Being able to show off your work to potential customers is a huge advantage in many lines of business, but how you go about setting up an online portfolio if you've never done so before?
In this guide, we'll explore how to make an online portfolio even if you're not a web designer.
We'll also look at how to start attracting people to your portfolio one it's live.
Choosing a platform for your online portfolio
Don’t have web design skills?
Fortunately, it's easier than ever to build your own website using either a website builder package, or a content management system like WordPress.
Most website builders allow you to build a site using a drag and drop editor, meaning that there are few situations where any knowledge of coding is required to create your site.
WordPress isn't quite so simple, but it can offer more flexibility than the average website builder.
For a straightforward portfolio site, a website builder will do the trick. But don't rule out WordPress.
Take the time to understand what functionality you'll need from your portfolio site, and then use that information to decide if a website builder or WordPress (or maybe even something else) is the right solution for you.
The next thing to consider is the overall look of your website.
Modern website builders are based around templates, meaning you can just pick one you like without having to worry about creating a design from scratch.
WordPress uses themes, which are similar to a website builder's templates.
It's all about finding a template or theme which you like and will complement the contents of your portfolio.
Most website builders allow you to preview their templates, so have a browse and see if anything catches your eye. You can find GoDaddy's Website Builder templates here.
When it comes to WordPress themes, you'll find that you have a choice of places to get one. Your WordPress hosting provider is likely to offer a selection of themes for free, and you can also buy themes from third-party designers.
You can see the WordPress themes offered by GoDaddy here. If you want to see what sort of paid-for themes are available elsewhere, a quick Google search is a good place to start. You can view a selection of WordPress photography themes here.
Finally, when choosing a platform for your portfolio site, you should consider what kind of content you'll be uploading.
For most types of content, it won't make much of a difference whether you use WordPress or a website builder. But if you're intending to create a portfolio site that features a large number of high-res images and/or videos, you'll need to make sure that the solution you pick offers enough storage and bandwidth to cope. You may also want to add a content delivery network (CDN) to your site so it loads faster. Some companies will offer a CDN as part of your website package.
If you're not sure whether the website solution you're thinking of using is suitable for the site you want to build, speak to the provider first as they will be able to guide you towards the right product.
Remember: it's good idea to plan out your site before committing to a provider. That way, you'll be sure that you can make the site you want.
What content will you need for your portfolio website?
Once you've decided how you'll be creating your portfolio website, it's time to start planning the content you'll be including on it and how you'll lay it out.
Obviously the most important will be the pieces that make up your portfolio itself, but you have to decide how you're going to present that content.
Here are some options for you to consider.
One-page portfolio vs multipage portfolio
Will you split your portfolio over multiple pages, or just include everything on one page? The answer to this question will have a big impact on the final look of your site.
As a general rule, you should only opt for a one-page portfolio if you have relatively few examples to show off and they all fall into the same category.
In this case, it makes sense to group your portfolio together as everything is related.
If you have a large portfolio and/or it covers a number of different areas then it usually makes sense to split your portfolio across more than one page on your site.
For example, an events photographer might have a page dedicated their wedding portfolio and another dedicated to their corporate events portfolio.
Dividing your portfolio up like this makes it easier for people to find examples of their work that are relevant to their needs. Would you expect someone looking for a wedding photographer to trawl through hundreds of photos of corporate events first?
Well-structured site content also helps when it comes to things such as search engine optimization (SEO), as it lets search engines know what each page on your site is about. (If you're serious about getting to grips with SEO, you can check out this guide to website keyword planning and research and use it help layout your portfolio site.)
Structuring your site content clearly can even help if you decide to promote your site using paid advertising, as you're able to send people to a page that's relevant to the ad that they’ve clicked on.
A homepage portfolio?
If you're opting for a one-page portfolio, you might find you're tempted to make your portfolio your website's homepage.
There's no rule that says you shouldn't do this, but putting your portfolio on your homepage can make it hard for people to navigate from there to other areas of your site.
If you are tempted to put your portfolio on your homepage, you might want to consider creating a one-page website where everything a visitor would need, including your portfolio, is in one place.
Other types of content for a portfolio website
Although your portfolio will form the core of your site, there are other types of content that you should consider adding.
Call to action buttons and forms
What do you want people to do when they visit your portfolio site? You want them to hire you (or perhaps buy your products if you're selling photographic prints, for example).
But how will they know how to go about hiring you if you don't tell them? This is where a good call to action and button/form is essential.
If you want people to get in touch with you to enquire about your services, make sure you include a contact form with a CTA on your portfolio pages. (Or a "buy now" button next to your products.)
An about me page
People like to make a human connection. Adding an "about me" page lets people see who you are and makes it more likely they'll trust you to deliver what they need.
Use your "about me" page to explain who you are, what you do, why you're passionate about what you do and how you can deliver what your potential clients want.
Be sure to include images of you at work so people can see who you are and get a peek behind the scenes.
If you've got existing happy clients, let other potential clients know. Including a page dedicated to reviews and/or testimonials is a good way of building trust.
You can also include relevant reviews/testimonials in key locations on other pages of your site, for example near your contact forms on your portfolio pages.
Although a blog isn't a must-have for a portfolio site, it does offer you another way to communicate with your potential clients. It can also help with your site's SEO.
Planning the layout of your portfolio site
By now, you should have a good idea of what content you'll need for your site and a least some idea of how that content will be organized.
The next step is to plan the layout of your site.
A good place to start is by simply listing all the different pages your site will need, including a homepage.
Once you have this, you can start planning the layout of your site and how people will navigate their way around it.
The good news is that the average portfolio site is relatively simple, so things shouldn't get too complicated.
For example, you might plan your portfolio site to include a homepage, a portfolio page, an "about me" page and a testimonials page.
As there are only four of them, you can create a simple navigation which lists each page and is always there at the top of your site.
Things might get slightly more complicated if you breakdown your portfolio into multiple sections, but you can just add subcategories under the portfolio of your navigation bar.
You may want to use a pencil and paper to sketch out the basic layout of your site, as this will give you something to work from when building it.
Once you've got everything planned out, you can finalize your choice of platform and get started building your site.
If you're using a drag-and-drop website builder, you should find it's quick and easy to turn your plan into an actual portfolio site.
Attracting visitors to your portfolio website
If you want to make the most of your portfolio website, you'll need people to see it.
Here are some ways you can get your portfolio site seen by potential clients.
As already mentioned, it's possible to attract people to your portfolio site via SEO. Areas to consider include good keyword research when setting up your site and, if you're serving a local area, local SEO which can help your business appear on things like Google Maps.
Want to get visitors to your portfolio site straightaway? Consider pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
The two main platforms that offer PPC are search engines and social media platforms.
PPC is a great way to attract potential clients, but you need to have a plan.
The aim should be to target your ads at people who are looking for a business like yours and then get them to enquire about your services.
It sounds easy, but it is possible to spend more on PPC than you make in sales. So make sure you know what to expect before starting a PPC campaign. You may want to hire an agency to handle your PPC for you.
You can learn about getting started with PPC in this guide.
Social media profiles, review sites and directories
Add links to your portfolio website to all your other online spaces, including social media profiles, review sites and directories.
By doing so, anyone looking for a business like yours will be able to click through and see what you have to offer.
A portfolio website can showcase your business to potential customers. It can even help you start attracting more customers. Just make sure you plan your site thoroughly and include things like contact forms so interested people can get in touch with you.
Want to get started building your portfolio? You can grab of free trial of GoDaddy's Website Builder here.