How to Create an Online Portfolio (Complete Guide)

If you’re a photographer, writer, or creative, having an online portfolio is a must-have to show off your work. When building your online portfolio, if you use WordPress.com – the world’s largest, free, online site-building platform – you’ll be able to use your custom domain name and build your brand exactly the way you want. Showcasing your work to the public means making the impression you want to make, on your terms. By presenting your most important freelance articles, social media campaigns, e-commerce shop designs, journalistic photos, wedding videos, or whatever it is you specialize in, you’ll attract the potential clients, customers and fans you deserve. 

Plus, you can easily add a portfolio to an existing WordPress.com website or online store – you don’t have to use another tool or send potential customers or clients to separate places. And if they like what they see from your portfolio, you can even integrate a PayPal payment processor so they can book a service or order a product on the spot.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of getting your WordPress.com portfolio website up, running and looking great enough to attract the clients, customers or recruiters you’ve been waiting for. First, let’s cover four best practices for designing your portfolio. Then, we’ll go step-by-step through the process of creating a portfolio with WordPress.com.

4 Key Points to Keep in Mind When Building Your Online Portfolio Website

Knowing best practices for building your online portfolio website means you’ll have already chosen the best visuals and descriptions to go with your projects. That will make it so much easier when it’s time to show a client work samples or when you want to post a project you’re proud of to social media. Keep these four key points in mind.

1. Decide what to include.

You don’t (and shouldn’t) put anything and everything into your online portfolio. Instead, your portfolio site should include only the work that you’re most proud of and that relates closely to the type of work you hope to do more of in the future. By doing this, you’ll highlight the work that will have the biggest impact on your career, and you won’t attract people to your portfolio website for the wrong reasons.

When deciding whether or not to use a piece for your portfolio, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When it comes to [specific skill], is this the best example I can show? 
  • Do I want my visitors to see this work first? (As in, before they contact you and find out more about what you do.)
  • Will this sample attract work that I want to do more of in the future?

Be picky when deciding what should be included. For example, if you’re putting together a design portfolio as a graphic artist, you don’t have to include your past writing projects as a freelancer if that’s not the type of work you’re after any longer. 

Also, by sticking with the work you want to be known for, you won’t skew your SEO. For example, as a graphic designer, you may want to describe a sample and use the term “Creative Cloud” to explain that you worked with that program and showcase that you’re skilled with it. But if you were to use, say, “Grammarly” in a description about a freelance writing project, you could get traffic for that term that you don’t want.

2. Write captivating descriptions and excerpts.

When writing the descriptions of your portfolio pieces, make sure to use simple language – avoid industry jargon, even if there will be some high-level professionals looking at your work. You can always impress them with your know-how later on, once you’re in an interview or on a call with them. Write for the widest audience you’re hoping to attract and make sure that you’re not going over their heads. 

Often, the best way to describe your work is to explain how it benefited the client. For example, maybe your choices for an Instagram marketing campaign were made specifically to drive traffic to your website. In the description, talk about the design and marketing choices you made, why you made them and how effective they were.

You can also customize the excerpt for control over the text that shows up on the online portfolio page. This will be filled in automatically with the first lines of the project description, but by customizing it, you can better entice visitors to click.

One more tip for writing the best descriptions: think about SEO. Your portfolio will be easier to find by search engines (and potential clients or recruiters looking to hire someone like you) if you’ve included relevant keywords. And by connecting your website with Google Analytics, you can keep an eye on whether or not traffic improves after optimizing your web pages or when you make SEO changes.

3. Enhance the entries with visuals.

Atlantic Design / GoDaddy

When you create a portfolio site with WordPress.com, you can set a featured image to make the portfolio visual. If you’re a graphic designer or photographer, finding an appropriate visual to use is pretty easy – you can choose a graphic you used in a campaign or the best photo from the set. If your work isn’t visual, though, like if you’re a writer, you can still supply a featured image to enhance the portfolio. Use the client’s logo, for example, which is especially powerful if you did work for a well-known brand. Try to avoid screenshots, when possible, and go for a higher-quality visual instead – it will look better when viewed on any device.

To make it easy on yourself, gather all of the images you’re going to use before you start adding projects to your portfolio. That way, you won’t have to stop between each project to hunt an image down and optimize it for your site. This article will help you optimize your images so they look their best.

4. Organize your work.

If you’re used to working in WordPress.com, then you probably know how to organize posts using categories and tags. Portfolio projects in WordPress.com function in much the same way – you can split up projects by tags and type. That way, when people visit your portfolio website, they can find exactly what they’re looking for without weeding through the rest.

Once you’ve worked out the basics of your online portfolio, you can move forward and create it. Let’s go through how to do that.

How to Create a Free Portfolio Website with WordPress.com

You may already have a WordPress.com site up and running, but you want to add an online portfolio to it. You can keep your portfolio separate from your posts and pages by choosing the “portfolio” content type. Then, you can manage your projects within WordPress.com, all in one place, and decide exactly how you want them displayed on your website. Here’s how to do it.

1.  Create a WordPress.com account.

Creating a WordPress.com account is quick and painless. You can start your site for free and then decide if you’d like to upgrade to use any of the advanced features. 

For example, with a Pro plan for $4 per month (billed annually), you can use a custom domain name and get unlimited email support. Or, for $8 per month billed annually, the Pro plan includes additional design tools and support for Google Analytics. Explore all of the plans here.

2. Activate the portfolio feature.

Some themes will have the portfolio feature already active, but if yours doesn’t, follow these directions: Go to My Sites > Manage > Settings > Writing > Content Types. Turn on the Portfolio Projects option. Your changes should save automatically.

3. Set the number of portfolio projects to display per page.

You can control how many of your own portfolio projects show up on each page. In the Content Types menu (that you arrived at in step 1), enter the display number under Portfolio Projects.

Note that certain themes will override this setting for design purposes and/or have a portfolio grid to display your projects.

4. Consider using a WordPress.com theme designed for portfolios.

While every WordPress.com theme can be used along with an online portfolio, some themes are better suited to portfolios than others. They often have specific designs for project archives and shortcodes, and some of them include page templates specifically for portfolios.

The most popular portfolio-friendly themes are:

 

You don’t need to know about web design to use WordPress.com at all, but if you opt for a theme that’s already optimized for a portfolio, your job of putting it together will be even easier. Also, no matter what type of theme you choose, know that just about every modern theme for WordPress.com is fully responsive, meaning it can be easily viewed on mobile devices.

5. Add and manage your portfolio projects.

By navigating to the portfolio menu option in the left sidebar (Site > Portfolio), you can access a page that lets you add and manage any projects you want to add to your free portfolio website. 

Click the Add New Project button.

A blank page will come up, which looks similar to when you create a new post or page in WordPress.com. This is where you’ll add your project and all related information, like project tags and type, featured image and excerpt.

When adding projects to your online portfolio, keep in mind that they’ll appear in the order they were created, and the most recent addition will show up first. You may want to storyboard your projects on paper before adding them to your online portfolio so you’re sure they appear in the correct order.

On this page, you’ll also notice a Discussion tab on the bottom-right. Here, you can opt to allow comments from visitors.

6. Viewing your portfolio projects after adding them.

Studio Signorella / GoDaddy

Once you’ve added projects to your free portfolio website, you can view how they look by using the links that WordPress.com automatically creates. In the links below, replace the words in bold with your information, like your URL or the correct slug.

  • View your online portfolio archive: http://yoursite.wordpress.com/portfolio/
  • View a project page: http://yoursite.wordpress.com/portfolio/project-slug/
  • View the archive for a project type: http://yoursite.wordpress.com/project-type/project-type-slug/
  • View the archive for a project tag: http://yoursite.wordpress.com/project-tag/project-tag-slug/

7. Add online portfolio projects to your website’s pages or posts.

Shortcodes allow you to embed specific portfolio projects in your WordPress.com pages or posts. You’ll add a shortcode block where you want to embed the project and then choose and customize the appropriate shortcode from the list on this page. The attributes you decide to use will affect how the project is displayed.

Example: Creating a Photography Portfolio Website With WordPress.com

PhilippeC Photographie / GoDaddy

Let’s say you’re a photographer, and you want to showcase your best work. Here’s what to do.

Choose a WordPress.com theme that’s ideal for a photography portfolio.

Blask, Orvis and Sidespied are especially good for a photography portfolio or designer portfolio, and Illustratr and Rebalance are worth considering if you want to add text descriptions. Since your portfolio is highly visual, you may also want to consider a full-screen theme to put your graphic or photography work front and center. Or, look for a theme that easily integrates slideshows so you can add all of your best work in a digestible format.

Check and update your portfolio settings.

Go to My Sites > Manage > Settings > Writing > Content Types, and turn on the Portfolio Projects option to enable the portfolio feature. While on this page, also decide how many projects you want to fit on one page of your photography portfolio. (It’s possible that your theme won’t have this option because it automatically lays out your projects based on its own design.)

Add your photos to your portfolio.

Go to Site > Portfolio > Add New Project to start adding images to your online portfolio. If you want your portfolio to have images only, leave out the excerpt and description. If you want your images to be explained with text, fill out those fields. Add project tags and types so that your photos are organized how you like. Then, using the portfolio URLs listed in step 5, view the different online portfolio pages to make sure they look how you want them to.

Final Thoughts About Creating Your Online Portfolio With WordPress.com

No matter what type of artist or business professional you are, you’re proud of the work you create – whether that’s text-based work, design work or products you produce. You want your skills to inspire others to trust you and work with you. Your portfolio website is the tool that will deliver the best information available about your career to the people who will matter to you most.

WordPress.com’s user-friendly website builder lets you create a portfolio website or a portfolio as part of a larger website without any fuss. You don’t need to know about graphic or website design, coding or CSS, or anything technical in order to get your site up and running. It’s customizable enough that you can make your site look how you want, but since it’s so simple to use, you can have your portfolio finished by the end of the weekendAnd since it’s integrated with your WordPress.com site, you don’t have to send visitors to an entirely new site to read your testimonials, fill out a contact form or start over on your homepage – everything can be done from one hub. Why choose a third-party portfolio builder when there’s already a great one available with the website builder you’re comfortable with? Stand out from the competition by creating a stunning portfolio website with WordPress.com today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The WordPress.com Team

At WordPress.com, our mission is to democratize publishing one website at a time. Create a free website or build a blog with ease on WordPress.com. Dozens of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes.

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