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Ask Lawrence: "Can I Include That In My Folio?"

21 Oct 16:00 By Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Folio Professional Freelancer

This week, I was asked for advice around what folio pieces a professional freelancer could use in their folio. 

In this instance, she had been a professional freelancer for well over a decade now. Over the course of that time, she had worked within a variety of sectors, including corporate and government, and the work had ranged from branding all the way through to communications collateral.

Now, I should begin by pointing out that I am not a lawyer or a legal specialist. When in doubt, it is always wise to ask a qualified specialist in that area. In Australia, we have several legal firms that specialise in intellectual property, such as the amazing team at Media Arts Lawyers.

What I will say is this; when you go on site to provide a service for a client, the expectation is that they’re going to retain that work for their commercial use. Unless you have agreed previous, you can safely assume that they will retain the copyright for that piece of work that you’ve done. You would need to refer to the contract and/or terms and conditions under which you’re providing your service to them. Certainly, if you’ve gone through a recruitment agency, there will be clauses in the terms and conditions of working with them that would prevent you from automatically including that work in your folio, and this is to protect all parties from legal action.

Let me put it this way; I have heard of instances where candidates have included work in their folio that they shouldn’t have and it has gone in front of the client. At best, the client has decided not to work with them because they know that the candidate shouldn’t have included that work in their folio. At worst, the client has threatened legal action. It has happened so let’s not fool ourselves that everyone will be ‘cool’ with this.

I recall another instance where a candidate included a new branding and a new campaign for a big name client before the client had even started using it themselves. Can you imagine the uproar that this action caused?

So what are the alternatives? The answer is simple. If you’re going through a recruitment agency, ask your consultant to ask your client for permission and gain it in writing. If you’re going directly, ask your client and get it in writing. Why in writing, I hear you ask? Simple because we are in an industry that often has considerable staff turnaround. Who gives you permission today may not be around tomorrow. Unless you have it in writing, it will be one word against another. 

If you’re asking at the time you’re doing the job, it should be no hassle at all.

The other piece of advice I’d give is to ensure that you clearly label what you did on the work. If you worked as part of a team, state that. If you were given the files, state that. If you didn’t do it from concept through to completion, state that. Making sure you don’t take credit for work that you didn’t do is very important, not just morally and ethically, but also in being transparent about your involvement. Remember, it is a small industry and a lot of people will see that folio. Over my years in this role, it isn’t uncommon to find two people presenting the same piece of work in their folio and claiming that it is entirely theirs; which means one, or both, are not telling the truth.

In situations like this, the rule is simple, when in doubt, check.


Of course, if you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next 'Ask Lawrence', you can contact me on or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn. Of course, you can check out more jobs by going to our website  or you can search for them on Twitter via #CRJobs