You know how sometimes you send a few writing samples to a potential client, and they revert, saying, “We prefer documents in PDF” or something to that effect? Or, how about when certain websites allow you to upload documents only in PDF format?
Turns out, there are good reasons for that.
In this piece, I’ll take you through a 101 on all things PDF portfolio. We’ll dive into definitions, benefits, PDF portfolio examples, and a quick method to create your own PDF portfolio quickly yet reliably.
• An overview of what portfolios — and in particular — PDF portfolios are
• The benefits of a PDF portfolio
• 10 PDF portfolios we handpicked for their excellent
• A quick, step-by-step guide on how to create your own PDF portfolio
• A brief overview of Authory — a portfolio builder & content backup solution you can use for PDF portfolios and other file types
What is a portfolio?
Succinctly put, a portfolio showcases your work to prospective employers or clients. At one glance, it displays your expertise, experience, and consistency of output. Needless to say, portfolios are essential when you’re looking for a job, whether you are a full-timer or a freelancer.
Portfolios can be physical or digital, though, in an internet-first world, digital is what works. Most jobs require the submission of a portfolio, especially if you’re a writer, designer, photographer, content marketer, or thought leader.
The portfolio conveys your skills, your professional outlook, and what you bring to your work. Naturally, it’s imperative to put your best foot forward in your portfolio.
Elements of a great portfolio
Your portfolio distinctly drives potential clients’ opinions of you as a professional. It must convey what you’re good at in some detail (but always through real-world results) and get them a sense of who you are as a person (human connection counts, even in professional situations).
So, here are a few elements that should necessarily be present in a good portfolio:
Career summary: A couple of lines to sum up what you do and the industries you primarily work in. If you have particularly outstanding achievements (like winning an award or beating a Grandmaster at chess at age 15), ensure that you’ll include those right in the summary.
Work samples: If you’re a writer or journalist, include links to your publications. Ensure that you present both recent and older work so as to demonstrate the frequency of output. If you’ve produced output across different content formats — say, articles, video, podcasts, website design — include all of them, as it depicts multiple skills and versatility.
Results: This is the meat of the matter. Whatever the job, your prospective clients want to see the past results you’ve driven. This is especially important if you’ve been working for more than a couple of years.
Highlight real numbers — have you written 50 articles in a year, perhaps? Have these articles driven organic traffic up 34% during that year? As a content marketer, have your skills driven greater engagement with a site or an even higher number of signups or purchases?
This section of your portfolio should have the most clarity. While this information generally shows up on a resume, adding it to your portfolio will attract the employer’s eye, and your portfolio will inevitably stand out.
Contact Information: Don’t forget to add contact details. Even if you send your portfolio to someone via email, they may send your profile to their network if your work resonates with them. In case another client comes across your portfolio, they should be able to reach out to you easily.
What is a PDF portfolio?
A PDF portfolio is a collection of all your work, but it’s compressed and combined into a single PDF file for easy reading and navigation. With the advent and popularity of the PDF file format (created by Adobe), as well as the Adobe Acrobat file reader, PDF portfolios became quite the rage post-1992.
Before that, portfolios were mostly physical documents painstakingly collated by anyone applying for a job. PDF portfolios took these documents to the digital realm, and you no longer had to lug around a heavy binder to every interview (back when we didn’t have Zoom interviews). It also made life easier for recruitment folks since they no longer needed to make space for stacks of documents on their desks.
Why use PDF portfolios?
The PDF is a super handy format. If you’re sending, say, word documents created and formatted on a Windows PC to someone using a Mac, there will be information loss. To view the documents, the recipient’s device must have the same tools you used to create them.
For example, if you send (as I often did) a Word document with writing in Arial font, my recipients would have to have the same font installed on their machine. If not, they would probably see some garbled form of what you sent. There’s also a chance that the document might not open at all.
PDFs, however, open exactly as you send them on all computers — Windows, macOS, and even Linux.
There’s more: you can combine multiple different files into a single PDF file, including images and even video. Everything can be in different formats, across different platforms and yet, you can still combine them into a single PDF file, or create a portfolio comprising just PDFs. So, if you do have a portfolio, or are planning to make one, I suggest trying a portfolio PDF.
So, now that you know how useful PDF portfolios can be, let’s look at a few samples for great ideas to make your own.
10 portfolio PDF examples to inspire you to make your own!
PDF Portfolio Example 1 — Dan Rosenbaum
Dan carries years of experience as an expert editor in content marketing and consumer publishing circles. On top of that, he’s a content strategist and copywriter and edits half a dozen magazines and online assets. His skills involve ideating, implementing, and reorienting magazines and websites. Furthermore, his advocacy writing has won awards and obtained significant media experience.
That’s a lot to fit into a single portfolio, isn’t it? Thankfully, he does it as well as he does everything else in the above list.
PDF Portfolio Example 2 — Urvashi Aneja
Urvashi has a long list of accolades. This social science researcher and policy analyst delves into how data-driven decision-making systems impact social dynamics in India and the global South. She studies the ethical and larger impact of AI, big tech, platform governance, and labor welfare in digital economies.
She has been the Founder and Director of Tandem Research, studying technology, society, and sustainability. She set up Digital Futures Lab, a multidisciplinary research network studying technology and society transitions in the global South. She is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.
Her teaching experience spans eight years at prestigious institutions, and she carries an MPhil and Ph.D. from the University of Oxford, UK, and a BA from Utrecht University in The Netherlands.
These wildly impressive credentials have been succinctly showcased in her pdf portfolio.
PDF Portfolio Example 3 — Jeff De Cagna
Jeff is a true veteran in his field. You’ll notice that his introduction is simply his position and his company name. This might seem too succinct for a web-based portfolio meant to introduce you to new clients, but it’s also a great example of letting your work do the talking.
In 2017, after 15 years as Chief Strategist and Founder of Principled Innovation LLC, he reinvented his consulting practice to Foresight First LLC, a firm seeking to improve the performance of association boards by “setting a new standard of stewardship, governing, and foresight.” (from his LinkedIn).
Notice the interesting categories he has split his portfolio into: Boards, Foresight, Orthodoxy, and even eBooks.
PDF Portfolio Example 4 — Nala Rogers
This award-winning freelance science journalist and editor describes her beats as “all things living and the environments they live in” (got a ring to it, right?). Her work has been published in Science, Nature, Scientific American, and Discover Magazine. She has also held the position of staff writer and editor at Inside Science, where she edited stories and covered the “Earth” and “Creature” beats.
She also writes cover stories and news items for The Wildlife Society's professional magazine, The Wildlife Professional. Don’t forget the article she also wrote each week for the TWS website.
PDF Portfolio Example 5 — Gabriel Swain
Gabriel calls himself “one part data nerd, one part growth strategist, and two parts storyteller,” and he’s quite right. He has more than 12 years of experience leading content and growth marketing, and he’s also been writing professionally for more than 15 years.
Along with driving evolution in marketing strategy and worldwide commerce, he also stands for environmental and social governance as well as its usefulness in improving customer loyalty, stakeholder value, employee morale, stakeholder value, and sustainable business growth.
He has traveled to over 30 countries and has degrees in diplomacy, anthropology, and international commerce — so, it’s safe to say he knows what he is talking about.
PDF Portfolio Example 6 — Leslie Schniers
Honestly, I don’t know much about Leslie. I came across her profile when looking for interesting PDF portfolio templates to help with some upcoming projects. Nonetheless, I really enjoy the simplicity and straightforward nature of this portfolio, which isn’t always easy for a graphic designer to pull off — given the heavily visual nature of her work.
Scroll through, and you’ll see that Leslie hasn’t included any extraneous text, except for what’s been included in her designs. This is a great move, in my opinion, as it lets you focus on what actually matters and will get you the job — the actual work. In graphic design, if it looks good, it’s a slam dunk. You don’t need extra words to drive home the point.
PDF Portfolio Example 7 — Kate Margolis
Like Leslie, I found Kate’s portfolio on a random Google search. I included it in this list because I loved the layout. Unlike Leslie’s page, this one actually carries quite a bit of text. Kate has spoken about her skills, the positions she has held, the awards she has won, and her outlook on work — more than enough information for any employer to acquaint themselves with this clearly talented graphic design whiz.
Outside of that, you also get a list of her clients and work samples. All in all, there’s nothing significant this portfolio doesn’t cover.
PDF Portfolio Example 8 — Joan McMillan
Joan is a writer whose creative work has been published across multiple literary magazines — Poetry, Catamaran, Paterson Literary Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Connotation Press, Santa Clara Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and more. She is currently writing a romantic comedy set in her hometown of Santa Cruz.
Her blog also states that she is working on a non-fiction book about the murder of a young woman and her unborn child.
PDF Portfolio Example 9 — Fabrizio Tonelli
Academic Fabrizio Tonelli is a veteran academic and a professor of political science at the University of Padua. He has an exceptionally long list of achievements, some of which are:
- Co-director, seminar “Fake Concepts”, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, 2018.
- Fulbright Professor, Department of History, University of Pittsburgh (PA), 2011.
- Visiting Professor, Media Studies, University of Bologna, 2000-2004.
- Visiting Fellow, Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University 1997-98.
He has also written an impressive number of articles and books, denoting a clear mastery of his research topic and area of interest.
PDF Portfolio Example 10 — Carter Hammett
Carter is a social worker, writer, and trainer who describes himself as “late-blooming” and “java-fueled.” He is presently the editor of Auto and Trucking Atlantic Magazine, and also contributes to multiple publications — Convenience and Carwash Canada, CareerWise, Canadian Immigrant Magazine, and others. He has also authored three books.
His day job is managing employment services with Epilepsy Toronto, an organization that helps people living with epilepsy and related disabilities with their job searches.
How to create a PDF portfolio
There are multiple tools for creating PDF portfolios, and we’ll use Authory for the following tutorial.
Step 1: Sign Up for Authory (for free)
- Create an account on Authory for free using this signup link.
Step 2: Import and add your PDF publications
- Once you get to the dashboard, you’ll get the option to enter a source (publication website). Authory will automatically import all content with your byline ever published on that site — past and future.
- You can also add PDFs manually. Navigate to the "Content" tab in your Authory account, click the "+ Add Content" button at the bottom left, and upload a PDF file.
- You can edit the title & description, create a new source, or add the file to an existing source. For this tutorial, I’ve named the source "Halloween Town.”
- You can keep adding PDF files, as seen below:
Step 3: Create a PDF portfolio collection
- Go back to the "Content" tab. Select the "PDFs" checkbox at the bottom left. (I’ve blurred out the source names).
- Once the PDFs are selected, use the "Create automated collection" button on the top right to create a collection of your PDF uploads.
- Name your collection. Add a description if you want.
- Upload all your PDFs to this collection. Once you finish, go to the "Collections" tab to see how it looks.
Step 3: Connect the collection to your portfolio & display it
- Click on the "Portfolio" tab and go to the "Content" tab on the left menu. From there, add the previously created "PDF Portfolio" collection to the portfolio.
- And you’re done! All documents in the PDF portfolio collection will be added as a separate tab on your portfolio. This is what it will finally look like:
But why Authory?
I actually started using Authory a while ago, and when I say it’s a great tool, I say it with experience. This portfolio builder won’t just help you collate your publications in one place. It’ll do so much more:
- Automatically import all bylined content from any digital source you enter — past and future publications
- Downloading all imported content to your device, if you so choose
- Manually include non-bylined content
- Permanent backup of all imported content
- Content backed up in its original format rather than as screenshots
- Analytics support for your content; see how your pieces are doing on social media
Don’t take my word for it. Just sign up and try it for a free 14-day trial period! All you have to do is enter your sources, and the tool will do the rest.