Why Your Online Portfolio Is Your Bread and Butter

Online Portfolio Design

If you’re like many people searching for jobs, you go through a painstaking process to correctly complete job applications. Doing that is undeniably important, but it’s also crucial to create and maintain a strong online portfolio, regardless of your line of work.


Keep reading to find out why it’s vital, and how to go about building your own online portfolio.


It Helps You Succinctly Explain Capabilities

Maybe you’re truly a person of many talents, and you have evidence to back those skills up. If so, your online portfolio is an ideal place to showcase what you can do and tie those strengths to the needs clients may require.


Look at how this is done well on the Bert website, which represents a design firm with offices in both Amsterdam and London.


Design Portfolio




The first picture above is the landing page for the Services section, and the right image is a sampling of the breadth of services shown once people begin scrolling down. A person ordinarily may not think a firm that helps develop a brand for a company could also build an e-learning course for it, but those are just two of the things the Bert team can do.


When you clearly convey the scope of your talents, you’re potentially appealing to a much larger segment of the target market. Otherwise, you may miss out on securing clients that didn’t even know you possessed the very skills they required.


Your Portfolio Gives a Snapshot of Future Aspirations

Many people feel spurred to create or improve their portfolios because they want to move into a different segment of the market. If that’s the case for you, it’s important to position your portfolio as a reflection of a goal you are working toward. For example, if you eventually want to move into the sports photography sector, it’s not a good idea to have an online portfolio solely comprising landscape shots.


A musician named O’Hara Hash created a portfolio for his solo work after realizing he only had examples of his performances in bands and wanted to highlight what he could bring to restaurants and bars that were interested in booking solo artists. As you can see from the screenshot below, Hash’s portfolio includes a printable poster that venues can post in their establishments to promote his gigs, plus an easy-to-find contact link.


However, the most important element of this particular portfolio is the music sampler embedded into the header photo. It offers just under eight minutes of examples of Hash’s vocals, musicianship and repertoire, making it especially easy for frazzled establishment owners or managers to decide whether or not he fits their live entertainment needs.


Because restaurants and bars often book live music as merely a way to attract more patrons, it’s not a priority, and they don’t have time to do a lot of research about a musician’s body of work. Through his portfolio, Hash delivers what they need to know in a quick, hassle-free way.




The end of the audio clip even features a verbal call to action where listeners are urged to contact Hash if they’re interested in booking him for gigs. However, it’s given in a casual but straightforward way that gives the impression if venue representatives were to book Hash, he’d make their lives easier instead of adding stress.


You might do a variation of his technique if you know there are a lot of other professionals in the area who do work similar to yours and you want to make sure possible clients choose you over others. Because Hash gives the call to action in lighthearted language and his own voice, he comes across as highly relatable and personable, suggesting he’s not only musically gifted, but friendly.


A Portfolio Lets You Categorize Your Work

Maybe you’ve specialized in a particular discipline for most of your life and realized you have several categories that represent it. In that case, an online portfolio provides an excellent way to demonstrate the sheer depth of everything you’ve done, without making people feel overwhelmed. Mark Delong Photography does that expertly with its portfolio.




Each picture on the portfolio represents a different category, from Beauty to Commercial. After clicking on one of them, it’s easy to explore more of the photographs the company has shot. This method of displaying things in an online portfolio is especially smart because it not only segments the work, but it also shows examples of competency before people even click into specific categories.


When making your own online portfolio, think creatively about how you could split your work into sections that make sense and support your goals. If there are strategic ways to group certain kinds of content together, explore them thoughtfully and ask for input to verify you’re on the right track.


It Serves as Your Online Pitch

You’ve probably heard it’s smart to come up with an “elevator speech,” or a quick pitch about what you offer, and have it ready for cocktail parties and other occasions when you’re likely to be engaged in spontaneous conversations.


When created carefully, your online portfolio acts as an electronic version of your quick pitch. Take a look at how digital art director Yul Moreau does that in the portfolio below:




After you’re on the site for a few seconds, video content begins playing behind the words. The “Scroll or Die” command on the bottom offers a bit of witty humor.


Spend time thinking extensively about the things you could say about yourself to make visitors want to know more. Essentially, try to authoritatively answer the unspoken question of, “Why should I bother?” that potential clients ask. If you can’t do that, they’ll likely move on and look elsewhere for assistance.


A Portfolio Helps You Stand out From Competitors

Creating a strong online portfolio is particularly important in a field that arguably has a low barrier to entry, such as freelance writing. The rise of so-called “content mills” made it where barely trained writers could make quick bucks. The resultant decrease in quality made it harder for reputable writers to get noticed.


Travel writer Nellie Huang nimbly avoids blending in with inexperienced writers by not only listing some of the publications that have featured her work, but providing PDF links of the content so people can easily read the articles before deciding whether to hire her.




By also including the timeframes when pieces were published, Huang shows she’s been in the highly competitive travel writing industry for several years. Consider doing something similar with your own portfolio. Regardless of your craft, it’s extremely valuable to prove you have what it takes to meet or exceed client expectations. Showing electronic versions of published content as Huang has done also minimizes concerns about plagiarism.


Good Portfolios Make Your Work a Focal Point

Some people with good intentions become overly eager when designing online portfolios by making their efforts too cluttered and flashy. Generally, it’s much better to keep things clean so the merit of your work can shine through, and visitors won’t get confused about how to navigate to certain sections of the website.






Check out the simple but effective layout of the portfolio for A.H.A. Design. The landing page features an example of one of the firm’s recent projects, then the bulk of the portfolio is well represented through circle-shaped snapshots of the subject matter. People can click on each one to learn more.


By now it should be clear your online portfolio is not something to take lightly if you’re serious about a long-lasting career. These actionable tips and beautiful examples should help you pair action with inspiration when creating a stunning online showcase of work.



Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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