If you’re an active or aspiring creative professional, and you’re looking to land more clients, then you’ll need a high-quality portfolio website. They’re an essential tool for building your digital presence and sharing your best work so people can see your talent. Plus, when you own your website, you can control exactly how your work is displayed.
But if you’re not a web developer, then you may have questions about how to build your website. Fortunately, building a portfolio website with WordPress.com is easy.
In this article, we’ll show you:
- Everything you should (and shouldn’t) include in your portfolio.
- Tips for using your portfolio to land more business and projects.
- How to easily build a portfolio website (for free) with WordPress.com.
Then, we’ll go step-by-step through the process of creating a portfolio with WordPress.com.
How to Build a Portfolio Site: Table of Contents
- How to Build a Portfolio Site: Table of Contents
- What an Online Freelance Portfolio Is (And Why You Need One)
- Why Do I Need an Online Portfolio?
- What Should Your Online Portfolio Include?
- How to Plan Your Portfolio Website Before You Start Building It
- How to Create Your Portfolio Website With WordPress.com
- Viewing Your Portfolio Projects After Adding Them
- Add Online Portfolio Projects to Your Website’s Pages or Posts
- Example on a Photography Portfolio Website With WordPress.com
- How Often Should You Update Your Portfolio?
- Now You’re Ready to Create Your Portfolio With WordPress.com
What an Online Freelance Portfolio Is (And Why You Need One)
An online freelance portfolio replaces a traditional paper resume. It is a website that shows off your skills, experience, and past projects.
Since you’re a creative worker, your portfolio may showcase anything from graphic designs to professional photography:
As a freelancer, you work in a very competitive market. In the United States alone, there were approximately 59 million people working freelance in 2020. This number increases every year, meaning you’ll need to impress potential clients if you want to stand out.
An online portfolio enables you to present concrete evidence of your skills in a visually appealing way. You can also update it as you complete new projects or further your education.
Furthermore, an online portfolio can help you gain clients from all over the world. You could promote it on social media, or share it with potential leads. As such, using a website can help you increase your reach and land more contracts.
Why Do I Need an Online Portfolio?
Have you heard the phrase, “Show, don’t tell?” The idea is that showing proof of what you can do is more powerful than merely telling people what you can do.
Creating a portfolio helps build trust with new business prospects even before you personally communicate with them.
They’re great visual tools you can use to humanize your business while showing potential customers what they can expect after hiring you. They can also help you start conversations about your past work and qualifications, which can be an extremely powerful sales tool.
What Should Your Online Portfolio Include?
Creating a portfolio and deciding what to include in one can be daunting. To help you out, here’s a list of the components that should be included when you create an online portfolio.
1) Information About Yourself
At first glance, this one may seem obvious. But we’re not talking about creating an average “About Me” page here. There’s one thing that makes your business truly unique: you. Use your About Me page to highlight your expertise and what sets you apart from others in your industry.
Here are some important items to include:
- A basic introduction to who you are.
- Your professional history and qualifications to highlight why someone would want to do business with you.
- Share your likes and passions to stand out and give clients an idea of what it would be like working with you. Each item that you share should shed positive light on your work — even the light-hearted facts.
It’s also a good idea to use a more personal tone here. Even if other people can do similar work, no one can copy who you are. Here’s a basic example from Foley Design:
2. Include a Professional Photo
You may want to consider including a professional photo in your online freelance portfolio. This usually has the following characteristics:
- A headshot framing
- Good lighting
- A smile
Using a high-quality image can show potential clients that you are professional but approachable. Including a smile can also make you seem more trustworthy to your customers and even help you make more money.
Alternatively, you can use the photo to show off your personal brand and identity. If you’re a photographer or graphic designer, you may like to stylize your image according to your professional aesthetic.
For example, Tobias van Schneider, the designer behind House of van Schneider, uses a photo that reflects his edgy design aesthetic:
You might want to employ a professional photographer to ensure that you get the best quality image for your portfolio. Then, you can choose the best place for your photo.
We recommend putting it on your About page so that clients can put a face to your name and description:
If you choose an About page layout with a profile photo, you can replace the stock image with your own by clicking on it and selecting Replace:
You can switch out the image for one from your media library, or just upload a new one.
When you’re happy with your changes, click on Update to save them.
3) Examples of Your Work
Now for the reason you’re creating an online portfolio in the first place: showcasing your work.
The most common mistake that creative professionals and service providers make with their portfolios is showcasing every project they’ve ever completed. Your visitors simply don’t have time to look through everything.
Instead, share only your very best work.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, pick only your very best, most creative shoots and feature those. Use this opportunity to show your visitors what you’re capable of.
Here’s one example from writer Melissa King. She includes two of her top clients, links to her author pages, and then highlights her very best pieces for each one:
4) Testimonials from Happy Customers
Testimonials and reviews can lend credibility to your online freelance portfolio. They serve a similar function as references do on a standard resume: they give your potential clients a way to verify that you are who you say you are.
For example, here are some client testimonials for designer Brook Perryman:
Up to 91 percent of people are more likely to use a business with positive online reviews. As such, displaying detailed testimonials from your previous clients can go a long way to landing new ones.
You can add customer testimonials to your portfolio by using the built-in Testimonials feature from WordPress.com. You can activate it by navigating to Settings > Writing > Content Types.
Once you’ve activated the feature, follow the remaining steps to add, manage, and display the testimonials on your page.
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How to Plan Your Portfolio Website Before You Start Building It
Before you start building your site, it’s important to plan out the pages you need to create, write content that you’ll need, and gather all your portfolio items.
1) Determine What You Want to be Known For
You may have multiple interests and skills that you enjoy pursuing. But when it comes to your portfolio, it’s important to focus on what you want to known for and the types of work and clients trying to land.
For example, if you’re putting together a graphic design portfolio, 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. Or you could have two different portfolios, or two sections on one portfolio.
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.
2) Decide What to Include
As we’ve said before, avoid putting 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.
3) Write Engaging 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. Write for the widest audience you’re hoping to attract and make sure that you’re not going over their heads. You can always impress them with your know-how later on, once you’re in an interview or on a call with them.
Here are some tips for writing descriptions for portfolio items:
- 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.
- On WordPress.com websites, 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.
- 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.
4) Enhance Entries With Visuals
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, 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.
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. Here’s how to optimize your images so they look their best.
5) 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 Your Portfolio Website With WordPress.com
When building your online portfolio, if you use WordPress.com – the world’s largest 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.
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:
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, click through Settings > Writing and activate Portfolio Projects:
3) Set the Number of Portfolio Projects to Display Per Page
As a freelancer or creative professional, you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to see examples of your work. If your past projects are accessible, clients can get a good idea of your capabilities, style, and techniques.
As such, you’ll probably want to show at least part of your portfolio on your home page. Therefore, users will see your past work immediately when they arrive on your website.
The portfolio feature should already be enabled if you’re using one of the portfolio-specific themes. If not, you’ll need to activate it by clicking on Settings > Writing > Content Types and enabling Portfolio Projects:
Next, head to Portfolio > Add New. This will bring up a blank page where you can enter all the information for your portfolio project, including images, tags, and descriptions:
Add as many portfolio projects as you want to showcase. You can embed them on a page by going to it and adding a Shortcode block. Type “[portfolio]” into the block. This will automatically add them to the page:
There are a couple more ways to display your portfolio projects. For example, any projects you make will automatically form a new page that you can find at yoursite.wordpress.com/portfolio.
Alternatively, you can add a Portfolio gallery block to your page. Simply type in its name and select it. You can then replace the images with your own:
Finally, you can add a dedicated portfolio page to your site. Go to Pages > Add New and choose one from the Portfolio category:
Then, you can customize it to display your content. If you would like to use this page as your homepage, you can navigate to Pages > All Pages and click on the three dots next to the title:
Then, select the Set as Homepage option. This will reconfigure your portfolio site.
4) Consider Using a WordPress 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.
Then, 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) Make It Easy for Potential Clients to Contact You
Finally, potential clients need a way to contact you through your portfolio site. You can either provide your contact details or a form that customers can fill in. You may also like to link out to your social media profiles.
Let’s look at how you can create a Contact page on your website. Head to Pages > Add New and select a layout from the Contact menu. You should now be able to see the generic version and customize it with your information:
If you click on each social media icon, you can enter links to your pages, such as your Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also control where client messages go. To do this, click on Name and then Select Form:
Next, select the pencil icon to open up the block settings:
Here, you can enter your email address and choose how messages show up in your inbox. Once you’re done, click on Publish.
That’s it! Clients can now contact you easily through your site.
Viewing Your Portfolio Projects After Adding Them
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/
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 on a Photography Portfolio Website With WordPress.com
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 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.
How Often Should You Update Your Portfolio?
You should strive to keep your portfolio up-to-date. A good rule of thumb is adding updates every three months so you can highlight your latest achievements and make sure you are targeting the right audience.
There are many benefits to creating an online portfolio, and if you do so in the best way possible, you could land your next big client or the job you’ve been searching for.
We recommend choosing the WordPress.com Pro plan for an online portfolio as it’s ideal for freelancers. It also comes with unlimited access to our Premium themes as well as email and live chat support from WordPress experts.
For starters, WordPress.com uses a drag-and-drop website builder. This means that you can build your site without having to write a single line of code.
If you need help at any point, WordPress.com has a dedicated technical support team to assist you. As such, it is a suitable platform for beginners or individuals who have little technical knowledge.
Ready-to-customize Portfolio Themes
Furthermore, there are various themes designed for online portfolios that you can use and customize to suit your particular needs:
Plugin Library for Extra Functionality
Some WordPress.com plans give you access to plugins that can enhance your site further. For example, a contact form add-on enables clients to reach you directly from your website. Therefore, you can design a professional portfolio with all of the necessary features.
Built-in SEO Tools
The platform comes with in-built Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools to boost your rankings on search engines. Paired with a custom domain name, these SEO tools make it easier for clients to find your site and get a sense of your personal brand.
Now You’re Ready to Create Your Portfolio With WordPress.com
Creating an online portfolio is an excellent way to impress potential clients. Fortunately, WordPress.com makes this super easy with its user-friendly interface and customizable design options.
In summary, you can optimize your online freelance portfolio with WordPress.com by:
- Communicating who you are with an About page
- Including a professional photo of yourself
- Adding client reviews to boost your credibility
- Showcasing your best work
- Making it easy for clients to contact you
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