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How to Build a Winning Portfolio That’ll Make Everyone Want to Hire You (With Examples)

Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to find photography clients, a freelancer struggling to get clients on UpWork, or a creative seeking employment, you need a portfolio website. With an online website, you can target a global audience. It is one of the best means of advertising your business. As more and more people visit your site, you can turn them into qualified leads and happy customers.

The real purpose is to provide tangible proof of how you add value to the company and contribute to the team, and there are lots of ways of doing that. From showcasing your best work and client testimonials, a portfolio can document your accomplishments in a way that makes new clients want to work with you. Bring all your creativity to the table and create the best online portfolio, to spread the word about your creative business.

Here’s everything you need to know about designing a killer portfolio that sells your services.

Think like the client

A portfolio is not just a showcase of your best work. It highlights your value for the client or the employer. Good, creative images are not enough to convince them to work with you. What you have to aim for, is that the images reflect what the customer wants to see. It’s going to be different depending on the type of people you’re showcasing your portfolio to and your design career.

This means you’ll have to do some brainstorming. Here’s the list of questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Does my client have a preferred art style?

  2. Are there any current trends in the niche I’m applying to?

  3. Is the design process important to my client?

  4. Is teamwork important?

  5. What kind of person would I hire if I was them?

Matching client expectations is the key to getting hired, regardless of the type of job you’re looking for. If your target audience is couples or families for your photography business, your portfolio may contain wedding photos or family photoshoots.

Do you want to get hired by a fashion magazine? Showcasing a behind-the-scenes shoot at an important event may show not only your skill but also the ability to get to the right place. This is probably what your employer would believe to be a plus.

If you’re stuck with figuring out what your potential employers want to see, look up artists they’ve already worked with. Look at a couple of portfolios and try to figure out what key features, except for sheer artistic beauty, may have attracted that employer. Next step is to find what can put your portfolio into action. If you Google for “best website builders” you will find a never ending list. So explore at least two or three website builders and the features they offer, to find what you are exactly looking for.

Find the perfect match for your portfolio

That perfect match is a modern and easy to use website builder.

Creating a website to host your portfolio is a more advanced option than just posting it on Behance or ArtStation. While you can significantly reduce the cost of building one with Pixpa, you still have to pay for hosting and the domain name.

Pixpa’s all-in-one website builder gives you a seamless experience to put your thoughts into action. The platform solves three major challenges for anyone planning to build a website:

  1. Get everything you need: Build a strong foundation for your digital presence with a website that never restricts you. Even if you started with just a strategy to build a few pages and later on want to include an e-commerce store too. Switching platforms is an arduous process every time there is a new idea in mind. Pixpa gives you full power to build a complete website with a plethora of customization options.

  2. No technical expertise required: Creative individuals need not to possess technical expertise to limit them to build a website. Pixpa is all about that – a seamless no-code experience with humane technical support 24X7. This helps new and even regular users to explore the platform entirely without any hesitation.

  3. A long list of dedicated themes: You might have something in mind while brainstorming about the design of your portfolio website. Pixpa offers a wide range of themes with deep-dive customization options to really make it your own. When it comes to website design, UI/UX comes into the picture which directly affects the attention of the user viewing digital content. Pixpa’s theme catalogue takes care of that – just choose a theme with which you feel most content and get started! 

A website is also harder to find than a Behance portfolio. You can counter that by respecting some basic rules for writing on the web and by improving your SEO skills (e.g., doing guest blogging) to get exposure. If you have a following on social media, there are some relatively easy ways to make the most of your reach (e.g., use freebies, teaser videos, or even paid ads).

Despite some downsides, a portfolio website offers benefits no other media does. You can give the employer a much more interactive way of viewing your portfolio. Showcase different portfolios for different clients. You must test your website on multiple platforms, to make sure it works on mobile devices too! Only looking at the desktop version is a big mistake.

Also, nothing beats the authority you show when linking to your website instead of a Behance page. Take inspiration from these awe-inspiring website portfolios.

Physical copy matters too!

Printing your portfolio to show during the interview may not be the best choice for all design careers. However, if you’re an architect, a product development artist, or a photographer who offers printables, you must consider this option.

Showcase your best work, nothing less

This is a no-brainer, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you about this. Your portfolio should showcase the very best of your works.

And remember to copyright protect the best of your work, and all your work actually, in case someone tries to steal it.

Leave the half-baked projects and sketches for Instagram posts. If you’re showcasing a page or a website to a potential client, it has to present the best you’ve got. What if you don’t have that much art you’re proud of? Create one. Take inspiration from these illustration and mixed media art portfolios and create art that will sell your services. Don’t forget to think about what your clients want to see when doing that.

What if you’re a UI/UX designer with no work worth showing? One way you could handle this is by asking for permission to showcase group projects mentioning the other members of the team. If you want to shine alone, do a redesign of a popular website or an app.

This artist did just that with The Irish Time.

Here’s where you can find inspiration for a UX redesign:

  1. Popular websites like Buzzfeed or Bored Panda.

  2. Social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

  3. Find a local small business and redesign its websites.

  4. Browse review platforms like Yelp or TripAdvisor and redesign a part of the website.

  5. Reimagine popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Telegram with new features.

  6. Take a look at the best live chat software and redesign both the app and the website.

  7. Be bold and redesign the employer’s website.

Explain your choices

This tip may not be helpful for design careers that lean towards creative arts, but this is extremely important for product and website designers.

Both the Behance page and the website allow you to comment on your work. Use that opportunity to your advantage and comment on your thought process. This agency shows how they used the concepts of simplicity and purity to redesign a bottle for a bottled water company.

This agency shows the problem laid before them when redesigning an app and how they arrive at their current result.

What this does for your portfolio is it shows the client or the employer how you approach problems. It also illustrates that you base your design on facts and don’t just create one that looks good even if you’re doing an unofficial redesign. State what you think the app or the website lacks and why you redesigned it the way you did.

So, how do you approach the problem, and what creative steps do you take to solve it. This is how Aaron Porter does it.

Source: Aaron Porter

Another tip you can take from Aaron is showing the iterations your design underwent.

Source: Aaron Porter

This would show that you can be creative and present a critique of your own work to pursue an ideal design. Instead, you understand what really matters in your design and are focused on solving a problem with it, not just coming up with something that looks nice.

Employers would love this.

Give context

You may think that this tip is only appropriate for product designers. It’s primarily directed at them, but all designers can use it. This designer showcased her poster in a natural setting, a place where it would be displayed. This works so much better than seeing the poster alone.

Here’s another work of hers. It’s from the same set of artwork for event promotion. It shows an invitation card the way it would look when printed. Again, this comes off as more interesting than seeing this design in Photoshop with bleed, margins, and all.

Try to do this with your portfolio. If you’re a photographer, show your works hanging on a wall at an exhibition or standing on a work desk in a nice frame. If you’re an illustrator, show your design on a book cover or on an Instagram post. more attractive

Another way to give context to your portfolio is to segment it into categories. Show each part of the portfolio one by one, providing each part a heading.

If you design a portfolio website with Pixpa, you can go even further. Sort your portfolio by genre or theme, and provide users with navigation. Here’s what a Pixpa website looks like.

Source: Amit Sharma

To show off your artistic side, you can take inspiration from Aaron Porter and do what he did on the website. It’s minimalist and only has two options. When you click on one of them, it cues the video, and you see Aaron coming towards you as new options reveal on the screen.

Head over to his website to check it out.

Take a leap forward

The helping guides, like this blog, will always be there for you to assist if you find yourself stuck somewhere in the process. However, the best way to start building your winning portfolio is to start – NOW!! Take a leap forward, try something new and creative which at the least will make sure you and your creative business are present in the digital world. Creative professionals are obsessed with getting the perfect design, product or service. So, why limit yourself – do aggressive “hits and trials” with theme customizations, website content, content alignment, etc. If you are still confused, build one end-to-end iteration of your portfolio and share it with your peers or relevant audience to get genuine feedback. Learn, unlearn and learn again to see what suits best to your creative personality.

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