How to Build a Winning Portfolio Website for the Creative Industry

Your portfolio is the key to unlocking a successful creative career. These tips will help you put your best foot forward.

If you are planning to make it in the creative industry, a few changes can turn your portfolio into a fine example of everything you have to offer. You are incredibly talented, and everyone should know about! How do you deliver this message? 

Having a professional looking portfolio that represents who you are and what you can bring to the table will help you to reach the right people.

Check Out the Competition

“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you'll achieve the same results”. -Tony Robbins

Look for people with similar styles who are rocking their profession, and observe how they do it. Notice the design of their website. Pay attention to the ways they connect on other platforms. What content is included in their portfolio? How did they write about themselves? Don’t look at what they have that you don’t. Consider what you both have and how they sell it well. 

Style and Simplicity

There are a few key qualities that every portfolio should have. No matter what form they take, it should represent you in the best way possible. Your character should shine through every word. Formating, color, and design choices are a great way to visually reflect your personality.

With creativity flowing, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos, but we need to keep a balance. If the portfolio isn’t easy to navigate and direct, what matters most won’t be seen. Simplicity is what wins over the senses, allowing each detail to dazzle. Don't overdo it.

Selecting your Samples

Highlight unique samples that define your style and top-notch skill. Be certain they reflect the type of assignments you want more of. Ask yourself, “Which projects were the most enjoyable to make?” Focus on the work that excites you. By choosing the samples you took pleasure in creating, you’ll attract offers that take the same direction.

Never include more than 10 examples; even 3 incredible ones are better than a slew of varied material. We recommend using only 4-6 of your most exceptional projects.

Our best work will not outshine our mediocre pieces. Less is more. Ditch the one with that little mistake nobody will notice (you know the one I’m talking about). Save these unused projects to be reworked later, or reuse the ideas in future designs.

Tools and Solutions

Platforms

The first question we must ask ourselves is, “Where will I create my portfolio?” There are a ton of platforms out there! Let’s take a look at our top picks:

  • Wordpress
    Wordpress is a great choice and tool to get you started fast. They provide you with a wide range of options for free. Upgrades like Elementor or Semplice make it really easy to customize the look and feel of your portfolio website.
  • Squarespace
    As far as portfolios are concerned, this is the top contender. It is the leading platform for creative portfolios, containing an intuitive UI and fully customizable templates. Sadly, Squarespace charges money for every ounce of their awesomeness, but they do offer a trial.
  • Wix
    As portfolio platforms go, Wix is a happy balance. There are plenty of good looking templates, a variety of options, and an easy to navigate builder. There is a free plan too! Unfortunately, the free version includes big ads at the bottom of your site.

We have our portfolio assembled and published online. What next? We need to seek out and destroy any obstacles standing in our path to success! There are a few more technical challenges to tackle and conquer.

Mobile Friendly Viewing

Always check your portfolio to be certain it displays nicely from a desktop and a mobile device. If it doesn’t look good, you won’t either. Cell phones are gradually becoming the way Americans prefer to view the internet. A whopping 60% of people in the United States access the web from their mobile device. That number is predicted to rise to 80% by the year 2021!

The 3 Second Rule

(It doesn’t only apply to food dropped on the floor.)

We all want our work to look great; However, if our images are too big, it can lead to problems. Keep the image quality high, but not so high that the files take forever to load. Web speed has a huge impact on our decision to browse a site. If more than 3 seconds go by, it’s bad. Many visitors will leave without ever seeing your amazing work. If a web page takes longer than 5 seconds, no one will wait around. People would rather hit the back button and move on than sit at a loading screen. ⁱⁱ

But fear not! When time is not on your side, we have your back. Here are three ways to eliminate unwanted seconds:

  1. Reduce image quality to HD, often referred to as “Medium.” The pixel size will depend on the platform being used. Image quality relies on resolution and compression, so be careful with how these are balanced. We still want crisp, great looking pictures. Luckily, this doesn’t need to be a test in math skills. Using Tiny PNG or Tiny JPEG makes the task a no brainer.
  2. Create more pages with fewer images. Too many files can significantly impact the speed.
  3. If 1 and 2 didn’t reveal your hard work faster, the files might not be the issue — your web host may be. Switching platforms or paying for a more reliable web host could be a profitable choice.

No Website? No Problem!

It might be a tad informal, but sometimes the bare bones of our work are all that matter. If you haven’t had the time or money to build the portfolio of your dreams, there are other options.

Utilizing Clouds

Clouds are a free alternative most people do not consider. Set up the content included on a portfolio site, and save it all to one document. If your projects contain large files, spread it out, and dedicate an entire folder to your work. Upload your new portfolio to a cloud service like Dropbox, One Drive, or Google Drive. By dropping a link, anyone can have instant access.

This simple solution will keep you organized and prepared.

Social Media

“Likes” and “shares” are not a reflection of our worth, but they are an excellent way to gain feedback and discover what our audience loves the most. Everyone in the creative industry requires exposure. Having a presence on social media gives us the chance to reach more people.

One of the best networking platforms to use as a channel for your practice is Instagram. If you do not have an account, you are missing a fantastic opportunity to market yourself.

There are a few other social media platforms worth exploration. A Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, or Behance account can not only expand your network but double as an acceptable portfolio.

Dead Zone Readiness

Always be prepared, and you’ll never miss an opportunity. Don't’ forget to download your showcased work, and keep it in a PDF file. Save it on your device or a USB flash drive. If internet connections or servers should fail, you won’t be far from your portfolio. We can’t predict the moment we meet a prospective client. Be ready for anything!

Photobook

Another way to keep a portfolio in a budget-friendly way is to print a photobook. Some businesses (like Blurb) offer the option to include full page images without borders. This image can be set as a background behind text for a spectacular “About” page. Photobooks are easy on your wallet, priced from $30 and up. Most people are choosing to use digitized portfolios, so a physical copy is sure to impress. In a world of seemingly endless technology, a real book appears extravagant in comparison. Attention to detail will set you apart from other candidates and could land you that dream job.

Conclusion

In the creative industry, our work is our passion. No one can separate an artist from their art. A fully personalized portfolio demonstrates you at your finest. We know the technical details can be overwhelming, but stay calm! Comment below and let us know if you have any other tips for building a winning creative portfolio. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get new articles and podcast episodes sent directly to you as soon as they are published.

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Written by
@jazzaguayo
Lifelong physical media artist who has a secret love affair with books, quotes, and language.

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