How to make an online portfolio

Do you want to showcase your work online, but aren’t sure where to begin? Follow our seven essential steps, and learn how to make the digital portfolio of your dreams

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Whether you’re crafting quality copy or drafting dazzling designs, you can have all the passion in the world, but no one’s going to know about it if they can’t see it. While skill and talent are key, a portfolio is there to showcase your work, making it easier for your business to be discovered.  

Even though you already know how important a portfolio is in your industry, what you might be less certain on is how to go about actually creating it. And that’s where we step in, offering you expert advice that’s easy to understand and equally as easy to act on. 

We’ll help you to get started on your portfolio, and decide which content to include. As well as this, we’ll highlight some key aspects that you might not have considered about your portfolio, like asking for feedback and keeping it updated. 

While creative portfolios often get all the attention, if you want to make a portfolio for a non-creative business (such as project management or event planning), this guide is for you too.

1. Choose a platform

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Squarespace

Wix

GoDaddy

BEST FOR

Design flexibility & businesses looking to scale

BEST FOR

Best all-round website builder for small businesses

BEST FOR

Ease of use and simplicity

Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.6
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.8
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.4
Cheapest paid plan

Personal – £12 per month

10% off with code SU10

Cheapest paid plan

Light – £7.50 per month

Cheapest paid plan

Basic – £6.99 per month

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Finding the right platform for your portfolio to live is a logical first-place to start when setting it up.

It’s important to find the best possible portfolio website builder so you can take full advantage of what each platform has to offer – and match their respective pros and cons to your own business needs.

Below, we offer an overview of our top picks:

Squarespace

Squarespace photography templates

Squarespace photography templates

If you run a creative business, a Squarespace portfolio website is perfect – in fact, it’s our top choice for portfolios. Squarespace tops our list because of its design-oriented approach, and the range of beautiful templates available.

Our experts recently reviewed the top website builders on the market and, unsurprisingly found Squarespace scored particularly highly for its design functions. We gave it 4.7 out of 5 – meaning it just pips Wix to the top spot.

What’s more, it offers multiple presentation formats, and every template is mobile responsive, meaning your photography website will automatically be reconfigured for mobile users. Time for a refresh? Squarespace also allows you to change your template at any time.

If you're new to the platform, you can also get a 10% discount when signing up if you use the code SU10 at checkout.

How does it work?

Once you’ve uploaded your work to the builder, you can use Squarespace’s extensive on-site editing tools to tweak, crop, and filter your image until it’s perfectly formatted. Then you can adjust the display style and settings to decide how prominent each image is on the page.

As you can see, there are near infinite design possibilities, which is why we ranked Squarespace as our number one website for design flexibility in our most recent research.

Squarespace integrates with countless social media platforms as well, making it easier to grow your audience and reach new clients. We were also impressed by the platform’s SEO tools, which are easy to find in the editing sidebar. Good SEO is essential for a successful photography website, ensuring it ranks highly for key search terms relating to your imagery.

Where does it not score well?

Squarespace is an excellent website builder and we scored it highly across each category we looked at in our latest round of testing.

The one category it did not overly-impress in is Ease of use, as its more sophisticated tools and capabilities mean it can be slow to grasp for some new users. However, we still gave it a respectable four out of five in this group.

Read our full Squarespace website builder review here.

Wix

Wix portfolio example

Wix portfolio example

Wix is a great platform to create your portfolio website on. It provides more than 500 templates, of which 41 are specifically created just for portfolios. Wix uses drag-and-drop editing tools to let you customize your portfolio – you can drag anything anywhere, meaning you have full creative control over your site.

Our testing gave both Wix and Squarespace 4.8 out of 5 as an overall website builder score, which is a huge result for two big-name players. Squarespace might just beat Wix in terms of creative, design-focussed portfolio setup but Wix is still an excellent option thanks to its powerful customisation tools and massive built-in apps and vast integration library.

Yes, with Wix there is a ton of extra functionality you can add to your site. Think blogs, contact forms, newsletter signups, image galleries, videos, and much, much more. It offers countless options to enrich the user experience of your site, which can translate into more business for you.

How does it work?

Wix's website features are by far its biggest selling point. You can easily do anything from setting up a business blog, to creating a spectacular online home for your SME that’s the launchpad for high-performing digital marketing campaigns.

We scored the platform 4 out of 5 for value for money, and it definitely won’t cost you the earth. Standard plans start from just £6.50 a month (and ecommerce plans from £13 a month), plus there are regular deals and discounts that can give you great savings to spend on other areas of your business.

Where does it not score well?

There are some minor drawbacks with this platform – but none that should completely warn you away.

Some of our testers reported that the amount of options in the editor can be overwhelming and more advanced designs may suffer from the relatively slow server response time – but Wix is still our best overall web builder for small businesses and we think it's the safest option if you want a professional-looking website without the hassle of building it from scratch.

Read our expert guide to the Wix website builder here to learn more.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy portfolio

GoDaddy example portfolio

GoDaddy is known for making it easy for small business owners with little or no website building experience to start growing their business online.

Whereas most portfolio website builders focus on giving users absolute freedom to create whatever type of website they desire, GoDaddy gets that for a website to be successful online, it needs to be optimised to ensure you're driving as much traffic as possible to grow your online following.

That's why we scored it particularly highly for value for money as, for a very affordable price, you'll get a website builder that not only showcases your work, but puts it on the map.

How does it work?

GoDaddy is an excellent website builder for small business growth. Its SEO Wizard is one of its strongest features, you'll be asked a few simple questions about the kind of targeting you're after and GoDaddy will suggest the best keywords to use to help your site rank better on Google.

Microbusinesses, or those in very early-stage development, can also benefit from the new GoDaddy studio package.

This suite of creative tools enables entrepreneurs to easily elevate their brands online and create engaging branded content across platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. You can also use the software for email marketing, so you can regularly update your site visitors on newly uploaded work.

GoDaddy also has a decent range of pricing options and being one of the world’s most popular website builders means it’s able to offer some of the lowest average pricing prices.

Where does it not score well?

GoDaddy is not the most powerful website builder on the market, and so if you're looking for complicated customisation options such as through using coding, this is not the best platform for you.

However, we did give it an Ease of Use score of 4.1 out of 5, as it's an incredibly easy builder to get set up on and perform core portfolio tasks.

Find out more about using the GoDaddy website builder here.

2. Clarify your aims

At its core, an online portfolio is a way to showcase your creations – but it can be so much more. By putting your work online, you can reach a wider audience, and potentially attract more clients.

Take some time to consider why you’re creating a portfolio in the first place. While you already know how important a portfolio can be, think about what you’d actually like to use your portfolio for.

  • Are you creating a portfolio for the first time? Then it’s probably more about creating a portfolio initially, and then refining it over time – especially as and when you have more work to add to it.
  • If you’re already more established, your portfolio might be part of a wider overhaul of your business, with lots of content to include – more on that next!

You should also review where you are in your business journey, as this is likely to influence the approach you take with your portfolio. 

Ecommerce

You might also be setting up a digital portfolio so you can sell your products from an online store.  This is a smart way to make profit as well as building a customer brand.

All of our top three portfolio website builders (Wix, Squarespace and GoDaddy) permit you to build an online store if you buy their ecommerce plan. Whether you sell products or sell services, all three platforms give you a range of in-built and third party tools to suit your needs.

We think the best option is Wix, thanks to its high-quality sales sales features, which support its customers in effectively managing and running their online stores.

Read our full review of the Wix ecommerce platform now to learn more about its pros, cons and costs.

Do you run a small photography business? Take a look at our top website builders for photographers to find the best tool for your needs.

3. Select the content

Your portfolio is a way to show your work more widely, as well as encourage potential clients to find out more about you. This is why you should spend some time going through your work to find the pieces that shine the brightest.

Be selective 

If most of your previous commissions have been focused on a particular type of work, but there’s something else you’d like to work on, then choose the pieces that mirror how you see your business developing in the future. 

For example, let's say you’re a graphic designer who specialises in logos, and you’d like to switch, or expand, to working on infographics. You should include as many infographic examples as you can, and reduce the number of logos – but don’t remove them entirely, as you’ll still need to show a range of work. 

That being said, it’s okay to not include every single piece of work you’ve ever created. Essentially, keep in what you’d like to do more of, and focus less on what you want to move away from.

Use your imagination 

But what about if you don’t have any examples of the work you’d like to focus on? Or you’re just starting out, and you’re looking at a blank screen?

If you’re in the early stages of your business and you need relevant work to reference, pieces that weren’t paid for or commissioned by a client are a great place to start – you can use this as an opportunity to simply trial an idea or a project. 

This is because someone who looks at your portfolio can see your creativity and what you’re capable of, should they hire you and become one of your first clients.

Squarespace portfolio template

Squarespace portfolio template

Lead with the best

Attention-grabbing, high-quality work should be promoted so that you’re seen in the best light straightaway. 

As well as hooking people in with your strongest pieces first, think about how the examples work individually and together. The aim is to create a cohesive portfolio that makes sense and best reflects you, both through specific pieces and as a whole. 

4. Design your portfolio

When designing your portfolio, it’s essential to think about how people will move through and experience your portfolio. Some points to consider include:

Navigation

Whether your portfolio is a single page, or sits within your business website, you can use categories to help people navigate your site. For example, if you’re an artist, you could separate your work according to the medium (e.g. mixed media, paint, and illustrations).

Images 

High resolution images are a must – they should be taken with a high quality camera, or you could hire a photographer to do it for you.

Just keep an eye on the size and formats of images, as well as the overall page size, to avoid slow loading speeds.

Wix restaurant template example

Wix food imagery example

Descriptions 

Include short descriptions of your work to provide context, explain the process, and detail the results.

Features 

Consider using hover icons on an image so that when a user lands on them, more information can be revealed (e.g. project details). 

Squarespace offers this functionality, while Weebly also offers it through the app store for premium plans, at an additional charge.

A scrollable gallery is a great way to display many images without taking up lots of space on a page. 

Also, think about if your portfolio will be static, or if it will include animations. As with hover icons, Weebly offers animation features through a paid-for app on premium plans. 

Call to actions (CTAs)

Remember, a portfolio is also there to help win new clients, so be sure to include CTAs that let people get in contact, buy a product, or request a service.

Katrina Otter’s portfolio includes a clear, concise and friendly CTA

Katrina Otter’s portfolio includes a clear, concise and friendly CTA

Additional pages 

Usually, portfolio websites also include an ‘about you’ section, which is a great way to show off your personality. As well as this, include contact information to make it easy for people to reach you, as well as help with CTAs, as mentioned above.

Builder tools

Also, remember to use any tools provided by your chosen portfolio website builder. Often, providers offer functions that can help with SEO (search engine optimisation) so your site can be found more easily. 

Mobile responsiveness is another common feature, which ensures that your portfolio looks good and functions properly on smartphones and tablets, as well as desktops. 

Discover which providers made our list of the best website builders for small businesses.

Ask for feedback

When you spend a lot of time looking at your own work, it’s difficult to be objective.

That’s why it’s important to get additional perspectives on your portfolio, such as the type and range of work you’ve included, as well as how it fits together and what it’s like to navigate your site. 

While friends and family are a great place to start, try and seek out opinions from people who aren’t as close to you as well. 

Tap into your network and ask clients, former coworkers, and other people who work in your industry what they would think of your portfolio if it were to land in their inbox.

Not only are they more likely to be objective, but they can also give you professional opinions and industry perspectives. 

6. Consider print formats

While we’ve focused on how to make a portfolio website, there are some instances and certain industries where also having a physical portfolio is a good idea. 

For example, if you’re an interior designer and you want to show prospective clients a moodboard, a physical portfolio allows you to include material samples and paint swatches. 

Or, if you’re a designer who specialises in print work, then it makes sense that you’d also have a paper copy of your portfolio, to reflect the medium that you work in.

A physical portfolio can also help you to show your innovative thinking when pitching, or if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd in general.

7. Keep it updated

It’s easy to think that once you’ve made your portfolio, that’s it. However, there’s more to the process – a portfolio is an ongoing task, and should be updated accordingly. 

Not only should your work change as and when you have new pieces to include, but the design should too, to reflect wider trends and to avoid your portfolio looking outdated.

Case study: Joe Crabtree, freelance graphic designer

Joe Crabtree comments: “A portfolio is often how you make a first impression on potential clients, show off your best work, and give a nod to your personality. 

“If you want to stand out and catch someone’s eye, it’s important to invest time in making your portfolio look good. However, as designers, it’s easy for us to get caught up with making our work look great and forget about giving it context. 

“Taking the time to plan out your portfolio to showcase different types of work in a user-friendly format, and then captioning each section to give a short explanation can be beneficial for the reader, especially as they might be strapped for time. 

“Another tip is to always check that your clients are happy for you to include them in your portfolio – it’s always better to be safe than sorry!”


Summary

When making a portfolio, think about why you’re creating it initially – where are you in your business journey? Setting clear goals can also make it easier to select the best pieces of work to include in your portfolio. 

Where your portfolio is hosted is key too – how much it costs, how easy it is to use, and the design options available all contribute to this decision. 

Although there are a range of portfolio website builders out there, our favourite is the Squarespace portfolio web builder – with a firm focus on design, Squarespace is perfect for creative portfolios. 

The look and feel of a portfolio is key, so spend time perfecting your site. Think about its appearance, as well as what it’s like to use. Getting feedback on your portfolio can be helpful too, as it offers insight into how your portfolio is perceived more widely. 

While online portfolios are the go-to across many industries, some professions – such as print designers or interior designers – can benefit from a printed portfolio as well. 

And remember that it’s a constant work in progress: your portfolio should be updated to include new content and changes in design trends too.

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Written by:
Scarlett writes for the energy and HR sections of the site, as well as managing the Just Started profiles. Scarlett is passionate about championing equality and sustainability in business.
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