How to make a killer online portfolio that helps your creative business grow

Showcase your creative work by creating a stunning online presence. Prove your skills, personality, achievements, and passions to your potential clients, customers, or employers. Open that secret drawer of yourself and present its content to the world in a big style. In this guide, we show you how to make a portfolio online.

Not so long ago, artists needed to pack their canvases and drawings and drag them along their way in hope of getting the meeting with the right person at the right time.

Remember Frída? She also needed to carry her canvases whilst she could barely walk. Well, at least in the movie.

Some of the most talented artists didn’t make it and they were discovered after they passed away, if ever.

But enough with gloomy stories. You are lucky.

Nowadays your work can be discoverable and sharable 24/7. In an instant, you can give access to your work to millions of people around the globe. By creating an online art portfolio.

An example of an illustrator & designer portfolio

An example of an illustrator & designer portfolio

What is an online portfolio? Not a heavy load anymore

An online portfolio is an online presentation of your work, skills, achievements, and your creative vision. Moreover, it also serves as a perfect job finding tool, customer acquisition tool, and new partnership finding tool, all in one.

What would van Gogh give for that!

Who should have a professional portfolio?

Everyone!

As great Joseph Beuys famously said: Every man is an artist.

Therefore, everyone.

A portfolio is not only for creative professionals. It can be useful for everybody who is passionate and has enthusiasm for creation and wants to share this joy with the rest of the world.

It doesn’t matter if you are an artist or you are working in a business field and you paint only in your free time. With your portfolio, you can provide tangible proof of your value and skills to your visitors – and yourself.

Put differently: for every creative person out there now an online portfolio is a must.

Are you still thinking your work does not deserve that much time or to be shared at all?

A digital artist at work

A digital artist at work

In case you are a highly creative person who is completely immersed in your work, this is a perfect time to tell the world. Why?

Because you already started to look for tips on how to showcase your body of work online in a sleek professional way. That being said, you are ready for the next big step!

Your sharp, creative, and original works are in demand now. Do you draw, paint, knit, or create collages? Are you a UI/UX designer, photographer, or independent artist? Awesome! Let’s make an online portfolio for you now!

Why do you need an online portfolio: the benefits for your self-esteem and business

The list of benefits of having an online presence is endless. To mention a few, by showcasing your work online you make it easier for potential customers, employers, and partners to find you, contact you and consequently hire you.

Moreover, your work simply deserves a standalone online portfolio. So everyone knows you are serious about your art, business, business art, or art business, to quote Andy Warhol.

While creating a portfolio you also have a perfect opportunity to revamp and strengthen your brand. With a well built website, it will be clear what your artistic personality, voice, and vision is.

Last but not least, you can update your online portfolio anytime. There is no need to wait for the printer to finish your new book and afterward send it by post to potential employers. New art pieces are ready to view immediately, just as you upload them.

How to make an online portfolio step by step

Without further ado, let’s go through a few tips on how to make a stunning portfolio:

1. Determine the goal of your online portfolio

Your portfolio is not an artistic exploration as your art might be. While creating it, you should have a clear goal in your mind. Usually, businesswise, the goal is to attract new clients and eventually get hired.

Or maybe you want to collect your best works, reflect on them, and show them to your mum.

The goal determines what stylistic style to use for copy text, the About me page, colors, typography, and finally the projects and art pieces you chose to showcase in your portfolio. We will come back to this later.

2. Curating your art pieces: chose the best and most relevant ones, but not all of them

Homepage of an architect studio with featured projects

Homepage of an architect studio with featured projects

With a clear goal in your mind, chose only the projects and art pieces that are the best. If you are not sure how to be the curator of your collection, ask your trusted friends to help you out.

It is not necessary to fill your portfolio with projects you did in the first grade with crayons or the projects you made for your relatives, you don’t want to go in that direction. As a master of your domain, you know what types of clients you want to attract and which of your projects will help you with that.

Therefore, chose the projects that will help you prove your skills and accomplishments following your goal.

3. Prepare the assets: HQ pictures, labels, information, context

Now that you know which projects to include, it is time to prepare the assets. That means pictures, videos, texts, and additional information.

As an artist, you should know that visuals are the most important assets.

High-quality photographs of your works

Prepare high-quality professional-looking photographs. If you are not into photography yourself, consider hiring a professional photographer that would help you highlight the quality of your work.

Photos taken on your phone in bad lighting conditions just won’t do.

Consider mockups for your designs, so customers would have an idea of how the picture would look in a frame or on a mug. Or your app design on an actual mobile screen.

Provide context for ordinary people with no telekinesis capabilities

Prepare all the labels, measurements, details pictures, and pictures of the process. Give your visitors full context – context is everything.

The more engaging and relevant context you provide, the higher chance your visitors would understand your artistic vision correctly. This is also a perfect opportunity to reflect on your works and figure out how to communicate your intentions.

And the higher chance that your cooperation would be a good match with great outcomes.

4. Decide on the navigation, number of pages, the system

Once you have your material prepared, it is finally time to put it all together. First, pick up a pencil and paper and create some wireframes.

Clear navigation, legible texts, and background color that let your art pieces and projects shine are absolute musts. After all, the projects and art pieces themselves should be the stars of your portfolio and all the websites components should compliment them.

When creating the portfolio structure, think of these options:

One-page layout or subpages for categories?

The structure of your website can vary from a one-page layout with a few projects presented and contact details to a complicated website with project categories.

None of this is wrong whilst you manage to keep clear navigation.

If you draw, paint, and sculpt, you can put everything together on a single page with a filter, or categorize your work. It depends on your intentions with your portfolio.

You can be a UX/UI designer who draws cute pictures on the side, this might be a nice add-on to your UX projects within a separate category.

A photography portfolio with categories

A photography portfolio with categories

Homepage: a powerful proclamation

The homepage should help your visitors get the right vibe from the very first glance.

To make your goal pretty obvious right from the start, begin with a single but powerful sentence in which you condense all your strengths, capabilities, and vision.

Think of it as the short description of a movie that is supposed to get you to the cinema. This little sentence is supposed to get your visitors intrigued, check your portfolio thoroughly, and, finally, contact you.

As you probably guessed, this sentence will be placed on the homepage alongside your best art pieces and projects.

About me page

On the About me page list all your achievements, state your vision and tell your story in a way that helps your visitors make a clear picture of yourself or your artistic or business persona.

After all, authenticity is not for everyone. If you prefer to stylize into the role just as Bowie did, go for it.

Also include a downloadable PDF and links to your social media profiles to secure your work to be sharable.

Hire me section

Another necessary page is a Contact page. Make it easy for your potential clients to contact you. Publish your email address, phone number, contact form, and links to social media profiles – absolutely every possible way that will make all types of people contact you easily.

It is a good practice to put contact information also in the footer, so it is easy to contact you from each point of browsing your web.

5. Style your portfolio mindfully: choose the right template, fonts, and colors

The goal of your portfolio is presented not only in text and artwork but also in the chosen color palette and typography.

If you aim to work as a UX designer for high-tech companies, your portfolio should not look like a portfolio of someone who creates illustrations for children’s books.

Therefore decide on the fonts and colors mindfully, so they would compliment not only your artworks but also support your chosen goal.

It is your artworks and projects that are supposed to shine.

6. Almost there: ask for a second opinion

Now you think you are ready to go live, behold! This is the right time for your trusted friends, mentors, teachers, colleagues, and anyone interested in your work to step in and assess whether you did the best job you could.

Chances are they will love your portfolio and they will be proud of you. But ask them whether the chosen projects go well with your goals, whether the text is legible, navigation is clear, and texts are understandable.

And maybe to check your spelling and grammar.

You don’t need to remake absolutely everything they tell you to, but some of their remarks might be spot on. Constructive feedback is a precious thing.

7. Hit the publish button

The crucial step is to find the right button, that will make your portfolio go live.

Congratulations, you did it! Your work is there to be seen by anyone online!

However, the portfolio is never finished, just as your creative process. Update it regularly with new pieces and projects.

Also, keep the contact information up-to-date.

Share&shine

You have just accomplished another big step in your creative career. Or your serious creative hobby. You have just put yourself out there!

Once you digest this big news, you may be wondering what are the next steps.

1. Register domain name

The next important step, that would show you are taking this all seriously, is to register your own unique domain name. You can use your own name, your artist name, or the name of your studio or brand.

More on how and why you need to own a domain you find in this post.

2. Share, share, share

Now that you are happy with your website and happy with its address, it is time to share it with the world.

Firstly, include the URL of your online portfolio in your curriculum vitae.

Collect hearts on social media

Collect hearts on social media

Connect your online portfolio with all your online profiles, may it be Instagram, Facebook, Dribble, Behance, LinkedIn… Put it also into your email signature, print visit cards, stickers… put in on tote bags designed by you. There is a space for that URL everywhere.

Moreover, exchange the links with your fellow artists, classmates, and colleagues.

3. SEO is staying for Search Engine Optimization*

*sing in the style of Village People’s Y.M.C.A

It is understandable that as a creative person you don’t need to necessarily be a so-called tech type. But don’t get scared of these three letters.

SEO: Make it easy for search engines to find you

SEO: Make it easy for search engines to find you

To be organically discoverable on the Internet, you need to think of the right keywords. That means the words your clients type into the Search Bar when they are looking for products you make and the services you offer.

Once you have these words figured out, incorporate them into your website as naturally as you can. More tips you will find in our series of articles on SEO.

Also, don’t forget to work on SEO, for example by posting regular notes on your blog.

By keeping a creative diary, you can attract not only the attention of search engines but also show your clients, that you are active. Also, keeping a diary might help you with your creative process. But that’s another huge topic.

Do you already have a vision of how to make your portfolio unique? Let’s start it! If you have any great idea what to include in a portfolio, share with us! Are you planning to create your own website? Try this step-by-step guide.