What you need to have in your portfolio to get client contracts

Written by Bogdan Sandu on 25 Feb 2018
12,814 Views • Web Design

Designers work towards creating a stellar portfolio because this is a means of showing your talent to future employees.  Many focus on creating an eye-catching cover, adding testimonials, creating professional looking avatars and sharing niche experience by means of a bio.  

However, the collection of work inside your portfolio is equally important while searching for employment.  Your portfolio can highlight your experience, show work you’re proud of and show clients what you are capable of.

Although you might simply choose to upload screenshots or files, you can tweak your portfolio until it shows you at your absolute best.  Here are some tips on how to build a professional and effective portfolio.  

Use your aesthetic eye

Treat your portfolio as a design project that requires all the skill and creativity you use for your clients.  This means using your artistic eye to display your work to the best of its ability.  Show off your wide range of skills and styles in your portfolio, arranging them in ways which are visually appealing.

If you’re good with Illustrator, even better. You have a chance of making your portfolio visually impressive easier than if you’re a web developer.

Use your portfolio to sell yourself and your artistic vision.  If you have a specific style or a specific industry interest, here is your chance to show it.  Let clients know where you would like to work.  That way they’ll know who you are as a designer.  Keep your portfolio looking sleek and clean, so it shows your talents to the best of your ability.

Crop your images

When creating your portfolio, remember to crop your images.  This helps you to focus on areas which appeal to you.  Large zoomed out and busy images will look cluttered when creating your portfolio.  This is your chance to highlight those aspects of your work you believe to be particularly well done.

Play with your images until you get the result you would like best.  You could reframe your photos, zoom in on your images, or highlight aspects of a website or app.  Make sure your images are consistent.  Draw your client’s eye to your strongest work.

Write a Description of Each Piece

Let your clients know the backstory of each of your projects.  This could mean sharing how your project came about, what the client’s brief entailed, and how you met his requirements.  

Let the client know your process, and how you used your skills as a designer to interpret the brief and meet the client’s goals.  Keep it short.  A couple of paragraphs should do the trick.

Create your own logo

Show off your skills by creating your own brand.  This will help your clients to easily identify you.  You could also add a tagline underneath.  

This helps to share who you are and what you offer.  By creating your own brand, you’ll be showing off your skills as a designer.  

Make your site easy to navigate

If you’re more of a designer than a web developer, you’ll be interested in the aesthetics of your site.  However, making sure your site is easy to use and navigate will give your visitors a positive experience.  

Ensure that your site loads quickly.  Internet users are impatient and often won’t wait for sites that download slowly.  

Ask a friend to check your site and see if it loads quickly.  Find out if it is easy to navigate.  This way you can work on any problems, improving the experience of potential clients or employees.

Show only your relevant skills

As a designer, you might want to show off a range of skills.  However, consider the work that interests you along with the direction you would like your career to take.  These are the most important skills to showcase in your portfolio.  

You don’t have to show prestigious projects to showcase your most relevant skills.  You can show work you’ve done in school or while volunteering.  However, let your clients know where your interests and potential lie.

Show your relevant qualifications or certificates

If you have a degree or diploma, include it in your portfolio.  Likewise, you would want to show any online or offline courses you have taken to improve your design skills.  You can add any certificates you have to your portfolio, and you could even integrate your LinkedIn account as well.

Offer your clients the opportunity to download your resume.  Although your portfolio is a display of your work, your traditional resume is often helpful for workplaces with human resources departments.  

Tell your story

Create a bio page for your portfolio, letting visitors know who you are.  Narratives about who you are and where you would like to go allow your personality to shine through, establishing warmth and rapport with your visitors.

Use a Photograph

Your photograph reveals the human being behind the design work, making you relatable.  Keep your photo friendly and professional looking.  

As an artist, you don’t need a suit and tie, but don’t show yourself under a palm tree on the beach either.

Make yourself contactable

Make it easy for potential clients to access your email address and phone number.  This will help your clients get in touch with you.

Add Social Media Accounts

Social media helps you to engage in conversation with potential clients.  They will also be able to receive updates on work you post online.  Link your social media accounts to your portfolio.  

LinkedIn is often used by industry headhunters or recruiters to search for talent.  This is an important reason to open an account.  

You could also focus on industry-specific accounts such as Github (for web developers) or Dribbble/Behance for designers.  Keep your content relevant.  

Twitter enables you to follow designers who inspire you or to create networks.  Ensure you only post content you’d be happy for future employers to see.

A couple of social media ground rules:

  • Don’t complain about current employers or co-workers.

  • Don’t insult other users or get involved in drama.

  • Don’t show yourself in compromising conditions on social media.  

Even if you don’t link your social media sites to your portfolio, potential employers might Google you and find your social media accounts.

Include Testimonials

Testimonials from previous clients build up trust, encouraging new clients to work with you.  They are helpful to both experienced designers and those who are just starting out.  

High profile clients who are well known will give you extra credibility.  However, references from family or friends will also stand in your favor even if they just give a quick reference to your work ethic.

Keep it simple

Keep your site simple, with a single page for providing examples of your work.  Your clients could then click on a particular example to view it in more detail.  This will give a deeper context to elements which are interesting to clients without overwhelming them initially.


Although the industry is tough, particularly when starting out, adding the above elements to your portfolio will enable you to stand out, even when your experience seems limited.  

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