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Creating a Professional Portfolio for Beginner Designers

By: Jaya Seyyadri
Mar 30, 2021 • 6 min read

Creating a Professional Portfolio for Beginner Designers

So you’ve spent hours crafting the perfect resume. You’ve done your research and highlighted exactly why you would want the job and would be the best candidate in your cover letter. But it’s not always easy standing out amongst the competition! This is exactly where your portfolio comes in hand. 

A design portfolio is a collection of your best work that showcases your experience, creativity, and identity. Portfolios are used in many industries and careers. Examples include engineering, architecture, web design, and of course, design! A portfolio can be just as important as your resume and interview performance. 

A portfolio works to highlight your creativity. The purpose of a portfolio is to help you stand out to potential clients or employers by providing an overview of your design process! So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it. 

man writing on paper in front of DSLR

Portfolio Template Websites

Recently, the hiring process has faced a huge shift. Many companies have decided to make their application process virtual. So, applicants have opted to create personal websites to display their work.  The following list contains popular platforms that can help you design and customize your own portfolio.

Adobe Portfolio – Well known for its stunning templates, Adobe Portfolio, is a popular choice used by many designers to showcase their work and create a high-quality personal portfolio within minutes. Users are also able to sync their design updates for free with Behance. 

Behance – As one of the most widely used portfolio sites, Behance is a free online portfolio website that attracts a wide range of artists, designers, and photographers worldwide. It allowed users to easily upload their designs and tag their work with the type of media they used, along with other short descriptives. This site also has a collaborative aspect that allows designers to interact through comments and feedback. 

Carbonmade – Carbonmade is a user-friendly website currently hosting over a million portfolios. With no coding experience needed, it offers unlimited video and image uploads with vast premade layouts and blocks that allow users to customize their own portfolios. 

Coroflot –  Coroflot is another online portfolio site that is well-known for its integrated job board and platform for connecting designers with companies looking to hire creative professionals. It is a good way for freelancing individuals to find design opportunities while also displaying their previous projects through customizable portfolio options. 

& More

Crevado – Crevado is an easy-to-use online portfolio builder that also comes with a free account option. Its templates are easily customizable and allow users to view instant changes without affecting the live site. Its multimedia upload options include photos, videos, pdfs, gifs, and more. Additionally, one of the key distinguishers of Crevado is that it is accessible everywhere, and website designs automatically adapt your portfolio to be viewable from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

Dribbble – Dribbble is an interactive platform that showcases creative work and is home to many design professionals. By signing up, users can communicate and share design ideas, prototypes, drafts, and more. This site allows users to upload only images as media. It focuses more on the beginning or process stages of the designer’s work than the finished product. Dribbble also has a blog and “meetup” feature where designers can meet or join different communities and activities. 

Portfoliobox – Another online portfolio site, Portfoliobox, allows users to easily manage galleries, blogs, e-commerce, and more.  One of its key features is that it offers a domain name for free, unlike most other sites. 

& Even More!

Squarespace – Known for its bold and unique templates, SquareSpace is continuously growing with new designers. Along with their customizable templates, they offer resources such as an online help center, webinar sessions, and forums for users to communicate with other professionals. 

Wix – Wix is a trendy platform to create websites or personal portfolios. With over 800 different templates, Wix has a wide variety of themes that allows users to easily design their own site tailored to their needs. 

WordPress – Similar to Wix, WordPress is another popular online platform used to design websites and portfolios. Its flexibility makes it easy for designers to utilize its different templates, themes, and plugins. More than 40% of the web runs on WordPress, and it is home to a wide range of users such as beginner bloggers, entrepreneurs, and major brands such as TIME, TED, and Spotify. 

creating a portfolio

Focus on Branding

When creating your website, decide what you want your “brand” to be. Start by thinking about the type of clients or employers you want to attract. For example, if you aim to work for a contemporary art company, you may incorporate strong and bold colors in your portfolio. In contrast, if you are looking to work for a minimalistic design company, you may focus more on whitespace and neutral tones. 

To best stand out amongst the crowd, it is important to keep your site clean and professional. Most of the websites outlined above offer customizable templates and AI features. These automatically design a site based on the user’s preferences! You can include characteristics such as choosing cohesive color palettes, themes, fonts, and more. 

While most of these previous sites require creating an account, many features are completely free! If you want to shell out some money, you could enjoy extra features.

Samples Are Key

A good rule of thumb is to provide at least 5-10 samples of your work. Try to present them as a “case study.” Including background information for each piece or project provides the viewer with an insight and the motivation behind your work. It also shows an overview of your creative thought process and how you got to your final product. The following list provides examples of work you may choose to include. 

Coursework & Clubs

Coursework – Class assignments or projects offer great opportunities to showcase your skills. From research papers to projects, coursework can help highlight your work in your particular field of study. It shows that you can use and apply your knowledge! And it shows your skills expand further than what is put on your resume. 

Clubs – Are you involved with any extracurricular activities? Whether you are a part of your campus’s robotics chapter or tasked with being an organization’s marketing coordinator, clubs are a great way to explore design projects. Some of which may be outside of your coursework or major! There are many ways to get involved. Even something simple as creating social media content for a club can be included in your portfolio. Just make sure the experience aligns with the interests you are pursuing. 

Freelance & Volunteering

Freelance – Previous job experience can be a great addition to your portfolio as it goes to show some of your real-world applications. Popular platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr serve as a marketplace for freelance designers ranging from beginners to professionals. Not only would this type of work be a great addition to your portfolio, but working with clients gives you an experience of what can be expected in the field. Testimonials can be a great boost to your future clientele!

Volunteering – If you are a designer that is just starting out, you may not have any work samples to put in – but that’s okay! It might be hard to find freelance work or clubs. However, there are plenty of ways to get experience through volunteering opportunities. Websites such as VolunteerMatch and Points of Light have opportunities for people to connect with startups or organizations!  These establishments need help with content creation ranging from creating social media posts to shooting videos. As an extra bonus – no experience is necessary. It is straightforward to reach out and get involved with design projects aligned with your interests.

creating a portfolio

Put Your Best Foot Forward

When choosing what samples you want to include, you must focus on putting your best work forward. Keep in mind the type of audience or clients you are trying to attract! Focus on what makes your work unique. 

Finally, remember to provide a picture of yourself and your preferred contact information so potential employers can easily identify and reach you. Including a short bio would also allow clients to know who you are as an individual outside of design, too! This will help potential clients form a more personal connection. 

Final Takeaways

Quality over Quantity – While it may seem tempting to fill up your portfolio with every design project you’ve ever done, it is important to be very selective and focus on your pieces’ quality rather than the quantity. Too much information can overwhelm clients and appear incoherent. By keeping your portfolio simple and focusing on quality, your clients will be able to clearly distinguish your goals and workstyle. Focus on samples that you believe are the best representation of you as an individual and designer. 

Get Feedback – Getting outside opinions from friends, professors, or even other designers can help determine how your portfolio appears from another perspective and if it meets the goals you are trying to achieve. 

Keep it Up to Date – Over time, as you work on more projects and improve your skills, your portfolio should continuously evolve as it is important to continuously update your work to best represent your current skill set and aesthetic. 

Keep it Fun!

Finally, remember to have fun! Curating your work and creating the perfect portfolio can be challenging, but it is definitely rewarding and worth the effort. To reach clients or potential employers, include the online link to your portfolio on social platforms such as LinkedIn. By showcasing your experience and highlighting your unique aspects and identity as a designer, you are already one step closer to your dreams in the world of design. 

Have you ever created your own portfolio or have other tips and recommendations? Let us know in the comments below! 

More to Explore:

How to Build a Professional Website

Guide to Freelance Photography 

How to Answer: What is Your Dream Job

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