Visual merchandisers create eye-catching displays for retail outlets. They design shop windows, counters, concession stands and in-store displays with a view to capturing buyers' attention, and thus increasing sales. Many visual merchandisers work on a freelance basis, or are employed by agencies who provide contract services to clients who do not keep an in-house visual merchandising team. As such, they must win work by impressing potential employers. Maintaining a strong portfolio of work is an essential part of this process.
Gather together photographs of your previous work. If you do not have any, recreate examples of your previous projects, or construct demo displays which show off your creative flair. Include a variety of themes with the materials you have at your disposal. Light your demonstration pieces, take plenty of photographs, and have these professionally printed to the full page size of your portfolio case.
Organise your work. Place the best work first. Include a variety of styles and themes. According to Kent University, pieces that show your thought processes and the way you develop ideas are valuable - for example, you can show how you carried a theme through the seasons with a sequence of photographs organised in a way which highlights continuity. Go for quality, not quantity. Potential employers might only spend a minute or two looking at your portfolio, so select your strongest displays.
Include any press articles about your work and any reviews of it. Include a CV, and a short, eye-catching personal statement. Prepare an index of contents and insert this at the beginning of your portfolio.
Consider supplementing your paper portfolio with a web portfolio. Upload your photographs to your website and support them with relevant text explaining each display, and introducing yourself and your career history. If you are sufficiently skilled, you could create a video or slideshow of your work supported by music (this must be in public domain to avoid intellectual property issues) and narration, and upload this onto a public website such as YouTube. Whichever method you choose, make sure that you include the website URL on your CV and business card.
Have friends, colleagues and people you trust view your portfolio and give feedback on its content, impact and style. If you maintain a web-based portfolio, consider supporting this with a blog which will keep potential employers up to date with your latest projects. You can then ask for viewer comments.
At the interview be prepared to talk about the pieces you are presenting. Think about how got the idea for the piece, what influenced you, and what challenged you during the creative process.
It's fine to include collaborative pieces in a portfolio, as long as you can highlight what you did.
The quality of your portfolio hinges on your photographs. If your skills are not up to scratch, hire a professional. If money's short, enlist the help of a local photography student.