How to Create Online Portfolios That Win clients
April 29, 2014
Want to discover an easy, powerful way to win new business and clients? One of the best things you can do is create winning online portfolios that showcase your work.
If you are in the design, photography, video, or writing business—or any other in which your potential clients will want to see samples of your work—then you cannot afford to miss this strategy.
Online portfolios can work for you in two ways. One, they can help convince a potential client that they want to work with you. And, two, they can help you get discovered on sites dedicated to bringing together portfolios of specific types of professionals.
Personally, I’ve received many job opportunities thanks to my online portfolios, which include:
- a dedicated business portfolio website
- a one-page portfolio on my blog
- portfolio links on my social profiles
- portfolios on networks for freelance writers and journalists
I will share examples of all of these throughout this post. Essentially, you can never have too many portfolios. Even if you only get one lead from one of your portfolios, it will return your investment.
In this guide, we’ll show you how you can create a great online portfolio on your website, blog, social media networks, and specific professional networks.
Determine the best way to display your work
To get started, determine how best to display your work. For example, anything related to design (logo, brochure, website design, etc.) could be displayed in an image-based portfolio, like this one for Restored 316 Designs.
But you may also want to look at ways to display your work with video and presentations to capture audiences on YouTube and Slideshare, like this one for Half Head Design.
For those in the writing business, a simple list of links to online samples or PDFs of offline samples would work for a portfolio on your own website or blog. But many other networks, including social media and those dedicated to writers and journalists, also want images.
To get images to go with your content, you can grab those that represent your work such as those you used in the writing itself, screenshots, or logos of the companies or publications you have written for. I display mine as blocks in a section of my website homepage under Places I’ve Been Published, linking each logo to my portfolio page.
Other writers, such as Brian Honigman, have a simpler display of logos with a call to action button leading to a portfolio page.
Speakers can create great portfolios, too. All they need are videos of their latest engagements, podcast interviews, and other media that allow people to hear their speaking style. Bryan Eisenberg has a great page with both videos and testimonials.
So take a few moments to round up your best portfolio samples and some great images to go along with them. Then, you can start building one or more of the following six types of online portfolios.
Portfolio 1: Create a portfolio on a dedicated business website
Your primary portfolio should be on a dedicated website for your business. This is a website whose goal is to capture leads to your business.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a web designer to create a great business website complete with a portfolio. There are lots of platforms you can use such as a WordPress website using a portfolio theme. If you run a search on Google for WordPress portfolio themes, you’ll find lists that show you every type imaginable, premium themes, and marketplaces that give you many more portfolio options.
You can even use website builders such as Wix to create a website based on their professional templates, organized by profession and including a dedicated portfolio section.
In addition to the standard pages, such as those about your business and services, testimonials, and contact pages, you will create a portfolio page. This page should highlight your best work. Don’t think you have to cram a ton of work on your portfolio to make it a hit. Sometimes, a few highlighted, detailed portfolio items can make a bigger impact. Social Forces’ portfolio, for example, has detailed portfolio items with results along with a larger, less detailed sampling (see screenshot below).
Essentially, this portfolio merges a showcase of work with case studies that should make customers even more eager to hire them.
Another thing to consider is categories within your portfolio. This way, your ideal clients can see the work that interests them most. I know web designers who categorize according to different industries, writers who categorize by topic, and photographers who do so according to different types of work, from landscapes to lifestyles.
Portfolio 2: Create a portfolio on a blog
What if you have a blog that is separate from your business website, or you don’t have a business website at all? You can still create a portfolio. In this case, maybe it would just be a page that showcases your work and lets your blog readers know you offer services related to the content you create. I get quite a few leads from my blog’s portfolio page, which is a simple list of the latest blog posts I’ve written.
At the end of this list of posts, I include a contact form that potential clients can use to ask about having similar content written for their websites.
This kind of portfolio page is perfect for people who are primarily known for their blogs and want to expand into offering services, but don’t have a business just yet. It can also help them generate business from their blog, without having to lose the identity of the blog itself by turning it into a business-oriented website.
Portfolio 3: Create a portfolio on social media networks
Social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest allow you to create portfolios in a variety of ways. On Facebook, you can create a custom tab for your Facebook page that is a dedicated portfolio, much like Social Identities has done with their social design portfolio.
When you click on the Portfolio tab, you’ll be able to browse samples of this company’s work.
Alternatively, you can just create photo albums on your page for different portfolio samples.
On LinkedIn, you can use the media sharing options to add links, images, videos, and presentations to the Summary section and individual job experiences to create a portfolio on your LinkedIn professional profile. An example of this is Mari Smith’s profile with examples of her presentations and free training.
And on Pinterest, you can create boards that showcase your work represented by images and video. Since lots of people visit Pinterest to find image inspiration, it’s the perfect place to create portfolio boards for web designers, logo designers, business card designers, and so forth. Just a search for logo design boards brings up a lot of results. Best of all, people who like to save neat logos for their own reference will ultimately be spreading your work to their audiences.
And although it’s not perfect, you can even create a portfolio on Twitter by taking advantage of the Photos and Videos box on your profile. Just share photo or video examples of your work in tweets, and it will show up like Media Novak’s work.
Be sure to include a link to that work sample or your portfolio in the tweet so people who click on the media from the box can get to the rest of your work samples.
Portfolio 4: Create a video portfolio
If your business creates video, helps people create video, or has work that can be showcased through video, then you definitely want to create a portfolio on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. GoAnimate, a service that helps you easily create animated videos, has sections of featured videos and tutorials, all demonstrating the power of their tool.
Photographers like Mike Olbinski, who also create timelapses, showcase their work on Vimeo. You may have even seen some of his work in blockbuster movies like Thor and the newest Lamborghini commercial—all thanks to being discovered online.
Considering that networks like YouTube get a billion unique visitors monthly, it makes them a sure shot for getting your work discovered.
Portfolio 5: Create a portfolio with presentations
Speakers and B2B businesses especially should look into turning their work samples into presentations. For speakers, this would simply be their awesome speaking slides, with some video mixed in. For other businesses, this could be an introduction to your business along with samples of your work, much like Manius Designs has done in this presentation.
By doing this, you can tap into networks like Slideshare, which has a huge B2B audience. It can also come in handy for those occasions when you need to present your work at a formal meeting.
As an additional bonus, if you sign up as a Pro member on Slideshare, you can incorporate a lead generation form into your slides. This will give potential customers the ability to easily contact you about your work.
Portfolio 6: Create a portfolio on a professional network
Last, but not least, there are lots of professional networks that help connect freelancers, consultants, and businesses with their ideal customers. There are lots of them out there, so your first job will be to make sure the network is right for your business. Here are some things to use as qualifiers before adding your portfolio to the mix.
- Pricing: while most networks are free to those offering services (and then charge the people who want to hire), there are some networks that will charge you certain fees to join or to get you leads. If possible, aim for networks that allow you to link to your website, or have a free-to-use contact form.
- Listed Rates: if a network lists rates, and yours are considerably higher than other businesses on the site, then you might want to skip it. If everyone else only charges $50 on a logo design, and you charge $500, you’re probably not going to get a lot of business.
- Quality: do the other portfolios on a site stack up to yours in a quality test? If a network is well known for not having great work, you don’t want your name to be listed there.
- Popularity: if a network allows companies to leave ratings, testimonials, etc. on those they have hired, look to see how many people actually have feedback on their portfolios. If there are a ton of portfolios, but no feedback, the network may be attracting more portfolio submissions than people who are looking to hire. That’s not so bad for a free site, but it’s not great if you’re paying for your portfolio listing.
With those things in mind, here are some networks you can create a portfolio on to reach a new audience.
Contently is a network that connects companies with journalists. It’s free for journalists (writers) to create their own portfolio. The network is more than just a set of portfolios that companies can browse—it is actually a management system that companies can use to manage their writers and content. This means that by adding your portfolio here, you can open the door to receiving invites from companies already using their platform.
Your free portfolio will include your name, location, link to your website and social networks, an introductory paragraph about you, and then your portfolio. Portfolio items are simply links to published online content or PDF uploads of content you have written for offline publications. Each piece of online content will also show the number of social shares they have received.
Similar networks for writers and journalists include Clippings.me and Muck Rack. Both allow you to create complete portfolios showcasing your latest online content. Clippings.me also has an added feature for premium members that allows them to sort content based on social popularity.
Behance is an online portfolio network for all types of creative work, from animation to writing. It allows you to create a free portfolio that lists your name, location, website links, focuses (skills), a paragraph description, and a portfolio organized by projects.
Each project can include images directly uploaded from your computer or media linked from popular sites like Flickr, YouTube, etc. You can also add blocks of text in between each image and include links in those blocks of text. This makes it a robust portfolio option for creative types.
Dribble is a community for designers who want to share their work, process, and projects. Skills for designers in this community fall within graphic design, web design, Photoshop, typography, photography, logos, branding, WordPress, and similar.
Unfortunately, this network is not as simple as signing up and uploading your work. While you can create a basic profile with your name, location, website, Twitter handle, and introductory paragraph, you have to receive an invite from a current member in order to create your portfolio.
You’ll find some creative ideas on how to get an invite if you don’t know someone on Dribble already on this domain by Allison House. Once you have received your invite, you can start creating shots (individual portfolio items) or projects (collections of shots) to build up your portfolio.
Coworks connects businesses with freelancers who have skill sets ranging from design to writing. Their network also goes beyond simply displaying portfolios and offers businesses a way to post projects, submit offers, and submit payment.
Once you’ve signed up for a free account, you will complete your profile, including adding relevant portfolio items, each of which allow you to add an image and description of your work. After you have completed your profile, you will submit it for review. When approved, your portfolio items will start appearing in search when businesses are looking to hire specific types of freelancers.
Here are even more professional networks and communities you can use to share your portfolio and connect with your ideal customers.
- Snapknot—allows wedding photographers to create a portfolio including their work, rates, description, and links to their website and social networks. Premium membership is required.
- Sortfolio—allows web designers to create a portfolio including their work, rates, description, and links to their website and email. Free and premium memberships available.
- 99designs—allows designers to submit work to potential clients to win a prize (monetary amount set by the client). Designers can create portfolios including their work, description, and link to their website in the description.
- Carbonmade—allows designers to create a portfolio including their work, description, specialties, and email address. Free and premium memberships available.
Start winning clients
If you have amazing work to showcase, there are a variety of ways you can do it that can help you generate new leads for your business. Be sure to start taking advantage of the many options available to create online portfolios that get you the clients you deserve.
More great ideas to grow your business
Discover 9 great ways to find freelance jobs.