Top 5 Tips For Creating a Portfolio Website


Title Photo credit: ‘The Piano’ by Daniele Civello

The lure of attracting new clients is the primary reason why many freelance designers, developers, and writers set up portfolio websites. The key is to make sure your portfolio represents who you are and encourages visitors to give your services a shot. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your portfolio website:

1. Present Your Brand with Clarity

Within seconds of visiting your site, viewers should have a clear idea of who you are, what kind of work you do, and your personal style. A professionally designed logo at the top of your page should let visitors know they’ve landed in the right place. A brief tag line near the logo will further clarify you and your work.

Lee Munroe shares four key questions to ask yourself about your tag line at Smashing Magazine:

  • What are you? A designer? A writer? A developer?
  • What do you do? Design websites? Develop games?
  • Where are you from? Country? City?
  • Are you a freelancer or do you work for a studio? Are you looking for work?

A tag line requires sharp, concise writing that emphasizes the most relevant details about your work. In fact, all of the writing on your portfolio should have short sentences with strong verbs (avoid “is” or “was” if possible).

2. Focus on Your Work

Besides your logo and tag line, make sure viewers can find your work on your first page. Some portfolios include a link or small thumbnail on the home page that leads to a page dedicated to a list of previous work. Other portfolios include a grid on the home page so that viewers can move right to the heart of the site. One other option is to include some thumbnails of your most popular work on your homepage, and then include a link to a  portfolio page.

Each portfolio image and its associated text should lead to a page explaining the services you provide, the software you used, and customer feedback.  As you consider what to include in your portfolio section or page, only mention what you want to be hired to do. If you have experience with print media, but you want to focus on attracting clients for the web, mention your web design work and limit your examples to that category.

Beware of cramming too much work on your portfolio page. If you have a wide range of examples to include, look into the use of column and grid designs that will preserve the clarity of your page.

3. Meet Customer Expectations


Customers will be accessing your site with a variety of browsers at an even wider range of connection speeds. Make sure your site’s code is valid <> and that nothing prevents customers from finding the essential information they seek: who you are, what you’ve done, and how to hire you.

Designer Andy Stratton suggests,  “There’s nothing wrong with flashy graphics and fancy Javascript effects on your website, unless they are stopping users from accessing your stuff.”

Customers will also expect to find an “About” page where they can learn about your experience, specializations, and awards. Skellie Wag of Envato writes that an about page should include the following elements:

  • Who is this person?
  • What qualifications and experience do they have?
  • Do they seem trustworthy and reliable?
  • Are they looking for work?
  • Can I see some examples of previous work?

4. Present Your Services Clearly

List your services with bullet points and make them easy to find on your home page and your about page. If you have too many to include on your home page, provide an overview on the home page and then click through to a page that contains a more thorough explanation if that’s required.  For example, a writer with a broad range of experience could say on his home page that he works for commercial publishing and business clients, and then link to a page with a list all of his services for each industry.

5. Provide Action Steps

Action steps may be the difference between a bounce and a new client. At the very least you’ll need a page with contact information. More importantly, think about your potential clients and what steps they need to take in order to hire you.

Some options for action steps could include bright, clear images that say “learn more” or “get a quote.” You can also make a softer connection by including links to your social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

Effective portfolio site design requires a balance between including essential information and keeping the site clean and uncluttered. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out Smashing Magazine’s incredible list of 50 portfolio designs.  Once you see how other freelancers and professionals present themselves and their work, you’ll be prepared to focus on what sets you and your work apart from the rest.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for the Tel Aviv University political communication major department, and who also works with inspection services in China.

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