Just started working on building your online portfolio? If you are feeling lost and don’t know where to start, read on to get a detailed overview of what to include in it, how to go about it, and what an ideal portfolio looks like.
Regardless of whether you are a freelance graphic designer or a writer, to get clients consistently, you need an impressive online portfolio. It is easily the most important marketing tool in your arsenal.
Remember, a portfolio is not the same as a resume. For starters, it is an encapsulation of your work experience, background story, values and beliefs, offerings, contact details, qualifications, and much more. It is much more visual and detailed compared to your resume.
Your portfolio is one of your first touch points with potential clients. It introduces you to them — who you are, what you do, what to expect from you, and how to get in touch with you. And in this line of work, the first impression is everything.
It has to impress people, stand out in the crowd, showcase your capabilities in the best possible light, and more. Now that may sound daunting, especially as you’ve to do all of this online; you may lack the necessary technical skills or the time to do so.
Not to worry, it is not as difficult as it sounds. With a bit of research coupled with a systematic approach, you will be able to build an impressive online portfolio in no time. Let’s dive in to learn more.
The steps involved in building an impressive online portfolio
Note: In this article, we would be mostly focusing on the former, although the majority of the tips would be relevant in both cases.
1. Getting started
The first step would be to register your domain name. To do this, come up with a domain name, search online for its availability, choose a domain registrar company (they will register the domain on your behalf), and then, purchase the domain.
A good domain name should sound professional and be easy to read and remember. It could be your name (for example, Rleonardi.com), your firm’s name (for example, Castirondesign.com), or even something that reflects your brand identity (for example, Femmefatale.paris). If you can include your keyword in it, all the better, but don’t force it.
Once you have a domain name ready, choose a hosting and website building platform. Some of the popular ones are Contently, WordPress, and Wix. These platforms ensure that you don’t have to get involved in web development or programming.
2. List down the services you offer
Make sure the services you offer are visible on the homepage and is above the fold. Don’t make visitors click multiple times to get there. The further it takes for the potential client to find out, the higher the chances of them leaving your website.
The effectiveness of your portfolio largely depends on how you present yourself. So, don’t just list down all the services you offer, instead, show how you can make the client’s life easier.
Highlight relevant statistics or specific qualifications that make you an excellent choice for the job. Whatever you do, be sure to tie it into the bigger picture about how it will help your client.
Try to keep the homepage concise and clutter-free. You can always create separate individual tabs to provide a detailed overview of pricing, work experience, and so on.
Look at the example below, the presentation is simple and clutter-free, and the profile summary is concise, warm, and to the point.
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3. Curate your work
Showcasing your work samples is perhaps the most critical aspect of your portfolio. Work-samples help convince the visitors your capabilities.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while preparing your work sample page:
- Put yourself in the shoes of your client. Make sure the page caters to their needs. For instance, if you are a freelance writer, showcase your articles instead of merely providing links.
- Only pick the best work-samples. It is always best to showcase 2-3 great ones rather than displaying ten sub-standard ones.
- Always categorize your samples and explain the context of each one. Check out the example below, the filtering options on the left make it so easy for clients to find and evaluate samples relevant to them.
If you are new to freelancing, you may not have any work sample to add. In such cases, you can:
- Write critiques, create mock-ups of popular apps, and showcase it on your online portfolio website. [Applicable – designers and developers]
- Take up voluntary projects or internships. It could be with a local business or a non-profit organization. [Applicable – anyone]
- Get your work published on online magazines, free content submission websites, or community websites. [Applicable – writers, video marketers, and designers]
- Imagine if your dream client approached you to do some work. Create a mock-up of what you would do and display it on your website. [Applicable – anyone]
- Create a mock-up imagining that you are working for a fictitious company, product or service. [Applicable – designers and developers]
- Flaunt your educational qualifications, certifications, and the boot camps you have attended. Also, include any thesis, dissertations, prototypes, or demonstrations, that you made during this time. [Applicable – anyone]
4. Source testimonials
Persuasive testimonials can sway the opinion of even the most hesitant of visitors. They give you an aura of credibility and authenticity.
Be proactive about collecting it. Don’t be insistent that testimonials should be in a particular form. It could be range from an email reply, a shout-out on Twitter to a handwritten note.
Don’t wait for clients to recommend you by themselves. You have to prompt them, and be honest and clear while doing so. If you want a quote praising your expertise or effectiveness, clearly convey what you are looking for. Also, tell them what the ideal word limit would be and how the testimonial will be used.
Here’s a testimonial request to draw inspiration from:
If you are a rookie freelancer, don’t wait for your first client to ask for testimonials. Source recommendations from former colleagues, supervisors, professors, mentors, influencers, and so on. It helps verify your profile, expertise, and qualifications.
Here’s how you can display testimonials on your website:
5. Tell everyone the type of work you want to do and people you’d like to work with
You have to make sure your online portfolio attracts the right clients. For that, it should reflect the type of work you want to do and the kind of people you want to work with.
For instance, if you are a freelance writer who covers general news but wants to specialize in technology, your online portfolio should feature more such articles. Furthermore, it should reflect that you are a tech nerd and has an in-depth understanding of the niche.
This way clients will only consider you for jobs that you actively seek for. If you don’t have much professional experience in that area, consider creating a gallery of personal projects to highlight your skills and interests.
6. About me page
The ‘About me’ page is often the most visited part of your online portfolio. Prospective clients would want to know who you are, what’s your story, whether you will fit their work culture, and more.
Here are a few things you should include to create an impressive About Me page:
- Your educational qualifications. The certificate courses, boot camps, and workshops you have attended.
- Tell them a bit about yourself, like you would in an interview. Answer who you are, where you are from, and other personal questions.
- Explain your perspective of the industry, why you chose it, your inspiration to do so, what you want to do, what you want to achieve, and more.
- Showcase your testimonials, big-name clients, press mentions, and mentors.
- Wrap up with a bit on your interests, hobbies, pet peeves, and guilty pleasures.
Here’s a great example:
7. Create a blog
While selecting portfolio builders, always choose one that lets you add a blog to the website. Maintaining a blog might sound tedious, but it is well worth the effort. It is a great way to showcase your expertise and establish your credibility.
What’s more, it increases your chances of getting new clients. If you are writing quality search optimised content, the likelihood of your articles ranking on Google and other search engines increase dramatically.
That’s not all, it gives you enough content to create a weekly or biweekly newsletter. You can use that to keep in touch with your followers, increase your recall value, and gain referrals.
If you are not sure what to write, start with posts on some latest happenings in your industry, or how you helped a particular client achieve a milestone, or a critique of a famous work.
You can even share personal stories like how and why you chose this profession and so on. It shows your character and where you are coming from. When they know you as a person, you will appear more trustworthy.
Here’s an example:
8. Updates section
You can create an ‘updates’ section in your blog or have a separate section altogether. It shows the evolution of your work, how you are experimenting with new things, or how you are improving your expertise.
If you are doing a certificate course or attending a boot camp, you can write a small summary of it. It shows that you are not standing still. Besides that, you can add tidbits about your personal life as well. Makes you feel like a real, approachable person.
Before we wrap up, here are a few excellent portfolio samples for you to check out and draw inspiration from.
1. Portfolio sample for freelance writers
2. Portfolio sample for UX/UI designers
3. Portfolio sample for web developers
4. Portfolio sample for digital marketing experts
Bonus tip: While doing your research, if you come across an impressive portfolio website template, you can find out what tools they used to build it with this Chrome extension, WhatRuns.
Now that you know how to set up your portfolio and what to include in it, make one yourself immediately.
To complement your portfolio and further enhance its reach, sign up on TapChief, a platform where you can share your portfolio, find open projects, interact with companies, build relationships with fellow freelancers, and more.