Creatives: Make Your Work Pop With a Stellar Online Portfolio

May 16, 2017

If the “it” you’re always putting off is creating or refining your online portfolio, simply make the time.

“When things are slow, I’ll do it.”
“In the summer, I’ll get to it.”
“I’ve just got to set aside some time to take care of it.”

If you want a steady stream of high-quality, great-paying projects that are well suited to your interests and skill set, you should invest some time and energy into building an online portfolio.

Need more reasons? A great online portfolio:

  1. Does the selling for you—while you’re working on billable hours, taking care of admin tasks, walking the dog, daydreaming about your next great gig
  2. Is a quick and easy way to demonstrate your skills to a prospective client—no awkward lunch required
  3. Helps you find work that is tailored specifically to what you can—and want—to do

Ready to get started? We’ve rounded up seven great resources to help you put together a perfect online portfolio and seven things to consider when you’re ready to populate it with your amazing work.

Flatiron template from Squarespace.

7 Online Portfolio Resources

Here are some sites that creatives like you are buzzing about as perfect platforms to harness your awesome. See which one is right for you.

  1. Customizable templates, mobile-friendly and SEO-optimization add up to stunning results.
  2. Build a basic but attractive website in a super short time with this free platform.
  3. Here’s a place for creatives to feature their best work and for companies visit to explore and assess the talent.
  4. This cloud-based platform is beloved by students and graduates because a) it’s a place for employers to see their work and b) it’s free.
  5. Secure hosting, cool templates and a simple interface make this one a snap to use.
  6. Everyone from hair stylists to jewelry designers to sculptors feature their work here, with great results.
  7. If you listen to podcasts, you’ve heard of Squarespace (do they sponsor everything?). Its thoughtful designs and attention to detail means they live up to their own hype.

Flow template from Clickbooq.

7 Things to Consider When Creating your Online Portfolio

You’ve got a range of sites to check out to help you refine or create your online portfolio. Now let’s get into some best practices when it comes to showing off your work.

1. Quality Over Quantity

If you have a lot of projects under your belt, it’s tempting to add them all to your site to demonstrate your incredible range. Fight the urge. Even the most interested prospective clients won’t have the time or inclination to spend more than a few minutes on your site. Instead, catch their eye with samples of your very best work and make them center stage. You can devote an interior web page to your work history and client roster.

Even the most interested prospective clients won’t have the time or inclination to spend more than a few minutes on your site. Instead, catch their eye with samples of your very best work and make them center stage.

2. Showcase the Kind of Work You Want to Do Again

This one is more for you than for “them”. We’ve all taken gigs that were totally outside our wheelhouse or just bizarro one-offs for a paycheque. Here’s a simple but profound tip: If you wouldn’t want to do a project like that again, don’t put it on your online portfolio. There are a lot of odd niche markets out there; don’t court the ones you’d rather not revisit with a sample of that type of work.

3. Spend Some Time Crafting Your Bio

It’s true that your work should be at the center of your online portfolio, but don’t neglect your bio. For most clients, the right fit is just as important as the right talent. Include a few paragraphs that demonstrate that you have a singular point of view and explain your approach to your work. Imagine you’re in a meeting with a client you’re dying to work with—what would you want them to know about you? Now write that. (Or pay someone to do it for you.)

4. Tell the Story Behind Your Favourite Projects

Every great project has a story. Don’t be shy about adding a well-crafted paragraph or two that shares some cool details about how a particular project rolled out. The best stories have a really great obstacle (or 10!) that had to be overcome. Without being negative or disparaging about other people, share how you adapted, dodged, rose above or flat out rocked a hurdle.

5. Get Help From Professionals

If you’re the unicorn that can design, animate, shoot video, photographs, code and write award-winning work… congratulations! For the rest of us mere mortals, take a cue from your clients and partner with or hire someone to take on the side of things you don’t excel in.

If you’re a writer without a great sense of visual design, bring in a graphic artist to advise you how to position your work in your portfolio. If you’re a photographer who struggles to express yourself in words, hire a writer to help craft your bio. We can’t be everything to everyone… even ourselves.

6. Include Testimonials from Former Clients

We know your work will speak for itself—but it shouldn’t have to! It’s good business practice to ask your clients for a testimonial after a successful project. What better place to showcase their glowing words than on your online portfolio? Devote a page to it or add their input alongside the sample of the work you did for them.

7. Share Your Online Portfolio with Everyone. Yes, Everyone!

When you’ve put together an online portfolio that sings, you need to shout it from the rooftops. Put the link in your email signature, send an email to previous and prospective clients, friends, family, neighbors and your dentist announcing the launch/refresh of your online portfolio and invite them to take a peek. The portfolio link should be front and center on your LinkedIn profile and in the bios of every social media platform you participate in. And when you’ve added something new? Share the link again!

This is an archived post from the FreshBooks Blog and was originally published in June 2016.

about the author

Freelance Contributor Heather Hudson is an accomplished freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto. She writes for a number of publishing, corporate and agency clients who depend on her to deliver high-quality, on-brand content and journalism with a fresh perspective. Learn more about her work at

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