How to Create a Portfolio Website: 6 Steps

How to Create a Portfolio Website: 6 Steps

How to Create a Portfolio Website: 6 Steps banner

Did you know that an online portfolio can help showcase your work in a convenient and highly professional way? Whether you’re an advertising professional, designer, or writer, a portfolio can help you carve your path and put your best foot forward.

If you are building a portfolio website, here are six things you’ll want to do.

1. Set a goal

Your portfolio is how you show a client or prospective employer your talent and vision as a creative. For the portfolio to be effective, you will have to know who your target audience is and what you want them to walk away thinking after they view your work. Your goal will impact how you design the portfolio website and what work you choose to publish on it.

This will also require a deeper, better and more thorough understanding of your own style and approach as a creative. The website should reflect you—from the fonts to the layout. Everything should feel cohesive with your work and show your personal brand creativity.

2. Select work to showcase

Choosing your work might be the hardest part of the process. You need to include pieces that will impress potential clients, while also fitting the style and direction you are comfortable proceeding. Most experts recommend around 10-12 portfolio pieces. While some of those may be campaigns, many could be singular package designs or flyers.

Creatives often get caught up in the process and try to include as much good work as they can for a robust portfolio. This is often a mistake. Your portfolio should only include your very best work. Like showbiz, it should leave the viewer wanting more.

Choose pieces that show a diverse range of your skill, but still offer cohesion. Absolutely include any work that has received awards at the front and make sure you provide details in the description.

3. Determine where to build your website

Free sites, such as Behance, Dribble, and Adobe Portfolio, were made to showcase portfolios. The problem with a free platform is that you won’t have as much creative control over your individual page. Plus, you’ll be fighting for attention in a sea of creative work as other creatives also employ these sites for their portfolios. This can be a good option if you want to do freelance work, but if you are trying to wow a potential employer, having your own website provides more clarity and focus on your work.

Commercial sites, such as WordPress or Squarespace, also offer opportunities to create a portfolio website.

Squarespace includes an all-in-one fee for hosting, site structure, and domain. It works well for e-commerce, but it limits a lot of features. Because it is a closed ecosystem, outside plugins (like Yoast to help SEO) aren’t accessible. Squarespace is also going to be a bit more expensive than the more affordable WordPress options.

WordPress provides a much more robust option where you will be able to apply a range of themes (design structure) and plugins to achieve the look and functionality you want. With WordPress, your account will be free, but you will need to pick a theme and host. There are free themes, but you will have more control by purchasing a WordPress template design theme from somewhere like Etsy. You will then need to pick a hosting site, like Hostinger, BlueHost and SiteGround. Hostinger prides itself on being cheap and offering great customer service, so that can be an ideal option for a recent graduate stepping into the professional world.

You can always migrate your site to another host, but it is a bit of a hassle. Most sites will have rates that go up steeply after the initial subscription, so pay attention to the regular rates and not just the sale price you are getting at sign up.

4. Obtain a domain

When you choose your domain, ideally you’d use your first and last name. You want something simple to type in and memorable, but also professional.

Free sites often won’t let you choose your domain, so you have the host site name before or after your name. With Adobe, for example, you would have after your chosen domain name. Through Behance, the domain structure is and then your name. If you purchase your own domain to use with a site that allows (or requires) it, then you can just have your chosen name followed by .com.

Domain names are usually pretty cheap—around $10 per year. Check to make sure the name you want is available before you set your heart on it.

5. Choose your website structure

Most of the time, you are going to have some say over your website look. This might be called a theme. You need to make sure your website is mobile-friendly with responsive design that changes with the screen. Your structure will likely include three important elements.

Main Portfolio Page

Your work should be showcased in compresses, quick-to-load images that showcase your work at a glance. Your visitor should be able to open the images for larger options to see your work up close. It is smart to add a watermark to these larger images so that no one can steal your work. The watermark should be nearly transparent, cross details (so it is hard to crop out or edit out) and not across anything too important to the sense and style of the work (i.e. making it hard to see the focal point or read ad copy).

Ideally, you would include a short blurb about each piece that explains what you did and the assignment given. Since visitors won’t be there in person for you to explain, your website has to carry the full load. It should tell them what the goal was and what you had to do to create the work.

Portfolio Website Blog

You might not think of a blog as a part of a portfolio site, but it’s a great way to build SEO and showcase what you are doing as a creative. A blog post should have at least 1-3 pictures and include 300+ words. This can be a great place to include past client reviews of previous projects.

About Me Page

The About Me page is the ideal part of the site to write up a professional artist statement or offer a generic cover letter. Explain why you do what you do and what sets you apart. You might include a few details about your journey to art or hobbies you do on the site.

Note: Always have someone proofread your work. Just like with a resume or cover letter, a typo or mistake in your portfolio site could make you look unprofessional or inattentive to details.

6. Employ tactics that make your work easier to find

If you are simply sending your website directly to potential clients or employers, you might not need to worry as much about increasing visibility. But improving traffic will help you grow it over time and could be crucial if you are trying to reach freelance clients.

Work on SEO

You can always just share your link with interested parties, but if you want favorable rankings from a search engine, like Google or Bing, then you need to optimize your site. There is no hard and fast way to do this, but there are some crucial SEO (search engine optimization) rules you will want to follow to improve your ranking:

  • Make sure your site has a fast load time
  • Write interesting content covering specific keywords
  • Always include alt tags on images to describe them
  • Write about local events to help boost your SEO for your area
  • Use both internal and relevant, authoritative external links on every page

Integrate Social Media with Your Website

If you are posting work to Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, you should have it connected to your website. You can include a plugin to display your last few Instagram posts, for example.

You should also have your website listed on your social profiles to help people find your portfolio and increase traffic. Also, drop your website link whenever someone in a group is asking for the kinds of services you offer—this will increase your visibility for them and anyone else reading the post.

Set Up Google Analytics

You should set up Google Analytics if you want to measure your site’s popularity. This can be helpful for checking to see if your methods are working. If you are working to increase traffic, you will be able to watch your site grow from no views per day to numerous. Google will tell you things like bounce rates, too. You can even use Google Analytics to see how well your pages are ranking for key SEO factors, like loading speed.

Include Contact Info

Always make sure your contact information is easy to find on your profiles and website. Typically, an email is often the best option. Choose an email you will check frequently (ideally, you’d have it right on your phone). If someone does reach out, always get back to them as soon as possible to cultivate the relationship. Never click links or open attachments in emails without carefully checking to ensure it isn’t a phishing scam.

Do you love branding, content creation, and data? A career in marketing or advertising might be right for you. Learn more about earning your degree in advertising & marketing communications, marketing, or digital marketing & social media from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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