I don’t have a lot of hands on experience to put into my portfolio. I am wondering if I should create posters, mock up websites and other web designs and graphic design for non-existing companies and clients?
Absolutely, yes. Do not be shy about your inexperience. When interviewing for a job – they know you don’t have a lot of professional experience. If an interviewer wanted a designer with a lot of experience, you would not be in the interview in the first place.
As a hiring agent working within a budget, I am always looking for a diamond in the rough. And if a candidate has raw, underlying design skills – I have the eye to recognize that and I would love to hire them at the right price. No matter if the portfolio is real world samples or not.
If you do put in demo designs – they had better be no holds barred. You will have no excuse for compromised designs like some portfolios have with client-compromised situations.
A great start would be to redesign something in real life that you know you can do better. And show the before and after results in your portfolio.