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How Do You Create a Professional Portfolio?

Whether you are a photographer, artist or designer, building a cutting-edge professional portfolio is an essential part of any creative career. This guide explains everything you need to know about building a successful professional portfolio that showcases your talent and accomplishments.

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What is a Professional
Portfolio?

When you think of a portfolio, you might think of an artist or photographer carrying a large collection around with them to interviews or to show clients. Of course, that's still a thing, even though most people accomplish the task online now.

But did you realise that portfolios are must-have items for nearly every professional? A portfolio is an advanced version of a resume - it gives potential employers a view of your capabilities. So while a resume, job application, or email might give them the idea that you're interested, your portfolio will be the thing that sells them on the idea that you're the person they're looking for.

A professional's portfolio takes many forms

  • For a visual artist, it is likely a collection of their best photographs or paintings.
  • For the graphic designer, it might include case studies of their biggest and most successful projects.
  • For the writer, it is a collection of samples.
  • For the management professional, it might be a collection of reports and reviews showing their analytical accomplishments and what they've brought to past projects.
  • For a professor or teacher, it serves as a collection of your projects and teaching techniques to show hiring boards and certifying committees when it comes time to move up or get a raise.

What are the different types of
portfolios?

There are two types of portfolios that you will use. Both are living documents that you must update regularly, but they differ in their purpose and the audience you want to share them with. Some professionals create two separate portfolios, one for each task. Others tailor their portfolio for their needs at the moment.

Working Portfolio

First, there is the working portfolio. This document grows with you as a professional and shows how your work has evolved over time. It is a collection of your best works and something of a professional scrapbook. How you use this portfolio depends on your industry - perhaps you share it with potential clients, or perhaps it lives as your web presence to tell the world what it is you do.

A working portfolio says to the world,
"This is me and this is what I do."

Some professionals maintain a working portfolio for their own purpose but spend more time collating and curating a display portfolio to show others. How you organise it depends significantly on what sort of things you have and how others in your industry present theirs.

Presentation Portfolio

Finally, there are presentation or assessment portfolios. These are less generic - they are created with a specific purpose. Perhaps that purpose is to interest new clients, or perhaps it is to present your skills to a particular employer. The presentation portfolio isn't about your growth and history so much as about your skills at the moment for a particular job. It is analogous to a resume - a presentation portfolio is tailored for each application.

It says, "I am the right person for this task, and here's an example of how well I can do it for you."

Stand out with a stunning
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Photographer Portfolio Website

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Graphic Design Portfolio Website

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Artist Portfolio Website

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Architecture Portfolio Website

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Fashion Design Portfolio Website

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Fashion Model Portfolio Website

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Why is it important to have a
Professional Portfolio?

A portfolio serves as a collection of your best works for the working professional. You add to it and keep it updated, and when it comes time to ask for a promotion or a raise, your work is ready for you to show off. It's also a networking tool to help you connect with like-minded people in your industry to build new connections and expand your network.

For the job seeker, portfolios augment your resume or CV. Those formal and dry documents are only summaries, after all. The portfolio elaborates and provides a way for you to truly stand out. When applying to professional positions, task one is to polish your resume to the point where the hiring manager will seek out your portfolio. Your portfolio then seals the deal. It provides an opportunity for you to speak directly to the manager and to make your case--you have the skills and are the right person for the job.

For the freelance professional, your portfolio helps potential clients find you and shows them what you do. It also probably answers their questions--what does this person do, and how well do they do it? Can they help me, and do they have the skills I'm looking for? Check out these examples of best photography portfolios.

Finally, for the employee, a portfolio is invaluable when it comes time for your annual performance review. It's helpful also when you need a collection of metrics to draw on during salary negotiations or when applying for a promotion.

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What are the Main Components
of a Professional Portfolio?

There is no set professional portfolio template - every single one is different. In some ways, that's the power of a portfolio. Where a resume is standardised and lacks much room for modification, a portfolio can take any shape to suit its message.

Below you'll find a list of common components that most professional portfolios include. Depending on the job at hand, these might take slightly different shapes or forms. Some may be omitted entirely, and different ones may be added.

  • Cover Letter
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Resume
  • Credentials
  • Research or Project Outcomes
  • Teamwork, Collaboration, and Leadership Highlights
  • Honours or Awards
  • Appendices

Get inspired by these outstanding
art portfolios built on Pixpa

Looking for some inspiration? Check out beautiful online art portfolio websites by top
successful artists, built on Pixpa.

See more examples
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What is the Difference Between
a Professional Portfolio and a Resume?

A resume goes hand-in-hand with a well-designed portfolio. One never replaces the other because they each serve very different purposes.

A resume is a standardized document that succinctly lists your qualifications for a position. It includes relevant education, certification, training information, along with previous positions held and skills acquired. For the hiring manager, it is an easy and quick way to establish a baseline. They have some set minimums for a position, and this clean format of raw data makes it easy for them to sort the qualified from the not-so-much.

A portfolio is the second phase of the application process for the qualified. The resume points the hiring team to it. Once there, hopefully, they are captivated and can't wait to meet you.

Imagine you are a professor who is applying for a new position. Your resume shows you have a degree in education and have worked as an instructor for a few years. You also have the requisite certifications. When listed on your resume, these things show the hiring manager that you may be qualified for the job, but that person likely wants to know more. They want to know how you stand out compared to all the other education school grads out there.

And that's where your portfolio becomes so essential. Your resume piqued their interest, but it's the portfolio that will grab their attention. Within it, your creativity knows no bounds. You can design the portfolio any way you like. Goodbye, standardised, ugly written resume! And you can handpick the work you want to show to make the biggest impact for that moment.

Just like you wouldn't walk into an interview without knowing a little bit about the company and what they're looking for, you don't want to present a portfolio without customising it. Never forget--your portfolio is a living document, so update it regularly for your present purpose. This is even more important for professional resume examples because they need to show relevance and purpose. For more inspiration, do read our article on how to build a great resume website.

online portfolio maker

How Do You Create a Professional Portfolio?

A professional portfolio was traditionally built in a large three-ring binder. Depending on the application, you may have submitted it for review upon request or simply carried it into the interview to reference occasionally. Creating such a portfolio is part of the application process in some settings. In others, it was just an easy way to share your significant projects and accomplishments.

But digital websites make these portfolios so much better. Online website portfolios allow you complete creative control over your portfolio's look, feel, and content. You can include living multimedia presentations, interactive designs, and as much information as you see fit. Here are 10 top tips to make your online portfolio stand out.

Imagine sending a link to a potential manager that includes everything that makes you perfect for the job. But instead of flipping through a dusty old binder, a modern website greets them with a well-produced video introduction.

And from your perspective, imagine your ability to control the message! You can record a video introduction a hundred times until you get it just right. Then, you can edit it together and get professional help if you need it. A portfolio gives you the ability to polish your message until it's perfectly crafted for the task at hand.

The biggest factor to consider when building your portfolio is a clear mission. Why are you putting this portfolio together? Then, tell a story that meets that goal in everything you do.

5 Tips to Make a Good
Professional Portfolios + Bonus Tip

Here are five tips for making a professional portfolio with an impact.

online portfolio maker

TIP 1

Create an Online Portfolio

Before you dive into putting a portfolio together, you'll need to settle on the platform and format.

Pixpa is a one-stop web portfolio platform perfect for every application, from creative visual artists to accountants and management professionals. Getting started is easy with our expert-designed professional portfolio template choices.

Looking for more inspiration? Browse some of our best professional portfolio examples to get your creative juices flowing.

TIP 2

Collect Data

Next, you'll want to start looking for items to populate the portfolio website with. You can gain inspiration by looking at professional portfolio examples, especially those within your industry. Everyone's portfolio is distinctly unique, so don't feel bad if you're missing a category or need to add an entirely new one.

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TIP 3

Organize and Sort

Now you likely have a messy pile of stuff, including some analog written papers and some digital multimedia. So what do you do with all of it? Now comes the hard work of curating the materials. First, organise and sort your portfolio materials into meaningful categories.

Here are some generic categories that are used in both physical and digital professional portfolios. There's plenty of flexibility here, though. So take a look at the professional portfolio template used in your industry and see what you might need to customise.

  • Cover
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Resume
  • Credentials
  • Research or Project Outcomes
  • Teamwork, Collaboration, and Leadership Highlights
  • Honours or Awards
  • Appendices
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TIP 4

Tell Your Story

By now, your portfolio is probably taking shape. You've amassed a considerable amount of materials and organized it. So step back, and start looking at your portfolio project as a whole. Do the sections and the materials within each section tell a cohesive story? Hopefully, they do. And hopefully, the story is the one you want to tell!

If you look at the sample list of categories in the tip above, you'll notice that there's a natural progression to your portfolio. First, the viewer is introduced to you and shown a basic resume. Then your credentials are explained, and then some projects you've worked on. Finally, teamwork, leadership, and awards are presented. It's a story.

You may find there's a gap or that the progression isn't as apparent as you'd hoped. To tell your story effectively, you may want to rearrange the categories or add some new materials.

online portfolio for photographers

TIP 5

Finishing Touches

As with any other sort of submission, don't send the link to your portfolio out until you've done some proofreading. Find a few key people in your life who you trust to be honest and detail-oriented, and ask them to help you proofread and edit your portfolio.

Bonus Tip!

online portfolio template

Customise Your Message

Portfolios are living documents - they evolve over time and can be customised for every application. Keep this in mind once you have your portfolio live. Maybe you don't get the job you built it for, but the chances are that it will still come in handy. All you have to do is keep updating it and modify it to make sure it tells the story you want it to tell each time.

When Should You Use
Your Professional Portfolio?

The best portfolio in the world will do you no good if the people you want to see it never look at it. So, when exactly should you point them in the right direction? Here are the best times.

Pixpa offers everything you need to create your professional portfolio website

Pixpa’s all-in-one portfolio website builder empowers photographers and creators to showcase, share and sell their work online, easily without any coding knowledge.

Top 25 reasons to choose Pixpa to build your photography portfolio website

Pick a theme to get started.

Pixpa’s fully customizable, responsive templates are designed to meet your professional needs. Add stunning galleries, videos, form and pages to structure your online portfolio website the way you want. You can change your online portfolio template anytime to refresh your website.

Explore templates

4 steps to build your
professional portfolio website with Pixpa’s

Pick your website template

1. Pick your website template

Choose from professional, responsive templates tailored to meet your requirements. Customise all visual elements easily to create your unique style.

Pick your website template

2. Add your content

Add pages to your website menu using Pixpa’s drag-and-drop website builder. No coding required.

Add the features you need

3. Add the features you need

Expand your website’s capabilities. Add an online store, start a blog, use client galleries, and do much more.

Promote your website

4. Promote your website

Use Pixpa’s built-in SEO, marketing and social tools to grow your traffic and convert visitors to customers.

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