Can I share NDA protected work on my portfolio? Tips and Advice

31.07.2019

In a time where competition stresses the best of the best freelancers, portfolios have become more important than qualifications. But for most freelancer designers, developers, and writers, a dark milestone awaits them: confidentiality agreements and NDAs. How can you look past it to create a great portfolio?


You have completed a project you’re very proud of and you’re dying to show it around and include it in your portfolio. But alas - you realize that you signed an NDA or a Non-Disclosure Agreement with your client that stops you from sharing the work.  
 

What do you do in this case?
 

An NDA or Non-Disclosure agreement is a contract between two or more parties which aims at covering certain information confidential and private
 

For example, a software developer may sign an NDA for the development of a new mobile app which prevents them from disclosing any detail to the public domain. Or a designer is not allowed to show he worked on a particular campaign.
 

While it gives the Project Owner the much-needed confidence that the project’s details will not be shared with anyone other than the intended parties, it’s tricky for the contractor or freelancer as it restricts them to feature the work on their portfolio. But as they say - where there's a will, there's a way.
 

If you are a contractor or freelancer who wants to include work protected by NDAs on your portfolio, we’re going to take you through the steps on how to do this. 

 

NDA are tricky for freelancers as it restricts them to put work on their portfolio, one of the most important sales materials.

 

 

How To Show Protected Work On Your Portfolio?


With all the talk of how NDAs protect the interests of contractees, little attention is paid to the contractors and their constant need to include more and more credible work on their portfolios. 

So, if you run a freelance business and want to know how to show your work when an NDA is still active, read this:

 

1. Understand the varying levels of confidentiality

Read your NDA well to understand the level of confidentiality you are bound by. There are only a few types of contracts that are extremely restrictive. 

If you are lucky enough, then a few tweaks in your work may let you share it with prospective clients. Often it is enough simply to not to show your client’s name. Also, sometimes, the contract is valid for a specified period. If your NDA has expired, you can include the work on your portfolio. If these do not apply, move on to the next step.

 

2. Ask for client’s permission

You may ignore this step thinking that your client may outright refuse to grant permission to share the project details you have worked on, but there is no harm in trying. Some companies let you share some parts of the project details with written consent. So, don’t hesitate to approach the client for permission with a written scope of information that you intend to include on your work portfolio.

For example, if you are a designer who created an awesome website for a yet to be launched retail brand, you can ask about sharing a few screenshots of the site in the public domain.

Alternatively, you can ask the client about the information that is safe for you to share. Most of the time, they will respect your work and efforts and will help you share some of the protected work as per their guidelines.

 

3. Find out the real value of that protected work

First, It’s important to understand what part of the project you are eager to show on your portfolio. Consider the following:

  • Is this a big brand-name client you’re proud to have worked with? 
  • Does this work show how skilled you are with a particular technique? 
  • Does it show you are a team player? 
  • Does it simply look great?

Once you identify the value of that particular protected work, you can think of alternatives to show that value if the client has refused to grant permission to share your project's confidential information with others.

 

 

Alternate Options to Put Client Work in your portfolio


1. Ask for testimonials

The first thing I would suggest is to try and convince the client to write a testimonial stating that you have worked for them and disclosing the details of the project that falls outside the purview of your agreement. 

This is an excellent way to build trust among your prospective clients and tells them a lot about your work ethics as well as about relationships with your existing clients. This alternative is especially powerful if you are looking to show how big or important the client was. 

 

2. Rewrite and adapt the information

If you really want to show what you did on a project, one way to go about it is to redact confidential information, and not share any details regarding your client. But again, you must seek the client’s consent to go ahead with this option.

Say you’ve worked with a client on their website, you can replace it with dummy or fake content. The idea is to let your future clients understand your skills, and redacting information lets you do this. E.g. you could create a new logo for a particular project and add a line specifying that you have added dummy content to present the work as the nature of the work is confidential.

You could also blur confidential information like company logo, name, etc. but this approach is not that all that recommended. 

 

3. Protect work with a password

One of the most common ways to show protected work on a portfolio is to protect it with a password that can be shared on request. In this case, too, you should ask your client for permission and be careful when sharing the password with potential clients.

 

4) Create a case study or write a blog post

Finally, one of the foolproof ways to include protected work on your portfolio is to create a case study defining the challenges you faced and the process you followed to overcome them. Don’t mention any information about the client and specify that the sample is guided by an NDA, and that exact details can’t be shared. 

This option is especially powerful for more creative and abstract design work. You could present and showcase wireframes, ideas brainstorms, etc to take the client through the strategic and creative process. 

Another option would be to write a blog post explaining the process of working with client “X” in the form of storytelling.

 

5) Get a physical copy of your work

This will work for those who want to prevent sensitive content from being circulated over the Internet. Simply take the printed portfolio when you go for an interview and talk about what you did and how.

This option works as an alternative for those working on-site for the client and isn't suited for remote freelancers. It’s probably not the most practical but it can definitely work in a local environment.

 

Things to remember while sharing protected work
 

  • Your work is your asset. Non-Disclosure Agreements shouldn’t stop you from reaping the benefits of your hard work. Figure out the perfect way to show your protected material and make the most of it - without getting into legal trouble!
     
  • Be communicative. If you are interested in sharing work, try to point your client in that direction when starting the project. Often, if you explain the value you’d like to show and how important it is to showcase at least a few parts of the project in your portfolio, it will be easier to work on a solution with the client.
     
  • Never resort to a breach of confidentiality. The fact that you wish to follow the protocol speaks volumes about the way you value your work and clients. Honesty is a virtue that pays off in the long run. So, don’t commit a breach of confidentiality, and you will surely win the confidence of both – your past and future clients.


Do you have any advice on how to show protected work on your portfolio? Share your tips with fellow freelancers. Comment section below and help the freelancer community learn from your tips.

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