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How to Build an Online Portfolio That Gets You Noticed in 2022

Andrés Gánem Andrés GánemWebsite Development Expert

I have a confession to make: For someone who writes about websites for a living, I’ve always had an excuse for not having an online portfolio.

I would say that I didn’t have enough material, or that I didn’t have time. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether your work is on Instagram or a fancy site; you will get noticed if the work is good, right? (Spoiler alert: absolutely not).

The truth is that making a website for myself felt intimidating. And since you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet that you feel the same.

But you don’t have to. After finally creating my online portfolio, I can tell you that the process was fast and easy. The end result looks great and shows off my personality and work. I’m here to walk you through how to do it too, step-by-step.

I made my site with Wix, because it’s super easy to use and has some of the best-looking portfolio templates. But you can use this guide to create and design a stunning portfolio with any builder.

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Step #1: Choose a Domain Name for Your Portfolio

There’s an art to choosing a domain name for any website (we have the comprehensive guide to prove it). But to be straightforward with you: your name and a simple .com should do the trick for a portfolio. If you have an artistic or company name, then use that.

Making an impression is hard enough as it is. If your work resonates with someone, they will likely remember your name, while unnecessary information will only get in the way.

Try variations if YourName.com isn’t available. My portfolio, for example, could be AndresGanem, AndresG, AGanem, DresGanem, and other such combos.

The .com is important, too. It might be more expensive, but it’s the most popular TLD (Top Level Domain) in the world. That means that people will naturally remember the .com. You can always try our domain name generator to see what’s available.

Pro Tip: Speaking of being memorable, a custom logo for your brand can work wonders for your portfolio. Wix has a logo maker that you can use for free with the VIP plan and up. Check out our review of the Wix logo builder for details.

Step #2: Choose the Right Website Builder and Plan

A self-hosted WordPress site gives you complete control over every aspect of your portfolio, but it requires time and expertise. Also, I can’t even remember if I brushed my teeth this morning. Do I really need control over everything?

Website builders take care of the details and give you the tools you need to design your site quickly and easily. It could also be the cheaper option. Hosting, domain registry, and plugins can get expensive. Website builders typically offer all of this for less, and you know the price from the beginning.

Some builders, like Wix or SITE123, have completely free plans. I wouldn’t recommend using these free plans, though, because having a Wix or SITE123 domain might look unprofessional. My advice is that you start with the cheapest builder that provides a custom domain. You can always upgrade if you need to.

I created a portfolio with each of the builders below, and I believe they are the best for balancing ease of use and customizability. That said, the right one for you will depend on your particular needs.

1. Wix – The Best Builder for Creative Freedom

Wix portfoilo homepage
Wix’s portfolio templates use bold design to attract an audience. Hover for more!

No builder in the market has as much design flexibility as Wix while still being user-friendly. It only takes a couple of minutes to get comfortable using the drag-and-drop editor, and you can make your site look however you want.

That said, you need a good eye for design if you’re going to heavily customize a template. Wix’s flexibility means there are no restrictions on how bad a site can look.

If you’re comfortable with your design skills and want a site that is uniquely yours, then Wix is the way to go. Wix has a forever free plan, so you can try it out first before you get a custom domain.

Some of Wix’s best features are:

  • Unrestricted drag-and-drop editor. Wix is the only builder that will let you place elements anywhere on a page.
  • Special widgets for displaying your work. Features like masked videos or custom slideshows are an interesting way to show your projects.
  • Over 800 templates. Each template is specifically designed for a different niche or industry, and you can edit them as much as you like.

2. Squarespace – The Best Builder for Visual Work

squarespace-jason-wild-template
Squarespace designs give weight to images. Hover for more.

If you do any visual work – like photography, videography, or animation – then Squarespace might be the best option for you. Squarespace’s templates use bold titles and negative space to draw the eye to the most exciting part of the page: your work.

It’s less customizable than Wix and doesn’t show a lot of information on a single page. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and Squarespace lets your visuals do the talking.

Squarespace doesn’t have a free plan, but it offers a 14-day free trial for you to decide if it’s the right builder for your portfolio.

Squarespace comes with:

  • Intuitive block editor. Although Squarespace might advertise its editor as “drag-and-drop,” it’s more of a block editing tool – and that’s a good thing. This restriction keeps Squarespace sites from becoming confusing or unbalanced.
  • Professionally designed templates. Each of the 100+ templates is elegant and responsive.
  • Third-party app support. There are plenty of third-party apps you can add to a Squarespace site to expand its functionality.

3. SITE123 – The Best Builder for Beginners

timothy-simons-site123-template
SITE123 can give you a simple but beautiful website in minutes. Hover for more.

SITE123 is a remarkably easy-to-use tool for creating websites (and it has a free plan too!). You won’t get the most original site out there, but there are enough customization options to give it your personal touch.

With SITE123, you get:

  • A beginner’s tour. You can access a full walkthrough of how SITE123 works as soon as you make your first site.
  • Mobile responsive templates. The mobile view of your site is automatically updated whenever you make any changes.
  • App market. Expand your functionalities with SITE123’s premium apps.

4. Zyro – The Fastest Builder Out There

joplin-by-zyro
Zyro can generate stunning websites with the help of AI. Hover for more.

Zyro uses AI technology to help you design every part of your website efficiently. You can even generate a custom logo using AI and track the activity on your site with the AI heatmap tool. If you need a good website and you need it now, then Zyro is the way to go.

Zyro doesn’t have a free plan, but it offers a 30-day free trial to take the tool for a spin and view your website.

Zyro provides:

  • AI content creation. There are AI features for designing your site, creating a logo, and even writing content.
  • Smart heatmap. Use activity tracking to improve the user experience of your pages.
  • 24/7 Customer support. If you need help, you can contact Zyro at any time and get an efficient response.
Best Feature Portfolio Templates Free Plan Starting Price
Wix Limitless editor 76 $16.00
Squarespace Stunning templates 144 $14.00
SITE123 Fully mobile responsive
6 $12.80
Zyro AI-created content 10 $4.41

Step #3: Consider the Structure of Your Portfolio

So, you’ve already chosen a kick-ass domain, and you know which builder is best for your specific needs. You can finally start building, right?

Not yet. You need to know what you want from your site before you start. If you don’t, you could end up with a site that lacks any structure, or worse, end up with no site at all.

I recommend that you:

  • Check other portfolios in your niche. Who do you admire in your industry? Who do you consider successful? For my writing site, I visited the sites of my favorite authors, even the ones with styles that differ from mine. Writing isn’t as flashy as photography or design, so I needed all the inspiration I could use to make my work stand out.
  • Consider your personality. Researching other portfolios is great, but you need to remember that you’re unique. What makes you different? What makes your work one-of-a-kind? A fiction writer might need a site that conveys a certain tone, while a comedian needs a site that shows they don’t take themselves too seriously.
  • Sketch out your site. Even if you can clearly see your portfolio in your mind’s eye, you need to make a design mockup. Mind’s eyes are famously unreliable, and removing stuff that doesn’t work will hurt a lot less when you are just erasing a drawing instead of throwing away hours of work.

Drawing my site on paper worked for me, but you could always make a rough design using a PowerPoint presentation or even Photoshop if you’re feeling fancy.

Pro Tip: Design your site to be more scrollable than clickable. People feel like they’re making a commitment when they click on a site, which might deter visitors. Scrolling takes very little effort and can increase your engagement.

Consider that this structure isn’t set in stone. You can always make changes as you go. Once you know what you want your site to be, move on to the next step!

Step #4: Pick a Template That Fits

Templates can get as general as “photography CV” or as specific as “Textile Designer Portfolio.Consider templates made for other niches too. If you replace all the photos of buildings with headshots, an architecture template might become great for a makeup artist.

Compare your mockup with the different options. Which one’s the better match?

Wix portfolio templates
Wix has 70+ professionally-designed templates for online portfolios.

You also need to consider your builder. Different builders offer different degrees of customization. You could delete every element of a template and build a page from scratch with Wix (if you love pointlessly making your life harder), but if you’re using SITE123, what you see is pretty much what you get.

Finally, consider functionality. E-commerce integrations are great if you want to sell your work, and you need a good audio player if you’re a podcast host or musician. You can always add things as you edit, but a template should make it as easy as possible.

I ended up using the Noah Matthews Writer Template. It had a simple-yet-interesting design. But I almost went for Spiritual Podcast even if there’s nothing particularly spiritual or podcast-y about what I do.

noah-matthews-template
Noah Matthews was an excellent place to start for its elegant design.

Now that you’ve chosen your template and you know what you want your site to be, it’s time for the hard (I mean fun!) part – customizing your portfolio.

Step #5: Customize Your Online Portfolio

The customization process will be different for everyone. I’ll walk you through what I did and hope it guides you in the right direction. But if you find yourself yelling at the computer because of something I’m doing, maybe don’t do that.

First, I designed the site using placeholders. Where I wanted a photo, I used vector art that I got from Wix. I’d put the classic “lorem ipsum” where I needed text, and so on. For me, this was lifesaving. Instead of obsessing over the little details, I got to think about the big picture.

design-placeholders
Use the built-in libraries to design the broad strokes of your site first.

I wanted the home page to have a photo of me because a) I’m a narcissist, and b) I’m looking to establish a personal connection with the visitor from the start. People instinctively connect to faces. I also replaced the background with a picture that I liked.

I do some performing work on the side, and having two different portfolios is a terrible idea, so I wanted my landing page to switch between the two seamlessly. I also chose two images with contrasting color schemes. That way, the change would be noticeable but not jarring.

Wix’s features were enough for me to set this up, but there’s an entire Wix app store with extra goodies you can’t find in the standard builder. The video, music, and podcast players give you even more options for displaying your content. And you can protect your work against theft with the Right Click Protect app.

I used a dynamic slideshow for my written work and a video reel for my performance. You’ll want to use your main page to create interest in your work, but don’t overdo it. You’re looking to show just enough material to redirect a viewer to a page that showcases your work.

Step #6: Showcase Your Work

Yes, moving on from the homepage requires commitment, but that’s what the samples are for—convincing your viewers to make that commitment.

writing-sample
If your work isn’t inherently visual, use elements that complement it.

Here’s a list of things to keep in mind for your work page, in no particular order:

  • Don’t show everything you’ve ever done. Choose your very best work. If you’ve only done one or two things that you feel proud of, display those two things as prominently as possible. Don’t mix them with a dozen other “okay” projects.
  • Keep it simple. Choose one style for everything and stick to it. Try not to change background colors, fonts, or design elements between projects.
  • Use external links. If your work has been featured anywhere important, link to it. Show a snippet and whatever feedback you’ve received. This creates interest and shows that you’re good at working with clients.
  • Show a teaser, rather than the whole thing. Think of cliffhanger endings on TV. If you show an amazing part of a larger project, you leave viewers hungry for the rest.
  • Make it visual, but don’t overdo it. This won’t be a problem for some niches. But if your work isn’t visual by nature, try to add a high-resolution cover image that goes well with it. These elements shouldn’t take attention away from your work; just keep visitors from getting bored.

My best acting work is available for free on YouTube and Vimeo, so I included external links to those videos. I displayed my writing with a big hero image on the cover and a couple of brief samples.

awards-sample
Don’t be modest. Show off any awards that you’ve earned.

If you display your work correctly, it should advertise itself. But you still need to write compelling copy, too.

Step #7: Write Some Smashing Copy

Good copy can be the difference between a good and a great portfolio. You shouldn’t fill your site with text, even if it’s a big part of your work (especially if it is), but you need to make sure that your copy is razor-focused on turning visitors into fans.

How do you do that? Well, there are entire books about copywriting, so while I can’t tell you everything there is to know, I can give you some pointers.

  • Be direct. Imagine a single person scrolling through your site. Talk to them. Don’t say, “I offer professional photography services.” Say, “I can make your dog look great in a sweater.”
  • Be personal. Offer some insight about yourself. We are in 2022. Your personal brand is worth as much as your work. How you talk about yourself matters as much as what you say.
  • Be confident. This is your portfolio. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others? Highlight your achievements and recognitions. Be upfront about the things that set you apart from the crowd.
copywriting-example
Yes, it’s a bit much. But high energy is infectious.

Don’t do all the talking yourself. Include testimonials from people who you’ve worked with.

If writing is not your thing, you can use AI content generators – like the one offered by Zyro – to help with inspiration. Keep in mind that you still need to edit this text to your unique sensibilities, but it’s a good way to start.

Pro Tip. You don’t have to do everything on your own. You can find amazing and cheap copywriters on Fiverr.

If your copy is good, visitors will be impatient to contact you. That’s why you have to make it easy for them to do so.

Step #8: Make It Easy for Potential Clients To Get in Touch

You’ll find a preset template for a contact page on almost every builder. Just make sure your contact page is as striking as the rest of the site.

The whole point of a portfolio website is for customers to reach you. If they click on the contact page, they’re at the finish line. A great heading and picture might be the final push they need.

What might be less obvious but is just as important: make sure that visitors have a way to reach you at any point on your site. Wix includes a “show on all pages” option that I used to display a contact form at the bottom of every page. I also included social media buttons on the top right of each page.

contact-page
It’s your job to make contact as easy as possible.

Filling your site with “contact me” buttons on every pixel is a great way to ensure that you don’t get contacted, so you need to balance always being available without seeming desperate.

Step #9: Connect a Domain

Here’s another great thing about using a website builder: It’s super easy to connect a domain to your site. Get a custom domain name with one of Wix’s premium plans and you’re all set.

All you have to do to connect a domain with Wix is go to your site’s settings. Search for the “connect a domain” option, and input your domain name. Even if you don’t use Wix, most website builders will give you a free domain for one year with any premium plan.

You’re almost done. Just make sure you preview your site before going live.

Step #10: Preview Your Online Portfolio

Before you release your website to the world, preview it a couple of times. If you can, show it to a friend. Get their opinion. Does it look good? Does it feel the way you want it to? Would your friend hire you based on your site?

wix-mobile-editor
Make your mobile site as similar or as different as you want with Wix.

Make sure that your site works on mobile. Mobile devices make for almost half of all web traffic, so don’t neglect the mobile version of your portfolio.

Here’s a quick preview of my online portfolio, just to give you an idea of what you can create in a couple of hours with the right website builder.

Wix-completed-portfolio
Not bad, right? It’s certainly better than what I could do with a self-hosted WordPress portfolio.

Try to Have Fun with It

Creating my portfolio might not have taken 30 minutes, as some articles will claim, but it was fast, and whatever time I did spend was worth it.

If you’re reading this, it means that you have pride in your work. Your online portfolio is a great way to show that pride to the world. When I look at my portfolio, I feel excited. I think it looks great, and it conveys my personality. It’s almost hard to see what I was so worried about.

One last piece of advice before you go: keep your portfolio updated. Include new projects and take the time to revisit every couple of months with fresh eyes.

Your work evolves as time goes on. Your portfolio should too. 

FAQ

Do I need a portfolio website?It depends on your definition of need. Could you survive without one? Sure. Should you have one? Yes. An online portfolio can help you get noticed over a sea of generic social media feeds. It also shows that you take your work seriously, and it signals to clients that they should too. Luckily, website builders make it really easy to create an online portfolio. If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the best website builders in 2022.How do I create an online portfolio for free?There are a couple of website builders that offer free plans, such as Wix or SITE123. But you won’t be able to connect to a custom domain using a free plan, and nothing will turn potential clients away as fast as a bad domain. If you’re worried about the cost, you can always check our coupon page for the best deals on Website Builder plans.What is the best website builder for an online portfolio?Different builders will work for different people. I recommend using Wix. Its editor gives you tons of creative control, so you can make a unique site. For a more in-depth look, check out our expert Wix review. What should I put on my portfolio website?Your portfolio website should have samples of your best work, an about page to connect with visitors, a contact page, and a landing page that creates interest. You can also include testimonials from previous clients and any awards that you have earned with your work.

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