I once met a freelance designer who didn’t have a portfolio. This blew my mind. How can a professional creative not have a folio? Was

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Which portfolio website is right for you?

I once met a freelance designer who didn’t have a portfolio. This blew my mind. How can a professional creative not have a folio? Was he mad?? Did he not want people to see his work??? Was it that he just couldn’t find the right portfolio website for him?

What I didn’t get at the time, until he plainly explained, is that he didn’t need one. His clients loved his work and regularly recommended him to other people, so he had no need for a folio. All his work came by word of mouth.

Fed up of making folios

He told me he’d made plenty of portfolios in his time and he was fed up of it. Now that I understand! Creating the work is the fun part but finding a way to present it online can be a paaaain. And writing case studies (especially if you don’t enjoy writing) is *the* worst.

But for the vast majority of us designers, photographers and creatives of all stripes, an impressive portfolio is essential to showcase our skills and talents to prospective clients. There’s just no getting around it. But with the endless ways you could present your work and an abundance of websites to host it, it’s not an easy thing to get started.

If you’ve settled on an online folio (certainly not a bad option – it seems this internet thing is sticking around), selecting the right platform is the first challenge. With so many options, which portfolio website is right for you? So to help, I’ve explored the options for you, some I’ve tried myself, others I’ve helped freelancers create for their own work. Let’s delve into the options and find the best fit for you!

Which portfolio website is right for you?

  1. Behance
    Cost: Free
    Time to set up: Moderate
    Skill needed: Beginner to Intermediate

Behance, a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, is a widely used platform among designers and was the place I held my very first folio back in 2011. It offers a sleek, easy to use interface that allows creatives to showcase their projects professionally.

With a large user base, Behance provides exposure to a wide audience, including potential clients and collaborators. Integration with other Adobe tools is a convenient feature for designers already utilising Adobe software.

  1. Dribbble
    Cost: Free with paid options available
    Time to set up: Quick
    Skill needed: Beginner to Intermediate

Another old haunt of mine. In the old days I never got Dribbble. It focuses on showcasing small snippets of work and encourages community feedback – and that’s what scared me. But the same thing that worried me back then is why I recommend it now.

It’s mainly focused on designers with a lean towards UX and UI. For someone starting out, it’s a great place to share work in progress and connect with other creatives. The project layout is limited which puts emphasis on the designs, making it easy for clients and employers to explore your visual style. Paid options offer additional features like job postings and portfolio customization.

  1. Cargo
    Cost: Free with paid options available
    Time to set up: Moderate
    Skill needed: Beginner to Intermediate

Cargo is a lesser-known cousin of folio sites that has gained popularity among creatives seeking a minimalistic and contemporary feel. The templates come in a wide variety of styles letting you create a unique look and feel with little effort. Its quiet cool allows your work to take center stage. I recommend this to freelancers who want an alternative vibe but still want a professional tool with plenty of features.

  1. Carbonmade
    Cost: Free with paid options available
    Time to set up: Quick
    Skill needed: Beginner

Carbonmade is a user-friendly portfolio website ideal for people who prefer simplicity and ease of use. Its clean and modern templates let your projects shine with little time and effort. The interface is simple, a bit Squarespacey, and the customisation options are intuitive, enabling you to match your portfolio to your unique style and branding.

The styles on the free account won’t blow you away but if you want a good looking site with minimal effort, this one’s for you!

  1. WordPress
    Cost: Free with paid options available
    Time to set up: Moderate
    Skill needed: Beginner to Intermediate

If you want more control over your presentation WordPress is for you. It’s a versatile CMS (content management system) that allows you to create customised portfolio website that reflect your own unique aesthetic.

It’s more involved than the other sites, you’ll need a URL and web hosting to get started, but once you’re set up WordPress’s wide range of themes and plugins allow you to create almost anything. Wysiwyg page builders like Elementor and Divi make customising your site straightforward and because of the wide user base, the internet is full of guides and tips for getting over any hurdles you may meet. I use WordPress for my sites and fully recommend it to creatives looking to build an effective folio site for themselves.

Bonus idea!

  1. Hiring a Web Designer and Paying a Trade of Service
    Cost: Varies (Paid service)
    Time to set up: Minimal (Dependent on the designer)
    Skill needed: None (Dependent on the designer)

For creatives who prefer a hands-off approach or desire a highly customised folio, hiring a professional web designer is an option to consider. By engaging a skilled designer, you can collaborate closely to create a bespoke portfolio website that perfectly aligns with your vision.

The cost of hiring a web designer varies depending on their experience and expertise but if you have a skill that could benefit them (and I know you do!) then offering a trade of service can be a great way to get your folio site made. This option saves you time and stress, ensures a polished and professionally designed portfolio website and will open up a relationship with a fellow creative.

Now it’s time to get started!

Until all your work comes by word of mouth, selecting a folio site is a crucial part of your online presence. Knowing which portfolio website is right for you is tough because there’s no right answer just plenty of options, even Instagram can work of you want it to (a bonus-bonus option for you!). The best option is one that’s right for you where you’re at now.

The options I’ve laid out offer different features and interfaces to suit various budgets, time frames and skill levels but if you’re still unsure what’s right for you, drop me an email at orwell@orwellmcg.com and I’ll help you make the first step.

Photo by Vale Zmeykov on Unsplash

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