How to Create an Online Portfolio
Everyone in the job market has a CV or a résumé; it is having a portfolio that makes all the difference. While creatively-bound, physical portfolios have been used almost exclusively by artists for decades, everyone can benefit from having an online portfolio.
If you are a freelancer of any sort - especially a developer, designer or writer - or a student in the process of building a strong college application, you should definitely make your own portfolio. This online, exhaustive résumé focused on showcasing your best work and professional development will help you achieve your goals.
Stay with us at OneHowTo and learn how to create an online portfolio for freelancers and students.
Who are you and what do you do?
The first and foremost thing to do is to think over and create a personal brand. This means deciding on a domain name and a username that you will use across all your online platforms and social media - it's important to use always the same domain name everywhere so that your audience always knows who you are.
If you are a freelance artist or designer, it is especially important to come up with a logo or at least an eye-catching font to headline all your pages.
Even if you're not in a visual field, you should always use the same name and add a tagline to help your audience remember exactly what you do. Something simple, like "M. Max. Freelance Driver" or "C. Kent. Journalist and content writer" will do.
How to start building an online portfolio:
Once your personal brand is more or less defined, the next step to create an online portfolio is to choose the best platform to support it.
The best platform for online portfolios should, above all, be easy to navigate and not too visually crowded. Always choose high-resolution photographs. You want your audience to find your work easily and have a pleasant experience that does not try their patience.
Most host sites will let you choose a domain name for free, as in "clarkkent.wordpress.com", but if you want your name to appear alone, as in "clarkkent.com" you will have to pay an annual fee. The price depends on the hosting site, but it's usually affordable.
There are many site building pages that you can use to make an online portfolio:
- General portfolios: Squarespace, Yola, Weebly and Wordpress.
- Photography portfolios: Flickr or Tumblr.
- Design and illustration portfolios: Behance and Dribbble.
- Writing and journalism portfolios: Clippings.
Add your curriculum vitae to your online portfolio:
While a portfolio is about showcasing your work, you need to provide some context. Showing off how good your art is may get you a gig, but most people will want to see certificates before hiring you.
The best way to do so is with a short but attention-grabbing CV, and ideally it should be downloadable as a .pdf document. Simply listing your skills is not enough; your audience needs to get a sense of who you are and how you've learnt to make what you do.
A strong and relevant résumé is very important in your portfolio, and it should include:
- Picture: Your audience needs to attach a face to the content, especially in online platforms - if it's a professional headshot, all the better.
- Contact information: Your email should always be visible. Add a link to your LinkedIn account and other relevant social media profiles.
- "About You": Write a short biography that shows what you care about and what you want to do in the future. This is the most personal section of your portfolio, so you can also add a statement of your values as a professional and a description of your usual work process.
- Skills: They must be relevant and tailored to the kind of audience and jobs you want to attract.
- Professional experience: With some details on what you've done and the transferable skills you've gotten from that.
- Education: Including all relevant certificates and awards.
- Testimonials and reviews.
What kind of content should a freelancer's online portfolio include?
For artists and designers, the answer is quite obvious - pictures of their artwork. However, no matter your professional field, there are many different kinds of work that ought to be showcased beyond finished pieces for clients.
Your professional portfolio can include:
- Personal projects: The work you've done for yourself will show what you're truly passionate about, no matter its format.
- Side projects: Many freelancers have a side hustle, like a personal blog for their own writing or featured posts or art in other sites. Even if these are not part of your main goal as a professional, showing diverse interests proves you're a multi-talented, curious individual.
- Academic work: School projects or thesis can also be showcased in professional portfolios - but only the best ones, of course.
- Volunteer work: If you've worked for a local organisation (designing their brochures or writing their newsletter, for instance) or done volunteer work online (like collaborating in open source projects), this can also be included.
- Other people's projects: If you're part of an artists' community or write for a magazine, you can also point it out.
What pieces should you showcase in an online portfolio?
As we pointed out before, both physical and digital portfolios must be clean-looking and understandable. Therefore, it is not recommended to showcase more than 20 pieces or clippings. You can direct the audience's attention to your favorite project by making it the first thing they see, like a "featured" post.
The pieces or clippings do not necessarily have to be in chronological order; it's best if you create a thematic narrative, as long as it fits your professional statement. Your portfolio should be varied and show off your skills across different disciplines and formats, but staying within a coherent "brand".
Your online portfolio should include:
- Finished pieces: Complete designs, short films and/or illustrations, showing off your best and most polished work. Underscore your strongest assets - you should have done some research on what's currently looked-for in your field. For artists, it's important to always include drawing and to prove your understanding of spaces and surfaces, not only of subjects.
- Works in progress: It is interesting to see the work process of a professional. Add a short explanation of each piece so your audience can follow your train of thought and so discover how you work; this way, they'll know if you're a good fit to work with them. If you're an artist, you can include experiments on different subjects or the same subject in different media. Always add context: Why did you make this? Who commissioned it? What materials and research did you use?
- Downloadable material: Designers will benefit from offering free templates, icons or fonts, while musicians can upload songs for people to enjoy. No matter what you do, sharing tutorials is always a good way to get your work noticed.
- Work samples: Show off your pieces in use. Share brochures or infographs you've designed and photograph your work in print so that people can imagine your work in the "real world".
Other aspects to take into account:
Your online portfolio should be kept updated. Remember to market yourself through social media, and don't miss any networking opportunities.
Save .pdf and .jpg copies of your written and visual pieces; they might be the base for a future print portfolio, which should always have an index.
This has been a guide on how to create an online portfolio for freelancers and students. If you have any questions or tips, please share them in the comments section!
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