How to Create an Online Portfolio That’s Fit for the Future
Creating an online profile should be a top priority for anyone working in the creative sector. Your online presence – website, Facebook, blog, etc. – is where you will be judged and where potential employers will find your portfolio and determine the quality of your work. The truth of it is, your creative career will live or die by the quality of your online portfolio.
But don’t worry, if your work is good enough your portfolio has the potential to be appreciated by millions of people worldwide. You could even become a star.
We’ve spoken to four industry experts who have built impressive reputations online. They have generously revealed the secrets of how to create an online portfolio properly and from their advice we’ve pulled together ten tips for promoting your work and putting together an outstanding digital profile that will get your talent noticed.
The first step should always be research. You should search for your favourite people in your creative field and look closely at their approach to promoting their work online. Note down what you like, what you don’t like, what they’re saying, who they’re linking to, how often they update their blog and how many followers they have on social media. Take inspiration from the most successful examples and emulate what you feel would work well for you. Spend a bit of time doing this and you should get a clearer picture of how to proceed.
2. Create a website
This is the most important step, and one that continues long into your career. Your website acts as your business card and should highlight your portfolio. It should clearly demonstrate you’re style and ability and you should be easy to get in touch with, either through a contact section or by displaying your email address clearly. Make sure you reply to any emails or comments you get.
Your website should celebrate your unique personality. Make an ‘About’ page that lets visitors get to know the real you. The ‘real you’, by the way, should be someone that people want to associate themselves with . Don’t say anything too negative and focus on positive aspects of your personality that people are likely to relate to. Nobody will want to help promote you or do business with you if you’re horrible to them.
There are a number of good options for creating professional websites that don’t require you to be too technically minded. WordPress is a popular choice and is free to use, however, like most people, you may eventually want to invest a small amount of money to access in-depth features and make a more professional website.
Expert Advice from Jack Crossing
Jack was not afraid of putting himself out there online when he started out as a graphic designer and he has reaped the rewards for doing so. He now has nearly 20,000 followers for his work on the popular online portfolio website, Behance, and an attractive, inviting personal website that clearly showcases the best of his design work. Jack’s efforts have gained him the opportunity to work for an impressive range of clients including WIRED magazine and Warner Music. Here are his top tips for online success:
“As a creative just starting out and looking for recognition online, I’d say the best way to go about achieving this is by just throwing yourself into the deep end.
When I was at university profiling websites such as Behance had just started out. I joined them all and just put every bit of work I was doing at uni on there, hoping for feedback and recognition from my peers. There was some criticism from others but I saw past the trolls on the internet and kept at it.
Another tip I’d give is to send your work to blogs. Nothing spreads quicker than a repost and once the ball gets rolling then it can go pretty far online.”
Jack became popular online after promoting his graphic design portfolio on various websites
Your blog should be about your work, not a diary about your day-to-day life. It should be easily accessed from you website. On WordPress you can choose to have a static homepage with your blog posts featuring on a subsidiary page or have your blog posts pop up on the home page. Alternatively, you can set up a blog on a platform such as Tumblr and link to it from your website.
I would recommend you feature your blog posts on your main website so that Google has more information regarding what your website is about. This makes you more likely to show up for people searching for terms relating to what you do. Be sure to blog regularly so your followers (and Google) are frequently reminded of what it is that you do. Don’t over do it! Two to three posts a week should be enough to build an audience without irritating your followers.
4. Use social media
Being active on social media is incredibly valuable for building an audience and directing them to your online portfolio. Your main social media operations as a professional creative should be on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Lots of others are used by creatives in particular fields such as Flickr and Pinterest. Research what others are using and what works best for you but you should definitely be active on these three.
The social pages you use to showcase your work should be separate from the pages you chat to your friends on. You should demonstrate your professionalism by linking to other people that are doing similar things to you and following discussions by authorities in you field. This will encourage people to link back to your portfolio, visit your website and blog an re-post or re-tweet your work. Make sure your website and blog appear professional so people are more likely to want to engage with you.
Expert Advice from Kronk
Kronk is a South African illustrator, graphic designer and character designer who has used social media channels to generate a huge fan base. With nearly 3,000 fans on twitter and approaching 200,000 followers on Behance, it’s obvious that he knows how to promote his online portfolio using his unique approach.
Prefering to steer away from the traditional website based profile and portfolio, his homepage links out to his various social media operations and his online portfolio sits on Behance. This is an interesting idea that has worked well due to Kronk’s bold, colourful designs that have proved incredibly popular. Here are Kronk’s top tips for getting your work noticed using social media:
“I have never had a real website. This process has taken me years to resolve. Partly, because I am too busy but mostly because they are thoroughly inconvenient. I have always preferred the immediacy and simplicity of sharing work through social media channels. Yes, you can and should design a beautiful website, but if your website is your house, then social media is the world outside where everybody is hanging out.
“As a creative in the world of today, it is nearly impossible to ignore social media. Though it can be a minefield of mediocrity, it can also be a place where engaging with your heroes and audience in real time is entirely possible. Using social media responsibly and carefully is key to success. For me, I never over-share on too much personal, political or religious stuff, but I always try to make sure my entries are not impersonal or overbearing. It is important to show a human being was involved in the process somehow, this will encourage interaction with you, and that’s the whole idea anyways. However, don’t get too human by going after the trolls, best to let them jog on while you take the world by storm.
“Lastly, using social media in a professional capacity needs to be carefully considered. Bombarding your audience with posts can be as ineffective as posting every now and then. Always post when you feel you have something worthwhile to say and know when your audience is around. Posting at 4 am might be cool cos you are excited to share your finished masterpiece, but waiting for the sun to shine, might bring you more joy.”
Kronk gained popularity by promoting his bold, colourful poster and toy designs, such as this one from his “Google Android” series, using social media to his advantage
5. Get your portfolio out there
There are a number of portfolio websites that will allow you to showcase a selection of your favourite work. Two that feature a large number of other creatives and are definitely worth getting involved in are Behance and DeviantArt. Not only are they great for building a following and sharing your work but you will receive free and open criticism from others in your field that will help guide you to success. Don’t be put off by negative criticism and harassment from ‘trolls’ – idiots that cause trouble by anonymously bad mouthing people online – but be prepared to take on board any positive comments for improvement.
6. Join the discussion
From the people that like your work on portfolio websites to the people you link to on social media, get chatting. Don’t be shy, start commenting on threads (conversations) relating to your topic and speak from an authoritative viewpoint. People will begin to respect you and you will begin to become an authority in your topic. Not only will people be eager to associate with you by linking to, liking and visiting your profile but Google loves authority and will reward you by making you easier to find in the search engine results.
7. Create work that people will ‘like’
Getting your work to go viral is desirable for every creative who wants people to find their portfolio. Despite numerous attempts to work out a formula for how to go viral, it is often down to luck. You can, however, improve your chances of success by creating work that people are likely to enjoy. Take a look at the example of the great Viktor Hertz:
Expert Advice from Viktor Hertz
Viktor Hertz is a great example of how to improve your chances of getting your work to go viral. He has experienced a lot of success with his online portfolio with over 3,200 Facebook likes, 1,300 Twitter followers and almost 2 million views on his Behance page. He became noticed after some of his poster designs and logos went viral after featuring on some big name blogs. This would not have happened if his online profile had been hidden away. Here’s Viktors advice for getting your own work noticed online:
“I’ve never really had a plan for how to promote my projects, and actually never could imagine that some of my projects would get that much attention. In the beginning of my career, which was just a hobby on the side for me, I just made my posters and put them online on Behance. My ‘Pictogram movie posters‘ and ‘Honest logos‘ were two of the first ones to go viral and they were featured on some big blogs, which gave the projects a lot of views and shares. So, I never really worked actively to attract viewers and gain attention.
“I do try to keep my followers updated about new work, and my aim is also to reply to all e-mails and comments online, although it’s hard to keep up with it sometimes.
“I’m very humble and thankful for all the attention I’ve got so far, and I guess I’ve been a bit lucky as well. Maybe my style and approach to graphic design, with the simple and sometimes funny pictograms, have struck some kind of chord with people, and they are very straight forward and easy to get, I guess. These days, people don’t tend to have time to stop.”
Viktor’s ‘Honest logos’ series appealed to popular trends and went viral, leading people back to his extended online portfolio
8. Be true to brand you
By now you should have created an online persona through all your online activities. Make sure you stay true to it so as not to arouse suspicion that you are a fraud amongst your followers. Your reputation that you’ve worked so hard to build could be ruined if you start attacking people or criticising them to harshly – unless this was part of your unique persona to start with. Just remember why people liked your work in the first place and don’t let your ego persuade you to try anything too radically detached from this.
9. Link to others – don’t be selfish
As you continue to work on your profile with a constant stream of blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets etc., you should also be actively championing the achievements of your peers. Your website should link out to them and you should even consider blogging about other people’s work. This might seem counter-intuitive but others will appreciate the support and be more likely to link back to you. You might be invited to write for or feature your work on a blog and you should never dismiss this opportunity. Google will like you more if you link out and will place high value on your site if their are links coming back into it from others. Remember that the whole point of creating an online portfolio and promoting yourself online is to become an active, part of a creative community. Being selfish and insular won’t help you.
Expert Advice from Rob Pratt
Rob Pratt is a Design Director with London based design company Brand and Deliver. He has an impressive list of clients including Samsung, Three, Playboy and IMG and he has been rewarded for his great work with numerous design awards. His career has been helped by his expertise in knowing how to create online portfolio and how to market it properly.
Here’s Rob’s top tips for using your own online operations as the starting point for a successful career of your own:
“If you want to build a successful career in the design industry then you can’t shy away from doing a little bit of self-promotion along the way. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. In fact, there are some great free ways to get your work seen by the right people… but it’s not an easy guarantee of landing a job as soon as you graduate. There are a few things you’ll have to bear in mind for it to be successful.
“The first is that you get out what you put in. Always. The more time you dedicate to this, the more frequently your name and your work will be noticed.
“The second is consistency. Make sure you have a visual style that works across all of your social media platforms, from a unique and distinctive monogram/logo, to the content you post and tone of voice. It all needs to be clearly identified with one person, with one unique point of view.
“Creating a portfolio website is probably the most important thing you can do. You’d be surprised at the amount of designers who still send out PDF’s of their work, there’s no excuse for this. Creating a profile through something like Behance is a great way to gauge how your work is viewed in the industry.
“Also, Make sure you sign up to email newsletters from sites such as Creative Review, Contagious and Campaign to get all the relevant news for you straight into your inbox every day. There’s no excuse for not knowing about the latest work that’s being produced – and it’ll make you more informed for interviews for placements, and eventually, jobs too.”
Rob’s successful, award winning career in logo design has been helped along by his consistent message across all the channels he uses to promote his work online
10. Google Yourself
You should frequently Google your own name and the subjects you are blogging about. If you show up that’s great, if not keep going. By following the steps above you will eventually become valued by the search engines as well as being valued as a leader in your field.
If you don’t believe it then see how easy it ios to find the online portfolios of Jack Crossing, Viktor Hertz, Kronk and Rob Pratt; Google seems to be very fond of them.