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My portfolio is bad, I really need guidance from the pros to motivate my efforts.

polycounter lvl 6
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beansauce polycounter lvl 6
Hello and thank you in advance for reading. This will be kind of long thread because it's a combination of me venting, and a cry for help.

I'm not sure if this is the right category for this thread, if not I apologize.

I'm an environment/prop artist under an immense amount of stress, and depression is starting to take it's toll on my mental health. I've been a 3D artist for about 4 years now and I can't for the life of me find any sort of work. Here's a link to my garbage portfolio. I'll try and structure this as best as possible because I seriously am becoming desperate.

Why is your work bad?
---After college up until now (about 3 years) I had a lot of balance issues between applying for work / networking / internships / paying bills.
---Currently for the last year I've been working at a hospital doing data entry on 3rd shift. Only making $21,000 / year. I seriously only have not even 4 hours a day to do actual 3D....if that. If I'm not doing that, I'm just applying. I'm also working remotely, doing an Indy game with a few people and I can't post that on my portfolio due to NDA. It's just one of those stupid profit sharing collaborations that never sees the day of light.
---I have life crippling debt due to school (over 150k). Because of this I needed ANYTHING just to pay the bills and avoid defaulting. So now I'm stuck with a low paying crap job with a very expensive degree....and barely any time to improve my portfolio BECAUSE of that debt.

Where have you been applying?
---Everywhere and anywhere. I have no strings attached, and am willing to move anywhere around the world just for a chance to prove myself.
---According to my records I have about 800 applications out there in the last 3 years. (not sure if that's too much to where I'm not getting the hint, or just not enough.)
---Unfortunately I live in Wisconsin and there is NOTHING here (except raven software) I feel like that is a big reason employers wont give my resume a 2nd glance, because I'd have to relocate.
---My portfolio isn't the best, but I don't think it's laughable. Shouldn't I at least get some replies for internships / entry positions I apply for?

What guidance do you need?
---Anything I suppose. I guess I just need people to tear my work apart and spit on it.
---What should I do more of? Less of?
---Should I just take a couple months break away from applying and strictly work on my portfolio?
---Should I quit that collaboration indy project and JUST work on my own thing?
---I'm having the hardest time networking with people. Anytime I reach out to people, I can't keep the conversation going just because I'm NOT in the industry. Maybe I'm just not good enough at my career to talk to or something.
---Should I pursue a different discipline to break in the industry? Programming / graphic design / rigging.....Rotoscope? I would seriously UV everyone's models all day everyday if it meant I could just sit with talented artists and ask them questions.
---Scrap the whole portfolio and start over?

Sorry for the long post, I just seriously need some professional advice, and a kick in the ass to get myself motivated to continue this harsh journey. I'm 27 years old and keep feeling like "time is running out", and I better get something QUICK! I really don't care about my debt if I'm actually doing something I love, so I'm not trying to get that 65k/year art director job right off the bat. I just want to BREAK IN! I really appreciate the cruel critiques I'm about to get, and the advice you could possible give to help me improve. Thank you again for your time. I look forward to reading your responses.


  • LRoy
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    LRoy polycounter lvl 10
    Full Sail charges 150k for a game art degree?
  • skylebones
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    skylebones polycounter lvl 10
    Hey Jake, sorry to hear that things aren't going so well. Hopefully the advice you get in this thread will help.

    On to your portfolio. The first thing I see is a lot of it is unfinished.
    You start with a nice scene blocked out, but its unfinished.
    Then an unfinished gun.
    followed by a high poly garbage bag, but not game-ready.
    Then a decent building, and it's not bad but it doesn't really stand out among the hundreds of other applicants.
    The sci-fi scene is showing some potential, but it's also unfinished.

    I hope you see where I'm going with this. Not a lot of finished game-ready environment art. With 4 hours a day you have 28 hours a week to work on art. Start working on some highly polished, finished, game ready props. Things that will really stand out on their own, but can be put together to make a fully fleshed out environment when you get to that point. But the key is to make polished, finished, game-ready art. One step at a time.

    I hope this helps out a little bit! And with how awesomely helpful this community is I'm sure lots more good info will come your way. Hang in there.
  • Progg
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    Progg polycounter lvl 11
    If a full scale environment isnt something you can fit into your time frame throughout the week, consider doing something like a diorama. As skylebones said, it is a lot of unfinished AO rendered assets. I think your time would be best spent micromanaging smaller, more unique assets rather than shooting for large scale environments. A trash bag and the front of a building are things you see in 80% of the other portfolios applying and really doesn't help to make you stand out.

    Think outside of the box when it comes to style/prop choice. There's plenty of fun ideas that can be done. You could even go as far as doing something more simplified and stylized to better suit your lack of time throughout the week.

    The portfolio layout also doesn't do your work any justice. The thumbnails are super tiny and hard to see. Look into the portfolio threads here on polycount. There are dozens and dozens of posts about proper portfolio layouts to sell yourself better. BIGGER images directly in the viewers face. Your work isnt bad but simply throwing everything you have on the portfolio doesnt help you either. The character stuff isn't really helping your cause and you'd probably be better suited stripping some things out.

    The biggest thing is dont give up. STOP cutting yourself down. Ripping into yourself is only going to lower your self-esteem. There's a difference between being humble and being overly critical/negative, and you really need to realize you do have talent. Debt and bills can become overwhelming, especially when never seem to get a response from job applications. Many of us on polycount have spent large amounts of time unemployed and seeking jobs in a similar scenario. You'll eventually pull through and land on your feet somewhere if you truly dedicate yourself to the cause. However, it definitely takes some creative thinking on your part to figure out what you can create to make an impact in your limited work time.
  • Alismuffin
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    Alismuffin polycounter lvl 7
    Yes quit the unpaid stint. It's clearly only dragging you down.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 10
    First-you say your portfolio is garbage, then you say it's not bad. So...which is it?

    It'd be nice to art all day long, but sometimes you can't. You have it worse than I did (or do) currently. So I really feel for you. Here's my assessment.

    -Can model good clean geo. Probably should show something more ornate.
    -Texturing is passable on the newer work. Nothing that stands out.
    -Lots of Unfinished work as mentioned above.
    -Needs to be a harsher self critic

    I'd get rid of everything on the last page of the site-except maybe the sci-fi scene. Then decide if it's worth finishing. Finish the Gun, Finish the room. Make another prop or diorama. Your time is a bit limited so working on smaller, highly polished work is probably a good way to go. Then make another one. Then another.

    By the time spring comes around, you should have 3-4 dioramas and your currently posted work (if you choose to finish it) ready to go. If you only have two,then you only have two as long as they are great pieces of work. Save up for a ticket to GDC if you can-or don't it really depends on the size of the career fair (this years was small). Start applying. Think out in the long term. Don't focus on applying-focus on getting better and making great work. Then you reapply and they'll see the change in quality and think "hey this guy's made progress. Lets test him".

    Again-stressing this-LONG TERM. Hell stretch it out to next fall if you have to. It's a marathon. As long as you can show you can do the work, you'll get a job.

    Oh yea, the unpaid thing. If it's something you love keep it and reduce your commitment, if it's something you feel is a burden just quit.
  • SecretPro
    Sad situation and one many more people find themselves in unfortunately. My first advice before anything else is decrease your depression and stress level, whether that is going out with friends and try to put your mind in a positive state. If your wondering, why I am telling to not grind more and get back to fixing your portfolio, you really first need to take care of yourself. You keep stressing like this and soon you are going to look like your in the late 30s to 40s, even though you might be in your mid or early 20s.

    My second advice is, from looking at your work, you might need to catch up to speed with current tech if the hope is a AAA position. I would suggest doing some interesting props and present them well.

    Best of luck
  • BagelHero
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    BagelHero interpolator
    Your stuff looks pretty good to me. Your modelling is solid, your bakes look good.

    But this blog-only layout isn't doing you any favors (especially with the apparent compression issues). Get a real website (template + hosting, weebly, tumblr blog with a portfolio specific theme so the blogger-related archiving issues are avoided, some other site creator, doesn't matter as long as you do your research on it) so good finished work isn't eventually archived somewhere in the nethers of "beyond the first three pages" of your blog, realistically people mightn't even look that far, and finish some stuff to textured + game resolution. Show that up front with 2+ beauty renders, and some breakdown shots for each and you should be good to go. Make sure to only put finished projects and assets on the website, though you can keep using the blog as it is.

    Good luck, man.
  • neilberard
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    neilberard polycounter lvl 17
    I second quiting of unpaid crap. Been there done that, waist of time and energy.
  • Thane-
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    Thane- polycounter lvl 3
    Biggest issue: Depression, IMO. I'd like to address that first. In my opinion i think every person in the world should watch the following video, especially people who must sit still in their professions like artists. I would recommend getting up every few minutes, doing a couple pushups, doing a squat or two, moving your body around. I personally like to turn my head upside down for a second or two, which probably sounds funny, but it feels good to me. Based on NASA's opinion on idleness, in which they state about the same thing, i think movement helps the body carry out its massive amount of basic functions which makes tons of sense. I can say for certain now that whenever i get into a bit of a "whats the point?" feeling, doing a couple pushups and moving around/stretching can instantly cause that to subside.

    From a Ted Talks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drv3BP0Fdi8

    One other important aspect of maintaining a state of wellbeing as it pertains to the basics of "how people work" is, I think having a couple interests/hobbies in perhaps critically important to any human being? Why? Because they phenomenon of becoming tired of the same song over and over isn't just limited to music. I think it applies to everything, even loved ones, and it makes sense, because when we were evolving, we had to have some mechanism to return to a emotional state required to dodge predators and hunt, after seeing a shiny rock or something else that captivated us and caused us to stare and have endorphin flow, etc. I highly recommend subscribing to NASA on youtube and twitter, because its basically our greatest human endeavor, but also anything that interests you, keeping in mind it can take some effort to get into. I live near a huge lake and just this year learned i love swimming in it for exercise for example. I hope that makes sense.

    I think the demo reel is the biggest weakness. They don't know if this is the best you can do and they don't know how long it took. Is it the work of a busy artist who can do far better, or is this this artists idea of what a good AAA game looks like finished? They won't know for sure and in an effort to save time probably won't bother when they have sure'er bets from others. This is one of the problems IMO with capitalism when combined with heavy population growth - besides the driving down of wages due to increased supply, businesses just don't have to bother with imperfections, not even reasonable ones most of us have, not when there are tons of others applying for the same position, businesses looking for help have much more power than normal and its a simple factor that isn't often talked about IMO when judging the results of this economic system, but thats another thread... Anyway, i hear it over and over, when it comes to artists and animators, almost the only thing they care about is the reel.
  • Tobbo
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    Tobbo polycounter lvl 11
    A difficult situation indeed.

    You asked the question, should I quit applying until I improve my portfolio? I would say hold off on applying to anymore places for a while until you better your portfolio. You really should try and focus every bit of time you can squeeze into work for your portfolio. I don't feel as though your portfolio right now is at a finished or polished level where you should be applying.

    Your newer stuff is looking much better than your older stuff. So that's definitely a good sign! It's just unfinished. I would really consider doing environment dioramas instead of full scenes, as others have already mentioned.

    Don't forget to post on Polycount asking for critiques for the work you are currently working on.

    Hang in there man! I believe you can make it!
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm interpolator
    Take 3 of the pieces you have, polish the s*** out of them. Then put only these 3 pieces in a folio.

    Focus: Pick 1 production step you like, e.g. modeling & texturing and 1 technical subject. In your case, this shouldn't be Mental Ray. Pick Unreal, since you've already used it. Use that to present your work. But focus first on those modeling skills and polish. Same goes for other tools. Stick to a small tool set. You want to get better at creating art, not pushing buttons. Knowing XSI, Max, Maya AND Mode won't help you as much as some polished artwork. So pick a few good tools and stick to them. Then focus on art.

    Don't get side-tracked by other cool stuff - try to take your art pieces to a finished status.

    While creative pieces are great and memorable, the main thing many people look in a junior artist is polish and attention to detail - i.e. because that's what your art director will be complaining about until you "get it". ;) The good thing is, since you're working on a folio and not in a production setting, you can take a little bit more time to make things perfect.

    Overall I think you know what you're doing. You just need some focus and practice. Personally I think the sci-fi corridor has potention, same as the plane & hangar. There's a lot you can do to make them both really interesting.
  • Thane-
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    Thane- polycounter lvl 3
    Another idea might be to try and kill two birds with one stone. Maybe you could for a time only take on work for the indie team that you can also use for your demo reel, assuming it also takes the form of what your companies are looking for.
  • Tobbo
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    Tobbo polycounter lvl 11
    Yeah NDA's with only royalty based payment (if at all) is completely dumb.

    What happens if the game never sees the light of day? Does the NDA get lifted? Is there a clause in the agreement stating so? Else, you would literally be working for nothing and never be able to show anything in your portfolio.
  • LRoy
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    LRoy polycounter lvl 10
    You could always have a private section of your portfolio that includes nda work so only the places you apply to see it.

    That said, if they can't afford to pay you I really doubt they can afford to enforce an nda.
  • Zack Maxwell
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    Zack Maxwell interpolator
    It'd be nice to art all day long, but sometimes you can't. You have it worse than I did (or do) currently. So I really feel for you.
    Heheh, it could be worse. I don't have the OP's crazy debt, but I'm making literally half that on my day-job with similar hours, and crazy physical work unloading trucks all day.
    I WISH I had a data entry job :poly124:
    I do feel for you with that debt though. Especially since you got it from a degree you're not making effective use of.

    There's the issue of everything in your portfolio being unfinished like others said, but it's also surprisingly small since you said you both have a degree and have been working on this for three years.
    I assume that would be something of a red flag for employers as well; the assumption from looking at it would either be that you haven't been at this very long, or you carefully picked out your few very best pieces of work to demonstrate, which were still kinda dull and unfinished. Neither is good.
  • Shrike
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    Shrike interpolator
    Im not gonna sugar coat this, and giving you clear directions here, as that is what you ask and what you need - take them or leave them. I worked the night through and im super on caffeine so here we go:

    First off, your website looks bad. What is it with those dark gradient blogspot and weebly pages everyone is using. It looks bad. Get a real website creator. Weebly is the best I found for myself, so I just recommend that.
    Dark backgrounds are used on sites where you spend hours and hours, and then people dont use black (like Polycount for example)
    Get a nice simple white or very light grey theme. Lightness is inviting and friendly.
    Select a nice thin font for your name, or make something custom in photoshop with a nice modern sans serif, and just a simple color, no cheap effects. A nice free font to recommend is Roboto per example.

    Write proper text. You dont hope we like our work. Theres no place for hesitation or hope. You do, you will do, nothing else. Only absolutes in such things. Confidence and willpower. Get a more professional looking photograph. Its all yellow and mobile made.

    Cut the demo reel unless you show spectacular stuff and its animated.
    Cut the 2D and Speed painting pages. You dont have time for that, and even if it would be on a good level would it not be something you show. If its on senior concept artist level you can show it regardless, right now it only drags you down and makes your navigation bigger.

    Did you do your resume yourself ? Leave more place between the 4 horizontal spacers.
    Cut the "Program powerlevel" thing every bad resume on the internet uses. Yea its tempting to display things in bars and such, but its subjective, you can hardly judge that, and reviewers likely facepalm every time they see one, and they can be negatively interpretated aswell. So you are 7/7 in photoshop, is that the same as mine 7/7 photoshop I would put in my resume ? Dare to challenge ? : P

    [email protected] You know it. Get a new one

    What is this links page ? no need for that. So that people can skip over your page and go right to the next environment artist ?

    When you have a new website that is not wordpress, dont forget to cut all those share and whatever things on every post that blogspot does by default. Weebly dosnt have
    this tho. Nobody needs to posts comments on your resume page. Half of the current page is obsolete. Ah I remember what I wanted to say, when you have the new page,
    get a proper domain for 60$ a year or so, and get the 3$ weebly subscription.
    You want to act professional and you can spare that money for that.

    For actual work, dont even think about wasting your time on terrible concepts like that sci-fi revolver. Thats not even a concept its mere a silhouette without form.
    All you do is waste time on a subject that looks bad no matter how good you execute it. Only model real things until you are at a level where you can steadily get jobs.
    Most real life objects have far more thought going into it than the highest senior level concepts, and people can relate and compare. Also dont do super popular things like an AK or AR15 as everyone knows it very well and can spot the smallest mistakes.
    Get a unified presentation for your single assets, and write your name and email in a very decent fashion on your images in a font that is corresponding to the other fonts on your page and logo. Also dont do characters, focus on your environment stuff.
    I know doing some things sounds fun, but this is not about fun for the moment.

    If you have your website ready with your new works, post in the 3d forums here at best so people can check again. Also if your free project does not have a contract they can show you with your NDA, then its nothing real and just post it if you need it badly.

    150k that feels bad, I wish you luck on this.
  • BagelHero
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    BagelHero interpolator
    get a proper domain for 60$ a year or so
    Where the heck are you buying your domains? Provided you're not trying to get like a 4-letter domain or specific ".whatever" domain, it shouldn't come to that much without hosting. My domain is $12 every two years. Of course, this could be a typo. :poly124:

    Note and also: +1 to pretty much everything Shrike said.
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm interpolator
    whatever you do, work on dat art first, unless you wanna be a web designer.
    Heck if your modeling is kickass, make 1 page, put all images there, put contact info and resume: done.

    You really want to put your time and cash where it makes the most difference. Not saying the website advice is bad, but make sure you prioritize and don't start working on a website before actually creating some content / i.e. artwork to show off.

    Kickass website and shitty 3D art for someone who wants to be a 3D artist tells me 2 things: you suck at prioritizing. You have more fun doing web design than 3D (what is it you're applying for again? ;) )
  • GrevSev
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    GrevSev polycounter lvl 9
    Your work looks doesnt look like garbage. It looks better than the lot of stuff I see every day.

    Its just poorly presented and the image compression is destroying it.
  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 11
    Here's what I'd do if I were you.

    1. Totally get rid of that site. Deactivate the whole thing if you can. If not, delete everything.
    2. Get either an ArtStation and/or a DrawCrowd account, and use em. They offer nice looking gallery page. And you get nice exposure to the whole community. If you make good stuff, people will flock to you.
    3. Hold off on applying for a little while. 3 months or 6 months. Up to you. You need to save up your mental energy. Applying for jobs consumes it too much.
    4. Use the energy you save up to make more arts.
    5. That pistol looks pretty solid. Bake it, and texture it up. Give Quixel Suite a try if you haven't.
    6. Pick 3 best pieces you have, and finish them, then give each of them a nice presentation. Nice renders of multiple angles with good lighting. Show beauty shots and construction shots.
    7. Quit that indie proj. Unless you're making kickass arts for it. If it's just average stuff, don't bother. Art is art. Either you make it for portfolio, or for a game makes small difference. People will overlook lack of experience if you have great folio. Well, indie online collaboration is hardly real experience, anyway. Especially if it most likely going to fail.
    8. Join up on online challenges/competitions. Big ones, small ones, doesn't matter. Join one, and finish it. Let other ppl motivate you :)
  • Gav
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    Gav quad damage
    Not sure if it helps, but this is a bunch of advice I rounded up after days of portfolio reviews last year at GDC:

  • Joshflighter
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    Joshflighter polycounter lvl 9
    Gav wrote: »
    Not sure if it helps, but this is a bunch of advice I rounded up after days of portfolio reviews last year at GDC:

    -Image here-

    YES. THIS. Thanks for sharing!
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 17

    Simple motivator ^


    Long term motivator of what not to be.^

    Outside of that get over yourself and refer to the 1st image again and just get stuff done.
  • DireWolf
    I'd say a default blog entries like that is not really suitable for portfolio use.
  • Tobbo
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    Tobbo polycounter lvl 11
    Seforin did you even read the OP post or did you just read the title of this thread?

    As far as your images are concerned, I hate when people point at other people that they don't even know and say don't be like that. You don't know that dudes story.

    And if money is your only motivator there are plenty of jobs that pay much more than being an artist. Sure money is nice and is needed, but for most of us it's not the sole reason we chose this occupation.
  • iadagraca
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    iadagraca polycounter lvl 5
    Gav wrote: »
    Not sure if it helps, but this is a bunch of advice I rounded up after days of portfolio reviews last year at GDC:

    Whelp time to rethink my site again...

    I'm not really gearing up to sell it as a portfolio yet but still...
  • CharlieD
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    CharlieD polycounter lvl 11
    Good advice here. Going to piggy back on what Gavin said and also drop some links on you.

    Check that out. If you need examples of portfolios that work, I've been liking this blog compilation.

    I'm going to just be beating a dead horse here, but some people need that. Finish your work! You show that you have some skill, but lack the ability to finish. Finish and polish stuff. I'm too lazy to check your polycount history, but if you don't already, post crap on the pimpin section of works in progress, get feedback, apply feedback, post wip, rinse and repeat until you have something finished, polished and portfolio ready. Rinse and repeat that and aim for putting together a small but strong portfolio at first. Start with small props and learn how to finish and polish stuff. Then make something bigger. Then dioramas and/or scenes.

    On the freelance thing. Free work is for chumps. You have worth. You just have to convince other people you do, and get paid work. You can do this by having a decent portfolio, learning how to write strong business proposals and resumes, and other things like that. If getting a studio job isn't panning out, I'd work on some indies. There's always places you can go for jobs. They don't even necessarily have to be game related in the beginning, since you need money. There's the polycount freelance job sections, craigslist, 3desk, odesk, freelancer.com, reddit.com/r/gamedevclassifieds and various other places you can look for work. Good luck dude. You have a major hump to climb over, but if you do, you'll be better and happier for it.
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 6
    Gav wrote: »
    Not sure if it helps, but this is a bunch of advice I rounded up after days of portfolio reviews last year at GDC:

    I >IMAGINE< another good one is to ensure what you do write is checked and proof read so it makes sense :).
  • Gav
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    Gav quad damage
    I >IMAGINE< another good one is to ensure what you do write is checked and proof read so it makes sense :).

    If you're referring to that imagine I posted: 1) They were initially Tweets, so they had to be kind of truncated. 2) They were written fast after reviewing 80 - 100 portfolios. 3)They were on my phone and I have goofy thumbs. :)

    But, in general, yes. Spell check and editing are good things.
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