I was just reading the blog post by Tom Kulhmann on building one’s portfolio. It made me reflect not so much on the need to develop one’s skills and experience as a freelancer, which is a given, but rather the need to document this ongoing process.
Yes the portfolio is useful when talking with potential new clients, but more to the point with time short and the huge need for continuous learning, a more structured approach will make this more effective. It is pretty much a given that more structured approach is code words for better documented.
It’s like business reports. A large part of why we are forced to writing reports is that it forces us to clarify our thinking about a subject. Often half way through writing a report one stops and thinks, but maybe I should have done X instead of Y. The documenting of the project makes us exercise rigour.
Many many years ago when I first started my career as a mechanical engineer I worked with a very experienced engineer who taught me the value of thoroughly documenting projects as we went. This was not overly formal, but over time the benefits in keeping a written record of the thread of logic in complex projects made it easy to backtrack to specific points. The process of writing it down kept one continually reassessing the direction. All in all the small amount of extra time on an ongoing basis was well worth it.
Over the years as I have moved into eLearning and web development although we still document what we do, the electronic nature of things has meant I tend to document just what we plan to do or what we have done rather than why it was done. Writing this makes me think I should spend more time recording the why.
So what has this got to do with keeping a portfolio I hear you ask?
Well Tom’s post made me think I need to record the personal and business progress in much the same way that one would document a project. I should record the learning, the conclusions, the experience, the logic of what we are doing.
As a freelancer nobody pays us for our learning and development time. This means it is our own rigour that ensures we spend the time in the best way possible for our own skill development.
By putting some more rigour in this I will make my personal development time more productive. This should then be to the benefit of our clients as well as myself.
One of the ways I’ll do this is by writing more blog posts about the process.