Tips For a Beautiful Online Portfolio

By Alt channel teacher Melanie Burk. Painting by Lisa Congdon.

Whether you are an illustrator, designer, or photographer, an online portfolio is an essential tool. I constantly get questions from students about how to set up their portfolio, and am asked for any tips to make one's portfolio shine. Since you never know who will be looking at it, you want to make the most of your website. Here are a few tips I have found over the years for making your portfolio shine:

1) Don't include all of your work
This can be really tempting when you are just starting out, and only have 20 pieces to show. But it is always better to have 8 of your best pieces, than 8 great and 12 mediocre pieces. Clients will hire you based on what they see, not from what they don't see. So edit, edit, edit! Think about what photos, designs, or illustrations really show off your talent. If you have portfolio pieces showing work you don't want to do (for example, wedding invitations), don't include them in your portfolio. If you show them online, people will assume that they can hire you for that. It goes the other way too–if you want to be hired for something you haven't done, do a personal piece and put it online.

2) Keep it clean and let your work be the focus
I know that we are all artists, and because of this, it can be tempting to add flourishes and designs all over your portfolio. Just remember–content is king online. If your designs or background are distracting, it will pull away from your body of work. Let your work be the focus; let it shine by using minimal designs to enhance it. No, you don't have to be boring; simply be self-conscious about color, layout, and design choices that will pull the emphasis away from you work.

3) Be sure that a variety of your work is accessible in one place
A major hindrance to a successful portfolio site occurs when visitors have to spend 10 minutes to locate a large body of your work. The average time spent on a site is 2 minutes and 30 seconds. What does that mean for you? You need to have one spot where people can see a variety of your work in less than 3 minutes! A few years ago I had a portfolio site where people could see a large beautiful image of my work, but they had to click through to see more than one thing at a time. I quickly changed to my current site (where you can see a variety of all of my work) because I kept getting asked if I did things that were shown in my portfolio.

4) Keep a blog
This doesn't mean that you have to blog daily, but you will want to show that you are keeping your creative and productive juices flowing on a somewhat consistent basis. Keeping a blog of your recent work does just that. This also ensures that you won't have to update your portfolio weekly.

If you follow these tips, you are sure to have a sparkling portfolio site! Join me on January 21st for more tips in my Alt Channel class, Setting Up Online.