5 Essential Tips for Designing Your Online Portfolio

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Whether you’re a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or any other visual artist, you know that showing your work online is key to your career success. A well-made website will let new clients discover your work, and offers you space to display past projects. If you sell works like printed books, posters, or prints, your website can also be an online store that will help find the right buyer for each piece.

Putting together a website can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re not interested in learning HTML or CSS. Luckily, platforms like Format let you create an online portfolio easily and quickly, no coding experience needed.

  1. Curate your best work

Let’s be honest—you might not be the best judge of your own work. We all have a blind spot when it comes to projects we care deeply about. Either our emotional attachment gets in the way of objectivity or we’re paralyzed by perfectionist tendencies. Both ends of the spectrum will result in a weak portfolio. The Cherisher will overload their site with mediocre images that distract viewers from the real gems. The Perfectionist will struggle to find images and give up on their portfolio before they’ve even started.

How do you avoid the fate of The Cherisher or The Perfectionist? Become your toughest critic. Step outside of yourself and imagine that you’re a potential client looking at the work. What grabs your attention? What do you quickly scroll past?Every image should make you think, “Wow.” If you find yourself having a conversation in your head about whether or not an image has impact, let it go. A well-edited, concise portfolio is more memorable and easier to navigate than one with hundreds of images.

  1. Keep your audience in mind

What is the purpose of your online portfolio? Do you want it to attract new clients or customers? Are you aiming to send it to magazine editors or prospective employers? Do you just want an online space to showcase and store your best creative work? As you’re setting up your website, take some time to consider what you want it to do for you.

For many creatives, designing a portfolio is the first step towards a long career in building editorials, lookbooks, and collections for clients. Creating consistency across your portfolio, business cards, and resume can help your creative brand stand out.

Pay attention to the bigger picture that you’re creating with your online portfolio. Show that you have the skills to think on a grand scale while paying attention to the details. When you step back and look at your branded material, is it telling one cohesive story? Will your audience get a sense of who you are and what you’re about?
It might help to think of your site as a brick-and-mortar location. If you saw your portfolio as a storefront, would you stop in and take a look around? It should be easy to see what you’re selling (hint: you and your work). This might mean having an easily accessible bio, clearly stating what kind of work you do on your home page, and creating a logo that helps add character to your portfolio’s menu or header.

  1. Use your About page to add personality

Writing about yourself is hard, and it can be tempting to skimp on the details in your About page or even leave it out altogether. But a brief yet well-written bio can be what makes your online portfolio stand out from the rest. Your About page is your chance to introduce yourself to potential clients and collaborators. You don’t need to tell your life story here or include your entire CV, but you should add enough detail that people who come across your website have some sense of who you are beyond your work.

Use this part of your online portfolio to talk about yourself. Be honest, open, and humble. Consider including a personal anecdote or an unexpected fact about yourself. What would your friends and family say about you? Anyone reading your About page should get the feeling that they know you—which will make them that much likelier to contact you.

  1. Make it easy to reach you

Being easy to contact goes beyond simply adding your email address to your website—although of course you should make sure not to forget this essential step. Creating a page titled “Contact” is the best way to ensure people can quickly find your details.

Adding links to your social media accounts is also an important consideration when building a well-designed online portfolio. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, your professional Facebook page, or any other social platform you use to promote your creative work, adding those links to your website helps build your online brand. Linking these accounts can also be a useful way to make sure visitors to your site are up to date on your latest projects, whether that’s a new book you’re releasing, an art show you’re part of, or a deal on portrait photo sessions that you’re offering.

  1. Never stop updating

Once you have your best projects organized on your portfolio, all you contact details set up, and your bio written out, there’s still work to be done. Your online portfolio is a project that should evolve and change with your work. Creating a specific page for works in progress or recent work can help you keep your website fresh. You can also consider creating a page specifically for sharing news about your creative work, or even a blog where you post updates sharing what you’re currently working on. Keeping your online portfolio up-to-date helps make sure that new visitors to your site have the most current view of your work.

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