Many creative professionals find themselves in need of an online portfolio that they can use to showcase their work and show off their skills when applying for new work or seeking new contracts with potential clients. Fortunately, there are several options today to assist in making a portfolio website, so it doesn’t have to be a difficult process. In this guide, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about how to make a portfolio website that stands out.
What is a Portfolio Site?
Before you can create a portfolio website, it helps if you know what it is and how to do it most effectively. Today’s online portfolio is essentially a modern-day digital business card, resume, and showcase of your skills all in one place. When potential clients or employers are looking to hire you, they’re going to want to see what you’ve done and how you can provide the solutions that they need.
There are several reasons to build a portfolio website, but ultimately it’s about creating a powerful online presence so that you can showcase your capabilities and show off your skills in whatever field in which you specialize. Read on to learn more about how to make your own website portfolio, as well as why you should create one, tips and tricks, and step-by-step instructions for customizing your online portfolio.
Why you should make a portfolio website
The case for having portfolio websites can vary from one creative to the next, but the fact of the matter is that it can be an invaluable marketing tool for the web designer, content writer, UX designer, or even the graphic designers that are getting ready to switch from in-house roles to a position as a freelance designer. Essentially, this gives you a place to showcase your previous work online and gives people a chance to see what you can do.
In many creative fields, the visual aspect of a portfolio of actual work allows people to show a client or business connection what they are capable of. It’s a way of showing off your best projects and letting people get a glimpse of the quality work that you do before they commit. These websites can show off each project that is relevant to the job you are applying to.
Why should you make an online portfolio website? Well, it’s an investment in your career and your future, and it’s a place for you to brag a little about all that you’ve accomplished, quite frankly. Other designers and creatives are creating their portfolios in droves. Most are using tools like the ones we recommend (Hostinger and WordPress, which we’ll explain more about below), creating a professional brand for themselves online that allows them to attract clients, employers, and anyone else they have in mind.
Now, let’s look at some top tips for creating a successful online portfolio that will present your best work and your creative potential.
Tips for creating a portfolio website
To be successful in creating your portfolio website, there is plenty of insight and inspiration from those who have come before you. Some of the tips even come from the potential clients or employees looking at portfolio websites before making a decision. In any case, you should make note of them so that you can have an easier time creating your site.
- Decide on the intention or function of your portfolio. For example, are you trying to attract clients in a new vertical? Do you want to highlight your expertise with a certain topic to impress a potential employer? When you have an end goal in mind, creating a great portfolio website is only a matter of putting the pieces together. Review your initial ideas and focus on the goal you want to achieve.
- Choose between a one-page model or a full portfolio. WordPress makes it easy to create a dynamic, well-structured, multi-page portfolio that can showcase all of your talents with several customizable layouts. However, if you’re just sending along a shortlist portfolio to give someone a sampling of what you offer, a one-page design may be the better choice.
- Highlight your best and most relevant work. Depending on which future clients you’re trying to attract, you’ll want to feature work done for previous clients that is similar to their needs. A one-page website is great for a quick highlight reel, but a full site can also be a good way to draw attention to all of your capabilities.
- Keep your portfolio design simple. WordPress has tons of customizable themes and layouts (we’ll talk about the value of WordPress and why we recommend it in the sections below). Take advantage of the selection and search for a free template that has a clean, easy-to-navigate design that makes the right impression and reflects your creative process and still looks business professional.
- Update your portfolio regularly. Whenever you do new projects that showcase your skills, make sure you add them to your portfolio so that you can show them to every potential client in the future. Adding fresh content will ensure that you always have up-to-date work.
- Use high-quality images to ensure that your portfolio has a professional look. There are several sections that you may want to include on your website, but they should all have the highest-quality content to deliver the right brand impression.
- Focus on customizing your homepage. This will allow you to grab people’s attention and make them want to dig further into your website to learn about you and see what kind of work you can do. This is the starting point, and essentially your “landing page” for bringing in new clients or impressing potential employers. Make sure that it hits the mark. We’ll talk more about that in detail below.
- Choose a design and/or layout that is relevant to your professional work. If you’re a graphic designer, choose a trendy graphic design or pop-art colors to get people’s attention, for example. You can search through thousands of free project templates from different designers to ensure you get the perfect look.
Keep these tips in mind as you read on to learn how to make the best online portfolios, no matter what you need, including the right tools for the job and how to create a personal touch that leaves a lasting impression.
How to make your own website with an online portfolio
Making your portfolio website can be as simple as you need it to be. It can even be free if you have limited project work to share and need something basic. Depending on which platform you choose, you’ll have a variety of options for designs and themes that can be implemented with just a few clicks and project the best impression. Below, we will look at the four steps to creating an online portfolio that will stand out and show off your professional expertise and abilities.
1. Get a Domain Name & Web Hosting
To create an online portfolio, you first need to get a website. Although there are several hosting solutions out there today, we recommend using Hostinger, which offers easy setup, an intuitive Panel to manage your website, and WordPress optimization that’s custom-built. Plus it all comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can’t go wrong there, either. It’s not free, but it’s worth every penny.
When choosing a domain name, keep it simple. You might want to use your name or your business name (if you have one), or a tagline or creative handle that you enjoy. This domain name is going to be your URL so don’t make it difficult. Your audience should be able to recall your website without having to remember 20 words. Feel free to search Google and check out sample domain names, how to choose yours, and more.
The nice thing about Hostinger is that they’ll walk you through the process and offer a lot of tips and tools along the way. They even help you with WordPress installation and optimization, site customization, and so much more. You don’t have to be a developer, or even know anything about website development, to build an online portfolio that’s going to get noticed.
Once your domain is purchased and you’ve signed up with your chosen hosting service, it’s time to install the WordPress elements.
2. Install WordPress, a Theme, and Plugins
Now, you will install WordPress, which makes it easy for you to upload content and create a digital portfolio using the files on your computer. Installing WordPress also involves choosing a theme and picking which plugins you want to add. Stuck on choosing a theme? For starters, remember the tips from above about keeping it simple. Secondly, take advantage of online galleries to get inspiration for your website from designers and others who have come before you. There are tons of templates and sample galleries out there waiting to inspire you, so you don’t have to be a web designer to create a successful site.
Once you choose your theme, you will then need to pick which plugins you want to add. These are apps and tools that enhance your use of the WordPress platform, and they’re designed to be easy to install for those who aren’t necessarily experts in coding. You can download and install any number of plugins to help improve the Content Management System that you’re creating with WordPress.
Think about what you want to be able to do with your WordPress platform. Plugins are available for appointment scheduling tools, chat apps, contact forms, and so much more. You can even install maintenance and testing plugins to ensure that your site is always running at its best, even when you don’t have a full IT staff in-house.
3. Select a Template & Customize Your Site
What kind of navigation do you have in mind for your portfolio? Do you want there to be a drop-down menu or do you prefer side navigation? Maybe you want a gallery that contains images that all open up to their own pages. The type of media that you’re sharing will also impact your choice of templates. A layout for written content might be different than a layout that works well for web design or logo design, for example.
Customize the details of your template and site layout so that it looks exactly the way that you like. You can pick everything from the layout and navigation to colors, fonts, and more. When you choose Themes and templates through WordPress, a lot of these elements come pre-selected, but you can always change them if you’d like. One big tip: make sure your page has a search bar for easy navigation.
4. Customize Your Home Page
Now it’s time to get down to the details of customizing your home page, which will be the most important page of your profile. It’s the one that draws people in, keeps them engaged, and encourages them to navigate through the rest of your portfolio to get further information about your capabilities and the kind of work that you do.
Your home page needs to cover a lot of information in a short space– this is the overview that will lure people in and get them to engage further. Then, you can get into the details on the individual pages or separate sections, leaving your home page to be more of a place for people to start learning about what you do and decide how they want to proceed.
The “hero” section is where you get to grab people’s attention. This is the first thing that people will see when they arrive at your portfolio website, so it needs to include the following elements to hit the mark:
- What you are offering
- Why people should/can trust you
- The benefits of working with you
- The actions that they should take next
You’ll want to make sure that you use backgrounds, templates, or even graphics that help your brand stand out from the competition. Fortunately, you can find plenty of design ideas out there to help you create a hero section that is sure to turn heads.
Value Proposition Section
Some companies combine this with the hero section, covering all of the elements discussed and explaining the value offered by working with them for professional creative services. You can also create a separate value proposition section that explains exactly what you have to offer. This should be a very direct statement that’s concise and doesn’t beat around the bush. Why are you better than the next designer or creative professional? What makes you the best choice?
There are, again, several examples online that you can explore to help you create your value proposition section on your website. Take notes on what works well as much as what doesn’t work so that you can get the results that you deserve. This is where you can express your ability and your best work and tie that into how that makes you the ideal choice.
Hopefully, you’re not tired of talking about yourself yet. This is the section of online portfolios where you can talk about your background, your experience in the creative field in which you work, and so forth. You can even talk about your personal life outside of your work, or anything else that you think will help clients get to know you and feel more confident about working with you for their various needs.
The About section shouldn’t be a saga– keep it short and simple. For those who are in fields like graphic design or web development, this is a place to get creative with the layout or delivery of the “About” information to reflect who you are as a professional. Invest time here to show people you’re a real person to get the extra edge.
If you have videos or video projects you’ve created, this is the place to share them. If you haven’t made videos before, you might want to look into them and start creating a few to offer to clients and potential customers. You might be thinking, for example, that a marketing writer doesn’t necessarily need video content, but that’s not always the case. You can showcase projects, do an “about” video on your career, or use video in any other way to get people’s attention.
If you do design videos or have another creative effort in that regard, this is the place to showcase said videos. Whether you’re producing them or just creating them to show off your design or website building skills, for example, you’ll want to include them on your homepage, as well as a link to a video page and/or your YouTube account where you share your professional creative videos and more.
As with the video section, the gallery is where you can share visual content and photo projects. This time, it’ll be in the form of images. You can use this as a gallery to showcase your work and previous expertise, or even create a gallery that links out to individual pages for your showpieces, creating a more dynamic site than a single-page website would offer.
Make sure that you always use high-quality images, as mentioned in the tips above, no matter what industry you’re in. Low-quality looks unprofessional and might cause people to rethink a partnership with you. Illustration projects you’ve created can also go here.
Today’s creative artists, especially those in the visual arts, need to embrace and nearly exploit the use of Instagram as a free portfolio to present and show off their work over time. Instagram is a social platform that’s a must for designers and visual artists, makeup artists, photographers, and others. You should link to this or embed your Instagram photos here to get people’s attention and gain their interest on social media. It’s a great place to share ideas, projects, and professional services.
Even if someone doesn’t choose you for their needs, they might follow your social media accounts after seeing this section, which is a conversion in its own right.
Of course, you cannot have a successful online portfolio project unless it has plenty of ways that clients can contact you when they want to work together. The contact page or section should be straightforward and provide as much information and as many options for contact as possible.
- Phone number(s)
- Email address(es)
- Website URL
- Calendar/Scheduling Link
- Social media handles
Of course, you don’t just want to list these things. You want to offer them an explanation of how people can put them to use. For example, instead of just listing your phone number and email, you could say something like:
“If you’re interested in getting together to do some work, feel free to reach me at [email] or [phone], or hit up my scheduling app.”
Then, you can link to the scheduling app and give them three ways to reach you in one sentence. It also allows you to prioritize which methods they use, so capitalize on that, too.
There you have it: the perfect formula for building successful portfolio websites. Remember, start with your best work and end with your best persuasive call to reach out, and you’ll hit the mark every time with your portfolio website design.