We live in an era where if you are not present on the internet, it is as if you did not exist.
For this reason it is worth mentioning that the best way for your work and personal brand name to gain recognition is by having a portfolio website.
Think of it as a resume web page that potential clients can visit, get an idea of what you do and be made aware of your brand identity.
With the increasing demand of remote work in this day and age, having a portfolio website is an essential asset to sell your services, gain credibility in your niche and most importantly grow your brand.
Whether you already have a portfolio website or debating whether you should invest your time into creating one, by including the key and essential elements you are will make the best out of your portfolio website and start attracting clients.
What is a Portfolio Website?
A portfolio website is an important asset to a freelancer as it compiles content and materials produced with the potential and intent to promote it to a high volume of prospective clients online.
Having a place to show what you do will give you more credibility and trust as potential clients will notice both your professionalism and your skills.
You can look at your portfolio website as your business card online (it can open many doors).
Besides promoting your work 24/7, reaching potential clients and companies around the globe, a portfolio website is an efficient and inexpensive tool to promote yourself and your brand (when done correctly).
There, you can show your best projects, accomplishments, awards or recognitions you have earned.
In short: everything that validates your work and shows that you are an experienced freelancer in your field.
No second thoughts, a portfolio can be the gateway to new job opportunities and the key to getting the attention of company recruiters and individuals who require your services.
If you want to get new job opportunities and make yourself known in your niche, you need to have an online portfolio that catches the attention of consumers and buyers of your services and convinces them that you are the ideal person to deliver the solution they need.
Every day thousands of people search for various services on the internet, without ever knowing about the existence of your brand, start making the most out of it.
The Basics of a Portfolio Website
It does not have to be complicated to create your portfolio website but there are some basic points that you cannot ignore.
By understanding these points, attracting potential clients to your portfolio website will be a lot easier.
Know Your Audience and Your Niche
If you have defined what your ideal type of client is, what they are looking for, what kind of needs they have, what style they require for their brand, it will be much easier to create a visual identity that is attractive to them.
Understanding the persona of your prospectors will give you a better insight to their wants and needs which ultimately results in being able to choose the most appropriate services you should offer them.
Keeping your client in mind will make it much easier for you to create your portfolio website since decisions such as what colors to use, what content to include, what promotions to offer will become more apparent.
Originality is a Must
A portfolio website allows you to show who you are, your style of work, your aesthetic, your influences, what valuable things you can contribute to your clients’ business.
Think about what makes you different and turn that into your brand identity.
There is no other person exactly like you, so how do you show that in your portfolio?
You can represent your uniqueness through the design of your website, elements you include all the way to the way you tell your story and convey what you do, your values, experiences and edge.
It is your opportunity to convince clients that you are the right person.
Do you have an idea how many freelancers who are looking for the same opportunities and projects as you are out there?
Based on surveys done by Upwork and the Freelance Union, only in the US alone there are 57 million freelancers.
Taking this into account, how can you stand out among so many others?
These facts are not here to scare you but to make you understand how essential a portfolio website could be and how important it is to offer something different and accurate to your target clients.
Choose a Platform
There are many great platforms out there that you can use to create your portfolio.
Your best choice will be picking one that fits best your brand, services, vision and ability.
Some of the platforms you might already heard of are Adobe Portfolio, WordPress (requires a web host such as Bluehost), Squarespace, and Wix.
While a portfolio website on WordPress is very common and affordable, the other platforms are also popular and are a great option for those looking for an easy option yet attractive.
Having an Instagram account dedicated to self-promoting work and brand (depending on profession) could be a good option however, it cannot be mistaken to have the same benefits as a portfolio website that has the potential to reach a much wider range of clients.
Thankfully they are not mutually exclusive.
Remember that one of the goals of having a portfolio is to add professionalism to your brand, and when companies look for a freelancer to work with, they do not usually do so on a social network such as Instagram but in online searches and platforms that are exclusively dedicated to finding professionals.
Why Your Work Should Be On the Internet
If you do not show it, you will not sell it.
Having a portfolio website is a great way to showcase what you do, catch the attention of potential clients, get noticed in your niche and support the credibility of word of mouth.
Do you want to start working with clients besides your physical local area? Put yourself out there, let your clients know you exist.
According to FreeTrain, over the years freelancers are getting more jobs online.
The web guarantees exposure and that is where you and your portfolio should be.
The Importance of Having a Portfolio Website
If you want to get a job and make yourself known in your niche, you need to have an online portfolio that looks appealing to your clients and convinces them that you are the ideal person to deliver the solution they need.
Social media and professional networking are the third and fourth ways in which freelancers find work with word of mouth being just as good if not better being in the top two.
Having an online presence as a freelancer will naturally increase the odds of others talking about you (Word of Mouth) while also strengthening your image with your clients (Previous Client).
If you do not have a portfolio website, you are leaving yourself too dependent on other ways that are not as efficient to find new job opportunities.
There are many ways your clients can find you online but it is not only about how they can find you but how you can attract them to your portfolio.
Your portfolio website does not have to be a place to only see your work.
If you have something else to offer like informative articles in the case you are a writer, or a free template if you are a designer, you will be giving a sneak peek to your full potential.
Of course, this is not mandatory, but it is an idea to make your portfolio website more attractive and that should be your aim.
It gives you the opportunity to blog
Besides showing your work, having a section where you can talk about the process of your projects is a good idea to introduce your clients to your work process.
By doing so you gain credibility and strengthen your professional image as it shows your effort, dedication and professionalism that you put into your work.
Not to mention, you will increase your chances of your website being found online by having your own blog.
Writing about the topics you specialize in, that interest you and your potential clients will not only expose the products or services you offer to them but they will also see that you are an expert in your field that genuinely knows what you are talking about.
It Will Help the Progression of Your Career
Having a portfolio website could be equivalent to putting yourself out there in the market (if not better – but why not have both).
It will assist and accelerate your career growth as a freelancer by allowing you to network and create connections not only with potential clients but with colleagues, new partners, collaborators, and other people who work in the same field. You decide what you want to include in it.
Your portfolio will support your professional experience background.
This is an opportunity for you as a freelancer to gain credibility for your work.
For the client who is carrying out a selection process, the portfolio will be a key reference before making their final decision.
Words are okay, but as much as you tell your clients that you are the best in what you do, they will probably be interested to see it with visual examples.
A portfolio allows you to go from words to deeds, let them build their credibility about you.
Do not be afraid or hesitate to take a little risk when building your portfolio and trying new things.
For example, if you are a 3D designer, what if you create something interactive instead of only showing pictures of the designs that you have created?
The same confidence you have when starting a new project or trying to persuade a client is essential to creating a visual identity that captivates those who view your portfolio.
What You Should Include
A professional portfolio must have quality and variety.
Pick the best jobs you’ve ever been involved in and present them in an elegant and attractive way. Your clients want to see in a single glance how good of a freelancer you are within your niche.
Try to include those projects that are of high quality and representative of the rest, those that you are truly proud of and that speak for themselves.
The idea of the portfolio is also to offer diversity.
You should differentiate between jobs and include examples for each of your strong areas of expertise.
Here is an example of Jane Song’s portfolio, a designer and illustrator. She does not group all of her designs into a single section but instead created one for each area she dominates.
Thus you will be covering a wider range of possibilities, showing yourself in your different facets, and exposing your work in various areas of action. First impression does matter!
Tips for Making A Portfolio
- Lots of images, less text: avoid long and unnecessary explanations. Get to the point and try to create a dynamic and visual portfolio, as recruiters will want to see your work in a short time.
- Write a mini-biography of your professional life: If someone wants to hire your services, the first thing they should know is who you are. Therefore, get creative and write a good description of yourself.
- Contact details: To facilitate contact with potential companies and clients (make it clear and easy to find), do not forget to add contact information. That is including the address of your personal website or professional blog (in case they are not all on the same website) and most importantly email.
- Experiences or recommendations by your clients: You can provide references or testimonials from clients or companies where you have previously worked. You will be able to create trust for future clients and give them more reasons to choose you and your work.
- Select the best jobs you have done: The most relevant thing about an online portfolio is the jobs you have already done. If you do not have much experience yet, you can include everything you have. But if you have already done a lot of work, select the most important and attractive.
- Give visibility to your portfolio website: Once the portfolio is ready, it is time to be found. Use links! Add your portfolio website to the different social networks that you manage and to your email signature. A well-optimized website can get high organic traffic so, you know, take your time to improve your website’s SEO.
You can also spread the link on your social networks, especially on LinkedIn, put the URL of your portfolio on your introduction card.
Put the link of your online portfolio on your curriculum vitae and send the address of your portfolio website to friends, colleagues, and family using applications such as WhatsApp.
Best Options to Build Your Portfolio
After defining all the information, data, and files that you will place in your online portfolio, it is time to make a decision about which platform will fit better with your necessities.
While there are some free options online such as wordpress.com there are also many limitations that will not benefit an individual trying to build a personal brand.
With that being said here is some more information to help you make your decision.
Probably the most popular content management system (CMS) for creating portfolios, its possibilities are almost endless.
If you have your own server, it is undoubtedly the best option to consider.
The process of using WordPress to create a portfolio website is practical, easy and designing a website has many free options including themes and plugins.
Of course, there are also premium templates that can give your site a different touch but this is definitely not a must.
According to Website Setup, WordPress is the most popular CMS platform, stating that it has more than 27 Million Live Websites. So, if there are so many people using it, it might be for a good reason!
WordPress has great configuration freedom when it comes to expressing your personality through customizations.
It allows you to create a custom post type for your portfolio and many more options to customize anything on your website (it does require some basic knowledge on wordpress – can be easily learned!).
If you are thinking of using WordPress as your platform, Bluehost is one of the trusted hosting providers to use and has inexpensive plans that will benefit you if you are a starting freelancer.
Besides being practical, Bluehost has a lot of options that will improve your experience of creating a portfolio website on WordPress.
How does having your own domain benefit you? For example, if you use yourowndomain.com instead of yourowndomain.wordpress.com, your portfolio website will look and feel more professional.
Not to mention, it is a good idea to register your brand name in a web domain so that another person does not occupy that name.
If all your social networks and portfolio website have the same name, this will make it easier for potential clients to find you on the internet.
It allows you to create personalized web pages including extensive work galleries.
One of the main benefits is the ability to include photos or graphics hosted on your Creative Cloud, in Lightroom Mobile and of course your computer.
This platform would be great for a photographer, graphic designer and anyone within the graphics industry.
It is one of the most popular website builders in the internet world.
It is simple to use, even if you have zero experience, and you can create any type of website.
It also offers a free package to its users. Wix allows users to design and customize their websites in an interactive way, thanks to the tools it offers.
One of the most recent and popular platforms, Squarespace offers a variety of beautiful designs and neat templates.
It starts from as low as $8/ month, which is great if you are low on budget yet wanting a professional looking portfolio.
With Squarespace, in addition to a portfolio, you can create corporate or e-commerce pages easily (great if you want to sell your own products).
An option to consider if you have a small personal business or if you are starting your brand.
Check These Portfolio Websites to Get Inspired
Here are some examples of portfolios you can give a look at and see what they have done well to promote their work.
The best thing about these platforms is that they make it much easier for you to create your portfolio since there are many templates available (free and paid) with innovative and professional designs, the rest is up to you.
Just have to find the one that best represents your brand.
A wedding photographer that created a website with the aesthetics and vibes of a romantic and delicate feel.
She uses pink and pastel colors and a font that is elegant, like the ones you find in a wedding invitation.
In this website, the portfolio is divided into three sections to separate the types of photos you can find.
This is an excellent idea to show how versatile you are and to show different things without losing harmony.
On this website, you also will find little details that show what is the photographer’s brand identity.
For example, to ask you to follow her social networks, the photographer does not explicitly say “follow me” and instead, you will find a “let’s be friends” sign.
Here is an example of a content writer portfolio. As you can see, it sticks to the basics but is also helpful.
Despite it being a portfolio about writing, it includes many images that are essential to catch possible clients’ attention.
Here, Sarah Brown decided to include a photo of herself so everyone who visits her portfolio website will know who is behind it (optional).
Although this is a portfolio without many details, it has the essential things that every portfolio should have: content, a brief biography, and a contact section.
An illustrator, designer, and animator combined all the areas in which he specializes to create an awesome portfolio that captivates everyone.
Leonardi created an interactive game that everyone who visits his website can play. We can agree that this definitely makes him stand out among other freelancers.
Besides letting visitors play a game, Robby Leonardi included a tutorial of how he created his interactive portfolio, giving people another reason to visit his website.
He also included a profile picture that he made following the style of his illustrations.
Every element used demonstrates his skills and capabilities to his potential clients.
What to Avoid
Now that you know all the things that can improve your portfolio, let’s talk about what you should not do.
It does not matter if you are a newbie or an experienced freelancer; the following tips are helpful for all.
The Don’ts of a Portfolio
- You do not have to show everything: A portfolio is not about putting all the projects you have worked on.
This could give the client the wrong idea that you are too in demand to pay enough attention to their project.
- Let old projects aside: Your latest projects are the ones that show who you are at this moment and normally, the old projects do not show the potential you have now. If there is some old content that you want to show, you can find a creative way to display it without giving a bad look to your portfolio website. For example, you can compare an old and a new creation so your visitors can appreciate how much you have improved over time.
- Before choosing a platform make sure you are familiar with it: choosing a platform only because you heard that a lot of other freelancers use it, might not be a good idea. Do not make things complicated and use a platform that you know how to control or at least, that will be easy for you to learn.
Start Now and Get Ready for Your New Clients
Your portfolio will be a reflection of how much you value yourself as a freelancer and will determine the impression you make on your potential client.
If you do not believe in yourself, why should others?
Take the time to make the portfolio that your brand deserves.
Take your portfolio as if it was one of your projects and do not get discouraged if you are not pleased with the first results, it is all trial and error and will be worth it in the long run.
Remember that you can make little changes whenever you want and that with consistency, you will obtain the portfolio that best represents you.
Now that you know everything about portfolio websites, start creating your own!