As Canadians hunker down to wait out COVID-19, many are finding themselves with more time on their hands than they know what to do with. Which might make this a good time for anyone who’s been meaning to build a portfolio website to actually sit down and do it.
The hardest thing about creating a web portfolio is knowing where to start and what to include.
Whether you are a fine artist, graphic designer, photographer, writer or someone who dedicates their weekends to painting iguanas wearing jaunty berets, a digital portfolio is the best place to showcase your work. Think of it as a website advertising your services.
Editorial note: To help artists and entrepreneurs around the world, GoDaddy offers a free website builder. That’s right — free, free.
What all the best web portfolios have
A portfolio is and should be personal — so the sky’s the limit. Just make sure your digital portfolio includes these six elements:
- A personal introduction.
- Samples of paid work.
- Samples of pro bono work.
- Your contact information.
Let’s start by touching quickly on how a portfolio website differs from other business websites.
What’s the point?
An effective portfolio will include a number of items that can be organized and presented in such a way as to tell the story of your business. The idea is to make a compelling case for a potential client by showcasing your:
- Professional history
- Work samples
- Skills and talents
All of these things contribute to your professional image or brand.
More than a resume
Good portfolios, regardless of your profession, should display your achievements in a highly visual format. That’s right! Even if you are a writer, your online portfolio should include images that feed into the messaging you want potential clients to receive about your work.
Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, and so a well-chosen website template or theme is worth a million. A template or theme is basically a pre-built website ready for you to customize with your own images, links and text.
Your portfolio will be your calling card and (sometimes) job-interview-in-one, so think through the impression you want it to make.
The font choices, type size and style of the photos and images all need to stick to the style formula of your brand.
A simple internet search can turn up hundreds of template options for your portfolio website.
Take your time exploring until you find a design that feels right to represent your work. Pay less attention to the images in the templates (they can be changed) and more to the overall “feel” of the layout. Does it suit the image you’d like to convey? For example:
- If you are a graffiti artist, you might be drawn to a theme that is dark and gritty
- If you are a business photographer who specializes in C-suite headshots, you’ll want to go for something clean and crisp
But both online portfolios need to convey a capable and trustworthy image to turn initial interest into a commission or longer-term business relationship.
What to include on your portfolio website
The great thing about putting your portfolio online is that:
- It can grow with you
- Adding new work or samples is easy
- It is accessible to anyone anywhere
Your web portfolio is yours to create any way you please. But at a minimum, a good online portfolio includes the following:
1. A personal introduction
Start with a high-resolution photograph of yourself next to a brief outline of how you got interested in your field and developed the passion that started you on your journey into business for yourself.
Include any pertinent educational experiences or specialized courses or training you’ve completed. Then end this section with a personal message stating your attitude toward your customers’ satisfaction (communication, timely delivery of work, etc.)
2. Samples of paid work
Next is the work itself. If your work is visual, it goes without saying that you’ll want to include high-quality reproductions. Make sure you include some:
- Simple examples
- More elaborate pieces of work you’ve taken on
This way you can satisfy the curiosity of clients who might be looking for someone who can handle in-depth work, but you’ll also have options to share that won’t scare off clients who need smaller jobs completed.
Pro tip: Include some summaries of client briefs next to completed work to give potential clients some idea of the range and scope of creativity you are capable of.
3. Samples of pro bono work
If you are just starting out, you may not have a bunch of paid work to showcase, so show what you HAVE done while volunteering or while completing courses in school.
To plump up your online portfolio, you can even post work you have created experimentally and see if that gets you any nibbles of interest from prospective clients.
This section is where you get to list all of the amazing services, packages and skills you can offer potential clients and employers. Consider leaving out pricing lists so that interested visitors will be motivated to contact you for that information. This puts you in a position to convert that interest into real-world business.
Ask your past and current clients to write a brief statement about their satisfaction with your skills and services. This is something you can ask for as you conclude your business interactions — always build on the requisite ‘thank you/you’re welcome’ dialogue with something along the lines of “I’d love to include your feedback on my testimonial page!”
You could also offer each client a checklist for feedback with prepared ratings as a part of your standard invoicing.
6. Your contact information
This is probably the most important part of your online portfolio, as it is the call-to-action that your web portfolio has been building up to.
Whether your goal is to find new clients or to get a job at a larger firm, clear contact information that includes a variety of options (phone, email, social media) is the way to get the conversation started.
A few best practices
Keep in mind some practical considerations when designing your portfolio website.
Make it mobile friendly
Since most interactions with web pages and search engines happen on handheld devices, always make sure that whatever template you have chosen is compatible with both smartphones and desktop viewing. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a website that can’t be opened on a smartphone.
Keep it clean
When it comes to layout and navigation, think ‘organized’, ‘neat’ and ‘clear’ — all qualities any client would want to see in a freelancer when considering a professional working relationship.
Protect your work
Always, always watermark and copyright any photographs or images that you created and own so they can’t be copied or downloaded and reused elsewhere.
A portfolio that is accessible online is a great way to show prospective employers and clients the range of work you have completed for others, as well as the skills you have developed that make you the right person for their job.
If you take your time and design your portfolio website with the same passion and care you put into work for your client, it will effectively reflect who you are and what your business represents.