This article has been contributed by Mike Gregson.
If you’re leaving the rat race and starting your freelancer journey, you’ll have to create a portfolio website that stands out from the crowd.
When it comes to freelance design, a portfolio is crucial. People will be hesitant to work with you if you don’t have any of your previous work to show them.
It won’t be easy, but creating an online portfolio will take your business to the next level and help you establish a professional online persona that everyone will want to work with. It will take a lot of time and effort to perfect it and even more time to promote it – but it will be worth it.
An online portfolio, while hard to create from scratch, will become a tool that’s easy to use and maintain.
So how do you start to create a graphic design portfolio website? Let’s find out together.
How to Create a Graphic Design Portfolio to Get Your Hired
1. Curate Your Best Work
Start by taking a step back and looking at all your projects with a critical eye. You will probably think all of them are good, but only a handful of them are really good enough to make it onto your portfolio website. Take it slow, split them into categories and choose the top one or two from each group.
Next, figure out which ones are deserving of a case study. This is where you’ll tell the whole story of the project, from the idea to the execution and the final result. You will quickly find that some of them are just not complex enough.
It may depend on your projects, but aim for about 30 to display on your portfolio website, including 10 case studies. This whole process might seem overwhelming at first but it will be totally worth it.
Just keep in mind that you will have to take an objective stance and keep things real – not every project you’ve ever worked on is worthy of being displayed on your website.
2. Choose Your Platform
This may be another intimidating step, particularly if you have no programming experience and don’t feel like paying someone a fortune to create your portfolio website for you.
But rest assured, there are better alternatives. There are plenty of platforms that allow you to create a portfolio website without having to break the bank.
Search the web for some of these services, chose a couple that appeal to you and do an in-depth study about each of them. Depending on your priorities, choose one based on the templates available, ease of use (like drag and drop functionality rather than coding), cost, third-party plug-ins and more.
Take a look at this comparison of website builder software platforms, WebFlow, WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Paperform and Squarespace.
3. Tell Your Story
Yes, I’m talking about that dreaded About Me page. I know it’s hard to talk about yourself and, god-forbid, praise yourself. But at the end of the day, you’re the product and you have to sell yourself to the customer.
When you create a portfolio website, the About Me page is just as important as the rest. Sure, the client will get snippets of your personality from your projects but that About page is where it truly shines.
It’s important for a potential client to feel a more personal connection so take your time and really perfect this page. Write about your achievements, your career path, your main skills… you get the point.
The About page should be, well, about you. It’s the place where you include all the relevant personal information. Also, try to add a picture of yourself. Don’t just be another faceless freelancer.
4. Get Some Opinions
No, we’re not talking about opinions from your friends – even though those are also useful. We’re talking about client testimonials.
As you create a portfolio website, this might seem like a small detail and it will often go overlooked. But truth is, word of mouth is still a thing, even in this digital age.
Testimonials are a great way to get some well-deserved praise for your work, while creating a sense of familiarity and reassurance for a potential client who visits your portfolio.
This might be a bit anxiety-inducing at first. After all, it seems a bit out of place to ask for people to write praising words for you. But you’ll quickly get over it, especially when you see your bounce rate started going down once you add testimonials to your portfolio.
Gather opinions from past clients, co-workers, managers and bosses – anyone who has interacted with you professionally and was happy with your work.
5. Keep It Fresh
We all love a good dose of fresh content with our morning coffee. And so does Google. The more content you put out, the better you will start ranking in search results.
We’re not saying you should edit your portfolio and homepage once a week or anything absurd like that. Instead, the best way to keep things fresh and interesting is to create a blog.
“But blogs are soooooo early 2010s!” I hear you say. But hear me out. When you keep your content relevant and linked to what you do, people will start taking you more seriously. They will start seeing you as a professional who is willing to share your valuable knowledge with them.
You can write blog posts about past projects, a certain skill you picked up or tools you use to get the job done. And since we’re talking content…
6. Promote Yourself
When you create a portfolio website, its promotion starts right from its inner pages. Add your social media in the footer and make sure these buttons are visible no matter what page you’re on. If you’re a designer, add your Behance, LinkedIn or art Instagram accounts. If you’re a writer, stick to LinkedIn and a professional Facebook page.
What I personally recommend in terms of social media is to keep things separate. If you’re linking your Instagram page, don’t go for your personal one.
Same thing goes for Facebook – you’re better off creating a Facebook business page rather than displaying your personal one. It helps keep things professional and have a clear line drawn between the personal and the professional.
7. Mind Your Branding
I keep saying this to everyone who asks for advice on how to create a portfolio website – branding matters.
That extra mile really matters here and I can’t stress this enough – if you create a memorable brand, it will sell by itself. People will see that you have spent time and effort to build your brand from the ground up and that extra effort is always appreciated.
And if you still don’t believe me, let’s look at it this way – you’re a talented designer with the experience and projects to prove it but your portfolio website doesn’t have your personal brand.
I don’t know about you, but I’d question this a bit. They have such a good portfolio but they don’t have their own brand? Why didn’t they go that extra mile? Going above and beyond is always appreciated, especially when it comes to yourself.
8. Include a Resume
You might roll your eyes when an employer still asks you for your resume, even after you send them the link to my online portfolio. But the reality is that hard-copy resumes are still used nowadays, especially in traditional workplaces that have an HR department.
Keep your CV simple and to the point, adding any relevant information – education and past experience are the most important aspects, of course.
If you want to spice things up a bit, you might find the idea of a classic resume a bit… dry. You might not want to add a link to a downloadable PDF on your website, mostly because you want people to stay on it. So, create a dedicated section under the About Me tab, where youyou’re your resume as a page on your website. It’s simple, clean and a potential employer can still see it without leaving your site.
9. Split Your Skills
You want your clients to have a clear idea of what you do and what you don’t. This will also save you a lot of headaches when you receive confused emails.
If you’re a designer with, let’s say, logo and web design expertise, you might want to have them in separate sections on your portfolio website. We recommend creating a Services tab and displaying your relevant skills as a dropdown menu. This will save a bunch of emails asking if you provide this or that service.
Creating a portfolio website might seem like a herculean task at first, especially if you have no experience. That’s why you should always start with a plan – this will form the skeleton of your portfolio. It will keep you on track and if you do lose your way, you will always know how to get back.
An online portfolio is a powerful tool that’s worth pouring time and effort into. Because at the end of the day, it’s the first impression a client gets about you. This first impression is hard to change so why not make sure you have it right from the get-go?
If we’re talking long-term, a portfolio website will probably be the best investment you make in yourself and in your career. So take your time with it, plan it thoroughly, pay attention to every detail and make sure the end result is just as great as your best project.
About the author: Mike Gregson is the founder of Royal Media Ltd. and a passionate digital marketer with over 10 years of experience. He has helped numerous companies all over the world, from small to large, always getting the right results.