A Complete Guide
There are dozens of types of portfolios and all sorts of reasons why you might want to have one. Classically, portfolios have been creative professionals' best tools for marketing themselves. Whether they want to land a new job or get new clients, a personal website showcasing their best work provide the visuals to accompany their resumés and emails.
In the old days, artists carried a physical portfolio into job interviews or client meetings. Portfolio websites are just the modern equivalent. The one difference, which is critical to think about, is that the artist isn't sitting there discussing the work with the viewer. If the artist were there, they might have something to add verbally about each image or work of art. A digital portfolio needs to have that personal touch as well.
The first example that comes to everyone's mind is the photographer. A photographer might be looking to get more business, so they collect their best images to show potential clients. If they work corporate events, they might show their online photography portfolio to event managers and organizers.
If you think about the photographer and how they work, you'll understand the importance of showcasing their work through an online portfolio. There are plenty of portfolios set up by hobbyists looking to share their work for other reasons, but even then, the purpose is to put it in front of the audience. As such, business planning and marketing of this website are essential for its overall success.
Photographers are just one example. Any visual artist needs a similar portfolio–put simply, the professional world still isn't set up to expand much beyond the resumé. Videographers and filmmakers have portfolios, as do graphic designers, models, dancers, fashion designers, and even digital UI/UX designers. Check out these examples of best graphic design online portfolios.
Creative professionals looking at building a strong online presence and growing their business will benefit from a well laid out portfolio.
Top 10 Tips For
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of putting your portfolio together, here are few tips for setting yourself up for success. Most people approach their portfolio as something of a pet project, which starts as a fun collection of their favorite works. Many artists are turning their hobbies and passions into careers. There's nothing wrong with that, but understand how important your portfolio is.
For creative individuals, your portfolio is your first best impression to the world. They're used in all sorts of ways, and they reach all sorts of different audiences. Your online portfolio website might be seen by potential employers or by future clients.
Don't just collect your favorite pieces, stick them together, and call it a portfolio. If this is how you’ve approached portfolio building in the past, take a moment to plan out Version 2.0.
Approach your portfolio as if it were a big project for a client. Create a brief, have a clear goal, and know why you are making it when you go in.
This is all about your mindset; it's what sets you apart as a creative professional. If you want to do work for other people, start by showing you can do work for yourself.
Once you're in the right headspace and ready to tackle the project, it's time to sit down and make a detailed plan. Like any client project, your portfolio needs a clear-cut set of goals. Once you know what you want to do with your online portfolio, you can start laying out the actions that you need to take to achieve those goals.
So what goals do most people have for their professional portfolio? Many are set up for potential employers to view. If you're a job seeker, you put your domain name in your resumé and your application to funnel hiring managers to your site. Once they're there, you present them your absolute best work. Graphic artists need much more visual real estate than a simple text resumé or CV can provide, so the portfolio becomes the A/V portion of your sales pitch.
Artists who are already established or who are freelancers may set up their sites to generate sales. Pixpa is the perfect online portfolio solution to present and promote your online artist portfolio.
As a photographer, you want your leads to see images you have taken, and you want those pictures to make a meaningful impact. You want to connect with those potential leads in a way that makes them follow up, either by following your social media accounts or by booking you for a gig.
Some portfolios aren't for either of these things. Some artists want to share their work, receive feedback from their peers, or show friends and family. Social media sites are great for this, but an artist often wants more control over the user experience.
Portfolios can be used simply for building your reputation in a particular area or for general networking with other people interested in what you do.
Start with a big-picture idea of what you want to communicate and what you want the world to know about you. Then work from that vision, falling back on it as you make smaller level decisions while building your site. Always ask yourself, does this help communicate my vision?
The key elements of this strategy include a clear idea of who you’re marketing to, as well and the best ways to go about it. Going forward with your planning, you’ll now have a very clear picture of what your target audience looks like and be more able to speak directly to them.
Get inspiration from these online portfolio examples.
With all of this talk of treating your website like a business, it's time to start treating yourself like one too.
All of these things should be integrated into your portfolio website if you already have them.
If you don't have them, now's a great time to put all of this together. Of course, you could add stuff in later. But the more time you spend putting it all together now, the less work you'll have going forward. All of these things may seem unrelated, but it sets your portfolio apart from the competition. Remember, no one will view your portfolio in a vacuum. You're always competing with other professionals working in the same field.
If you're using your online portfolio site as a sales vehicle, other business-related questions should be answered now, too. What exactly is the niche that you're trying to address? The more specific the type of work you want to do, the more specific your portfolio should be. The point here is to get the most precise idea you can of who your ideal customer is so that you can speak to them directly. The more a viewer feels like your website is built for them, the more connected they will be and the more likely they will follow up.
We're using the example of an artist trying to market themselves to clients here, but the same is true for someone trying to land a job. For job seekers, the client you're trying to land is the hiring manager or business owner you hope will hire you. You want them to follow up, call you in for an interview, or offer you a job. It's not that much different than an established professional looking to land a new client.
Now that you're looking at the smaller details of your portfolio plan, do you think that one portfolio is enough? If you are trying to market to completely different sorts of people, you might need completely different portfolios.
Once you know what you are marketing and who your target audience is, it's time to put together your pitch. In your online portfolio website, your pitch is made up of a small collection of your best work. You have to go through your work while pretending to be the audience–it's not an easy task.
Many of our favorite works are older. They are part of our story. To you, a piece might show how you've changed or grown as an artist over time. None of these emotional connections exist for the audience if they weren't there with you. And this is precisely what makes curating your galleries so tricky. Can you honestly view your artwork through others' eyes? This isn't a bad time to start bringing in some trusted friends who can help you whittle your collection down.
There's nothing wrong with choosing older pieces to highlight, either. But the litmus test should be, does this piece help tell the story I want to tell, and does it help me achieve my website's goals? If you do use something that's a few years old, make sure that it still visually matches your style now. If you're a photographer and are now using newer editing techniques, go back to the original file and update it. You want all of the images in your gallery to have the same look and feel.
Once you've outlined your plan and have a collection of images or works that you'd like to include, it's time to get to making your site. There are many ways to get creative portfolios online, and all of them come with advantages and disadvantages. You can make your site from scratch or use free website builders. This is sort of an old-school way of tackling the problem, however. Today, there are plenty of websites that are custom designed to give you easy access to the best looking portfolio you can have.
When choosing the site you want to use, look for ones that cater to the type of work you do. A template-driven site for photographers is going to have photographer-friendly tools built right in. They'll understand the importance of having easy proofing pages for clients or unlimited uploads for client galleries. They'll also make it easy for your clients to use the galleries to purchase images or offer instant digital downloads.
Pixpa makes content creators feel right at home. Sites created here are completely customizable and easily expandable. You can keep it a simple portfolio, or add proofing tools, client portals, or online store. See all features that allow you to build and manage your professional website.
No matter what creative field your portfolio shines in, make sure that the platform you choose has the features you need. Again, this is why starting with a list of your mission and goals is so important. Now, just make sure your site of choice will fit the bill.
Now you know which site you'd like to use, and you can select the look and feel of your site. It's the first step into making it look like your own.
The portfolio template that you pick will have a lot to do with the works you want to highlight.
To make finding these answers easier, it's good to have the basic idea in mind, you can pick a template that best suits your goals rather than the other way around.
The nice thing about template-driven web design is that the template can be changed later. There's a lot of customization available within an online portfolio template, too. You can add pages and set your menu navigation, for example.
Look for templates that will be easy to grow with your brand and business, and that will be easy to update later.
Don't pick disparate design elements–try to make everything as cohesive as possible. The template's design has a lot to do with the sort of media that it's used to display. If you are a filmmaker, find a template designed to best show motion pictures.
If there's one important thing to keep in mind when choosing a template, it's that less is more. The best ones leave you feeling like there's no other template in the world that would work with your art. It works backstage and gets none of the credit, but it pulls it all together in just the right ways.
Online portfolios are usually for photographers or creative professionals, but don't forget that words matter as well. Spend some time choosing your online portfolio website's language carefully. Don’t assume that your work needs no explanation.
Start with the basics–your domain name. You really should have your own domain name. BobsDogPhotography.com looks a lot more professional than blogs.google.com/bobsphotos. Domain names can be purchased for a few dollars a year, and the amount of street cred they add to your marketing is worth every penny. Plus, they look great on your business cards and your resumé.
Next, introduce yourself; show the person behind the work. The most important parts of landing a job/client are the soft people skills. Show a little bit of your fun side in your portfolio, just enough to communicate that there's a real person behind the scenes making all of this fantastic work.
The tone is a major consideration with an online portfolio. It should be personable, and you want to connect with your audience. But you also want to sound professional, like someone that can be trusted to do the job on time and on budget.
In general, visual artists tend to be too light with the text. There's nothing wrong with including some explanations of your work. Viewers might not be able to understand a piece of visual art at first glance, and if your audience is from a different walk of life, they might not understand what goes into creating it.
Finally, make sure that it's easy to contact you from your home page. There should always be some form of a call to action included on a great sales page. If you apply this to your portfolio, what would your call to action be? Do you want interested parties to email you, call you, or follow you on a specific social media channel? Include that in a creative and catchy way and make it easy for them to do it.
To the extent that your portfolio website site is a marketing tool, make sure you follow through and get it out there. You need to get traffic on your site, but exactly how much is up to you. It's entirely possible that you created an entire portfolio website with one person in mind. This is the case if you're applying for a specific job. However, many creative portfolios are designed to generate sales leads and build up some brand recognition for the creator. If that's the case, you want your site to rank well on search engines. This starts with a well-chosen URL, one that includes words like "photography" or "graphic design."
All other text on the site should be optimized for search engines. You should do some research and figure out which keywords you want to rank well for. Of course, your portfolio isn't straight going to rank in the top five for "photographer." But if you can narrow it down and find your niche, you could easily become the top hit for "beach wedding photographer Naples, Florida."
A blog is an excellent way to improve your listings. It adds value for your clients, shows your personality as an individual behind your work, and search engines love them. Blogs can include all sorts of long-form keywords and point back to your main portfolio site or landing page. If you share your blog on online forums or social media, the more hits you get, the better your search results.
Make sure you're giving out your web address at every opportunity. Include it on your social media account profiles. If you actively post in forums, make sure your signature line includes your site. Put it in your emails and on your business cards.
Make it your mission to get everyone to go to your site.
By now, your site should be coming together. You should have a cohesive brand, with images and text that tell a story and captivate your audience. The next step is to go the extra mile and let your viewers in on your creative process. Doing so will undoubtedly show them a little bit of the person behind the work, but more importantly, it will show how you complete real-world projects.
Think of it from the perspective of a potential client, who has gone through several portfolios. How are they going to choose who to hire? They're going to go with the one that they think can do the best, most professional job for them. One way you can build their trust and confidence is to show them exactly what the process will look like. Videos or tutorials are great ways to show this, as are blog posts that break down a specific client project.
The goal is to walk your audience through the process. Show that you can respond to briefs, receive feedback, and perform revisions.
This shows a level of professionalism and that you will put time and consideration into their project, which is music to their ears.
Once you have created your website using an online portfolio builder, it's time to take the initiative and ask all of your friends and family to review the site and provide some feedback.
No matter your end goal, your portfolio needs to work flawlessly on every platform possible. Make sure there are no lags and everything loads quickly on all mobile platforms, Android and Apple browsers, and all the desktop options. Focus on the user experience, which you don't want to be tainted by some tech problem you hadn't planned on.
Whether it's true or not, there is an expectation that a working professional will have a steady stream of unique projects to use in their online portfolio site. Creative people know that this isn't the case, that only some projects lend themselves to making masterpieces.
Nonetheless, don’t let your portfolio get stagnant. This is the hardest part of making and keeping an online portfolio. You've got to keep new projects flowing on your social media pages. If you have a blog on your website, it's the easiest way to regularly add new content. It's a lot of work, but that level of dedication will help your clients and potential clients know that you're serious.
The 4 Mantras for Your Online Portfolio Website