As a web designer looking for freelance work, you are probably well aware of the importance of having a web presence and online portfolio to display your work and snag new potential clients. But when you’re designing your portfolio website, you may find yourself struggling. Unlike a client’s website design where your client tells you what to include, you may feel a little overwhelmed at creating a website dedicated to you and your company. Sometimes, when designing websites and writing content for yourself, you may find that you are your own worst critic.
Creating your own personal portfolio website online doesn’t have to be baffling or confusing. These are seven aspects that you should pay attention to when designing, creating, and posting your online portfolio website. Because really, it’s about more than just posting your previous client work.
1. Memorable Logo, Simplistic Catchy Design
As a design professional, you know the spiel: "Less is more." When determining how you want to design your portfolio website, you will want to focus on creating a simplistic, easy-to-navigate website for your potential clients to peruse. If your visitor is unable to find out what you actually do or cannot figure out how to contact you, chances are they will hit their browser’s back button and move on. So you need to be sure that once you have your potential client on your website, you keep them there.
You know as much as the next person: a catchy design is essential. A logo or memorable image to represent your portfolio is helpful as well, even if it’s just a snazzy design with your name on it (if you’re a stand-alone freelancer and don’t work under a company or business name).
Additionally, be sure that the design of your site matches the look and feel of work you have done in the past, and that which you want to do in the future. For example, if you like creating more traditional websites, you’re not going to want to design your online portfolio website with modern design elements and an edgy look. Keep your portfolio site design similar to the kind of work you have done in the past and enjoy doing in order to capture the right client audiences.
2. Who You Are and What You Do
Many web designers have an extensive offering of services outside of the obvious. While web design is definitely a big part of what you might do, you may offer other services to your clients, such as SEO work, graphic design and desktop publishing. It is essential that you include these services on your site. This could be a huge selling point for a certain client who is looking for a "Jack of all trades." If you can create a logo, design their business cards, and handle their social media marketing on top of designing their entire website, a client might want you for all these services wrapped into one. But they won’t be able to hire you for a large package of services if they have no idea that you offer them.
On top of listing all of the services that you can offer to your clients, be sure to include a photo of yourself and a little "about me" blurb. Keep it personal, but professional. Sharing some information about your spouse and children is great, but don’t go too in-depth. You want to show your potential clients that you have a life outside of the office, and many times, it helps people "connect" on a more personal level with the professional they’re hiring for their work. In a simple paragraph, talk about your family, personal hobbies, and what you enjoy doing for your clients. And leave it at that. No one wants to know your life story, but they do want to know a little bit about their potential contractor to help build trust and integrity.
3. Samples of Your Work
The bread and butter of any portfolio website is, well, the portfolio! But the last thing you will want to do is just slap some links to everything you’ve done in the last five years and call it a day. There is more to creating the portfolio pages of your website than you may think, so let’s step back and consider a few things before you jump head-first into posting your work samples.
Only the best
First, you will want to choose your best work. Your absolute best, and only the best. This not only shows off the cream of the crop, but it will also keeps you from overwhelming your potential clients. They want to get a good idea of what you do, not see your whole past history of clients, small and large. Pick your absolute favorite works, and post them for your visitors to see. Pick ones that show the design style you like to work in, the sites that you like to work on, and the clients that you like to work with.
Categorize by Service
Second, categorize your portfolio samples if you are showing off different kinds of services. Make one category for graphic logo designs that you may have done, another for complete web design setups, and another for desktop publishing work that you have been hired for in the past. By categorizing your portfolio, you can help your visitors easily navigate and find samples of what they are looking to hire you to complete for their own company.
Narrow your Focus
Third, consider the work you are looking for. If you’re no longer wanting to do desktop publishing and want to focus more on web design and graphic work, then don’t include samples of your desktop publishing work. You can mention that you’ve done it in the past in your "About Me" and "Services" section, but then leave it be until someone asks. Then you can make a judgment call with a potential client who might be looking for a complete services package.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to name drop. If you’ve done work for a huge, well-known company, let your clients know. This gives them the idea that you’re quite the big shot if a large, internationally known company has utilized your design services in the past.
And one of the most important things you will want to do to your main portfolio page on your website is to update often. This ensures that it is up-to-date and relevant over the course of time.
4. Link to Relevant Blogs
Many web design professionals also run their own blogs where they post articles, updates, and information that is relevant to their related line of work. Some web designers enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, and if you’ve already got a professional blog up and running, you will definitely want to make sure you link to it, and vice versa – linking your blog to your portfolio website. Showing knowledge in your area of expertise just solidifies your professional abilities in the design field, and can give your potential clients a better idea of how you function, what you know, and how informative and well-versed you are in your career of choice.
Over time, you will have compiled a nice list of clients that you have worked with; many of these may have offered you kind words, perhaps thanking you extensively for what you have done for them and their business. Perhaps they sent you an email to thank you for your hard work and the success their business has seen from your recent design work, or maybe you’ve received a few glowing recommendations on your LinkedIn profile from past clients. If you have any of these positive, amazing testimonials, include them on your portfolio website! Nothing says "true professional" than someone who has hundreds of kind words on their site of past and present clients talking them up about how great they are, how professional they were, and how their web design has made their company a success.
Create a page on your portfolio website of testimonials if you have them. If you don’t, do not be afraid to ask! Contact some of your past clients and ask them if they’d be willing to write a testimonial for you, and also check with them to see if you can reference their name and company as well. Many individuals will enjoy doing this, especially if you plan on linking to their website. Use a wide variety of testimonials – short ones to long ones, and testimonials about different kinds of projects and services that you have completed in order to give your potential client a good idea of how well-rounded you are as a professional contractor.
6. Downloadable Résumé
It is imperative that you understand that some people won’t enjoy browsing your background on a computer. For some companies, it is easier for them to print out a résumé of a potential contractor hire, in order to peruse and evaluate it at a later time. In some cases, there may be a number of individuals that are working together to decide on a web designer, a process often based on physical documents. To address these situations, you will want to make a separate, downloadable PDF résumé for your potential clients to access. It doesn’t need to be as extensive as your online portfolio, but should include the basics and then reference your portfolio website as a place to learn more about what you offer. This allows clients considering you as a contract to print off your résumé, email it over to a coworker, or save it on their computer for instant access.
7. Contact Information
You cannot be hired by someone if you cannot be contacted. Many people overlook this important aspect of their portfolio. While you may think that posting an email address to contact you is sufficient, you need to understand that, in today’s world, you need to offer a number of different contact methods. Some companies like instant messaging their potential contractors for online interviews, while others prefer to fill out a contact form on a website. Some might prefer the traditional telephone, and some might just want to send over an email. No matter how your potential client likes to keep in touch with those they intend to hire, it’s a great idea to provide a variety of ways to be contacted. Include a fillable contact form on your website, as well as an email address for direct contact. A telephone number and mailing address are appropriate when applicable. Another way to stay in contact with visitors to your portfolio website is to provide links to your professional social media and social networking accounts, such as your Twitter account, Google+ account, and Facebook page.
Creating a memorable and impressive portfolio website is critical, as it is the first impression that a potential client will have of you, your business, and your abilities. Including the proper portions is essential to being found in the sea of freelance web designers and snagging the client of your dreams. Applying these seven keys will put you well on your way!