An online portfolio should present your image and capabilities flawlessly. Strategic planning and preparation will ensure a professional presentation. Creative designers need a place to showcase their work online. You could use an online portfolio service—many websites offer free and professional layouts—or you could make your own, with a personal touch, through which others will recognize you easily.
Starting your first online portfolio can spark many questions and anxieties. Your artwork reflects your personality and skill and must make an impression. The designs on your website will be scrutinized, so your portfolio should set a standard for what can be achieved in graphic design. Showcase your best work effectively and you will win over clients.
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The tips we have put together for this post apply to all kinds of portfolios, no matter what field. An online portfolio is a quick and far-reaching way to market yourself as a designer. Even offline freelancers find that a website not only is expected by clients, but is a critical marketing tool.
A killer portfolio does more than showcase your work: it turns visitors into clients. Now let’s dive into some tips that will take your portfolio to the next level.
The more precise you are about the kind of work you are looking for, the more likely your portfolio will elicit the desired response. If you are looking to land corporate clients, present them with work that is clean, marketable and professional.
Give them what they want to see. Focus the content of your portfolio on your target market.
Speaking to a target market allows you to differentiate your services from other designers, creating a distinct niche for yourself. It makes it easier to structure and design your websites because you’ll have a better understanding of who to cater to.
Emphasize the work that you present on the website, not the design of the website itself. You may create a website that’s visually interesting and aesthetically appealing, but it needs to complement your work and make an impact on every potential client.
Clients must know immediately the specifics of your expertise. If you are a designer, you should describe what design software you have mastered and any certificates and awards you have received.
Additionally, provide a downloadable resume to make it easy for decision-makers at the client’s end. Make sure the resume is professional and updated. Include it alongside the other main navigation links.
As we all know, there are no shortcuts to success, so start promoting your work on as many platforms as you can. Consider joining professional online communities and networking with other members. Submit your design to gallery websites or start a thread in a design forum. Almost any technique that can be used to promote a website can be used to promote your portfolio.
Many successful designers have added a blog to their website. The more traffic you can pull to your website, the more exposure your portfolio will get.
Promote your work by linking to it when you send emails. Include a link to your portfolio on your social networking profiles. Weave your portfolio into your communications and online identity.
Featured content has become an important trend on the web. Every online portfolio has its own style for displaying featured content on the home page. Large headers are often replaced with a logo. And many people allow for plenty of space on the home page for featured content.
Featured content attracts the attention of new visitors. Make sure your best work is seen at the top of your featured content section. If you are a designer or illustrator, your best piece should be clearly visible and accessible from the home page. For more about featured content, check out “Essential Guidelines for Featured Content in Web Design.“
Make sure your portfolio showcases only your best work, within the scope of your goals. If you want to redesign websites, then your portfolio should consist of this, not logo designs or print work that you’ve done. If you’re not targeting that kind of work, then don’t include it.
You’re free to decide what work to display in the portfolio menu, but if possible, keep it to a minimum. An online portfolio is a one-stop shop for all of your best work. Certainly some designers or firms will offer a mixed bag. If you would like to display a lot of work, make sure to categorize it by subject. Separate logos from websites, brochures and posters.
Companies scouting for a designer are looking for websites that are easy to navigate and attractive in layout. Passing this test often calls for clean lines and an effective use of white space. Remember that design isn’t always about fancy techniques: too many flashes and flurries can make a mess. Make sure that the images being used are precise in color balance, are clear and easy to load. Optimize your images to achieve this.
User experience is key to converting prospects to potential clients. Keep the following concepts in mind when working on your online portfolio:
Using the right kind of technology for your portfolio requires attention and careful planning. A few key factors to keep in mind are maintenance, navigation, compatibility and the content management system (CMS).
Make sure that your website can be accessed by a variety of users on different browsers.
Choose between creating a static website and using a CMS. Single-page portfolios are really easy to update and an effective way to show your best work quickly. You’ll also have no issues with navigation, because there is only one page. However, this leaves little flexibility—you’re not leveraging the features that content management systems have for promoting your work, like a blog.
Navigation should be straightforward and uncomplicated on any website. The ability of users to view your portfolio is of paramount importance. A portfolio should sell your abilities to potential clients. Make sure those clients do not have to think too much to get from point A to point B. If they do, they’ll likely just move on to your competitors.
Your portfolio must stand alone as a website, even if it is connected to another website. Add a static navigation bar to the top of your home page that covers each section of the website’s content. This will make it easy for visitors to return to the home page.
To make navigating the website as clear as possible, you might break it into sections, such as “About,” “Portfolio,” “News” and “Contact.” Put these sections where they will be easily visible to visitors. Make your logo a link that leads visitors back to the home page. This not only helps with SEO, but makes navigation easier.
Make sure your calls to action are clear. Short, simple statements that stand out on the page will prompt potential clients to contact you. They can be as simple as a “Contact us today” call-out linked to your contact form. If you offer a call to action, clients are more likely to use your services. You could, for example, offer a 10% discount on orders received by a particular day.
Always try to reduce the number of steps the client needs to take to contact you. Guide potential clients to contact you through your website using a contact form rather than through email.
This is the most crucial aspect of an online portfolio. Having an awesome online portfolio that showcases your great work and displays your resume, certificates and awards but stumps clients on how to communicate with you will make all your efforts go down the drain. Include a short tag like, “For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org,” or a contact form. It doesn’t have to look great; as long as it’s clear how to obtain further information. If your clients have difficulty contacting you, they will likely walk away.
A contact information page is normally a requirement for any website. Take it a step further: put your preferred method of contact on every page and all of your contact information in the footer, including your work phone number. Some clients prefer an actual phone call to reading through a website.
A “Hire me” page should include all of the information normally listed on the “About us” page of a traditional website.
Link to your “Hire me” page from your website’s home page prominently. If you want to be hired, be bold and confident in the way you approach potential clients.
Showing testimonials or a list of previous clients is a quick way to build trust with visitors. Many designers and artists overlook them, but testimonials put prospects at ease. Clients want to know not only that you’re competent in your field, but that you can meet deadlines and aren’t a bear to work with.
By all means, let your clients write a statement about your services and what it was like to work with you. You can link the testimonials back to the companies. It’s a win-win for you and your clients.
When in doubt, imagine a client’s perspective. Think about what frustrates you about other websites and portfolios, and position your website as the solution. You’ll be cursed with success!
Some of you will be familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), but for those who aren’t, it essentially refers to methods that place your website higher in the ranking of search results for certain keywords.
If you can pull this off, you’ll get an automatic stream of prospective traffic without much work. For example, if you’re a logo designer working out of New Mexico, a potential client would probably search for “logo designer in new mexico.” By incorporating this string of words into your website as much as is possible, you will increase your chances of ranking high in search results. Unless there is plenty of competition for your keyword string, a few mentions should be enough.
This is perhaps the most cost-effective way to improve the volume of visitors to your website, because it does not cost a thing. A website with a top ranking on even a mildly popular term can channel thousands of visitors per month. Visit any SEO forum or article database and you can find hundreds of effective SEO tips and tweaks to apply to your website for free.
The people you’ll attract through this method are looking to hire someone on the basis of their portfolio. It’s easy to do and very worthwhile.
Set goals for your online portfolio and do reviews before and after you have launched it. Make sure you have achieved your purpose. Over time, when you have enhanced your portfolio’s content, it is quite possible you will become well recognized and respected in your field.
While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great tips. Feel free to share it with us.