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Advice for beginners

Reader Xavier emailed me to ask a few questions (shared with permission):

What advice would you have for beginners looking to add some projects to their portfolio? I have a journal where I jot down notes related to coding, and in the back, I have an ever growing list of project ideas.Some are extremely ambitious, while the others might not stand out (To-Do List) come interview time.

A few things to unpack here. The main thing to keep in mind for a portfolio: the problem you were trying to solve and the way you think through those problems is so much more important than how exciting the project is.

For a portfolio, I’d recommend including something more akin to a case study that documents what you were trying to accomplish, why you made the choices you did, etc. And of course, link to your source code.

Second, I’d start small and simple, and work your way up to something bigger. The easiest way to lose confidence is to try to tackle something too big at first, fail to make any progress, and feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.

I maintain a list of project ideas and starter templates over at Learn Vanilla JS.

Also, when you were learning, what did your learning schedule look like? Were you coding every day? If so, about how many hours were you putting in.

I know people who are very much the structured planner like this. They’re at point A, have a point B they wants to get to, and come up with a clear and definitive path to get there.

Me, on the other hand… I’m like Winnie the Pooh, drifting along doing whatever I find interesting.

I had no learning schedule to speak of. When I had time during the day/week, I’d try to knock out a project. At first, I’d spend a couple of hours trying to work through a simple task (like getting hidden content to expand or collapse.

Over time, I’d either spend less time working through projects, or the same amount of time working on bigger ones.

Thanks for taking the time to write. These are great questions!