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Guidelines for Creating an Awesome Online Portfolio

By: James Cummings

An online portfolio is one tool every job seeker should have in their arsenal. Despite the increased awareness for online portfolios, many people either don't have an online portfolio or don't do it right. In this article, we'll look at why you need one and guidelines to follow to create a killer portfolio.

Why you need an online portfolio

Alexandra Janvey does justice to the topic by providing four reasons to create an online portfolio. The only way to stand out is to do whatever it takes to get your name out there and set yourself apart from the rest. An online portfolio is only one of the tools to help you increase your visibility and will be extremely useful when properly handled.

Think of an online portfolio as an extension of the other materials you have used to apply for jobs. A properly developed online portfolio will allow you to market yourself more than your cover letter or resume ever can. It gives you the leeway to present all the materials that your cover letter and resume won't let you in order to show off the depth of your skills and qualifications. There are no limits to what you can include in an online portfolio, from videos to links to your work, photos, and for web designers, website designs.

With an online portfolio, you'll be able to organize all your professional information and documents in one place. You’ll be able to access these files from anywhere and anytime and of course, it serves as a backup for your important documents.

Best practice when creating an online portfolio

  1. Keep it simple

The logic behind keeping your online portfolio simple is to ensure your work stands out. A distracting design will take attention away from your work and make your efforts counterproductive. While it is not compulsory to use a minimalistic design, an excessively flashy or unconventional one might make it more difficult to assess your content. Ultimately, your goal is to showcase your work in the most effective way possible. Work towards simple navigation and fewer website sections, usually, all you’ll need is a contact page and a gallery of your work.

  1. Blog

While a simple gallery and contact page would be enough for an effective portfolio, it doesn't hurt to add a blog section. If you can manage it, blog about your area of expertise and show off your knowhow. Not only will it help promote you, but you will keep your website active. Make sure people can follow you by subscribing to your RSS feed, and enable comments in order to get feedback.

  1. Keep your bio robust

Keeping your bio or about page robust means including information about your background, what type of person you like to work with, and a bit about your story. Your personal Information is just as important as your work because a potential employer has to know who you are. Try to personalize your bio as much as possible. Mell Ravenel gives a “formula” for reinventing your resume as a bio, suggesting that you include a mission statement in your bio, as well as an origin story that inspired you to pursue your passion or that shaped your creative direction.

  1. Use testimonials

If you have the opportunity to include testimonials from previous clients, particularly if they are from big brands, then you must include them in your online portfolio. Testimonials add a bit of authenticity to your profile and show potential clients your level of expertise as well as your work ethic.  You want to pick the best testimonials but not testimonials that are not entirely true. It's not difficult to get previous clients to write you a testimonial, especially if you had a good working relationship, but be sure to remind them that the testimonial has to be honest. If you can’t get a testimonial from a big company, their logo would usually be enough.

Should you use free hosting or paid hosting?

This was likely one of the first questions you asked yourself when you decided you were going to start an online portfolio. It is tempting to go for free hosting since it's just a portfolio anyway. It is understandable why you might think like this, but remember it’s not “just” a portfolio, but a tool that can project your work and do way more than a traditional resume, while helping you stand out. Paid hosting doesn’t have to be expensive; you can check Openhost web hosting for a start. Free hosting doesn’t have advantages for SEO, won’t let you have a custom domain name, won’t give you full control of your website, or any other perks that come with having a full hosting plan. Web-Dorado has more on the topic here.