Making a Killer Portfolio 

August 25, 2010 

OK, so you've got all your amazing projects completed, your client list reads like a who's who of desirable business and now it's time to show off all your talent and hard work. Or, more realistically, you've got a few gems, a few that need to be in there because they show you can do certain things, and a few stinkers but for big name clients. And you also probably have some amazing looking work you did for friends, family or school, but it's the kind of work that really shows what you got.

You may be getting a portfolio together to seek employment (I get lots of those sent to me) or you may be going out after new clients or already running an agency and redoing the website. Regardless we are usually all in the same boat. We are typically working with a mixed bag when it comes to creating a killer portfolio. So how do you do the best marketing with what you got? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Push your best work to the front, and remember less is more. We strive to do that on Fastspot's home page with our project features.
  • Don't count on thumbnails alone, many potential clients are looking for similar client "names" in your work - so include the client name along with the pretty looking thumbnail.
  • Make sure you can see it larger, and live (if it's still living).
  • If you did the work at an agency, say so. Honesty shows you have integrity.
  • Try to look at the portfolio page like you've never seen it before and pay attention to where your eye moves. Then ask yourself, did your eye move to the projects you want to emphasize?
  • Don't just show, but tell. More than pretty pictures, a portfolio should explain exactly what you did, or how you solved a client's problem. No need to write a book, just provide some written context.
  • Consider adding a client list grouped by industry w/ links to the portfolio - as another way for users to get to your work. Not everyone is a fan of this approach (and it only accounts for about 5% of our traffic vs. the portfolio link which accounts for almost 20%) but I say, give users multiple ways to explore your work.
  • Edit, Edit, Edit! You will only look as good as your weakest portfolio piece.
  • Keep it timely. Don't include work from 5 years ago, it sends the message that you aren't doing much new work, or that you still think your older work is the best.
  • Make your portfolio as standards compliant, search engine optimized and user friendly as you claim to be able to deliver for clients. Your portfolio may be the first time a potential client is making judgments on your capabilities and talents. Practice what you preach in other words.
  • Have a personality. I see so many sterile looking portfolios, with mechanical and boring copy. Tell a story when you talk about past projects, share the good and the bad, the successes and even a failure here and there. No need to be an egomaniac or a martyr, just keep it real.
  • Make it as easy to navigate and look at as flipping through a book. After all, it's a portfolio - its core purpose is to provide a vehicle for potential clients to look at your work and decide if they like what you do.

Here are a few links to portfolios I love browsing through. Got some of your own that you love? Is yours amazing? If so, post some links for us to check out and discuss.

Second Story - they have been impressing and inspiring me for ages. Nothing fancy, just clean, functional organization.
Hello Design - just lovely.
Big Spaceship - great features.
Things That Are Brown

From Curt Kotula -

From Calea Kevlin -