Whether you freelance or work in a design studio, it is important for your career as a graphic designer to have a solid portfolio. It is always good to get a printed version of your work, but nowadays the best way to find new clients is probably online. If your work is well presented, you will get the opportunity to display your work worldwide instantly, or get some exposure on design blogs or even in the press.
However, as usual, it is not as easy as it sounds. Many graphic designers make mistakes on their portfolios that ruin their online presence a bit too quickly. A common one? The client who likes your work, hesitates between you and your competitor but cannot find your contact information quickly. People have very low patience on the internet, so your competitor will certainly get that job.
Now most of those mistakes are very easy to avoid, so let’s take a look at some tips and tricks that will help you improve your graphic design portfolio.
Display Various Work to Show What You are Capable of
If you are a multidisciplinary designer, show off your skills on your website. You cannot let a potential client give up on you because he believes that you don’t have the necessary skills. No need to have a bloated portfolio, just display your best in each discipline.
Obviously, the work you show should be well organized so things are not hard to find. Make sure to also have direct permalinks for each type of work, so if someone asks you what logo designs you did so far, you can just link to your logo.
Give the Visitors Big Images of Your Work
As a blogger who often looks for inspiration, I like to browse other graphic designers’ blogs, looking for things to share on my blog. I can tell you from experience that I never share any work from designers who display their work as thumbnails or with a huge watermark on the image.
Relax about getting your work stolen, if someone really wants to steal your website’s work, they will do it no matter what. Instead think about your client and try to impress them by showing your designs at their best.
Share Some Case Studies
While you could explain your workflow in a theoretical manner, I think that showing examples of your research and some other proposals that you made to your client. For example, for a logo design, show some sketches, black-and-white version and colored versions. Explain the process, your thoughts and how choices were made. It’s also a great way to show some work that your client didn’t want to keep.
For clients or design studios looking to hire, seeing how a graphic designer works is a great way to know whether they want to work with you or not.
Image comment: Famous graphic designer Milton Glaser shares some very interesting case studies on his website.
Make it Easy to Contact You
This sounds like very basic advice, but many graphic designers still have websites where the contact form or email address is hard to find. You don’t have to display your email address on your website, but if you want clients to contact you they must find the way to do it in a matter of seconds.
The header or sidebar are good places to have a link to the contact page. Make it obvious enough by using bold text, different colors or icons, it could help. A good idea is to also use the footer space to include the full address, with phone number, email address, social networks and whatever way you’d like to be contacted.
Get Your Own URL for Your Portfolio
This should be obvious too, but some designers are still satisfied with having their portfolio on some portfolio site or blog network only. Its good to be active on online portfolio sites but it doesn’t look nearly as professional as having your website with your own portfolio. If you are not able to pay for a five dollar hosting, how would your potential clients not see you like a cheap designer.
Having your own URL and hosting also allows you to be more creative and create a website that looks like you.
Image comment: While portfolio sites like Coroflot are great, they are not the best way to look professional.
Set Up an Update Workflow
Maybe the most important point in this article. Having a portfolio online is good, having a living and frequently updated portfolio is much better. The problem is, when you are busy with a lot of client work, you often don’t take the time to update the portfolio and show what you are doing to the world.
The solution: set up an update workflow. Make it part of every project to take pictures of it at the end and upload it on your website. If you do it that way, it will not take much time and will ensure that you are up-to-date with your portfolio. You could also make it part of your workflow to ask for a referral from your client and add it to your website. It’s good to tell the world you are awesome, its even better if other people do it.
Don’t Use Flash
Just don’t. While it may look attractive to graphic designers, Flash is most of the time not an option to create your website. Flash sites are much more annoying to update, you should keep these kind of things practical. Flash sites also make images not easy to download or copy, if you want design bloggers to mention your work you should be aware that they like to take images quickly on your portfolio. Last but not least, websites created often don’t take advantage of permalinks, which makes it hard to link to specific content.
Write a Blog
A blog can be a nice complement to your portfolio. It’s a good way to update your site frequently, network with other designers, and get more traffic to your website. Writing a blog also motivates you to think more about graphic design, it is actually a way to learn more.
Use Social Networks Wisely
A portfolio without traffic is pretty much useless. Social networking websites are a great source of traffic, but they can also become a major source of procrastination if you are not careful. Try to limit your time on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or StumbleUpon, and use them to network, not to spam other people with constant self-promotion.