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When you consider yourself “a creative” showing off your work samples is necessary if you want to get a job. You can’t just say “I’m a graphic designer” and expect a company to hire you; they need to see what you’re capable of!
An excellent way to do that is an online portfolio! (And often times it’s actually required when you’re filling out the job application.) But if you’re not a web designer, you might not know how the heck to actually make one. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
What is an online portfolio?
An online portfolio is a website that showcases your work experience, education, and any work samples that you can and want to show off!
Think of it as a mix between your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and a physical portfolio that you’d bring to a job interview.
Who should have an online portfolio?
So many types of professionals could have an online portfolio. Put simply, anyone who has content you’d want to show off during a job interview should have an online portfolio. Designers, marketing professionals, writers, crafters, product designers… basically anyone who creates for a living.
On the other hand, people who rely on their industry knowledge to take action in their jobs don’t necessarily need a portfolio. Nurses, administrative professionals, accountants, etc. can rely on their LinkedIn profile to show off their experience, so an online portfolio isn’t as necessary.
At the end of the day, do you have a thing to show off that you created? If so, you might want a portfolio! If not, it’s probably unnecessary.
How to Create an Online Portfolio
Once you’ve decided that an online portfolio is right for you, it’s time to build it! This is where a lot of people get intimidated (myself included the first time around), but I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds! Here’s what you need to do:
Choose a Web Host
First, you need to choose a company to actually host your website. I’ve used a few in the past, and I recommend Siteground. I currently use Siteground and it’s amazing, and it’s not very expensive, either.
Once you choose your hosting plan (I recommend StartUp if this is your only website), you’ll be able to choose your domain name as well. If you can, use your first and last name for your domain name! It will help you look ultra professional.
Install WordPress on Your Domain
Once you’ve purchased your web host and set up your domain name, you’ll want to install WordPress onto your domain. To do this on Siteground, go to the My Accounts tab, and at the top you’ll see a red button that says “Go to cPanel,” which is what you’ll want to click on.
From there, find the section that says “Autoinstallers” and click on the W icon that says “WordPress.” Click on the blue “Install” button on the next page and select your domain from the drop-down menu (it should be the only one if you just set up your Siteground account).
For the Admin Account section of the WordPress installer, I recommend setting up a username that is not admin, as that’s the most common admin username and is therefore the easiest to hack. Select your password and type in your email account. It might auto-fill firstname.lastname@example.org, so make sure to change that to an active email address like your personal Gmail account.
Once you’re done with that, click Install and you should be good to go! You’ll be able to access your WordPress site by adding /wp-admin/ to the end of your domain name.
Choose a Theme to Install
Next, you have to choose a theme to install, which basically means you have to choose the layout of your online portfolio. I recommend checking sites like Creative Market and ThemeForest for Resume and Portfolio themes.
As you’re looking at options, make sure you’re viewing the live demos so you can see what it will look like when it’s live. Also, as difficult as it will be, try to ignore things like the demo portfolio pieces and headshots. You’re buying the functionality, not the overall look of it. It’s your work samples that will be there, not the developer’s!
Once you’ve picked out a theme, purchase it and download the file to install. It should be a .zip file. Once you’ve located it on your computer, log into your WordPress site and go to Appearance > Themes and click on the “Add New” button at the very top of the page. Once the Add New page comes up, you’ll see the same button, but it says “Upload Theme,” which is what you want to click. That’s where you’ll be able to upload the .zip file that you downloaded. When it prompts you, upload and activate the theme!
Upload Your Experience and Work Samples
Next, it’s time to fill up your portfolio! Depending on the theme you chose, you might have a resume-style website to fill, or you might just have portfolio pieces to upload and some contact information to fill in.
Use the instructions that came with your theme and start filling in your new online portfolio!
As you’re uploading your work samples, make sure to include a few different images for each pieces, plus information like who you created the project for, what it achieved (use numbers if you can!), when you created it, and, if applicable, what programs you used.
For example, when I created a portfolio entry about my Early Bird designs at my job, I included a few different graphics that featured the birds, in addition to a four-paragraph writeup. I noted that I made them for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio in 2017 and 2018, that I created the designs in Illustrator and InDesign, and the fact that they got a very positive response from volunteers, girls, and other councils nationwide.
Don’t be shy here! Let them know exactly what your work accomplished. You’re trying to sell yourself, so it’s not the time to be overly humble.
It’s time to show the world (and future employers!) what amazing things you’ve created!