Creating a Successful Online Portfolio

Given the fact that a majority of your clients will not be in Armenia so there is little chance to have an in person meeting. Yes, there are options to communicate like email, Skype or Google Hangout. But the most important way for you to communicate with potential clients or employer would be to create a successful online portfolio, which will showcase your work, your skills and your potential.

The more time and effort you dedicate for a usable and nice-looking design, the higher are your chances for getting more work. So how can you make sure your portfolio is better than the portfolios of your competitors? How can you get a prospect’s attention to view your portfolio?

Creating a successful portfolio is easier than you think. Focus on simplicity, ease of use, hitting your objectives, SEO and you’ll end up with a successful portfolio. In this article we’ll list 10 helpful tips for your online portfolio. If carefully considered and well executed, the portfolio tips will deliver quality results for you and your business.

1. Define your goal for Success

As with any project, it will help you to clarify your goals before you begin. Once you know your goals then it will effect every decision you make about creating your portfolio. Below are some common portfolio goals. Also, be aware that often portfolios try to accomplish more than one goal. Or, consider creating more than one portfolio that serve different purposes.

  • The Hire Me Portfolio focuses on getting you a job. If you are actively searching for a job then the current goal of your portfolio is to get hired. In this type of portfolio you can target the work you show to the type of company you want to work for.
  • The Sales Generation Portfolio focuses on keeping a flow of work always coming in the door. The goal here is to generate leads. And move potential customers through your sales channel.
  • The Reputation Building Portfolio focuses on building your name in the industry and online. This may take the form of an artist’s showcase. Or tie your work together with a blog on your portfolio site.
  • The Networking Portfolio focuses on building relationships. There are many networks that have excellent portfolio building tools. They have some advantages to placing your portfolio on their website. Chiefly among them is to leverage the site space for networking.

2. Remove Visual Clutter

If your profile is too busy, a majority of readers will just exit. The process for removing clutter is simple. Look at each element in the design and ask why it is needed. Is it critical information or there for support? Try to remove it from the design. If the design no longer works, replace the element. Here are some good ways to limit visual clutter:

  • Use white space or subtle background tints to divide up the page rather than lines. Why? Because lines sit in the foreground, so you pay more attention to them than tints or white space that sit in the background.
  • Use the minimum possible emphasis. Don’t make something bold, large, and red, if simply making it bold will do.
  • Avoid thick dark lines where fine, light lines will do.
  • Limit the levels of information. If you have more than two or three levels of information on a page you may be confusing the user. For instance, limit the number, sizes, and weights of fonts. Try to keep to just two or three levels in total, e.g., a headline, subheading, and body text.
  • Limit the variation in sizes of elements. For instance, if you’re designing an online newspaper, you might have a large block of text for the main story and five smaller blocks of text for secondary stories, rather than six blocks of text in different sizes.
  • Limit the variation in shapes of elements. Stick to one button style rather than using three or four different ones.

3. Use Client Testimonials

Client testimonials are effective for persuading those that visit your site that you will deliver on your promises. It increases the level of professionalism when tastefully incorporating testimonials into your portfolio. Gregory Ciotti has an article titled How to Create Captivating Customer Testimonials that has useful information on this subject.

4. Make Usability a Top Priority

Navigation is a top consideration as a user being able to view your portfolio is of paramount importance. See the point about Uncommon Navigation above. Some other considerations are using web standards. This is especially true if you’re looking for a job as a web designer today. Read this article Five steps to a better design portfolio by Jefferey Veen. In it he discusses some issues around best practices in your portfolio in relation to how you will be perceived by a potential employer.

5. Make your portfolio responsive

More people are using mobile devices. A recent Pew study found that 56% of American adults own a smartphone, and 34% own a tablet computer. Smartphone shipments outpace those of regular mobile phones, and tablet growth is surging - especially in business. Check your traffic and you might just be shocked at how many visitors are getting to your website  through mobile devices.

Responsive Web design has become one of the hottest trends in 2013.  More people are using smaller-screen devices to view Web pages. In fact, Mashable even dubbed 2013 the Year of Responsive Web Design. Even iTechnology covered the topic here: HTML5 and Responsive Design.

6. Be seen as a Thought Leader

Start a blog and write quality content. Post valuable insights regularly. By regularly updating your online content, you can maintain a constant following and increase the page rank. Guest blog for other blogs and look for others to guest blog for you. Guest blogging provides fresh angles to a topic and helps drive more traffic to your own site. You can find many willing guest bloggers via networking–it’s easier than you think, you can even find one by just simply looking through your blog comments section.

Providing case studies gives a deeper view into your process. Once a potential employer or client has narrowed down their list they may come back and start to take more time with your portfolio. Case studies will show how competent and thorough your process is. David Airey does a good job of providing easy to find case studies on his portfolio pieces.

7. Limit your portfolio to your best work

Your portfolio should be limited to the best work you will promote within the scope of your goals. If you are taking on website redesigns then your portfolio should consist only of that, not logo designs or print work that you’ve done. If its not the work you’re targeting then don’t include it. You will be more successful.

Even though many successful designers have print and logo designs. If your goal is web work, then target that market by focusing on assisting developers with design. Your portfolio should only present website and interface designs you have created because that is the type of work they are looking for.  That doesn’t mean you don’t do logo or identity design. But your profile should attract website design work, and your can include an option for logo design in a package.

Certainly some designers or firms will have mixed bag portfolios. The more types of work you do successfully the greater challenge you’ll have in promoting that work. When possible keep the work on display to a minimum. Displaying 10 of your best pieces of work is often better than displaying 50 good pieces.

8. Provide Adequate Contact Information

If the goal of your portfolio is to land you assignments, then make sure a potential client knows how to contact you so you can actually get one. The easiest way is to include your contact details on every page in your website — including your portfolio. I’m not suggesting that you make this big and bold so that it distracts viewers from your images. Include something small and subtle at the bottom of the screen that doesn’t take attention away from the images, but is there when a client decides to email you. (At the very least, you should include a “contact” link on every page.)

9. Get Social

You don’t stop after creating an online portfolio. You need to promote it afterward through social media. Join online design communities like GDF or Estetica to network with fellow graphic designers. Connect with like-minded people through social networking sites like Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. Get involved in social sharing platforms like Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious so that others can share and re-post your content. Social marketing is a very powerful tool for promoting yourself.

SEO: Also, don’t discount the search engines. Work toward better Search Engine Optimization. The blog at SEOBook is a rich resource on this topic. Good SEO will improve the ability for potential clients to find you through the major search engines.

10. Showcase your work outside you own

Behance

Behance is a creative professional platform for artists and designers. It’s free, but exclusive. Behance has good reason to be clique-y - it is the online base of some of the best artists in the world.

Pros:

  • It’s free! What could be better than that?
  • Great reputation. It’s a high profile website, where clients expect to find the best in the industry.
  • High stats, thus wide exposure for your portfolio - you’re connected to the best there is, after all.
  • Packs more features than other portfolio sites like DeviantArt or Flickr.

Cons:

  • Behance is exclusive and by invite-only. If you want to create an online portfolio, you need to apply for it. You need to be really good!
  • Banner ads on every page of the site. What do you expect? It’s free, after all.
  • Because it has more features, it’s a bit more complex than other portfolio hosting sites. It can take some time getting used to.

DeviantArt

DeviantArt is the largest online community for artists to show off their work to fellow artists and art lovers. They use DeviantArt to get praise and feedback in order to continue to improve their craft.

Pros:

  • Unlimited image uploads, for both free and premium accounts!
  • You can sell your prints.
  • Fellow artists, colleagues and peers can comment on, and ‘favorite’ your artwork. You can also disable the comment feature if you want to.
  • Create multiple art categories and group them per different collections.
  • You can create a journal to keep your clients and colleagues updated with your artwork, work and everything else.

Cons:

  • Unlike other portfolio websites, DeviantArt does not support video and audio files.
  • It’s more of an online art community than a professional portfolio hosting site. It’s a place for artists, and not for clients. If you want a more professional setting for your portfolio, you can try DeviantArt’s DaPortfolio.
  • Not much freedom for customization. No DeviantArt themes to differentiate your profile from other DeviantArt users.

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