Create a portfolio that makes you stand out

Setting up your own portfolio website is a fantastic way to express who you are as a creative, and to share your talents with the world. Let’s take a look at how to create a free portfolio and everything that you should include in it.

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Why a portfolio is important for your career

A portfolio helps you get your work noticed

Whether you’re a graphic designer, product designer, web developer, writer, illustrator, or are working within some other area of creativity, you need a way to get your work out there. A portfolio website gives your work visibility, putting it in front of the people you want to see it.

Unlike the static black and white of a traditional resume, an online portfolio brings your work to life. In full color, it makes engaging with your creative output an active and immediate experience.

Potential clients and employers get to see right away your accomplishments and what makes you unique. A personal portfolio shows them who you are as a creative professional, the thinking behind your work, and if you’re the right person for a particular job or project.

Matthew Munger's portfolio takes inspiration from the classic macOS interface, differentiating his portfolio from others.
Matthew P Munger's portfolio

A portfolio communicates who you are

Most of us wouldn't show up to a job interview with an unordered stack of printouts of our work for a potential employer to have to sift through. Instead, we would have it bound and put together in a professional-looking booklet.

An online portfolio functions in a similar way. In a user-friendly design, it collects the projects that represent the best of what you do. It shows that you’re responsible and that you take your job seriously.

A personal portfolio also gives you credibility. Anyone, like a potential employer or prospective client, may type your name into a search engine and find you in a short amount of time. Having zero presence on the internet doesn’t look good, no matter how accomplished you are.

No matter if you’re a web designer, graphic designer, front-end developer, or some other occupation, you are more than a bulleted list of achievements. A portfolio site provides depth and detail. In your own words, it tells the story of projects you’re proud of and offers a glimpse into the thinking and personality of the person behind them.

An online portfolio provides a direct and centralized space to find you. You don’t have to send out gigantic email attachments. Clicking on a link is all it takes to land on examples of your work and to learn more about you.

What you should include in a portfolio website

When building your own portfolio, don’t feel like you need to include anything and everything you’ve ever created. Curate your best work and showcase the types of projects you’d like to do more of. As you create your portfolio, be sure to:

  • Have a strategy behind the projects you feature in your website design.
  • Know what skills you want to communicate.
  • Recognize the type of clients you’d like to reach.
  • Demonstrate your personal style and aesthetic.

Put together an online portfolio that captures the essence of your identity as a creative professional, tailored to the audience of potential employers and clients you want to reach. Think of your homepage as a cohesive body of work. Each project image, every block of writing, and all of the other elements come together in harmony to represent what you do.

Every project you've ever worked on was its own unique journey. From the initial spark of an idea to the final sign-off, there were individual challenges, problems that needed to be solved, and feedback that you had to respond to. Include big and brilliant examples of your work and go further than just providing a few tidy lines of text about each project. Tell their stories. Write case studies. Include examples of prototyping or mockups you created. Describe the steps that they took and how your role ultimately helped your clients to reach their goals.

Most creative projects involve collaboration. People want to know what it’s going to be like working with you and how your skills and talents can help them. By telling these stories, they get a glimpse into your creative process and know what to expect if they hire you.

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How to create a free portfolio website

1. Start from scratch or begin with a template

You’ve selected the projects you want to include, written content, and figured out all of the features you want to be a part of your web design. Webflow helps you put the pieces together in creating your own online portfolio with no-code, from the most minimalist to the more elaborate and eye-catching designs. Take the first step with either a blank canvas or one of Webfow’s many templates.

With an intuitive interface and drag-and-drop functionality, you can customize and personalize your online portfolio to reflect who you are. Instead of getting stuck with a layout that you can’t change, you get the freedom to add in your own color scheme, pick out the right typography, and arrange the design elements in any way that you want. Even if you don’t have any design skills, you can craft a functional and visually appealing web design. If you already have design experience, you’ll find a host of tools to make your job easier.

From the simple to the most complex of web design elements, Webflow gives you the controls to add them to a layout. Create a flexbox or CSS, integrate dynamic effects like parallax scrolling, and build sophisticated animations through Webflow’s visual interface all without entering a single line of code.

Yes, your work should be the main focal point, and a design should provide the framework for experiencing it. But crafting a compelling user experience and flexing your creativity goes far in distinguishing yourself from everyone else. Especially if you’re a web developer, mobile app designer, or create other digital products, the way that your online portfolio looks and functions is a direct reflection of your own abilities. Put as much effort into your own design portfolio as you put into what you create for your clients.

2. Grow your personal brand

Branding isn’t only for big companies. Whether you’re a retail giant or a freelancer, branding shows your value and how you’re different from the competition. Branding takes your personality, knowledge, and talents and distills them into something that's easy to define.

Your online portfolio website is an extension of your own personal brand. It’s your chance to speak of who you are as a creative and what you have to offer that’s different from others working in your field. Let the truth of your own expertise and skills guide your personal brand. Authenticity is key.

The tone that you use to talk about you and your work, the photos you include of yourself, the illustrations that accompany your portfolio, and the work itself are all a part of your personal brand. Recognizing what this is requires self-awareness. Be real with yourself about who you are and what you create.

Without an element of personal branding, it’s hard to have a portfolio that stands out from the multitudes of others out there. Leave people with something that they’ll remember and want to come back to.

Having a strong personal brand lets you connect with clients looking for someone like you. Let’s say you’re a quirky designer who specializes in hand-drawn illustrations. Someone will know right away if you’re the right person for a job with just a quick look through your website. Personal branding lets you express your personality and your own aesthetic to appeal to those clients you’re best suited to work with. Or, if you're a good writer you can attract visitors to your website by blogging and utilizing Webflow's great SEO features.

Aileen Shin's clean portfolio showcases a few projects with large, quality visuals.
Aileen Shin's portfolio

3. Showcase the work you're proud of

Putting together a portfolio is more than just throwing together a bunch of unrelated projects you don’t care about. It’s your opportunity to show people the work that matters most to you. Focus on what you love to do so you can do more of it.

We’ve all worked on projects that weren’t quite right for us or don’t fit in with the larger body of work we’ve created. It’s okay to leave those out. Make sure that what you’re showing people has consistency and reflects who you are as a creative right now.

4. Publish your portfolio easily

Webflow makes it possible to go live with just a click of the Publish button. From either the designer or editor, publishing your website can happen in an instant. Publish to your own custom domain name or to Webflow’s — either way, it’s a simple process.

5. Keep your portfolio updated

Once you have a portfolio up and running, don’t just forget about it.

Your creative output changes over time. What was once your best work might not compare to what you’re doing now. Each project builds on what came before it.

Most creatives never stop deepening their knowledge and expanding their skills. Let your portfolio evolve as you do.

Keeping your portfolio current shouldn’t require a deep dive into a design in order to make changes. When you build your online portfolio with Webflow, you get the power of Webflow’s content management system (CMS). Featured projects can be built as a part of a CMS collection. The result is a templated block of content that only needs new text and images to change it up. Updating your portfolio, editing its content, and editing the design are all easy through Webflow.

This makes it easy to update the design and content of your portfolio as web design trends evolve. Behance, Dribbble, Webflow Showcase are all great places to check out to keep up with what's popular in design.

Alex Lingeman's portfolio hero clearly outlines his focus on detail, functionality and productivity.
Alex Lingeman's portfolio

Define your specialization and market your portfolio

Marketing yourself means knowing your niche. Define your area of specialization so that you can appeal to those clients you’d like to work with.

Maybe you’re a writer specializing in the health industry or a web developer who works comfortably in tech and the startup world. Stand out from the crowd of generalists by having a focus. Let all that you feature on your personal portfolio reflect your niche.

Of course, you may have a few different types of clients you’ve worked with, and it’s perfectly fine to include those in your body of work. Whatever the project, make sure it fits with your goals and shows off what you’re capable of.

Have a presence on social media like LinkedIn and Facebook and share your portfolio with your followers. Take out paid ads. Email contacts at your favorite companies a link to your portfolio. Link to it in job applications. Promote your portfolio to those who fall into your area of specialization.

A portfolio is a valuable tool in promoting your creative services. Have a focus and get it in front of the most eyes that you can.

Learn how to build a portfolio in Webflow in 21 days.

The word on Webflow

Sergie Magdalin

Co-founder, Webflow

As someone who looks at designer applicants daily, checking out a portfolio is one of the first things I do. I can get a sense of that person’s experience very quickly based on the project mocks they provide and how they present their information.

Mat Vogels

Co-founder, Zestful

The designer just needs some way of showing previous works without me asking for it. There are so many designers out there, if I can’t find their portfolio publicly I can’t reach out to them for work.

Jason Marder

Design Lead, Stripe

[Your portfolio] is the only place on the internet where you have full control over the medium AND the message.

Aileen Shin

UX Designer, Amazon

I wanted to communicate the process of my work through visual storytelling. Each project I've worked on has its own stories and learnings, and I wanted to capture that essence. Webflow provides all the tools I need to be as creative as I want, fast.