Does Your Portfolio Give Clients What They (Really) Want?


Hands up… Who loves their portfolio?

If you’re like most designers, your arm is high in the air. After all, your portfolio represents your best work — and it probably looks great, to boot. What’s not to love?

Well, I don’t want to strike fear into your heart, but based on the work I do with web designers and agencies, your portfolio’s probably not as good as you think it is. Why?

Most portfolios — which means, yes, probably yours too — are all the same: we built this; we did that, blah, blah, blah. Boring.

And worse, totally focused on you, you, you.

Think about it — if potential clients are checking out your portfolio, that means they’re measuring you up. Sitting there with their cash in their hand, trying to decide whether or not to hire you.

Which, in turn, means they’re probably only trying to decide one thing — whether or not you can help them with their business problems.

They don’t care that you built a jimjam on the Hoodad framework with client-side framtabulation.

They will care if you can show a demonstrated history of helping businesses grow or putting an end to wasted time, effort and money.

And that’s a critical difference.

The Only Two Things Business Owners Actually Want

Whether a business owner says they want a mobile site, or that they’re thinking they should be on Squarespace, or that they love purple…

The only two things they really care about (or should) are making money and saving money.

Some will be totally upfront about it. Some (usually the ones on their way to bankruptcy) will pretend they don’t care about money. And others may have no idea that’s what they actually want until you show them.

But the reality is that every business needs to do one or both of those two things — make money or save money — to stay alive.

And that’s where you’ll run into trouble — unless you position your portfolio exactly right.

Why You Look Like a Threat… and What to Do About It

Most business owners will see you as a cost. They just have no clue that the website you could build for them could make them (or save them) a boatload of cash.

Unless, of course, you tell them.


In the project descriptions you put in your portfolio.

For example, let’s say you set up an email marketing system for a previous client.


Except don’t write that.

Well, don’t write only that. Focus on the benefits that the email marketing system achieved — and include dollar figures if you can.

So in other words, maybe you didn’t just “set up email marketing.” Maybe you “implemented an email marketing system to warm up cold leads and generated $70,000 in incremental sales.”

Can you see the difference?

Here’s another example — you didn’t “build a site on WordPress” for that one client. You “put a content management system in place so the office manager could make website edits, saving $36,000 a year in maintenance costs.”

Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes… Which versions of those two descriptions above would cause you to sit up and take notice?


How to Think Like Your Client

If you’re stuck on what to write, talk about your website projects in terms of challenges you overcame or problems that you solved. Ask yourself questions like

  • “What benefits did my prospects see from working with me?”
  • “How is their business better now? What was wrong before?”
  • “What pains did they have, and what did my solution fix?”

And always — always — relate it back to the bottom line if you can. Any business owner — I don’t care who they are or how reluctant they are to spend money on website design — will be interested in reading about how you drove sales or saved money.

And once you can relate what you do back to the value you bring, you’ll stop being a cost in their minds. Instead, you’ll be an investment.

It doesn’t matter whether your potential client is in health care, or manufacturing, or technology. B2B or B2C. Looking for sales or soliciting donations. Money’s money.

And if you can use your portfolio to show how you earn it or save it for your clients, trust me… You’ll make a fair bit yourself.

Thanks for Reading

I’ve enjoyed writing this series on website content that sells. If you’d like to catch up on previous posts, you can read some general guidelines, find out what to do with your Homepage, get some quick tips on your About and Service pages.

Questions? Let me know in the comments.

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