“Professional is not a label you give yourself, it’s a description you hope others will apply to you,” says Harvard business professor, David Maister. But what actually makes someone a professional? For starters, it involves a certain level of knowledge in your field. You also need authority, experience and credibility in order for others to see you in this light. And what better way to achieve this than to create a portfolio website that highlights your expertise?
A professional portfolio is a collection of work samples and other documents that provide an overview of your abilities and qualifications. By putting your portfolio online, you can proudly display your work to the world and establish yourself as an expert.
But what goes into building a professional portfolio and what other advantages does it provide? Here’s everything you need to know.
What should I include in my professional portfolio?
The components of your portfolio will vary depending on your field, but they should provide a complete picture of your work history and skillset. The primary element is going to be your work samples. But you’ll also want to include your resume, as well as any other documents that display your credibility and performance. These may include project plans, recommendations, awards or reports.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these portfolio websites to get started. These include industrial design portfolios, model portfolio examples, architecture portfolio examples and more to help get your creative juices flowing and spark ideas for your own professional portfolio.
Who needs a professional portfolio and why?
A portfolio can be particularly beneficial for those working in creative fields, such as writing, photography, design and architecture. But anyone in a professional role can benefit from having one. And in today’s digital world, the most efficient way to do this is to create one online.
These types of websites are easily accessible and make it simple for others to see your work, including potential employers. They also provide flexibility when it comes to updating your content. With the click of a button, you can switch out one piece of work for another or easily add to your growing repertoire of expertise.
You won’t have to carry around a physical copy with a stack of documents, but instead, can send people directly to your website. We all know how competitive job hunting can be, so it’s important that you stand out as a prime candidate. Employers are used to hearing why people are the best fit, but what if you actually showed them? Providing visual proof of your work with an online portfolio can make a much stronger impression and show that you’re as talented as you say.
Additionally, an online presence is crucial for building your credibility and reputation. Imagine this: someone Googles you, and the first search result is your professional portfolio. How’s that for impressive? So whether it's a professional model portfolio, a photography portfolio, an illustration portfolio, UX portfolio example or something else, here's how to learn more about getting started with your own.
How and when to submit your professional portfolio
This depends on who you’re presenting it to and why. When applying for a job, submitting your portfolio early on with your resume and cover letter is a great way to highlight your achievements. You can include the link directly on your resume so potential employers have the opportunity to view your work even before your interview.
In addition to sharing your work with them online, be sure to bring a few physical copies of your best pieces to the interview itself so you can reference them in real time. This is also good practice if you’re headed into a meeting with your current employer to discuss your work performance. Arming yourself with your best work instills confidence in your abilities and can help you feel prepared. It makes it easier to vouch for yourself when you can point directly to your achievements that reiterate why you deserve a raise or that promotion you applied for.
To understand the value and impact a great professional portfolio can have, read about digital artist Nedavius and his journey to success.
How to create a professional portfolio
At this point, you may be wondering how to make a portfolio. Now that you understand the importance of having one, let’s jump in and discuss the process for creating one online.
01. Choose a domain
Your domain name is how people are going to find your portfolio, so you’ll want it to be memorable and professional. Having a dedicated domain name also gives you credibility and authority. Ideally, it should reflect who you are and what you do by including the title of your website, your name or your professional field. If you’re feeling stuck and want some assistance, try this domain name generator to get the ideas rolling.
02. Pick a template
If you compare creating a portfolio to building a house, your template is like the foundation for the rest of the structure. Your professional portfolio is not only a way to consolidate your best work, but it also helps to establish the identity of your personal brand. When choosing your portfolio template, consider how you envision the visitor experience and the look and feel you want to convey. This includes all aspects of your site such as colors, fonts and the overall layout and design.
03. Include documents and work samples
Once you’ve built the framework of your professional portfolio, you’ll need to decide what to include. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, here are the sections you should be sure to have:
Homepage: Your homepage is like the front door to your site - it leads you to anywhere else you might want to go. Because it’s the first impression visitors will have of you and your work, make sure it’s a powerful representation of your knowledge and experience. Include an introduction as well as high quality imagery that grabs visitors’ attention and conveys your expertise.
Work samples: This is the heart of your portfolio. It’s the section that’s going to get the most attention, so be selective with which pieces you include. Make sure to only choose your best projects that show off your talent and skills. And don’t forget to add new ones as you go so that your portfolio is always up-to-date.
About section: Whether you include this directly on your homepage or on a separate page, your About section should include a brief bio and a description of who you are. Describe your background, education and how you got to where you are today.
Resume: Keep an updated version of your resume somewhere in your online portfolio, whether as a downloadable PDF file or on its own page. That way, if a potential employer or client comes across your site, they’ll be able to see your education and work experience right away.
Contact information: Include all professional contact details so people can get in touch with you easily. This may include your email address, phone number and social media handles.
04. Design your site
Now comes the fun part. Using your creativity, as well as these web design tips and free tools, you can make your portfolio as unique as you. Consider if you want to keep your portfolio on the simple side or incorporate trendy design features, such as parallax scrolling and animation (especially if you are making an animation portfolio). Will you create a one-page website or will you include a menu bar that leads to multiple pages? Whatever you choose, opt for high-quality images throughout that are in keeping with the tone of your brand. If you don’t have your own, you can use free Wix images or download photos for free from stock photo sites, such as Unsplash and Pexels. The possibilities are truly endless.
Another good practice is to do some keyword research and incorporate written content into your professional portfolio to increase your SEO. For example, you may want to add a blog to your site in which you delve deeper into certain topics and highlight your knowledge in the field. This will help your Google ranking and increase traffic to your site, enhancing your visibility and online presence. Using your professional portfolio as a personal marketing portfolio is never a bad idea.
Before your professional portfolio goes live, have a friend, coworker or colleague review your site before you start sharing it with others. Having a second (or third) pair of eyes check your work before you share it with the rest of the world is always a good idea. Ask for honest feedback about the style, design and content and make any necessary changes.
Once you’ve completed this step, the only thing left to do is hit Publish.