Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to find photography clients, a freelancer struggling to get clients on UpWork, or a creative seeking office employment, you need a portfolio website. With an online website, you can target a global audience. It is one of the best means of advertising your business. As more and more people visit your site, you can turn them into qualified leads and happy customers.
The real purpose of a website is to provide tangible proof of how you add value to the company and contribute to the team, and there are lots of ways of doing that. From showcasing your best work and writing descriptions to offering client testimonials and customer reviews, a portfolio can document your accomplishments in a way that makes the client want to work with you. We will discuss ways in which you can create a winning portfolio, so you get more clients and build a stronger network for your business.
Here’s everything you need to know about designing a portfolio that sells your services.
Think like the client
A portfolio is not just a showcase of your best works. It highlights your value for the client or the employer. Good, creative pictures are not enough to convince them to work with you. What you have to aim for are pictures that reflect what the customer wants to see. It’s going to be different depending on the type of people you’re showcasing your portfolio to and your design career.
This means you’ll have to do some brainstorming. Here’s the list of questions you need to ask yourself:
- Does my client think in terms of creativity or function?
- Does my client have a preferred art style?
- Are there any current trends in the niche I’m applying to?
- Is the design process important to my client?
- Is teamwork important?
- What kind of person would I hire if I was them?
Matching client expectations is key to getting hired, regardless of the type of job you’re looking for. If you’re trying to attract families to your photography business, your portfolio may contain wedding photos or family photoshoots.
Do you want to get hired by a fashion magazine? Showcasing a behind-the-scenes shoot at an important event may not only show your skill, but also the ability to get to the right place. This is probably what your employer would believe to be a plus.
If you’re stuck with figuring out what your potential employers want to see, look up artists they’ve already worked with. Look at a couple of portfolios and try to figure out what key features except for sheer artistic beauty may have attracted that employer.
Choose the medium
There is no right medium for displaying your portfolio. Each has its ups and downs, and you may need more than one. Here are your options.
Uploading your finest works on Behance or a similar platform is one of the best ways to handle a portfolio. It gets your work out there, so recruiters can find you on their own. If you’re a good artist, you may not even have to look for employment, the employment will come looking for you.
If you didn’t make it to Behance’s recommendations, don’t worry. The beauty of Behance is not just that you don’t have to pay for hosting your own website.
When you send a link to your Behance portfolio, the recruiters see the number of likes your work has gathered. That’s a potent social signal that reinforces your expertise as an artist.
Most artists would benefit from a Behance profile because the website is so multi-faceted. Here are alternatives for niche design careers:
- Dribble for UI/UX designers
- ArtStation for game designers
- 500px for photographers
- Deviant Art for illustrators
- Portfolio website
Creating a website to host your portfolio is a more advanced option that just posting it on Behance or ArtStation. While you can significantly reduce the cost of creating one with Pixpa, you still have to pay for hosting and the domain name.
A website is also harder to find than a Behance portfolio. You can counter that by respecting some basic rules for writing on the web and by improving your SEO skills (e.g. doing guest blogging) to get exposure. If you have a following on social media, there are some relatively easy ways to make the most of your reach (e.g. use freebies, teaser videos or even paid ads).
Here’s a pro SEO tip: Dean Chester from Cooltechzone recommends viewing your website with a VPN if you’re working with clients from abroad. This will ensure the connection speed is adequate for people from another country. Choose one of VPN services after building a website and see how it performs.
Despite some downsides, a portfolio website offers benefits no other media does. You can give the employer a much more interactive way of viewing your portfolio. Showcase different portfolios for different clients, and arrange it in your own way. And make sure you test your website on mobile devices too! Only looking at the desktop version is a classic mistake.
Also, nothing beats the authority you show when linking to your own website instead of a Behance page. Take inspiration from these website portfolios, and leave your clients amazed.
- Physical copy
Printing your portfolio to show during the interview may not be the best choice for all design careers. However, if you’re an architect, a product development artist, or a photographer who offers printables, you must consider this option.
Showcase your best work
This is a no-brainer, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you about this. Your portfolio should contain the very best of your works.
Leave the half-baked projects and sketches for Instagram posts If you’re showcasing a page or a website to a potential client, it has to present the best you’ve got. What if you don’t have that much art you’re proud of? Create one. Take inspiration from these illustration and mixed media art portfolios and work on creating art that will sell your services. Don’t forget to think about what your clients want to see when doing that.
What if you’re a UI/UX designer with no work worth showing? One way you could handle this is by asking for permission to showcase group projects mentioning the other members of the team. If you want to shine alone, do a redesign of a popular website or an app.
This artist did just that with The Irish Time.
Source: Emil Bagirov/Behance
Here’s where you can find inspiration for a UX redesign:
- Popular websites like Buzzfeed or Bored Panda.
- Social networks like Twitter or Facebook.
- Find a local small business and redesign its websites.
- Browse review platforms like Yelp or TripAdvisor and redesign a part of the website.
- Reimagine popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Telegram with new features.
- Take a look at the best live chat software and redesign both the app and the website.
- Be bold and redesign the employer’s website.
Explain your choices
This tip may not be that useful for design careers that lean towards creative arts, but for product and website designers, this is extremely important.
Both the Behance page and the website give you the opportunity to comment on your work. Use that opportunity to your advantage and comment on your thought process. This agency shows how they used the concepts of simplicity and purity to redesign a bottle for a bottled water company.
Source: After Brands Consultants/Behance
This agency shows the problem that laid before them when redesigning an app, and how did they arrive at the result they currently have.
Source: NextPage Agency/Behance
What this does for your portfolio is it shows the client or the employer how you approach problems. It also shows you base your design on facts and don’t just create one that looks good. Even if you’re doing an unofficial redesign and don’t have a specific task at hand, comment on your work. State what do you think the app or the website is lacking, and why you redesigned it the way you did.
Show how do you approach the problem and what creative steps do you take to solve it. This is how Aaron Porter does it.
Source: Aaron Porter
Another tip you can take from Aaron is showing the iterations your design underwent.
Source: Aaron Porter
This would show that you can be creative and don’t grow attached to your work. Instead, you understand what really matters in your design and are focused on solving a problem with it, not just coming up with something that looks nice.
Employers would love this.
You may think that this tip is only appropriate for product designers. It’s primarily directed at them, but all designers can use it. This designer showcased her poster in a genuine setting, a place where it would be displayed. This works so much better than seeing the poster alone.
Source: Malena Ramirez/Behance
Here’s another work of hers. It’s from the same set of artwork for event promotion. It shows an invitation card the way it would look when printed. Again, this comes off more interesting than seeing this design in Photoshop with bleed, margins, and all.
Source: Malena Ramirez/Behance
Try to do this with your portfolio. If you’re a photographer, show a photo of yours hanging on a wall at an exhibition or standing on a work desk in a nice frame. If you’re an illustrator, show your design on a book cover or on an Instagram post.
Another way to give context to your portfolio is to segment it into chunks. Show each part of the portfolio one by one, providing each part with a heading.
Source: Nicholas Ødegaard/Behance
If you design a portfolio website with Pixpa, you can go even further. Sort your portfolio by genre or theme, and provide users with navigation. Here’s what a Pixpa website looks like.
Source: Amit Sharma
To show off your artistic side, you can take inspiration from Aaron Porter and do what he did on the website. It’s minimalist, and only has two options. When you click on one of them, it cues the video, and you see Aaron coming towards you, as new options reveal on the screen.
Head over to his website to check it out.
Source: Aaron Porter
Now, you’re equipped with everything you need to know to create a winning portfolio. Understand what your client wants to see, choose a platform to showcase it, and give it your best. Highlight your thinking process, and show your work in context. On the closing note, remember that once you have your portfolio showcase ready, you will need to work on your resume and rehearse the interview.
Prepare yourself, be passionate, and give it your best shot.
Guest Post by Connie Benton
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