If you’re an aspiring designer, you must know that building a compelling portfolio is not simple. Why? Because it will define you; people will assign you skills based on how your online presence looks.
And it is understandable, for sure. Would you personally hire someone whose design portfolio is not appealing? The answer is probably no.
So, let’s assume you are new to the design market and you’re trying to make the breakthrough. Well, apart from the quality of your works per se, you also need an outstanding and competent way of showcasing them.
And this is what I’m going to teach you in this post: how to make your design portfolio shine in the eyes of your potential clients. To be more concise, what aspects you need to improve to make it happen.
How to Improve Your Design Portfolio To Attract Clients
Check the websites of experienced designers
Before we dive into specifics, you might want to start by spying the “competition”. Sniffing how successful designers choose to showcase their works will help you find inspiration for yours. Do not copy, just analyze their approach.
So, before crafting your own, have a look at some awesome design portfolios first. Take notes and do the planning.
What an irony to talk about being original after advising you to spy other designers, right? Actually, learning from the best was never a bad thing. Learning, not copying.
I’ve heard it a thousand times already that there’s no originality left on the web, since everyone on the planet is there. I believe that you just need to use your imagination and nice things will come at some point. We are different, we think differently, we see things in different lights.
If you look at some of the best design portfolios in the world, you will notice that each one has a unique style. Even when it’s presented in a simple way, you can still find something that is wow about that site. Something that keeps you scrolling and arouses your interest. Be it an animation, a zigzag-like shape, dynamic pages, hand-drawn sketches, half-half page segmentation, ingenious slides, a not-so-common typography, and so on.
Build site elements yourself
Building a competitive design portfolio is not easy and requires hard work. In some cases you need to team up with someone else (i.e. a developer, an agency, another designer) to help you get things done, and sometimes you might want to create various elements all by yourself. For instance, a logo or a header. If you’re good at it, do it.
You can either build elements with your own coding skills or you can consult professional advice (e.g. publications) on what design resources and tools to use in this direction. Using DesignBold’s powerful online tools is another way to design effectively.
Use pre-made templates and themes
Of course, owning an awesome and original design portfolio involves building things from scratch, aka custom pages and elements. But do not exclude pre-made themes completely because they can offer beautiful alternatives too. Especially if code is not your best friend.
I mean, you can pick a theme that’s close to your preferences and customize it from that point on. For instance, if you build your website on WordPress, you have lots of options to choose from and you can even integrate page builders to refine the designs. If you prefer Wix, here are a few nice design portfolio templates to go through.
Your portfolio must reflect your personality
One thing should be clear from the beginning: the design of your site has to speak on your behalf, it must reflect who you are. When it comes to style, don’t follow the statistics, just be yourself. You need to be true to yourself and to your customers. Authenticity is applauded and, eventually, rewarded.
Design the way you believe is meaningful, and not the way people expect you to.
Don’t showcase all your projects
Everybody has novice works, the very first projects they’ve ever created. But that doesn’t mean you need to upload everything on your site. And this is valid not only to your earliest projects, but also to recent ones that you don’t necessarily consider as being top-notch.
I know you’ve probably worked hard on every design project up to this point and you think that the old ones deserve some love too, but you shouldn’t get too emotional because the employers won’t care.
Only publish the works that you believe provide the best quality and put your best skills in the spotlight.
So, every time you feel that something doesn’t fit there anymore, just remove it. No regrets.
Use security and basic marketing
Even though design is a priority for you, you must stay connected to the latest technology releases, so you can make sure your website remains accessible to the users.
When it comes to security, it’s up to you how much you want to invest in keeping your site strong in front of potential vulnerabilities and hacks. You can install firewalls, backup and malware scanning, and uptime monitoring to take the burden away from you. Usually, most of these services are provided by a single tool or company.
Furthermore, try various marketing tools to boost your portfolio exposure and promote it. Google Analytics, Hotjar for heatmaps, Buffer, SumoMe, SEO tools, and social media integration are just a few of the things you should look into.
I mean, no matter how exquisite your portfolio is, you still need to push it from behind a bit at the beginning, and maintain it permanently afterwards.
Dare to break the rules
Don’t be afraid that deviating from the standards will hurt you. On the contrary, clients are searching for people who have a different vision from the majority.
So dare to create whatever you have in mind. Break the common rules, use your imagination, which I’m sure you have plenty.
Many creatives, though, tend to narrow their options down in order to build products that are proved to sell. But you don’t have to do that. Be easy to distinguish.
Add dynamic content (animation, video, motion)
There are theories according which combining a lot of animations such as gifs, videos, moving pictures, or effects on your site will look kitschy. Well, yeah, it might if you do it the wrong way. Yet, there are designers who do it successfully. For instance, what do you think about Leta Sobierajski’s portfolio?
It takes courage to raise your inner voice. Of course, at some point you might ask yourself if it isn’t probably too much… mixing all the colors, making things fly from side to side, hiding elements that show up when you hover over them, or using fancy typography (by fancy, I mean fonts that you don’t see on everyday websites).
But, if you think it reflects your personality, go ahead and add videos, moving pictures, effects, and surprise elements. Personalizing your content is even better in terms of engagement because, according to Dynamic Yield, “94% of in-house marketers agree that website personalization is critical to current and future success”.
Describe your projects
This is not mandatory, but describing each portfolio item will help the viewers understand its context and significance.
For sure you don’t need to write a lot, but you could at least make a short introduction to your projects, telling people what they represent.
Make your About page count
In the About page, write a friendly intro about who you are, along with anything else you find relevant to your visitors. Feel confident to make jokes, talk about design, mention hobbies. But don’t type a whole chapter about yourself, though. Try to sum up curious facts in a few sentences, preferably.
Then, make sure to add everything that’s relevant to your resume and career, such as work experience, challenging projects, awards, clients, contact details, publications you’ve been featured in, and other tellingly things about your work.
I know it’s not easy to put into practice all the aspects that I covered in this post, but you don’t have to check them all at once. Take your time and adjust step by step. Because, after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
But these are just a few recommendations on how to make your portfolio look more appealing. Now it’s your turn to tell us what’s your take on this topic. Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments section below.