How to Build an AMAZING Design Portfolio - QC Design School

Starting a career in staging, decorating, or redesign can be a challenge.  Although a professional certification isn’t required in these industries, most homeowners or realtors won’t give you the time of day if you can’t present them with a certification and a beautiful portfolio.

Now I know what you’re thinking… “How in the world am I supposed to build a design portfolio if I can’t get a job yet?”

Hopefully these tips will help!

Stage your own home

Even though you might not have any paying clients right now, nothing’s stopping you from offering design services for free!  Start off with your own home. Have you been dying to get your hands on that basement rec room?  Now’s a great time to start!  Take before & after shots, and document your planning & inspiration for the design as well.  All these pieces will look great in your professional portfolio.
Next, go to your best friend’s house and do the same thing there!  And then visit more friends. And then your family.  The more design experience you gain, the better.

Use knowledge from your home staging course work

If you’re thinking of getting into the design business, odds are you’re planning on taking a home decorating, staging, or professional organizing course.  Many courses, whether in-class or online, will feature hands-on course assignments.  Treat these assignments as professional opportunities.  If you invest all you’ve got into developing your coursework, then you’ll end up with awesome pieces to add to your portfolio.


If your design course includes 1-on-1 feedback from a reputable tutor (ideally a professional in the industry), then you can include quotes of this feedback in your portfolio as well.  Just make sure you have the tutor’s permission before doing so.

Build inspiration boards

An inspiration board can be a quick and inexpensive way to show your creative capabilities and your knowledge of design elements such as color theory.  These can be physical or digital boards where you pair up various product samples according to a specific theme you’ve chosen.

Build inspiration boards around:

  • seasons
  • current trends
  • sport teams
  • popular movies
  • a specific client’s personality

The sky’s the limit!

trendy interior decorating living room

We’ve fallen in love with So much that we’ve partnered up with them to offer our students a 65% lifetime discount on their online services.  SampleBoards offers you a slick interface where you can quickly and easily build a digital inspiration board and either save it for your portfolio or share it with friends, clients, or coworkers at the push of a button!

Feature your DIY masterpieces

In our experience, design enthusiasts have a flair for arts & crafts, which results in a lot of DIY decor and furniture around the house and yard.

Not everything in your portfolio has to be a grand undertaking.  Examples of the coffee table you’ve transformed, or the wall art you created can show prospective clients your creative side and expose a bit of your own personality as well.

Portfolio do’s and don’ts

home staging using a neutral palette

  • Never take credit for someone else’s work.
  • If a project was a joint effort with a colleague or friend, it’s okay to include it in your portfolio, but make sure you indicate which parts were yours. Be specific.
  • Don’t throw just anything into your portfolio. It should only include your very best work. You should be proud of every single piece you present.
  • Spelling or grammar mistakes in your portfolio is a sure fire way to make clients run for the hills. Proofread everything… twice!
  • Keep your portfolio current. You should constantly be removing dated projects and replacing them with more recent ones.
  • Presentation is important. Make sure your portfolio has a clean look and is easy to navigate.
  • Invest a bit of time and create an online portfolio. You can easily find online templates to create a clean & professional online portfolio at very low cost. If this is over your head, consider hiring a hungry local web designer to give you hand!

If this sounds like a lot of work… that’s because it is!  But like anything else, it can also be loads of fun. So what are you waiting for? Grab your paintbrush and your camera and start building your portfolio today!

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