Whether you’re behind the wheel of your own creative business, hopping on the freelance train or pursuing a side hustle – you’re going to need an online portfolio to show off your creations.

You might be a graphic artist, writer, photographer or engaged in a craft which benefits from an organised and polished display of your best work.

If you want to achieve creative success, you need to showcase your gifts in the most accessible and attractive way possible. Don’t sell yourself short with an online portfolio that isn’t up to scratch.

Rise of the digital portfolio

Once upon a time, a portfolio of work was a physical artifact, with dog eared binders full of printed photographs and snippets which showcased your talent.

That’s if you were lucky enough to be able to sit down and present your scrapbook to the mighty gatekeepers who could offer a monetary reward for your brilliance.

Gone are the days of a physical portfolio! In the modern era, portfolios are (and should be) collated and presented digitally.

It’s not hard to see why. You not only have a permanent place of storage where you have control over content, you can easily flick the link or PDF to an interested party (or an uninterested party if you like) in the pursuit of more business and recognition.

Platform choices

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to free or cost-effective online portfolio platforms and micro-sites. Some are better suited to writers, some to photographers and so on.

Investigate the features of the following and see if you can find a match with your vocation and style:

  • Adobe Portfolio
  • Wix
  • Squarespace
  • Journo Portfolio
  • Behance
  • WordPress
  • Flickr

Online portfolio layout tips

When it comes to deciding the all-important layout and inclusions of your portfolio, there are a few easy wins you should be ticking off.

If you don’t have an attractive and easily navigated portfolio that’s fit for purpose, your reader (potential employer) will be left unconvinced and you may be left penniless.

The project brief

Emphasis on ‘brief’ here. To preface each piece or collection of work, you need a quick snippet of copy outlining the project. What was the project about? Who was the client? What did you offer? Provide context behind the work being presented.

Be unique

Don’t copy someone else’s design style. Showcase what makes you unique by designing your portfolio site with personal flair and memorable branding.

Make contact easy

Ensure you have front and centre contact options for a variety of platforms, such as email, Facebook, and phone. You actually want them to get in touch, right?

Less is more

Quality, not quantity. While you may have a nice fat library if you have the experience, it’s advisable to showcase your finest and most recent work while replacing older, less exemplary pieces.

Not only does this keep things tight and to the point, this also helps keep things simple and clear in terms of online design. Messiness, over stuffing and overcomplication have never been considered advantageous elements.

How should you present your online portfolio in person?

When presenting a portfolio in an interview setting, it’s not enough to have this online as an ancillary reference. You need to bring it into the room and truly present it.

Download to PDF

When your portfolio lives in an online space or website, you can’t rely on having smooth access to it in any presentation or interview context.

Instead, bring a tablet (far sexier than a laptop) and download your portfolio as an offline PDF.

This will avoid any internet speed issues and ensures you can give a professional in-person run through of your selected work.

Chop it down

If you have a decent spread of work to show, trim it down.

Don’t just focus on your favourite work, tailor it to the audience as well. You may want to give access to a larger body of work online, but distillation is the name of the game in-person.

Three to five examples are a good rule of thumb, making sure you cover samples of work that demonstrate:

  • the pieces you’re most proud of and why
  • relevance to the industry or job
  • how you’ve tackled tight delivery windows or complicated briefs.

If you’ve chopped down your portfolio to the neglect of other possibly interesting work – have these secondary ‘extra’ pieces in another PDF, ready for instant access if you’re asked for further examples.

Pace of presentation

If you can present your portfolio in person, practice first and be sure you pay attention to your pacing. If you write copy, think about reading some out instead of waiting for the interviewer to do so themselves.

Leave pauses for questions and let examples breathe, while still progressing your presentation with purpose.

Reshare after the interview

Even if you flicked your portfolio link to the interviewer prior to the presentation, it’s worthwhile doubling down.

Email them the exact PDF you presented in person and include a link to your full online portfolio in the body of your message. The rest is in their hands.