How to Build a Portfolio Website

A portfolio website is the perfect combination of design and structure to share your best talents to interested businesses and individuals. Yes, you probably already have a blog and it’s doing okay for landing your freelance clients but a portfolio website is still extremely valuable to have as part of your digital assets. Besides telling you why you need one, I’m also going to show you how to build a portfolio website.

But … Why?

Pump your brakes kid. Before you completely dismiss the idea of building a portfolio website, stick with me for a second so I can explain why you need one.

First of all, having a portfolio gives people a one-stop place to find what you have to offer instead of hunting down a ‘services’ page on your blog.

Secondly, shady characters out there love to buy up domain names and sit on them (domain squatters); this includes your name – imagine if someone were to Google you and some person threw up a website using yourname.com?

Third, personal portfolio websites are very easy to setup especially since you already have a lot to show between your blog and other online projects – it’s only a matter of compiling the information and getting a site up which only takes a few hours.

I recently built my own personal portfolio website for these exact reasons – the results were MurrayLunn.com.

The site, in comparison to Murlu, is really nothing but it’s still there and if someone wants to find me they can easily figure out what I’m working on, how to get in contact and not have to dig around to see what my brand represents.

How to Build a Portfolio Website

I hope, up to this point, that I’ve done a bit of convincing in terms of getting your own site setup. As you can see, on my site, it’s very, very simple in comparison to a blog – the entire process of setting it up took less than three hours.

I happen to use a simple one-page portfolio HTML template rather than basing it off WordPress because I knew I wasn’t going to be blogging on my portfolio site. However, you may so consider the pros and cons of doing a full installation before starting.

Here is the process of getting your own portfolio website:

Step 1: Register a domain name on GoDaddy (see my full review); I recommend that you get your actual name so people don’t ‘snipe’ it in the future.

Step 2: Get web hosting, such as Hostgator, and set the nameservers from your domain name to your web hosting.

Step 3a: Use the fantastico script to install WordPress onto your new domain name. Find a great looking portfolio style WordPress theme that isn’t distracting – I recommend ThemeForest for this because they have a ton to choose from.

Step 3b: Alternatively, use an FTP to upload a static, one-page HTML file to your web hosting in your domain folder.

Step 4: Once installed, fill in the important information about yourself and what you have to offer much like an online resume of some sort. Show off screen grabs of your best work, link to a few of your websites and be personal.

Step 5: Ensure your portfolio is optimized for what you need – you can score a bit of extra ranking if you decide to go local with your portfolio website which is always a bonus when you get to work with someone in your area.

If this happens to be the first website you’re setting up than I highly recommend that you take at least an hour to understand the platform you’re using so that everything shows the way you need it to. If you’re experienced than I can assume you know what you’re doing – good job!

Elements of a Portfolio Website

The point of a portfolio website is meant to show off your best work and to land clients; it’s more or less a freelance website but partially a resume.

Here are a few tips for making your portfolio website work:

  • Only show the best stuff; it’s better to have less than to show a mixture of good and mediocre work.
  • Keep things simple; don’t overload the reader with a life’s story, get to the point and share how you can help them.
  • Don’t lie; there’s no reason to land a job just to anger the client after you reveal that you don’t know what you’re doing so just avoid getting hired for stuff you suck at.
  • Eye on the design; at least find a design that works for what you’re doing – in fact, try to match the look to your blog so there is continuity between designs – make it a bit flashy but not too much to cause a distraction.
  • Focus on the contact; use every opportunity to get people to contact you from call to actions telling them to email you to having contact forms right in their face.

Here’s the best part of all of this: once you have a portfolio website, you can easily share a link to your brand without writing out a laundry list of websites – imagine that on your business card rather than your Twitter, Blog, Facebook and the dozens of other web properties you probably have – use it like a landing page to convert visitors into clients.

If you’re still a little stumped, check out these resources:

Well, there ya have it. There’s no need to go 3,000 words into this because you’re not trying to build the next, great blog – you’re just setting up something simple for people to get in touch. Hope you enjoyed it. Consider getting your own portfolio website set up or shoot me an email and I could answer some questions for ya.

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9 Responses to “How to Build a Portfolio Website”

  1. Steve Scott
    September 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Murray.

    I agree. For anyone trying to get freelance work or clients of any sort, this isn’t only a “good idea” it is almost required.

    It is all about one thing: professionalism.

    If I was thinking of hiring someone for a outsourcing task and Googled their work (or they gave that to me as a link. It would be simple: hired!

    It is the attention to detail of creating something like this that separates the amateurs and dilettantes from the professionals

    • Murray Lunn
      September 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      That’s my line of thinking, Steve.

      If someone were to land on Murlu, what I’d be doing is essentially sending a load of content their way instead of letting them get straight to the point and discover my services. Likewise, if someone were sent to the site from a business card, they may be a bit confused on where you stand because you generally jump around in blog topics rather than when you mentioned your service.

      Example: If I were to mention I do freelance writing and gave a business card, someone that lands on Murlu, at this time, would see stuff about building websites and plugins – they immediately are disconnected from what they heard from me in person. The portfolio, on the other hand, shows off the best work and gets them right into contacting me instead of sending them off deep into content.

  2. September 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    For rizzle. You said “Here’s the best part of all of this: once you have a portfolio website, you can easily share a link to your brand without writing out a laundry list of websites.” I totally agree. I made a simple portfolio website at tristanhigbee.com and got the URL printed on some business cards. The site has my contact information, links to some of what I’m working on, my social media info, and a little bit about me. It’s sort of a one-stop-shop for all things Tristan.

  3. Cristian Balau
    September 17, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    I was just thinking of starting a portfolio website next week so this helps me very much getting an idea of what I have to do.
    I was thinking in buying a domain from goddady and just adding it to a blogger account. Why waste money on host and themes when you can get all of that from blogger. You can also customize a customize theme a lot if you have basic skills. As far as I understand you don’t really need SEO plugins on a portfolio website right?

    • Cristian Balau
      September 17, 2011 at 1:21 am #

      PS: why doesn’t my link appear on my name? I see other people’s link appears.

  4. September 18, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Hi Murray,

    I love the look of your portfolio site. It is very clean and gets to the point. (There is a little typo – under Services I Provide – it says “Blog and websie setup) Hey, at least this proves that I read it. LOL.

    Keep the good stuff coming.

    Tiptopcat :)

  5. cordoba ukulele
    October 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    The goal today, though, is to create the most perfect portfolio for your current skill level. With it, you can grow and improve personally and professionally.

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