When you work in the creative industry, you’re in for a world of competition and it becomes incredibly vital to showcase your work effectively for that steady in-flow of clients and work opportunities. Much like online dating, your “profile” can only hold a potential client’s attention for so long before they decide to swipe - if they want to give you a chance or not. You are not the only one who does what you do - and a portfolio website can help you communicate what you have to offer as a cut above the rest.
If you’re still unsure, you can read an in-depth reasoning of why building a personal website is important here.
A well-designed portfolio website is key to grabbing the attention of potential clients and holding it beyond a few-second window, long enough for you to help say - “Hey! This is what I can do, and I’ve worked with these people - here’s how to contact me.” Some even decide to use inspiring landing page designs to accomplish this but to go further into starter specifics, you’ll need a few things to start:
A short bio and a professional description of the kind of work you do. These may come in a few short paragraphs or a short and sweet introduction, depending on where you’d like to add this information. Longer introductions can be used in dedicated “About Me” pages while the (written) elevator pitch version could be one of the first things they see on your homepage. Regardless, better to prepare something you can work and adapt to communicate what exactly hiring managers should expect from your website portfolio.
Portfolio sites designed like TJ Maher’s opens with a photo banner of his painting and starts with a short description of his process and inspiration behind his art before going into lengths about his life as an artist.
Your contact details. This one goes without saying but worth repeating - your professional contact details should include your phone number and email, with your social media channels as an optional but highly recommended addition. Make it easier to contact you so you are easy to hire. You can even incorporate a digital calling card style presentation of your details as you need in the website.
Curated collections of your work. Whatever projects you choose to display on your portfolio website must have a purpose, otherwise, it’s a waste of space and additional noise. The usual recommendation is to include your most recent and/or best work - both paid and personal, but remember to add variety. Do you do mostly branding work, or do you have other more fun projects on the side? Is yours a less traditional form of artistry like makeup or industrial design? Communicate your versatility through the variety of work that you showcase.
Theo Karsenty’s portfolio website curates his work in collections organized according to the services he offers. He includes a gallery of his process, a brief bio, and ways to contact him. You can see more samples of how other people have showcased their skills and processes to inspire your own.
Feedback from previous clients (if you have them). No matter the industry, it’s always great to collect positive feedback and testimonials from previous clients. These help further your credibility as a reliable worker and a nice thing to keep for inspiration - especially when burnout hits.
Awards and certifications. These are important especially if you’re just starting out and you’ve gone through some training to learn the work you want to do. Other than an excellent way to track your progress, having these for reference is a more professional recommendation on your credibility and ability to work.
An outline on how you intend to organize these assets. In a typical resume or traditional portfolio, you probably have some idea on how best to layout all the information you’ve gathered that you’d like to digitize. It would be incredibly helpful going into making your own portfolio website, to have an idea of how these can translate into a space of your own creation and organization and can show off some of your organizational skills.
If you’ve already got all these - or may even already have a website portfolio of your own, you can go through the following pointers as a guide to some of the best practices found in the best portfolio websites with more great examples here.
- User-friendly - probably one of the most important aspects of a website portfolio, remember to make your portfolio easy for anyone of all ages to use. This means designing with smart navigation in mind while using colors that don’t clash or appear off-putting on a bright screen. Check out other tips that go beyond aesthetics to ensure a user-friendly website design. Advanced user-friendly practices even allow for certain websites to adjust or even accommodate by default those who are color-blind or otherwise disabled.
- Mobile-friendly - knowing that screens can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s imperative to use website builders that can help you create your portfolio website that can adapt in real-time. Most people are busy and often multitask by reviewing action items on their phone and if that includes glancing at your profile, then your portfolio shouldn’t be static and stick to original photo sizes rather than adapt to a smaller screen. Make it easy to switch between phones, tablets, computers, or even TVs - you need to be seen to be noticed.
[ ](User-friendly - probably one of the most important aspects of a website portfolio, remember to make your portfolio easy for anyone of all ages to use. This means designing with smart navigation in mind while using colors that don’t clash or appear off-putting on a bright screen. Check out other tips that go beyond aesthetics to ensure a user-friendly website design. Advanced user-friendly practices even allow for certain websites to adjust or even accommodate by default those who are color-blind or otherwise disabled. Mobile-friendly - knowing that screens can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s imperative to use website builders that can help you create your portfolio website that can adapt in real-time. Most people are busy and often multitask by reviewing action items on their phone and if that includes glancing at your profile, then your portfolio shouldn’t be static and stick to original photo sizes rather than adapt to a smaller screen. Make it easy to switch between phones, tablets, computers, or even TVs - you need to be seen to be noticed.)
- Appropriate accompanying images - For designers, their art is their lifeblood, and this needs to look its best before going out into display; but these can include a variety of photos in different settings according to the story you want to tell and where you’re telling it. So it’s incredibly important for your portfolio website to include a flattering photo of yourself on your About Page but use a more subdued, tone-setting photo to your page explaining your mission. Have a gallery for a specific collection or timeline, or even just have a video of your most recent engagement linked to your press releases related to this particular event.
One of the best portfolio websites that balance images and a good copy is Kerryn Gamble’s portfolio website. As a consultant and author for improving communication skills, her website includes press releases, event highlights, and photos that properly promote the value she wants to communicate with her portfolio. Learn more about thought leaders and professionals and why they built their websites here.
- Great copy and descriptors - If a picture can speak a thousand words, what would be the best way to say it in two sentences? If you’ve got your About Me set, you’ll still need the occasional explainer for collections of your work. Here’s a guide to writing good website copy. Share your process: how you think, how you work, what inspires you? And place these in the appropriate sections of your portfolio website.
- Reflects your personality with your best foot forward - Make this space your own by putting your own spin on making your website portfolio. Communicate your collaborations, the things you’re excited for, and spruce up your work so people can get excited at the idea of working with you. Give credit as well to any shared or collaborative work you’ve done to establish yourself as a team player with integrity - both admirable and desirable traits.
- Engages your audience - If you want to share what is new with your business that adds value and gives you credibility, consider creating an opt-in newsletter that promises tailored advice and insight into your processes that can inspire your audience. Sharing values that are in line with your mission and vision will add to your integrity and make you a reliable resource for budding individuals in the same field as you, and communicate your willingness to collaborate with potential clients. Learn more about creating your first newsletter here.
Keep in mind that these aren’t hard and fast rules followed by all the portfolio sites in the world, but it is a great reference to see what you can add to build your space according to the kind of work you do. Industrial designers may need a different approach and create an industrial design portfolio to showcase their multidimensional skills. Actors may need a dedicated website to house all their video reels and references. Graphic designers may not have much use for a long-form blog, but thought leaders, writers, and other personalities may have a blog as their primary income-generator after monetizing their website. Likewise, these people probably can’t communicate their public speaking or writing skills through a comprehensive gallery - to each their own.
At the end of the day, creating your own portfolio website takes a lot of time and effort but the gains of this investment will definitely be worth all the heavy-duty decision-making now rather than waiting until later as the competition gets even more cutthroat. It’s also not up to you to call yourself the perfect candidate - rather you are not “the best” but simply have your own way and style in creating what you do, and displaying it in a portfolio is merely a testament to your experience and skill level. You’ll either make a fine first impression or an outstanding enough one that’ll get you your desired clientele. While in the now, take the time to collect and showcase your assets, own your domain, and build your website portfolio now!