Whether you're an aspiring amateur or a seasoned professional, an online portfolio is a powerful tool to market your talent, reach new clients and develop your creative career. These tips will help you get started and make the most of your portfolio website.
If you're just getting started in your field, sharing your work with an online portfolio is a great first step to market your creative talent. If you're an experienced professional, a portfolio website is an important addition to any marketing plan and can help forge new paths in your career.
There are many benefits to exhibiting examples of your work online, not the least of which is that your portfolio website is working for you all the time - available on demand, 24/7 anywhere in the world. It can be distributed to one, a few or thousands of people at the touch of a button.
Although social media platforms are sometimes used as a form of online portfolio, maintaining a separate, stand-alone portfolio website with a custom domain name goes a long way to establish yourself as a serious professional in your field.
A wide range of creative and media-related industries are appropriate for a digital portfolio. Photographers, artists, models, makeup artists, fashion designers, graphic designers, web developers, writers, actors, voice actors, architects, landscape architects, engineers ...you get the idea!
Online Portfolios 101
You've got big dreams and the talent to get you there! Particularly if you're just starting out, creating an online portfolio is one of the most important steps you can take to develop your career. It's a great opportunity to share your creative talent and connect with your target audience in a meaningful way. How you capitalize on that opportunity can make all the difference, so focusing on the fundamentals of an effective digital portfolio will help you develop and maintain a strong portfolio and market your talent with impact.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
First and foremost, your portfolio website should showcase your best work. Refining your portfolio material to the strongest examples of you talent keeps quality high and focuses the message you want to send to prospective clients and employers.
Selecting the best examples for your web portfolio often means making some tough decisions about what to include and what to omit. It doesn't help that exercising objectivity, particularly about your own work, can be challenging.
Outside opinions can be a very valuable source of new perspectives, so you might find it helpful to ask for honest feedback from friends and colleagues whose opinions you trust. The results can be surprising, but if you're open to constructive criticism, applying what you learn from comments and suggestions will make your online portfolio a stronger and more refined statement about you and your work.
Each piece you consider for your portfolio should be evaluated not only for individual quality but also for its relevance to your portfolio content as a whole. If the contribution each piece makes to the overall statement of your work is clear and makes sense, it will enhance the overall strength and impact of your portfolio website as a marketing tool.
Make A Unique Impact
Your online portfolio should make a unique, distinct and memorable impression on your target audience. This is particularly important in competitive creative fields and can make the difference between being noticed and getting lost in the crowd. A pleasing presentation and extra features can help, but ultimately your portfolio website will make the strongest impression by featuring the unique product of your talent.
As you select content and develop a design for your web portfolio, look for ways to emphasize your unique strengths. Anything that sets you apart from others in your field is worth highlighting. Emphasizing a specialty is a great way to make a unique impression, so use pieces that illustrate your talent with a specific style or niche. You might also choose to feature your versatility, exhibiting consistently high quality in a range of related styles.
However you decide to highlight your work, your online portfolio is a great opportunity to make a memorable impression, so choose examples that clearly demonstrate the creative talent and value you offer.
Keep It Simple
Your online portfolio should be a concise representation of you and your talent. It can be tempting to add extra features or design elements, but ultimately the most effective portfolio websites are easy to understand and simple to navigate. Even if your work is excellent, if it's overshadowed by superfluous design elements or unnecessarily complicated features, the overall effect can be distracting. Simple design and straightforward organization will make your content the star of the show.
The quantity of material in your online portfolio should be reasonable as well. Include enough examples to clearly demonstrate your talent, but not so many that the user is overwhelmed or that the individual impact of each piece is diminished. Any additional information about yourself should be concise and relevant.
Understand The Medium
The ease and versatility of the web makes it easy to tailor the presentation of your portfolio content to a specific field or specialty. For example, if you're a photographer specializing in detailed close-ups, you might opt for a visual layout that makes images appear as large on screen as possible. If you're a model and want to showcase your versatility, you might choose a portfolio design that can display multiple looks and styles on the screen at the same time. If you decide to use an online portfolio service, explore the features each platform offers to find the best fit for your creative field and your specialities.
Online portfolios for visual mediums like photography will focus on displaying images, but the web is also great for audio and video portfolios. A demo reel is a brief collection of your best material, but in traditional formats is usually one static, predetermined sequence. Your portfolio website can offer the same content, but in labeled, clickable segments, allowing visitors to choose a specific clip and get to the content they want more quickly.
Your portfolio website is also subject to the way people browse the internet. Much like a billboard on a highway, internet surfers are passing by quickly. Unlike a billboard, visitors to your online portfolio have the option to stop and take a closer look. It's your job to give them a clear and readily-apparent reason to do just that.
Consider Your Audience
Much as you might tailor the content and style of your resume to your professional field or even to a specific job, your online portfolio should be designed with your target audience in mind.
What kind of content do they want to see? What format or presentation will showcase your talent most effectively? Keep these questions in mind as you choose a portfolio platform, develop a design and organize examples of your work. The most effective portfolios are created this way and it will help give your work maximum impact. If you're not sure where to start, try creating a list of potential portfolio pieces and information you can include, and then identify areas you should fill in or trim down.
If you have more than one specialty or you're pursuing a career in several fields, you may want to create multiple online portfolios, showcasing each area separately. This is a great solution to keep each portfolio targeted to a specific audience without limiting your opportunities.
Stay Up To Date
With your portfolio website up and running you may be tempted to consider it complete. You've selected your best material, organized it for maximum impact and chosen a design and interface to make browsing your work easy and fast. You've made a great start, but remember that your online portfolio should always be evolving.
Over time you can add new projects and refine existing material as your experience grows and your talent develops. Keeping your portfolio content fresh with new material demonstrates progress in your career and keeps you moving toward your professional goals, now and into the future.
Actively updating your online portfolio is also a great way to stay motivated and on track to your goals and creative aspirations. Having a specific, tangible destination for your latest work will help inspire new projects and ongoing work. Seeing your best material exhibited together will also help you further identify strengths, weaknesses and areas of interest you'd like to explore further.
Creating A Portfolio Website
You know you need a portfolio website and you've learned how to get the most out of your portfolio content, but what's the best way to get started? Similar to the ways you can create a website of any kind, there are two general directions you can go to set up an online portfolio and exhibit your work online.
Online Portfolio Services
If you're not technically inclined, the thought of working with a website can be overwhelming, but there are dozens of dedicated online portfolio platforms that make creating a digital portfolio simple and easy. In most cases, seeing your content online is just a few clicks away and many portfolio website services offer a demo, a free trial or even a free account option.
Each portfolio platform offers a unique set of benefits and features so explore all the options carefully to determine which will be the best choice for you.
Some of the most popular platforms for portfolio websites:
Custom-Built Portfolio Websites
Specialized online portfolio services are well worth exploring and can be a great fit for your needs, but you may also want to consider the option of creating your own fully-custom portfolio website. A website that you host and maintain yourself is entirely under your control so you can completely customize the design, layout, content and configuration.
A custom website also ensures that you can use your own custom domain name, which some online portfolio services don't offer. Whether you hire a web developer or do it yourself, having a custom portfolio website with a custom domain name can go a long way to establish yourself as a credible professional.
There are a few options for building your own website, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the 3 ways to create a website to help decide which approach is the right choice for your needs.
Portfolio Marketing Tips
Much more than a sales pitch, your online portfolio is a tangible demonstration of your creative talent and one of your most valuable assets to market yourself and develop a career. Harnessing that marketing power means improving exposure and getting your web portfolio in front of the right people.
With your portfolio website setup and online, you can start promoting yourself and referring people to your portfolio content. Social media, content marketing, blogging and networking are simple but effective tools that your can use right away to start promoting your work and generating exposure for your portfolio.
Get The Word Out
The great benefit of a portfolio website is that it speaks for itself. Sharing examples of your work clearly demonstrates your talent to prospective employers and clients. With a strong online portfolio, marketing yourself becomes all about exposure - getting your name out and promoting visitors to your portfolio website.
Links to your portfolio begin a networking process that creates referrals. Successful networking is built on the compounded reach of your immediate contacts, their contacts and so on. That's why it's important to consider every connection an opportunity. Some may not pay off as soon as others, but give yourself the best chance by exploring every possibility.
Start by including a link to your portfolio website anywhere it's appropriate, like email signatures and social networking profiles. Anyone who wants to learn more about your creative talent will click the link and the networking process begins.
Use Social Media
Social media is a great way to share your online portfolio and generate interest in your work. Social networking platforms are easy to use and give you access to an almost unlimited source of networking opportunities. Most people are already using at least one of the major social networks and most online portfolio services include easy integration with social profiles.
Professional social media profiles are often more actively managed and curated than personal profiles, so depending on your creative field and the personal or professional brand you want to convey, it might make sense to maintain a separate set of professional profiles more specifically related to your portfolio.
Start A Blog
A blog is a great way to promote your online portfolio and there are many blogging platforms that are quick to set up and easy to use. In addition to creating relevant inbound links to your portfolio website, sharing thoughts about your industry and your work is a good opportunity to connect with others in your field as well as potential clients. You can also use a blog to announce and discuss new projects and updated portfolio content, demonstrating an active and ongoing involvement in your career.
The most effective blogs are updated frequently and encourage visitors to stay engaged by checking back often for new content. You can always update your blog more often, but setting a reasonable goal like once a week can help you stay on track.
Go Old School
The web and social media may be the anchor of your marketing campaign, but there's always a place for good old fashioned in-person networking. Small business networking groups, industry events and social clubs are all great resources to meet people and make new networking connections.
Clients want to work with people they know and like and traditional networking is a powerful way to make personal connections in your industry. As simple as it may be, your portfolio website and a pocket full of business cards can turn face-to-face networking opportunities into referrals and new clients.
Many professional contacts also develop from existing social relationships. Letting your friends and immediate contacts know you want to develop your career will encourage them to keep you in mind for referrals.