Blog > Creative Advice > A Creative's Guide to a Stunning Online Portfolio

How to Create an Online Portfolio

November 22, 2023
·
12
min read

In today’s world, if you’re a freelance creative who’s looking to score big clients and enough interesting projects to pay the bills, it’s not enough to shake hands and hand out business cards.

You’re going to have to show the world what you can do and the best way to do that (aside from carrying around 10 pounds of work samples) is to have a stunning online portfolio that effectively showcases your skills and expertise.

But all portfolios aren’t created equally, friends.

To truly stand out, you’re going to need a standout portfolio, one that puts you and your amazing talents in the best light possible.

How to Create Your Online Portfolio

Elements of an online portfolio, like a website and a photo.

If you’re new to the freelance life or perhaps a seasoned freelancer looking to make some changes in order to net more clients, then today’s blog is for you.

Whether you’re making a graphic design portfolio or one for copywriting, video editing, motion graphics or more, here is how you can show your stuff and create an amazing and inviting online experience in just 7 steps!

Step 1. Choose Your Platform

There are plenty of places where your online portfolio can reside, so prepare yourself for some options here!

We’ll provide a list for you at the end of this article, so be sure you go through what each platform has to offer. The main thing you’re looking for is a platform whose features work best for you, your potential clients, and your style!

Step 2. Decide on a Layout

Once you have your platform, you’re going to have to decide on a layout.

Your final layout may depend on the available options of the platform you choose to host your portfolio, but just be sure to organize your examples in a way that’s pleasing to your visitors’ eye.

We find that it’s best to keep your work categorized and organized based on your preference, like project type, industry, or different mediums used so that your visitors can easily navigate around and find the work they’re most interested in.

And though your examples may vary wildly by project, your portfolio should still have a consistent style throughout. Remember, you are your own brand here, so your color scheme, typography, and navigation structure need to have a consistent, professional, and polished look just like any branded client work you create.

3. Choose Your Best Projects

And now it’s time to put your best foot forward!

Showcase your best work, the projects that you are particularly proud of, and the ones that took a tremendous amount of resilience to overcome! Whatever you choose, you want to highlight work that effectively showcases your skills, creativity, and versatility.

And be sure that you choose projects that showcase your different skill sets too, you multi-talented superstar, you!

It’s very beneficial for your clients to know just how many hats you wear.

4. Tell the Story

Once you’ve chosen the work samples that you want to highlight, it’s always a good idea to tell the story that goes along with it.

Every project has a story, after all.

So, provide that context for your examples and explain your role in the project, any problems you needed to overcome, and the impact your work made for the client. 

It makes for a great read and adding a narrative to each example helps your visitors better understand your creative process, your design process, and the method to your madness!

5. Optimize Your Site

It’s not enough to have an online portfolio site filled with amazing work these days. 

You’re going to have to optimize your site so that it’s a welcoming and inviting space (for both humans and search engine bots) that encourages your visitors to peruse your work!

To do this, work on the UX (user experience) design of your portfolio pages so that your site is user-friendly, easy to navigate, loads quickly, and is pleasing to look at.

You’ll need to optimize for SEO (search engine optimization) as well. 

You don’t want to limit your visitors to those whom you’ve handed a business card to or interacted with online. Make yourself discoverable to users searching for your services on Google by researching keywords related to your offerings and the industries you work for so that you rank higher in search engines. Most users stick to the first page of results when they’re searching for services online, so that’s where you want to be.

You also want a responsive website. Everyone has a phone nowadays and you can bet that plenty of visitors will first see your portfolio while they’re scrolling through their smartphone. 

Be sure that your website is mobile-friendly and responsive so that prospective clients on any size screen can easily see what you have to offer.

6. Ask Your Friends

Now that you’ve got your portfolio site up and running, it’s time to get some honest feedback.

Sometimes it takes an outside eye.

So, do you have family or friends who are familiar with graphic design work or perhaps just have a keen eye for design? Maybe some fellow graphic designers or web designers you work with? Or just anyone in your circle that can test the user-friendliness of your site?

Have them take a look at your portfolio. Let them click around, explore all of your portfolio’s features, and check out your work, including your choice of samples and other samples you could have gone with.

Ask them to be honest! They’ll be able to give you feedback on your portfolio, your choice of work samples, and the user-friendliness of your site.

Take any feedback that needs to be addressed and incorporate it into your site to make it even better and more user-friendly.

7. Promote, Promote, Promote

And once your site is polished to perfection and ready to drive off the showroom floor, get out there and promote it! Promoting your online portfolio is essential for getting your work in front of potential clients, employers, and collaborators. 

If you’re not sure how you can promote, here are some great ways to put a megaphone to your personal brand:

  • Social Media: Share your portfolio on various social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Use relevant hashtags and captions to reach a wider audience. Engage with your followers and respond to comments.
  • Personal Website or Blog: If you have a personal website or blog, regularly feature your portfolio work and share related articles or case studies to drive traffic.
  • Email Signature: Include a link to your portfolio in your email signature. This provides a subtle but consistent way for contacts to access your work.
  • Online Creative Communities: Join online forums, communities, and platforms like Behance, Dribbble, DeviantArt, or AIGA to showcase your portfolio and connect with fellow creatives.
  • Professional Networks: Share your portfolio on professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Join relevant groups and participate in discussions to expand your reach.
  • Guest Blogging: Write guest articles for industry blogs or websites. Include links to your portfolio in your author bio to drive traffic from these platforms.
  • Email Marketing: Create an email newsletter and send updates about your latest work, projects, or blog posts to subscribers. Encourage them to visit your portfolio.
  • Online Advertisements: Consider paid advertising on platforms like Google Ads or social media to target specific demographics and drive traffic to your portfolio.
  • Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with influencers or industry leaders in your niche to showcase your work or collaborate on projects. They can introduce your portfolio to their audience.
  • Online Portfolios: Upload your portfolio to specialized portfolio platforms like ArtStation, Carbonmade, or Adobe Portfolio to increase visibility within their user communities.
  • Press Releases: Write and distribute press releases about significant achievements or new projects. Include links to your portfolio for interested parties to learn more.
  • Networking Events: Attend local or virtual networking events, conferences, or meetups. Have your portfolio ready to share with attendees.
  • Online Directories: List your portfolio on creative directories or professional directories relevant to your field. This can improve your online presence.
  • Content Marketing: Create informative and engaging content on your blog or website related to your industry. This can attract an audience that's interested in your work.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimize your website and portfolio content for search engines. Use relevant keywords to improve search rankings and visibility.
  • Online Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage satisfied clients to leave reviews or testimonials on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, or industry-specific review sites, with links to your portfolio.
  • Cross-Promotion: Collaborate with other creatives or professionals in complementary fields to cross-promote each other's work.
  • Word of Mouth: Encourage friends, family, and current clients to spread the word about your portfolio within their networks.
  • Participate in Online Challenges: Participate in design or creative challenges and share your submissions on platforms like Instagram or Twitter.
  • Online Advertising Campaigns: Launch online advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, to target specific audiences interested in your work.

Where Can I Host My Online Portfolio?

A big, orange question mark.

The good news is that there are several options for hosting your online portfolio. 

Your perfect platform will depend on your individual needs and preferences, but here are some popular platforms and methods for hosting your online portfolio:

  • Website Builders — Platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly allow you to create and host your portfolio website with easy-to-use tools and templates. They're user-friendly and don't require extensive technical knowledge.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS) — WordPress is a widely used CMS that provides more flexibility and customization options for your portfolio. You can choose from a variety of themes and plugins to create a unique portfolio.
  • Portfolio Hosting Services — There are specialized portfolio hosting services like Behance, Dribbble, and Carbonmade, which are designed specifically for showcasing creative work. These platforms are ideal for designers and artists.
  • Custom Website — If you have web development skills or can hire a developer, creating a custom website gives you complete control over the design and functionality of your portfolio.
  • GitHub Pages — If you're a developer, you can host your portfolio on GitHub Pages, which is free and integrates with your GitHub repositories.
  • Free Hosting Services — Services like GitHub, Netlify, and Vercel offer free hosting for static websites, which can be a cost-effective way to host a simple portfolio.
  • Paid Hosting — Consider paid hosting services like Bluehost, SiteGround, or HostGator if you need more control, better performance, and additional features for your portfolio.
  • Social Media — Some creatives use social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn to showcase their work. While these platforms can serve as secondary channels, having a dedicated portfolio website is often more professional and customizable.
  • Cloud Storage — You can host your portfolio files on cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox. However, this method may not provide a polished presentation but can be useful for sharing files and images.

More Portfolio Tips to Live By

To keep your portfolio in top-notch shape and looking sharp for potential clients, here are some additional tips to live by:

  • Use high-quality images — Show off your work with stunning visuals! High-quality images will give your portfolio that extra wow factor your clients are looking for.
  • Have your contact info front and center — Make it easy for potential clients to reach out and connect. 
  • Choose projects that showcase various abilities and styles — Flaunt what you got by featuring projects that highlight the many sides of your creative prowess.
  • Include customer testimonials and positive reviews — Add client testimonials to your site to let others know how awesome it is to work with you.
  • Back it up regularly — Regularly back up your portfolio to make sure your hard work stays protected.
  • Keep track of your analytics — Use analytics tools to understand what visitors love about your portfolio and how you can make it even better.
  • Use links to your social media profiles — Connect the dots! Include links to your social media profiles so people can follow your creative journey across multiple platforms.
  • Add a CTA for your visitors — Guide your visitors to action. Whether it's to reach out for a chat, ask for a quote, or just to explore more of your work, you want to make taking the next step as easy as possible for your visitors.
  • Update it regularly — Keep things fresh! Regular updates keep your portfolio current, reflect your evolving skills, and showcase your latest projects. 

Online Portfolio Examples to Inspire You

An inspiring lightbulb shining above 5 other lightbulbs.

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration as you mull over what you want your online portfolio to look like, then we’ve got what you need.

Take a look at the online portfolios below, gathered up from our very own Designity community!

Example 1: Chris, Graphic Designer

A headshot of Chris and a graphic design logo.

Chris E. starts us off here with not one but two portfolios to showcase his remarkable talent for design!

Both sites feature a fusion of creativity and functionality with attractively arranged categories and stunning visuals, making it a breeze for visitors to find contact information, work examples, a list of services, and more!

You can check them out here at Edington Co. and Hey I’m Chris.

Example 2: Brent, Copywriter

A headshot of Brent and a copywriting logo of a pencil and paper.

Copywriting is such a different medium than design, so often a wordsmith’s portfolio can look quite different than a designer's! 

Brent W. opted for a sleek and simple PDF portfolio that showcases his resume and writing prowess and versatility with engaging excerpts including everything from blog writing, email marketing, social media posts, infographics, and more!

If you want to read more of his work (and see some sweet, vintage typewriters!), check out his website, Wiggins’ Words!

Example 3: Katherine, Copywriter

A headshot of Katherine and a copywriting logo of a notepad.

Katherine J. brings us another copywriting portfolio, blending organization with aesthetic appeal!

She’s a writer but her portfolio is a visual delight that showcases her versatility with images of categories for blog writing, web copy, non-profit work, scriptwriting, direct response email writing, and more!

If you want to see what big-name brands she’s worked with and read her work, check out her website, Flying Cat Copy.

Example 4: Nicolle, Graphic Designer

A headshot of Nicolle and a graphic design logo featuring color palette samples.

Our final portfolio example is from Nicolle G., graphic designer and mastermind behind the Designity blog graphics!

Nicolle takes graphic design to the next level with her online portfolio, elegantly designed and impeccably organized! Her work is split up by client with graphics of design work that previews the amazing collateral you’ll see by clicking on each client category!

To get a taste of her work and see what brand names she’s created for, you can click on Nicolle’s portfolio here!

Portfolio Looking a Little Sparse?

If you’re eager to get started with your online portfolio … only you don’t have much to put in it, then we might have a solution that will benefit us both.

Why not consider working for Designity?

As a Designity Creative, you’ll get to work every day with the talented Creative Directors, Creatives, and Admin that make up our Designity community.

Designity is made up of the top 3% of US-base creative talent, including graphic designers, web designers, UI designers, mobile app designers, copywriters and more and we’re always looking for fresh new talent to join our forces.

Enjoy competitive pay, a consistent workload, and the opportunity to work with experienced Creative Directors on all kinds of different projects for all types of different industries.

So, if you’re ready to set your own work hours, enjoy working 100% remotely, and stop being stuck in an office, then what are you waiting for?

If you think you’ve got what it takes, put your skills to the test with our application process today!

We can’t wait to see what you can do!

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About the author:
Sara Lopez
Sara is a Texas-based copywriter.
Interested in content collaboration? Email at press@designity.com
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