March 9, 2017

How to Write a Portfolio Narrative That Outshines Your Competition

As you sit down and think about how to write a portfolio narrative or short description of the latest project that you’ll be featuring in your portfolio, take a moment to think about this opportunity.

If a prospective client read your narrative, what information would you want them to walk away with?

Most architectural or design firms put a lot of emphasis on including beautiful photos in their portfolio examples, and you should, too. That’s a good start, but it’s not enough.

Where most companies drop the ball is with the portfolio narrative that goes along with the photos.

It’s usually one or two big paragraphs full of industry jargon that amounts to a bland review of how long the project took, the resulting architectural style of the building, etc.

Rarely does a firm highlight their specific areas of expertise and how they used them to solve their clients’ problems. This is where you can outshine your competition!

Below, we’ll show you exactly how to write a portfolio narrative that excites your prospects, rather than bores them.


Know Your Audience

how to write a portfolio
Photo Source: JLA Architects

Who are your typical clients? How much expertise do they have in the architecture realm? The vocabulary you use and your tone should be tailored to appeal to your clients.

Don’t use industry jargon if prospective clients won’t understand it. Your writing should be clear and concise.

Think about your buyer personas. Not sure what a buyer persona is? It’s a fictional version of the type of person that you serve, complete with their job title, income, hobbies, problems and (most importantly), your company’s role in solving their problems.

Even if your firm doesn’t have buyer personas, you can probably come up with one on the spot. Think about your typical client. How much money are they looking to spend? What problems do they usually come to you to solve?

For example, if clients come to you because of your expertise in sustainable living, then you should highlight your creative use of solar panels, underground rooms, etc. in your portfolio narratives.


Include an Overview

Make it easy for prospects to quickly find useful statistics about each of your projects. At the start of each portfolio narrative, include a short list with:

  • The size of the building.
  • The location of the building.
  • The market(s) you served.
  • One or two sentences detailing the solutions that you provided to the client.

You might be tempted to skip the part where you explain the solutions that you provided to the client, but please don’t do that.

That short explanation makes it immediately clear how you delivered value on this project. It also allows you to highlight one or two specific areas of expertise.

Let’s say you redesigned a hospital emergency department. You might include this sentence in your overview:

Our goal was to increase the overall capacity of X Hospital’s Emergency Department while allowing the department to remain operational through the renovations. Our design increased patient privacy, expanded the capacity of the department by Y percent, and improved the circulation of the room.


Highlight Client Testimonials in Your Portfolio Narrative

narrative examples
Photo source: JLA Architects

Put a testimonial up top, immediately beneath the overview of the project.

Why? Because testimonials from other happy customers are trusted 12 times more than your descriptions of the quality of your work.

A glowing review from the client of the building or project you’re showcasing adds credibility; it shows prospects that you put your clients’ desires at the heart of your designs.


Pay Attention to Readability

portfolio exmaples
Photo Source: Dimension IV Madison Design Group

Big blocks of text scare people away and will increase your bounce rate. You only have a few seconds to convince a prospective client that the page they are looking at is relevant to their needs.

Use white space to make it easy for readers to skim and get the most important pieces of information quickly. Try this free readability tool to see if your portfolio descriptions pass the test.

Otherwise, prospects will bounce off your site, and your chance to convert them into a customer is probably gone for good.


Make Your Specialities Clear With Your Portfolio Narrative

Clients choose your firm for a reason—what is it?

Distinguish yourself from the competition by making it clear why your expertise in a few specific areas made you a good fit for each project in your portfolio.

Some architectural firms claim to serve upwards of seven or eight market segments. Displaying a diverse set of skills can be a benefit, but beware of coming across as a generalist.

If clients get the message that you can do basically anything, for anyone, then rather than standing out from the crowd, you’re blending in. Prospects have no reason to remember your firm.

The concise portfolio narrative that you include with portfolio projects are an excellent opportunity to explain why your firm is the right choice for clients with specific needs.

Do you excel at lighting design? Do you mainly provide audiovisual solutions? Do you focus on environmentally friendly residential architecture?

It should be obvious in your description of each project what specific solutions your company provided to the client based on your skillset.


How to Write a Portfolio By Drawing Attention to Awards or Articles

If one of your portfolio examples received media attention or won an award, show it off! Include a link to an article with more information.

When you think about how to write a portfolio narrative, be sure to include positive reviews from other clients. It builds credibility and recognition from other leaders or known publications in your industry.

Your portfolio narrative is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competition.

Your goal is for prospective clients to quickly understand the scope of each of your projects, your areas of expertise, and how you use them to solve your clients’ problems.

Positive reviews from clients and awards help you to build trust and establish yourself as an industry leader. Concise overviews of each of your projects make it easy for customers to get important information at a glance.

While other firms are still writing long, boring excerpts full of jargon, you’ll be way ahead of the game because you’ve learned how to write a portfolio, then take your prospects and converting them into clients.

Contact us today to learn more about how to write a portfolio narrative.

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