As a creative professional, your portfolio can be the making, or failing, of your business. So you need to ensure it represents the full range of your skills and experience, and that it demonstrates how your work will be a valuable asset to your visitors’ businesses.
The best way to do this is to create in-depth case studies that document your creative process and surprise and impress potential clients when they land on your website.
Web designers present their case studies in many different ways. However you decide to showcase your work, here are a few golden rules you should always bear in mind.
1. Quality over quantity
Cramming your portfolio with every project you’ve ever worked on is a terrible idea. Potential clients won’t have time to read each and every one – they’ll skim down the page and choose the odd one to read in depth. So you want to ensure they only see your strongest work.
Ten to twenty projects should be enough to showcase your range of skills and expertise.
2. Be selective
Select your two strongest projects, opening your portfolio with your best work and signing off with your second-best. This ensures you start and end strong. Plus, science says people are more likely to remember the first and last pieces.
Think about the range of projects you’ve worked on and chose a selection that demonstrates the breadth and versatility of your expertise. You’re aiming for a cohesive body of work that tells your story and demonstrates the full range of your skills.
Do include your most unique and creative work, and don’t be afraid to include self-initiating work and personal projects. People love to see creativity and innovation, so potential clients and fellow designers will enjoy seeing how you flex your creative muscle and express your unique voice.
3. Let your work take center stage
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When landing on your portfolio page, your projects should take center stage. Include large images and minimal text (or maybe even animated screenshots) so people can scan down and get an overview of your work and your client base.
The work should flow down the page and be easy to scan and view. Take a step back and look at the overall picture. Do the colors and angles complement each other or do they clash and jar?
Make sure the images are consistent until they’re rolled over. Potential customers can choose to read those that align closely to their needs and requirements or they may simply be scanning for creativity and boldness.
4. Start with a comprehensive introduction
When people click through to read individual case studies, ensure the first thing they see is a brief yet meaningful introduction to the project. This should include your client’s objectives, industry, the scope of the project, and the completion date. This will give context as you explain the processes used and any challenges faced.
However, before you go on to discuss the project in greater depth, ensure the second thing they see is an image of the finished product – don’t make them scroll to the bottom of the page; impress them at the outset.
5. Explain your work process and decisions
Don’t fall into the trap of only showing the finished product. Potential customers will be interested in what it’s like to work with you and the processes you use, and curious about the creative decisions you’ve made.
If possible, include illustrations of what the project was like before you became involved – either the previous website or client’s sketches. Then tell a story about how you reached the final outcome, including relevant sketches, mockups, wireframes, and notes.
If your client didn’t choose your favorite logo from the handful you suggested, don’t be afraid to include it here – it may be just the inspiration a potential client is seeking.
Use a range of images to highlight the creative journey from initial research through to finished project, and ensure all images are high-resolution so your work shines.
However, take care not to disclose any confidential client information or say something that breaks an NDA.
6. Include a client testimonial
Social proof speaks volumes, so ensure each case study on your portfolio is topped off with glowing words from the happy client. This creates trust and helps to convince potential clients that you would be a valuable asset to their project.
Don’t be afraid to give the client a few prompts to ensure you end up with the best possible testimonial. Ask them what they liked best about working with you, their favorite part of the finished website, any quantifiable results they’ve seen, and whether they’d work with you again.
7. Don’t forget your CTA
At the bottom of each case study, include a call to action that guides the user to contact you.
Avoid a generic CTA – make each one specific to the work carried out in each project.
8. Promote widely
Once your case study is complete and looks suitably impressive, don’t simply add it to your portfolio page – pull on your marketing hat and announce it proudly across social media. You want to reach the largest possible audience and encourage more organic traffic back to your website.
It’s not only about attracting potential clients. Designers are always seeking fresh inspiration and looking for other reliable designers. There will be times when another designer won’t be able to take on a specific project, either because it doesn’t fit their particular strengths or because they don’t have the time. When that happens, they’ll turn to their contacts of other reliable, innovative designers and refer the client.
9. Review regularly
Finally, remember your portfolio is never complete. Trends, techniques, and technology change at a rapid pace, so set a reminder in your calendar to review it regularly – at least every six months.
As a general rule, remove anything that’s more than three years old or looks tired and dated. This will demonstrate that you stay on top of current trends and continue to learn new skills.
How do you ensure your online portfolio represents your creative body of work and markets your services effectively? Can you add any tips to our list? Tell us below.