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How to build your online portfolio and land more clients [7 simple tips]

Robin Gandy, January 13, 2021

Building a strong portfolio is crucial to landing new clients and growing your business. Your portfolio is a reflection of who you are, your experience, and what you can do for your clients. An online portfolio is a great way of attracting new customers, so it’s important you put your best foot forward. 

A portfolio can showcase your body of work, services, or products. Designers, developers, artists, architects, photographers, etc. can all benefit from a great online portfolio.  In this article we will outline seven simple steps to help you create, develop, and get your portfolio found online. 

The seven steps include: 

1. Choosing the right platform
2. Showcasing your work with a story
3. Providing social proof 
4. Staying connected
5. SEO 
6. Focussing on the client 
7. Quality 

1. Choose the right platform

Choosing a platform is an important first step in creating an online portfolio. There are many website builders or e-commerce platforms that can be perfect for showcasing your body of work or products. 

Website builders are an effective way to create a website without needing developer or coding experience. You can easily publish your online portfolio by choosing a template, inserting your work and contact information, and connecting to a custom domain. 

Choosing a platform is an important first step in creating an online portfolio. There are many website builders or e-commerce platforms that can be perfect for showcasing your body of work or products. 

Web design

If you’re a web designer looking to share your portfolio online, Pagecloud is a great platform to build a custom website that’s both beautiful and high functioning. The Pagecloud app offers extensive design flexibility and allows you to create stunning websites. 

Here is a step by step article that shows you how to build a website on Pagecloud!

Pagecloud has many unique and fully customizable templates that allow you to quickly create your online portfolio, as well as integrated forms so you can easily capture your audience. 

View templates

Additionally, Pagecloud is a great platform for web designers as it allows you to showcase your portfolio through their Pagecloud Pro Directory when you sign up as a Pagecloud Pro. Check out more about becoming a Pagecloud Pro!

Ecommerce

If you’re creating a product portfolio (e.i. for products you make and sell) choose an ecommerce based platform like Shopify. You can easily showcase your products in a gallery view, and manage online purchasing. 

You can also integrate Shopify, and other ecommerce platforms, into your Pagecloud website so you can get the best of both worlds! 

Learn more about ecommerce integration

Photography

If your portfolio includes high resolution images and will require photo galleries (e.g. photographers, interior designers, contractors, etc.), there are a few platforms that might be right for you. Squarespace offers many gallery templates to easily set up a portfolio that displays your work. 

Additionally, Pagecloud offers image optimization to ensure your high resolution images won’t slow down your website. Having a fast loading website is crucial to capturing your visitors, and will help you rank higher in search (discussed more below). Pagecloud also supports all kinds of galleries like sliders, masonry, justified, grid, and tile. 

2. Showcase your best work with a story

Your online portfolio should not be a timeline of every project you’ve ever completed. It’s more practical to focus on showcasing your best work in a way that can speak to your customers. 

If you’re a web designer, include projects you are particularly proud of and that showcase your preferred style. You can also include projects that were loved by your clients, even if they are not your favourites, in order to showcase your range. 

If you’re a photographer, your galleries should reflect your range of services (e.i. weddings, portraits, etc.), and give your visitors an idea of what to expect. 

Once you’ve chosen your work, you can begin to organize your portfolio in a way that tells a story. Designers might want to include details of their design process and working with the client. Client testimonials are also incredibly beneficial to your portfolio, which we will discuss next. 

Storytelling, if done right, can be a powerful way to connect with potential new customers. Simon Pan, Senior Interaction Designer at Google, explains:

"Focus on compelling storytelling. Demonstrate your ability to communicate concisely with words and imagery—showing the what and telling the why. Prioritize what information your reader needs and focus on the vital moments of the project that make it interesting. The story behind the design is often more compelling than the design itself."

Try to accompany your work with personal stories of how your products were made, your creative process, inspiration, or how you felt about the outcome. You can also include details about how your projects have helped you develop your skills. 

Here’s an example of a personal branding and photographer’s portfolio built on Pagecloud: anatavares.com

Ana accompanies each project with a description of her client, the intent of the project, and her experience working on the project.

3. Provide social proof

As stated above, providing customer feedback and comments is an important part of customer acquisition. When searching for a service or product, one of the first things a customer will do is look for past reviews. 

Social proof can include statements from Facebook, e-mails, Google reviews, etc. Make sure to reach out to your clients to ask if you can include their statement on your online portfolio. From our experience, customers are usually happy to have their comments included, and might even add additional helpful comments. 

Here is an example of a real estate photography portfolio with great social proof: getonelook.com 

They provide past customer reviews on their website and even ask past clients to review them on Google: 

If you don’t have any current social proof, you can reach out to your customers for testimonials. Send a message to anyone you’ve had a good experience working with and you think might be a good addition to your portfolio. To ensure your clients are sending you strong and useful feedback, you can send them a pre-written testimonial. Your e-mail or message to your client might look something like this: 

Hey Tom, 

Hope all is well! I’m reaching out because I would love to feature a testimonial from you on my website. I’ve included an example testimonial that you can use or edit as you see fit! 

"Working with Sara was a great investment for my business. She helped us turn a very old, outdated website into one that’s both modern and user-friendly. We highly recommend her services to anyone who needs to build or upgrade their website. Her passion showed through her work and she provided a great final product."

Look forward to hearing from you. 

Thanks! 

Sarah

Most people will appreciate the extra effort put into the pre-written testimonial, and those who have something else in mind will most likely be happy to write their own. 

If you’ve never had any clients, reach out to professors, bosses, co-workers, who can vouch for your skills, quality of work, and dedication. 

4. Make it easy for visitors to get in contact

When someone visits your site, make sure they are easily able to get in touch with you. This might seem obvious, but always remember that if your visitors can’t find the information they’re looking for in a matter of seconds, there’s a high chance they give up on your site and look somewhere else. 

Present your contact information somewhere on your site that is clearly visible. Location, e-mail, and phone number will help increase the legitimacy of your site (an important part of SEO, discussed further below). Pagecloud offers customizable forms including contact, appointment booking, estimates, feedback forms, etc. 

It’s also beneficial to link relevant social media or other platforms you might want your visitors to find. Pagecloud has a vast selection of buttons you can include in your portfolio to easily link your other platforms. Here’s an example of customizable forms and buttons you can add to your portfolio using Pagecloud: 

5. SEO 

Proper use of search engine optimization (SEO) tactics will ensure your website is found when people are searching for you. For example, if you’re a designer in Burlington, Vermont, you will want your business to show up in search when someone in Burlington searches for “designer’s near me”. If you work remotely as a web designer for small businesses, you’ll want your website to show up when someone searches “hire a web designer for small business”. 

To get it right, focus on these two types of SEO: on-site, and off-site. Here are a few ways to optimize your portfolio for both. 

On-site SEO

On-site SEO refers to the optimization tactics you can do on your website. These tactics make sure Google finds your site and can determine (through the use of crawlers) what value your site ads to users and how you can rank against your competitors. Here are a few on-site optimizations to consider: 

Site speed: A delay in your load time even by just one second can reduce conversions by up to 7%, according to Neil Patel, an SEO expert. Consider your website builder when taking page speed into account. Pagecloud’s platform provides lightning fast page speed and optimizes your images to ensure fast load times. You can check your site speed with Google’s Site Speed Insights tool.

Title tags and meta descriptions: These tell Google what your website is all about, and what will appear when someone searches you. Here is an example of a title tag and meta description: 

No broken links: Make sure all your links are functioning properly, and your menu is easy to navigate. 

Contact information: Adding contact forms and your location adds credibility and legitimacy to your website. It also allows your visitors to get in touch with you based on where you’re located. 

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO is the work you can do with other websites to drive SEO value to your portfolio Here are a few off-site tactics to focus on: 

Listing your site: Make sure your business can be found in the top listing sites, like Google Business, Yelp, and any other niche sites where potential customers might go looking for you. Make sure each listing has the correct information (contact, services, etc.) or you might risk looking unprofessional. The consistency of information will continue to be important as Google prioritizes local search (as seen below). 

Backlinks: Backlinks are links on other websites that direct the user back to yours. The value in this is simple: Backlinks add credibility and legitimacy to your website. The more backlinks you have from other credible websites will do wonders for you SEO. Google will see a website linking your portfolio and think “This is a credible website, and they’re linking another site, so that must be a credible website too.” 

6. Focus on your client

The most successful online portfolios use a mix of personal sharing and clear value propositions to show what they have to offer. It’s important to have your potential customers understand who you are and what you can do for them. Your portfolio should speak to your strengths, skills, values, and how you bring something different than your competitors. 

It’s important to strike a balance between highlighting your personal brand, and showcasing your range of abilities and completed projects. You want your customers to understand who you are, but you don’t want to be overly focused on yourself. 

As you put together your portfolio and begin to tell your story, make sure you continue to think about your value proposition and what you can do for your clients. For example, if you’re a photographer who developed a love of portrait photography, you can explain to your clients how portrait photography has helped you achieve beautiful results when shooting weddings. This gives your client a sense of who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them. 

7. Always choose quality 

When designing your portfolio, remember to always use high resolution images and user friendly design. Your online portfolio might be a customer’s first impression of your business, so it’s important to ensure your website is professional. Here’s a few tips to help you bring quality into your online portfolio: 

You're ready!  

Now you're ready to start building your online portfolio, attracting new clients, and growing your business! With these tips in mind you can create a visually stunning, functional, and high ranking portfolio. 

Pagecloud is a great place to start! Sign up for a free trial and start building!  

Written by

Robin Gandy

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