Online portfolios are like show-and-tell for professionals.
You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years developing skills, studying, and working—now you get to put your results on display. You might be tempted to paste a few links on a one-page website and call it a day. But as competitive as the hiring process can be, you’ll need to do more to make your portfolio pop.
In this post, I’ll address who needs an online portfolio (hint: everyone), how to create one that suits your needs, and highlight some top-notch examples to help inspire your own.
Who Should Have a Portfolio?
Considering the countless hours we all spend online and the rise of online networking, having a web presence that showcases your talent is a must. Put yourself in an employer’s shoes: Wouldn’t you trust a candidate whose work you can see instead of having to take their word for it or relying on a stale resume?
With that said, here are some career paths where online portfolios are an absolute must:
- Graphic Designers
- Web Developers
I’ll dive deeper into ideas and examples for your portfolio later in this post. But for now, just know that if you create anything, you need a portfolio.
“But My Work Doesn’t Have Any Visuals”
Even if your interests don’t fall under the umbrella of “creative” work, having a portfolio is still possible and definitely advantageous.
Maybe you’re studying chemistry, nursing, HR, or another subject that doesn’t require as many bells and whistles as other majors. Even so, employers still want to see what you’ve accomplished with your time, and a portfolio can put that on display. Not to mention, you’ll be a step ahead of others who only have cookie-cutter resumes. Here are a few portfolio ideas for work that’s not so visually oriented:
One of the best ways to demonstrate authority in a subject is through case studies. This is an opportunity to show prospective employers how you think, work, and solve problems. The best part? You don’t need to know design to make a killer case study. For a deep dive into case studies, check out this guide from HubSpot.
That’s right, history majors: you’re not exempt from portfolios either. Whether you want to become a teacher, a lawyer, or anything else, showcasing your ability to research and distill information is a valuable skill that can easily be translated into an online portfolio.
If you’re in medical-related fields such as nursing or pre-med, chances are you’re stretched pretty thin for time. With that said, repurposing lab reports is an easy way to show what you’ve been up to in, well, the lab. All you’ll need to do is convert them to PDFs and add the links on your website.
Nearly every major in college requires a presentation at some point. If you’ve suffered through research and public speaking, why not include the finished product as a portfolio piece? You can embed a slideshow into your website or, better yet, include a video of you presenting.
If your potential career values or requires any type of certifications, it’s in your best interest to put them on display in your portfolio once you earn them. This can be as simple as a blurb, such as “Google Adwords Certified” or a screenshot of the actual certification if it was completed online.
How to Create an Online Portfolio
If you’ve read this far, chances are I know two things about you: you don’t have an online portfolio (or need a better one) and you need help building it. In this section, we’ll explore what needs to go into your portfolio and some useful tools to button it up and make it legit.
Create Your Website
(If you already have a website, skip on down to the next step.)
First things first: if you don’t have a website, make one—right now. A personal website is the most important networking and professional development tool you can have. Traditional resumes (black text on white paper) are becoming less relevant. They go out of date as soon as you accomplish something new, not to mention exchanging resumes is way more of a hassle than exchanging website links.
Bottom line: you need a website. To build one, check out our ultimate guide to building a personal website.
Don’t worry, we’ll be waiting for you when you get back.
Choose Your Best Work
Think of your portfolio like a highlight reel—you want to be selective. Before you dive headfirst into the details and design of your portfolio, take some time to reflect on what work you’re most proud of. Remember, you’re going for quality, not quantity. If you’re on the fence as to whether something is good enough to include, chances are you probably shouldn’t.
For example: As a writer, it doesn’t make sense for me to link to every single article I’ve ever written. Instead, I created a tab on my website called “Popular Articles” where I list 10 of my best-performing or best-written articles.
Designing Your Own Portfolio vs. Using a Theme
Once you have a website and select your best work, it’s time to decide whether you’re going to design your own portfolio or use a pre-built theme. There are advantages and disadvantages for both options, so I’ll dive into each one and offer some resources.
Building from Scratch
If you’re a web developer, a graphic designer, or if you’re just proficient in web design, creating your own online portfolio is a smart move. When you create a site from scratch (be sure to mention you did so), the site itself becomes a portfolio piece in addition to the work you showcase.
On the other hand, if you decide to build your own portfolio and it doesn’t turn out well, that can create a bad first impression. Whether you’re a pro coder or just learning the ropes, you should always get a second set of eyes on your portfolio before you hit “Publish.”
Free WordPress Themes
If your field of study isn’t visually-oriented (or you don’t have a lot of spare time), a pre-designed template can be a life-saver. Website builders like WordPress have thousands of themes to choose from, most of which can be customized if you choose to do so. But rather than sorting through endless options, here are a few suggestions for free WordPress portfolio themes:
This theme’s sleek design and bold lettering will help your portfolio make a statement. Most importantly, Ignis makes it easy to display organize your portfolio items on the backend. Overall, Ignis has a minimalist feel with plenty of wiggle room to add your personal touch.
If you’re a photographer, this theme was designed just for you. With a responsive design and the ability to add custom logos, colors, and fonts, Photomania is a solid theme for photographers of any kind.
The name says it all: if you don’t need all the bells and whistles but still want to make a statement, this minimalist theme will do the trick. You can go hands-off with Portfolio, or take control with color schemes, animations, and custom fonts.
If you’re a vlogger, filmmaker, videographer, or film editor, .TUBE is an awesome theme that allows you to easily embed your work into your site. .TUBE lets you display video thumbnails in a grid on your homepage, so visitors don’t have to search around your site to find your masterpieces.
For not-so-visual portfolios, Wisteria is a simple theme that’s focused on content rather than images or videos. The simple navigation menu makes it easy for visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for. You’ll still be able to customize your background, colors, and sidebars if you like, or keep it plain-vanilla.
Additional Portfolio Builders
You aren’t limited to WordPress when building your portfolio, of course. Here are a few popular tools to simplify the process:
This tool has everything you need to create a professional portfolio website right in your own web browser.
Adobe is arguably the most trusted brand for digital design, and their portfolio building tool lives up to the hype. This tool includes web hosting and unlimited pages (plus there’s a free version).
Jimdo is a great resource for creative types like photographers, artists, and designers, but its functionality can really cater to a portfolio of any kind. Jimdo also offers dozens of examples to help you get your juices flowing.
What to Include in Your Portfolio
There are countless resources out there that provide an overwhelming amount of information about what needs to be included in your portfolio, but we’re going to stick with the basics. Sometimes, simple is better. After all, people don’t have all day to sift through your website.
Who Are You?
That’s a valid question, especially for a hiring manager. As I mentioned in my article about interview questions, it can be tempting to ramble about your life story, but most people aren’t interested. When it comes to the introduction on your portfolio, a sentence or two about who you are and what you do along with a headshot will suffice. Let your work do the rest of the talking.
Hey, there! My name is Jane Smith and I build websites that make clients wish they’d met me years earlier.
Your Work (Time to Brag)
This is where reputations are won and lost. Now that [insert internet user] has found your site and read your intro, it’s time to knock their socks off with your portfolio pieces. The website theme that you use (or code yourself) will ultimately determine how your portfolio looks, but there are a few things that still need your attention:
What was your scope of work? Were you assigned this project or did you take it on yourself? This doesn’t have to be a lengthy explanation—a couple sentences should do the trick. Here’s a simple example from Ashley N. Diers:
Did you increase sales? Was a client thrilled? Don’t just show viewers the end result—tell them what you achieved. This is your chance to sell yourself. Pretty pictures are great, but results write the checks. Testimonials are a great way to highlight successful projects that don’t have tangible results. Luckily, WordPress has dozens of testimonial plugins (this one is my favorite).
Now that you’ve introduced yourself and showcased your work, you need to give people an opportunity to get in touch. The best way to do that is with a contact page.
You have two options:
- Find a theme that has a built-in contact page template
- Add a contact form to a page using a plugin or by simply listing your email address.
Either way, it’s really easy.
Here’s Thomas’ contact page from his personal website (just don’t spam him, or else he’ll blame me.)
Now that we’ve covered the basics of building a stellar online portfolio, you’re probably eager to get cracking. Here are a few of my favorite examples to help guide your own design:
Kristin has an ideal website for a writer: her portfolio, blog, about page, and contact page are all on the home page, plus she has media logos of the outlets she’s been featured in for extra credibility. Bonus points: Thomas interviewed her on the College Info Geek Podcast.
Michael has taught me a ton about the freelance biz, most notably the importance of social proof (aka testimonials). He has a simple testimonial section on his website that he actively updates, and it’s in plain sight as soon as you scroll down the home page.
Dan is a product designer at Uber. What stood out to me is the minimalist effect that can be replicated in essentially any portfolio. There’s no fluff or jargon. This portfolio proves that sometimes, less is more.
Hopefully, you found this article to be a useful resource as you build or update your online portfolio. If you need further assistance or have general website questions, check out our personal website guide.
You can also check out our list of 50 awesome personal website examples for more ideas on how you can optimize your site even further.
Now, go build that rockstar portfolio.
Image Credits: featured
How do I make an online impressive portfolio? ›
- HIGHLIGHT YOUR VERSATILITY.
- REVEAL THE PROCESS.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE AND ACCESSIBLE.
- EMBRACE WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE.
- Identify your best work samples. ...
- Create a contents section. ...
- Include your resume. ...
- Add a personal statement outlining your professional goals. ...
- List out your hard skills and expertise. ...
- Attach samples of your best work. ...
- Include recommendations and testimonials from credible sources.
- Figure Out What You're Showing Off. ...
- Keep it Simple. ...
- Make it Easy to Navigate. ...
- Remember It's Not Just About Your Work.
The best portfolio sites simply frame the actual work. The less distracting that 'frame' is, the better. More often than not, over fussy, loud, cluttered portfolio sites are over-compensating for mediocre work. Simple is always best.What's an example of a portfolio? ›
In the simplest terms, a portfolio is a collection of investments that includes stocks, bonds, cash and other types of assets. It's common to invest in different types of things like stocks, bonds and commodities, but all these things combined make up your portfolio.What are 5 things a great portfolio includes? ›
- Table of Contents.
- Career and professional development goals, tailored for each interviewer.
- Work philosophy statement; personal mission statement.
- List of areas of expertise.
- Works in progress (activities and projects)
- Cover Letter “About the author” and “What my portfolio shows about my progress as a learner” (written at the end, but put at the beginning). ...
- Table of Contents with numbered pages.
- Entries - both core (items students have to include) and optional (items of student's choice).
- Conservative portfolio. This type is also called a defensive portfolio or a capital preservation portfolio. ...
- Aggressive portfolio. Also known as a capital appreciation portfolio. ...
- Income portfolio. ...
- Socially responsible portfolio.
- The Aggressive Portfolio.
- The Defensive Portfolio.
- The Income Portfolio.
- The Speculative Portfolio.
- The Hybrid Portfolio.
That means a portfolio could include anything from samples of writing the child has done, tests the student has completed, pictures of the child in the classroom, notes from a teacher about things the child has said or accomplished, self-assessments by a student, and more.
What does a creative portfolio look like? ›
WHAT IS A CREATIVE PORTFOLIO? Your creative portfolio is an organised collection of creative work showcasing your creativity, your practical abilities and/or your design-thinking skills.What are the 4 qualities effective of portfolio? ›
- Effective Diversification. What do you think of when you think of a diversified portfolio? ...
- Active Management. ...
- Cost Efficiency. ...
- Tax Efficiency.
Putting it all together: a successful portfolio finds that perfect blend of your personality, prominence of work, simplicity, and ease of use that makes your portfolio stand out from the crowd and achieve your goals.How many examples should be in a portfolio? ›
You might be tempted to throw a wide selection of samples into your digital portfolio. But as the old saying goes, less is more. Seven to 10 samples should adequately demonstrate your skills. In fact, research by our company says eight is the sweet spot.What should I not include in my portfolio? ›
- Everything you've ever designed. ...
- Your life story. ...
- An overly complex or distracting layout. ...
- Finished pieces with no context. ...
- Only one type of work. ...
- Unresponsive content. ...
- A static presentation.
The pictures in your portfolio are, without question, the most important aspect overall. If the photographs of your previous projects look unprofessional, it's unlikely that prospective clients will want to put their trust in you for their building project when they can't even see the quality of your work properly.What are the Top 8 tips to create a portfolio? ›
- Be selective about what you incorporate. ...
- Take out your best work. ...
- Go for the right platform for portfolio design. ...
- Keep it Smooth. ...
- Diversify your work. ...
- Stay Updated. ...
- Go for the right format. ...
- Deliver your story confidently.
As you begin to create your portfolio, there are several different categories that you should consider: Personal Information, Values, Personal Goals and History, Accomplishments and Job History, Skills and Attributes, Education and Training as well as Testimonials and Recommendations.What are the 7 steps of portfolio process? ›
- Step 1 – Identification of objectives. ...
- Step 2 – Estimating the capital market. ...
- Step 3 – Decisions about asset allocation. ...
- Step 4 – Formulating suitable portfolio strategies. ...
- Step 5 – Selecting of profitable investment and securities. ...
- Step 6 – Implementing portfolio. ...
- Step 7 – ...
- Step 8 –
There are two main types of portfolios: Showcase Portfolios: Students select and submit their best work. The showcase portfolio emphasizes the products of learning. Developmental Portfolios: Students select and submit pieces of work that can show evidence of growth or change over time.
What is the commonly used portfolio? ›
Paper Portfolio: As you know, the most common form of portfolios is a collection of paper products such as essays, problem sets, journal entries, posters, etc. Most products produced in classrooms are still in paper form, so it makes sense to find ways to collect, select from and reflect upon these items.What is a good portfolio? ›
A diversified portfolio should have a broad mix of investments. For years, many financial advisors recommended building a 60/40 portfolio, allocating 60% of capital to stocks and 40% to fixed-income investments such as bonds. Meanwhile, others have argued for more stock exposure, especially for younger investors.What are the 2 methods of optimizing portfolio? ›
Portfolio optimization often takes place in two stages: optimizing weights of asset classes to hold, and optimizing weights of assets within the same asset class.What is lazy portfolio? ›
A lazy portfolio is a collection of investments that more or less runs on autopilot. Lazy portfolios are designed to weather changing market conditions without requiring investors to make significant changes to their asset allocation or goals.What are the 2 functions of a portfolio? ›
Main functions of portfolio analysis method involves identification and evaluation of all products or service groups offered by company on the market. Other basic functions of portfolio are: prepare efficient product/service mix to meet customer demand. choose proper marketing strategy for each group.How do I write a student portfolio for me examples? ›
- Introduce yourself. Tell readers who you are in the first line of your portfolio introduction. ...
- Aim for a friendly, casual tone. ...
- Decide which professional experience to include. ...
- Consider listing awards and accolades. ...
- Add a few personal details. ...
- Include a photo of yourself. ...
- Proofread and edit.
- Project Portfolios. Focused on the work from an individual project. ...
- Growth Portfolio. Show progress toward competence on one or more learning targets. ...
- Achievement Portfolios. Document level of student achievement at a point in time. ...
- Competence Portfolios. ...
- Celebration Portfolios.
- Start with the Basics. What do you want your readers to know about you? ...
- Keep Your Tone Casual and Professional. As you write your self introduction down, keep in mind the tone of your writing. ...
- List Your Achievements. ...
- Add a Photo of You. ...
- Keep It Short but Specific.
- Gather inspiration.
- Choose a template.
- Showcase your best projects.
- Use high quality images.
- Include the right content and features.
- Improve your portfolio's UX.
- Work on your site's SEO.
- Make it mobile friendly.
- High-yield savings accounts. This can be one of the simplest ways to boost the return on your money above what you're earning in a typical checking account. ...
- Certificates of deposit (CDs) ...
- 401(k) or another workplace retirement plan. ...
- Mutual funds. ...
- ETFs. ...
- Individual stocks.
How do I present my portfolio online? ›
- Introduce the project and why you're including it.
- Explain the creative brief and who the client is. ...
- Tell them what your role was.
- Tell them what the results were. ...
- Pay attention to your audience, whether in person or on the phone and present accordingly.
How to design a portfolio cover page
- Open a blank document.
- Create a design.
- Type the title and your information.
Each Portfolio may contain multiple Pages; each Page, multiple Sections; each Section, multiple Artifacts. Each Page is similar to a page on a website. Each Section is where a user can place content in the form of rich text, graphics, and media.Is 4 projects enough for a portfolio? ›
The perfect number of projects to have on your portfolio website at any time should be between 3-6 projects. This allows you to clearly communicate the type of work you enjoy doing while also making it easy for the viewer to remember your design work by not overwhelming them with too much.What should an online art portfolio look like? ›
When it comes to your portfolio's design, clean and professional always should be top of your list. No distracting backgrounds. No crazy fonts for large chunks of text. Everything should be easy—easy to read, easy to navigate, easy to understand quickly who you are as an artist.How do you format an online portfolio? ›
- Decide your writing niche. ...
- Research similar writers. ...
- Determine your website format. ...
- Select your best work. ...
- Write your author bio. ...
- Provide contact information. ...
- Raise awareness of your portfolio.
For example, Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) identify three major types of portfolios: working portfolios, display portfolios, and assessment portfolios.How many pieces should an online portfolio have? ›
The perfect number of projects to have on your portfolio website at any time should be between 3-6 projects. This allows you to clearly communicate the type of work you enjoy doing while also making it easy for the viewer to remember your design work by not overwhelming them with too much.What makes a strong art portfolio? ›
Application reviewers say that a strong art portfolio includes a few observational works created from something you can see in real life. Be sure that these works reflect your take on the world around you—they should not be copies of work by other artists or fan art.Which color is best for portfolio website? ›
Often, portfolio sites work best when the work is displayed on a white or light gray, or dark gray or black background. Using bright colors tend to distract viewers from seeing your work, so reserve any bright colors to selected areas such as headings.