You need to write case studies
When you're putting your portfolio together, it's easy to put all of your images on to one page, title it “Portfolio” and call it done.
I've been guilty of doing this too. The downside is that this doesn't include anything like what you did or who you did it for. All it does is look nice.
But you need to dive in deeper. It's not only important to look nice, but our work needs context.
You need a case study.
We don't know from looking at final images of a project of what happened before, during, or after the project. Case studies are a great way to give insight into your process and what you did.
These two elements are crucial to a good case study.
It's also good to know what kind of challenges you overcame during the project. Talk about challenges that were expected and ones that popped up. What kind of goals did you set with the client?
Show your work, too. Yes, nice mockups of the final product are great. But people love seeing the concepts too. It shows your process and how you arrived to the final solution. People enjoy seeing the sketches and brainstorming. It's an easy way to add eye candy!
Last, but most important, it's good to know how you solved your clients problem. This is key. When a client comes to a designer, they're looking to solve a problem they have that your expertise falls into. We know that it's typically tied to gaining more clients, making more revenue, increasing sales, or making conversions.
What's great about case studies, is that it allows you to deep dive into a project and talk about the impact it made on your client's business. This helps you out! If you ever need to justify your rates to someone, this does just that. If you need to raise your rates, it helps you out there, too.
It also shows that you have business chops to go along with your creative talent.
Having worked with clients over the years, I know this is a very big thing. Clients understand business. They don't always understand design. Some of the best designers that I've worked with know how to intertwine the two and make the client understand how design impacts business.
Your case study doesn't need to be a 10,000 word epic. I know what I'm describing above sounds like a lot. But most effective ones can be in the 500-1,000 word range. It depends on how big the project was and how involved you were with it. You don't need to go into insane detail—most people won't care that much. Strike a good balance between telling your story and being brief.
If you're in a position to do so, I highly recommend working with a copywriter. Effectively what you're crafting is sales copy. It's good to make sure that it sounds good and it sounds professional. Your case study should have an appropriate voice or tone. I know it's can be a big cost for some, but it is worth it. If you're not able to work with a copywriter, there are a variety of tools online that can help edit your copy and make you sound like a superstar to your next client.