Creating an Effective Online Portfolio
From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, the opportunities to create online profiles these days are boundless. Last year, LinkedIn was adding new users at a rate of 1 million a week. Minor numbers compared to Twitter and Facebook, but nonetheless, evidence of the growing trend. However, with all of the distractions, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact you should be focusing some of that energy on perfecting your professional online presence—this is especially important for creative professionals who rely on portfolios to show off their previous work.
While it is still beneficial to maintain a physical representation of your work to take to meetings, interviews and tradeshows, it’s becoming all the more important to have an online representation of yourself. It makes you more accessible, plus it’s user friendly in that it gives potential clients, employers and markets instant access to your work. That being said, it’s important you ensure whatever you publish is carefully selected and put together to ensure you put your best foot forward. Below are some things to consider when creating your online portfolio.
Use a Reputable Site
First of all, if you are using a portfolio housing site, rather than building your own from scratch, it’s important to choose a reliable host. They all have their own look and feel and depending on what you’re going for one may work better than the other, but some of my suggestions are: Flavors, WordPress, and Behance. Whether you are an aspiring journalist, designer, photographer or some variation of all of them, these sites help you make a lasting impression. They build the personality and character of your work and can work wonders for your career or business.
Make it Easy to Navigate
Whatever site you use to house your work needs to be—above all else—easy to navigate. If a potential client or customer can’t find their way around and it is overall NOT user-friendly you hurt your chances of doing any work for them. It tells them you yourself might be difficult to read or work with and they just don’t have the time to waste and figure it out. So keep it straightforward and to the point.
Don’t Overwhelm Them with Fluff
Lots of portfolio sites offer extra add-ons you can use for “effect.” But, I personally see no value in these, as it deters and distracts from your actual product and abilities. Why would you need to utilize that if your work is already good enough on its own? Similar to the principle behind keeping it easy to navigate, you want to keep the overall look and feel of it simple and easy. One shouldn’t leave your page feeling overwhelmed and confused about what they saw—that’s NOT the lasting impression you are going for. Going along with that, ensure that your content is consistent and flows. If your work appears to be all over the place, they might fear you have no direction, so why would they trust you with a job that is important to them?
Accentuate Your Strength
Obviously everyone has projects and samples that are better than their others. So emphasize THOSE. Highlight your shining moments. Define your strength. This will for sure give the potential employer, customer, etc., a clear idea of what you represent through your work. Play up to your niche. Sure, it may not appeal to everyone—but it will to those that appreciate your uniqueness. It’s better to do that, than try to be something you’re simply not, as that may lead people to feeling mislead by your work.
Some Pitfalls to Avoid
While creating your portfolio, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure its effectiveness. First, make sure you FOLLOW UP with any feedback you get. By being unresponsive you gain absolutely nothing, but a bad reputation that may follow you around and deter further opportunities to work. So, be a courteous and gracious site owner—after all these people are interested in your talents.
Neglecting to properly promote your site—either through blogging, social media or other methods is another huge mistake. People won’t know it’s there just because it’s published. It is competing with hundreds of thousands of other websites for readers’ limited attention span, so if you don’t put it smack dab in front of them, chances are they might completely overlook it.
Finally, don’t be misleading or dishonest. This is not professional, and through background checks, screenings, and plagiarism detecting devices, it will catch up with you and tarnish your professional (and possibly personal) reputation.
It’s important to remember that just like when you join a new network or create a new account with Facebook or Twitter, creating a living, online portfolio furthers your online presence, which, just like a bad resume or interview, can make or break your employment prospects.
That being said, having a prominent online presence can be an effective, proactive way to market yourself and/or your company, and—when done right—it can help you stand out from the crowd and make a great first impression.