How to Make Your Portfolio Better Than the Competition’s Portfolio

competitionCompetition is fierce in the world of freelancing. In the clients’ eyes, one of the few factors that differentiates you from the competition is the quality of your portfolio.

While much of what makes up a portfolio is both subjective and based on personal preferences, there are still several surefire ways to distinguish yourself in the sea of freelancers.

Let’s takes a look at some ways you can make your portfolio better than your competition’s portfolio.

A Great Design

Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many terrible freelance portfolios are on the web. Even if you aren’t offering design services, you should still have a great looking design for your portfolio.

A great design helps increase your professionalism and legitimacy as a business. How many times have you come across a site with a spotty design that made you wonder if the products were scams? The same applies to freelancers.

Great Looking Code

You may not know this, but clients, especially web agencies looking to contract out some work, really do look at your code, so make sure it’s as great as the design. Follow basic semantics, validation and coding practices, especially if you offer any sort of web development services.

Even if you don’t code, good code can have an impact on your SEO, download times and ease of updating. I’ve gotten lots of great compliments, some criticisms and a few bug notifications from clients in the past, so code-inspecting is not a rare occurrence!

Share Some

Talk about the actual work you did and why you did it. Many portfolios I’ve seen have their work categorized well, such as in web design or logos, but then only have thumbnails and a light box pop feature of the actual work. Try including an actual link, if it’s a website, and talk about what you specifically did and why you chose to do it that way.

Be Personal

Too many portfolios sound like they’ve been written by space robots. It’s important to sound professional, but it’s equally important to sound human.

I’ve felt this way about my own portfolio when redesigning it, so I included a picture of myself along with some few interesting facts in the footer of my subpages — just enough so my clients realize I’m both professional and fun to work with.

Contact Points

Try to include multiple ways to contact you on your site. Some clients prefer emailing only, some prefer to only work by phone. Try having an email address, contact form and some instant messenger IDs as well. You want to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for a potential client to contact you.

Have a Blog

It may sound cliché, but having a blog on your portfolio can help you in several ways:

  • Gives visitors a reason to return to your site often, which means your name will stay in their head. It’s more likely they’ll see your new work (and want to hire you).
  • Content helps boost SEO, since portfolios are normally not content-heavy by themselves.
  • It helps establish you as an expert in the clients’ eyes and many of them will subscribe to your blog, even if they don’t understand all the jargon.

Keeping It Clean

It’s important to not junk up your portfolio with too much useless clutter. Showing your latest Twitter stream on your homepage is helpful, as it shows you’re active on the web. However, showing your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Stumbleupon AND Digg streams isn’t helpful and just becomes unsightly clutter on your homepage.

Remember, the point of your portfolio is to gain clients and show off your work — not to show how much time you waste on social media every day.

Some Great Examples

Here are a few great examples of portfolios on the web for some inspiration. Enjoy!

Nine Lion Design

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Finch

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Sensis

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HeaderFooter

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Your Turn

What’s your advice for creating a great portfolio? Don’t be afraid to share links to great portfolios!

Top image by kubina

Comments

  1. says

    I redesigned my portfolio at the end of last year, and this article covers many of the points that I stuck to. If you work in web design then in my opinion your portfolio should be one of your best projects, to show you’re diversity and create side.

  2. says

    I am also redesigning my portfolio and I have been following these tips during that process. Most of these are pretty basic and should be common in the design world.

    The only problem I have is keeping an updated blog. I have a blog right now, but you’ll see I have spurs of posts within a month, then I will go months without one. I have tried to set it where I make a post once a week, but I usually get too busy to do so.

    Nonetheless, great article Amber!

  3. Etienne Richard says

    Excellent article Miss Weinberg. I’m currently working on the wireFrame of my personnal portfolio and I have to say those tips will be useful.

  4. says

    Well, my idea was to get people focused on my work capabilites, and my 2 alter egos : Tap & Tap. by creating a unique 3d web comic I gave it that peronal touch. I love being different, and in time this site will retire just as soon as I collect some time to create a blog styled portfolio!

    You can check my portfolio and comics @ http://www.taptapdesign.com

  5. says

    @bottleHeD you should! You’re missing on a lot of SEO opportunities with flash, please that means your site doesn’t work on non-computer devices, which more and more people are using to access the web now.

    @David Great portfolio! The design is very catchy :) The only suggestion I have is to make the background repeatable, or to make it larger, it ends on my monitor.

    @Paul Very clean design :) The navigation font is a little huge, but I like your use of white space :D

  6. says

    Mine is still in development, have too many paying projects to be able to spend time on it- which is a good thing, but I am slowly getting it done, thanks for the info and inspiration!

  7. says

    There are some amazing portfolios out there and I really enjoy browsing the web to look at other people’s work and see what everyone else is doing.

  8. says

    Well I must say I know all these points – they seem just proper things to do, right? For me, creating a portfolio is quite challenging – I’m never satisfied with one. I have this feeling of ‘it’s not good enough for me” and many of my projects have become better than any of my ideas for a portfolio…
    As for the blog idea.. well – blogging for me is SOOOOO BORING : ) but I’d love to have one… and I thought to myself at one point: maybe it’s just I should focus on one aspect, not create a blog “about everything”?
    Cheers.

  9. says

    Creating a brand identity for myself at the moment. Also, if you have clients already, ask them what they are looking for when visting websites related to you industry. First impressions last. Just because you are a web designer/UI designer or see other websites with the same information on the homepage doesn’t mean it’s right!

  10. says

    Fred, I like your design, it’s clean and uncluttered.
    The thing that bothers me is that when I click on the portfolio links it takes too long to load.

  11. says

    Mine’s really plain and boring, but it does the job. More exciting things go on at my personal website, that’s much more fun. Oh, yes it is…

  12. says

    Everyone’s portfolios are looking great! (I’m so proud ;) )

    @Sponsi I understand exactly what you’re saying – I tend to redesign mine every 4 months or so, because I’m never really satisfied. I’m going to try and keep the one I just put up for awhile ;)

  13. says

    Oops, submitted the comment before I was finished!

    As I was saying, there are so many beautiful portfolios out there. The way to get noticed is to do something different, I guess, but it’s hard to find something different because, again, there are thousands of great portfolios out there and if you think something is original, there’s a high likelihood that someone else somewhere has already done it!

    I think that one of the most important factors for a good portfolio site is keeping it clean. Complexity doesn’t let the site visitor focus on your work and is a distraction.

  14. says

    Thanks Amber, your tips are really great! I will pay attention to them when I redesign my portfolio to be based on wordpress in the near future.

  15. says

    Some people think a web portfolio is something that is only seen when you apply for a job and include your portflio url in your resume… That is not the case! My porfolio has been a great place to meet people and find the occasional project.

  16. says

    Great article with some extremely valid points on keeping your portfolio fresh and unique, we definitely second everything on here. We wanted to let everyone on here know, if you want to build your own portfolio site but aren’t comfortable building it yourself then visit http://www.makeaportfolio.com which is an online flash website portfolio builder. From the site you can see examples of portfolio websites that have already been built using the system which we think are pretty cool. You can also try out the whole portfolio builder for free. Thanks very much and keep up the good work!

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