but it also looks great in your portfolio. You might be surprised by that.
You say, what? How can I have fake work in my book? Won’t a client or employer think I’m an idiot, a phony?
Not at all.
To be honest, it’s not an issue of authenticity because your authenticity comes from the love and attention you put into the project. It’s not about real or fake; it’s about great. And if they do ask, you tell them the honest truth. “I really like this company, so I did some work for them just because I’m passionate about growing my craft.”
It shows that you love this stuff enough to do it for free. In your spare time. Just to do it. It shows that you’re confident enough about your craft to make really lofty goals.
In my experience, that looks good to everyone. Some of the best work I’ve ever done is stuff that nobody asked me to do, and I didn’t get paid for it. Which brings me to the next thing I wish I knew when I first started: don’t work for free!
If you don’t believe me, just cruise the streets of Dribbble for a little while. You’ll see tons of concepts that people made just for fun and even more concepts that clients didn’t choose, but the designers still wanted to share them with the world.