As a visual communicator you may have said on occasion that your work speaks for itself. Certainly when it comes to the average creative’s website, that notion prevails. Some designers, illustrators, and photographers use platforms like Behance as their only online portfolio—which lacks options for adding additional commentary to your portfolio.
But presenting just the final visual product of your creative process, as a stand alone representation of your work, leaves volumes unsaid. You lose the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition by highlighting your thought process and conceptual expertise. Not only that, you sacrifice the potential discovery of your work through online searches, since a rectangular jpeg is next to invisible to a Google search. When it comes to discoverability, you need to add words.
“But I’m an Artist, Not a Writer”
Aside from those creative professionals who happen to be writers, visual creatives often don’t feel as competent in their writing as they do about their visual work. But that’s a lame excuse. If you can talk about your work, you can write about it. And you do talk about your work. Just think of the many conversations you’ve had with clients as you work through the creative process, and explain your solutions.
You have detailed thought processes as you work through ideas and concepts, as you zero in on a target solution. And while some of those thoughts lay beneath the surface of your creative consciousness, others are deliberate and thoughtful choices. Many of which you end up having to communicate to your clients.
All it takes to write about your work is a mental review of that process, and a little time to put it down into words. You can do this, and you need to. The benefits are multitudinous.
Benefits of Writing About Your Creative Work
When you describe your process, and explain how you came to the solutions that you present on your website portfolio, you enable your audience to understand the creative process more deeply. To the non-creative, to your clients, art and creativity can seem magical. And when they think about what you do that way, they might really believe that you really can pull a rabbit out of your hat. And if they just see the big reveal, they may not realize how much work went into the setup. But when you show your secrets, as you walk them through all that goes into the final presentation, they will appreciate all that goes into your work. And thus your high fees will be more concretely justified.
Additionally, when you frame your work using a narrow specialized position, your written descriptions will not only describe the mechanics of what you do, but they’ll reveal your fine-tuned insights of creative problem solving for the specific needs associated with your chosen niche. That kind of insight, and creative application can be highly persuasive to a prospective new client.
Magnification of Search Engine Benefits
Additionally, when you write about your work, rather than merely posting jpegs, you give search engines rich information to absorb, which will lead to traffic that you are currently forfeiting by not adding words to your portfolio. This benefit alone ought to motivate you to write about your work.
But when you add the layer of narrow specialization, this benefit is greatly magnified due to the increased intention of highly nuanced search queries.
You see, if someone types “graphic designer, Boise,” into Google, and you happen to be a graphic designer in Boise, you might show up in the results—if you’ve managed to build a platform that outperforms all the other designers in Boise. But what is such a person looking for when they type that? They might be looking for a graphic designer, and if they happen upon you that way, they could turn into a lead. But alternatively, they might be another designer sizing up the competition, or a student looking for an internship, or a service looking to identify prospects of their own. The more general the search term, the less intention it has. But the more specific and nuanced a search term, the higher its intention—and the more powerful the results when someone finds exactly what they were looking for.
For example, suppose you’ve done trade show graphics for an aeronautical manufacturer. And you wrote up a description of that work along with the pictures of the display you produced. If anyone ever searched for “aeronautical trade show graphic design,” they would almost certainly find your page.
Now you might object that hardly anyone would search for such a specific thing. And you’re right, not many would. But this is a benefit to you, because these rare, specific, and nuanced search terms, while infrequent, will always find their target. And so while your annotated portfolio pages, individually, may not necessarily generate high levels of traffic, the traffic they do generate will have a far greater impact than the more frequent generic visits to your site’s homepage.
By writing about your creative process as you solve very specific problems, you establish your relevancy to any queries that use terms related to the details of your projects. And when these portfolio pages are found by someone with those exact needs, their intention is met by your experience, and the chances of turning these prospects into clients is very high.
For all these reasons you need to devote a little time when you wrap up a project to write a thoughtful description of your work to accompany the presentation of your work online.
Your work does not speak for itself, but when you give it a voice, it will speak loudly.