9 Ways to Land Clients with Your Online Portfolio

This is a special guest post from our friends at Format, the website builder with everything you need to showcase your work and uncover new opportunities. We’re big fans of their beautiful portfolio templates made for creative small business owners like you. 

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Looking to expand your client roster but unsure where to start? You don’t have to go far: your own portfolio is your best asset when it comes to attracting and landing clients. There’s no better way to introduce yourself—and make a great first impression. It gives prospective clients a deeper understanding of your work—something they might not get from an interview or references.

Especially in a creative discipline, an online portfolio can make or break a client’s decision to work with you. It’s not enough to just have a website. Your portfolio should be as polished and professional as you would be at an in-person meeting. We’ve rounded up some of our best tips to create a portfolio to attract clients and help you land your next job.

Highlight the right work

It’s tempting to include everything you’ve ever worked on in your portfolio to appeal to as many clients as possible. It may seem like a good idea, but it could result in either a cluttered, disorganized portfolio or a lack of a coherent narrative. Both lead to a weak portfolio.

Even if you want to showcase everything and the kitchen sink, it’s important to focus on quality over quality and be selective. Every image you include should have a wow factor. Curate ruthlessly by becoming your toughest critic. Does it grab attention or add to the story? If it’s a no, leave it out.

Create a visual journey

If you’re looking to get hired, your website needs to guide your audience through your work. Avoid confusing potential clients with a messy, incoherent layout. Your portfolio should be straightforward and simple to navigate.

Not sure how to make your site flow? Consider organizing your work in one of these ways:

  • By genre, if you work in multiple genres.
  • By client, if you work with high-profile people or businesses.
  • By project, if you do creative work exclusively.

Design with the reader in mind. Put your best work up front and keep things intuitive. Think about how you digest information and scroll on a website, and apply that to your portfolio.

Attract the clients you want

Many photographers, illustrators, designers, and artists are under the impression that specializing in something can limit their options. For most creative professionals, it’s actually the opposite. By showing your talent for a particular type of work, you’ll attract the right clients to further your career in the direction you want.

Think about the kind of work you like doing—and what you don’t. If you want to do more of something, make sure to feature it in your portfolio. As much as you need to impress people, if you really don’t want to work in a certain genre, try not to focus your portfolio in that area.

Give context where it matters

Include captions to contextualize your work. There’s a story behind every image and adding insight into your creative process can only help prospective clients in their decision.

Your About page is your chance to tell your story; now is not the time for modesty. What would your friends and family say about you? What about co-workers or clients? What are you proud of? Help prospects get to know you and they’ll be much more inclined to reach out to find out more. For Format users, their About page is the most visited page on their portfolio.

Use your client list

Your voice shouldn’t be the only one on your portfolio. Make sure to include your client list—this can be much more impactful than a CV. Include a case study or testimonials if you have them. A client list adds credibility and shows prospective clients they’re in good company.

Keep things fresh

A portfolio should be treated as a living document rather than a one-time project that you can set and forget. You don’t need to change it weekly, but it’s a good idea to schedule time to spruce it up at least once a year. Keep this in mind when creating your site: choose a website builder like Format that makes it easy to update your portfolio.

Remove roadblocks

Don’t make people search to contact you. Include an email form and any other relevant contact information. Make sure to link directly to your contact information from your site menu as well. Once a potential client does reach out, try to reply as fast as possible. If you’re unresponsive, that could be a dealbreaker for a prospect.

Proofread and then proofread again

With built-in spell-check and programs like Grammarly, there’s no excuse for your portfolio to have spelling errors or typos. It looks extremely unprofessional and causes clients to doubt your abilities. Use these programs, read and re-read your copy, or ask a friend to proofread for you.

Be your own client

As you build your portfolio, remember that it should match the rest of your brand—including your logo, business cards, and resume. Use your portfolio to show clients that you have the skills to think on a bigger scale while paying attention to the details. When you step back and look at your work, is it telling one cohesive story? Does it give your audience an idea of who you are and what you’re about?

It might help to think of your site as a brick-and-mortar location. If you saw your portfolio as a storefront, would you stop in and take a look around? It should be easy to see what you’re selling (hint: you and your work).

Ready to build your own online portfolio that captures clients’ attention?

A website builder and so much more: Format has beautiful themes that showcase your work, alongside integrated business tools like e-commerce, blogging, SEO, and image protection. Build the website you want to share, promote, and sell your work—all in one spot.

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Steph Davidson from Format

Steph Davidson is the content manager at Format.com and has a background in PR, copywriting, and journalism. She's on Team Oxford Comma, loves horror and tea (though not always together), and lives in Toronto with her senior cats.

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