9 Ways to Make Your Portfolio Stand Out

Posted on March 16, 2017 | Updated on January 25, 2023

There are approximately 53 million freelance workers in the United States alone, and by 2020, it is expected as much as 50% of the workforce will be freelance. Making your online portfolio stand out from that crowd isn’t easy. However, with some creative thinking and attention to detail, your portfolio will help you land new clients and outperform your competitors.

You’ve likely heard all the common advice, such as presenting your best work and making sure your website is user friendly. Here are nine additional things you can do that you might not have thought of already.

1. Add an Elevator Pitch to the Landing Page

Courtesy of Giphy

An elevator pitch is simply a short snippet of information that you can share with a potential prospect in the time it would take to ride in an elevator with the person — no, you aren’t allowed to hit the “Stop” button. For the purposes of your online portfolio, your elevator pitch should be two to four lines in length. You want to present what you specialize in.

A great example of a really effective use of the elevator pitch can be found on Luis Konrad’s online portfolio. On his home page, he has a big image of him, clear navigational links across the top and then text that simply says hello, his name and what he does. He uses two lines for maximum impact.

2. Explain Your Work

You’ll see advice from some saying you should use images to tell the story about your work. While this is true and a beautiful photo or screenshot does add to the overall impression you’ll give to readers, explaining why you chose a particular lighting, design technique or other element can give potential clients insight into the way you work.

Eddie Wilson, the man behind eddit Incorporated, a design and photography studio in Virginia, adds gorgeous photos but then includes some text to explain the creative ideas behind those photos.

3. Keep It Super Simple

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It’s tempting not only to show your best work but to show all of it in your online portfolio to make it stand out. However, less can be more when trying to present your online portfolio to the world. For one thing, you don’t want leads to grow confused over what to look at first. At the very least, it is a good idea to create only a few main categories on your landing page and then add additional info via those links.

One example of a clean simplistic design is Serj Kozlov’s website. The design uses muted colors, a simple logo, an extremely short bio, and three navigational links. This shows off his simplistic design skills, too.

4. Show Your Growth Potential

One really unique idea is to use your online portfolio as a launching pad for the next phase of your career. If you’re ready to switch careers, try your hand at new designs as a freelancer, or seek new clients, let your readers know. Also include information such as training you’ve completed to move to this next step in your career or similar jobs you’ve worked on that have prepared you.

Martin Ringlein’s website does this in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. He jokes that he is an “aspiring mayor of The White House.” However, if you click on the “More” button, you will see that he is interested in expanding his work and taking on speaking engagements.

5. Add Your Personality

So many online portfolios are the same that they all begin to run together after a while. They offer a logo, photo, links to bio, work samples, and contact info. For someone reviewing multiple portfolios, one that stands out a bit can really grab the interest. There are many different ways to add your personality, from the design you choose to the photos you use.

One example of a website that screams personality is Red Russak’s website. Red is a web designer, coder and techy. His page is unique because he starts with a question — “Who is Red?” He then adds a cartoon of himself to the right that is fun and interesting. He links to his social media, lists some bullet points of his resume, and adds a way to contact him. The site is fun and personal and simple all at the same time.

6. Make it Interactive

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If you can find a way to get your visitors to interact with your website, then they are much more likely to stick around and check out what you have to offer there. There are a number of ways you can make your portfolio interactive. For example, you could provide some resources/guides for your readers. Another idea is to make different aspects of your portfolio clickable.

Robby Leonardi has quite an interesting and interactive online portfolio. Instead of just putting up images and a bio, he made his resume into a game visitors can play to learn more about him and his work. This is unique and fun, and also shows off his skills as a game designer.

7. Insert a Video

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Did you know that adding a video to your landing page can increase conversions by about 80%? There is no doubt many people respond to visual data. Perhaps it is because videos are easy to pull up and watch. They take the work out of browsing through online portfolios and give the eyes a break from reading.

Fernando J. Maclen is a California-based designer and entrepreneur. He adds a blurred black and white video to the side of his information that one can assume is of him working. It adds a level of interest to the portfolio that makes it clear what type of work he does.

8. Expand Your Design

Another idea to help your portfolio stand out is to create a simple design that offers basic information above the fold and then to offer additional information as the user scrolls down. An arrow can signal to the reader that there is more to view. This allows your portfolio to feature a large logo and images but to also provide plenty of information should the site visitor need more.

Mark Grassia’s website offers just such a design:

  • He has a huge image overlaid with a red filter and rotates through several different images.
  • His log shifts up and down between his name and the word “editor.”
  • When you click on the box that says “View Portfolio,” instead of being taken to a new page, the page scrolls down to some images of his work. Keep scrolling and you get his resume. Scroll a bit more, and you land on his bio and contact information.
  • You can also access these areas on the page via the navigation at the top once you click on “View Portfolio.” It is a very visually pleasing and impressive design.

9. Use Your Words

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Some words simply have more punch behind them than others. You can communicate a lot by using power words. For example, you could add the word that describes your job. Another word that describes the quality of your work. A word about your personality, and so on.

One example of a portfolio design that incorporates this concept is that of Allen Tan. His design looks like a personal ad in the newspaper and is just as short. He states that he is thinking, reading, collecting, designing, editing, writing, and so on, and then where he is located. Everything is very muted in grays and blacks. Then, two words pop in color: designing and editing. He includes a link to learn more.

Make Your Portfolio Stand Out

Make your online portfolio stand out by thinking through how you can showcase your work in a way other designers are not. You can use elements from the examples above and add a few of your own.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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