Because you can’t just let your portfolio sit there and do nothing, you have to actively make it work for you, and attract the kind of interest that allows you to win new projects and grow your business.
Teaming up with website-building tool Squarespace, here are Creative Boom’s top tips on how to promote your online portfolio and win more work…
Add links to everything
How can people know about your portfolio if you’re not continually pointing them to it? Add your website link to your email signature, link it from your social media profiles and add to all your stationery, like your business cards.
Get yourself optimised
First and foremost, is your portfolio SEO-friendly? Is it naturally going to attract people via the search engines? You need to get to grips with the basics of SEO to boost organic traffic.
There’s certainly too much to cover here, so we recommend reading MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Hey, no one’s going to do this for you. So roll your sleeves up and learn some essential new skills.
But before you do that, an easy first step is to consider your portfolio’s main keyword. It could be something like “Graphic Designer Manchester”, or it might be “Web Developer Brighton”. But don’t just guess it. Discover which keywords are going to get you the best results via helpful tools such as Wordtracker or Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
Make some helpful friends
Networking online can lead to many opportunities, so make yourself active on social media and create some useful allies. Follow those whose work you admire and do them the odd favour by retweeting or sharing their updates. You never know, they might repay you someday.
You should also follow the kind of brands and companies you’d like to work with and make their acquaintance. Don’t be afraid to tweet them and build a relationship. It’s a way of marketing yourself and could lead to new clients.
Add a blog and get SEO-friendly with your copy
Content is the way you market yourself these days. You need to give people a compelling reason to visit your portfolio and talk about it. So if you’ve not done so already, add a blog to your portfolio and start writing, sharing your content via social media.
Write about yourself and what you’re getting up to, yes. Even better, add some articles where you share tips and advice surrounding your profession. Think about the kind of things people will want to click on and also share with their followers.
For example, photographer Nicholas Goodden wrote an Easy Tips For A Better Photography Website the other day, and that got our attention, so we retweeted it to our 63,000+ Twitter followers. Blog posts like this can go viral and get in front of someone who happens to be thinking about hiring a photographer.
Of course, blogging is also great for SEO. Every time you add fresh content to your website, it’s like you’re saying “Hey Google! Get your crawler bots over here love, and see what’s new!” Google will reward you if you’re writing regular stuff within the context of what your website’s about. For example, if you’re a graphic designer – write about graphic design — a lot.
One other golden nugget of advice when it comes to writing SEO-friendly content, consider your blog post title as your primary keyword — got that? Now keep that long-tail keyword in mind throughout your entire post. Don’t just think you have to repeat it, littered throughout the copy. Instead, write words and phrases associated with that keyword. For example, if you’re writing about graphic design, add words like “graphic designer”, “graphics” and “designs”.
You should naturally write in this way, but if you’re keen to be as SEO-friendly as possible, search for your keyword on Wikipedia and take inspiration from the type of words featured there. Just remember that you’re predominantly writing for humans, so your copy has to appeal to people first and foremost.
Update your work frequently and share it
Going on the theme of content via a blog, you should also regularly add new work to your portfolio, and then share it through all your social channels.
You should also deploy new portfolio pieces to sites like Behance, Flickr, Dribble and deviantART. With Flickr, you can also add your work to ‘group pools’ run by established art and design blogs, such as Fuel Your Creativity or Design Shard, as these are shared with their thousands of followers.
Add yourself to some directories
If your audience happens to be in the creative industries and you’re trying to seek work from agencies, then check out online directories via places like The Drum, Creative Review and Creative Pool. They cost money, and you’ll have to ensure you keep them regularly updated, competing against other listings.
I’m not sure these are the most effective ways to market yourself as these kinds of networks tend to be overlooked or are very niche. They assume that everyone will look at that directory and that alone. Which certainly isn’t the case. Only Facebook does that very effectively. However, why not cast the net that little bit further.
Do some of your PR
Public relations is about reputation. It’s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It’s about raising your profile in front of your target audience.
In which case, consider writing a press release about your business - see our How to write a press release tips - and pick out the latest news about your products or services. Have you just launched a new web design? Have you taken on a new client? Think about what the online journalists might find interesting and send them all the information they need.
Most of the time though, you’ll just be looking at submitting your latest work to websites such as It’s Nice That, Form Fifty Five or Booooooom. Getting featured on these kinds of blogs, including Creative Boom, can put you in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and that’s priceless promotion.
One other tip. On your portfolio site, make it easy for journalists and bloggers to share your work on their websites if they discover you. Add a thorough bio, describing who you are, what you do, and who you’ve worked for. Make your images large and easy to download and share. Because the more you allow your work to be shared, the better. Just ask people to ensure they always give credit and link back to your portfolio.
Carry out some side projects or give away something for free
An online portfolio alone might not get you the attention you seek, so consider starting something on the sidelines that will make people want to follow you. That’s one of the reasons why I started Creative Boom in 2009.
Illustrator Alex Mathers is a fantastic example. He doesn’t just run a blog to showcase the work of other creatives via Ape on the Moon; he’s also the genius behind Red Lemon Club, a helpful blog where he shares tips for creatives and even gives away lots of handy e-books. The result? Alex nearly has over 100,000 Twitter followers, and his career is skyrocketing.
What can you do on the sidelines that will attract that kind of attention? Because no one is going to hand it to you on a plate. If you want to promote your portfolio, you’ve got to get creative and do something that will make you stand out.
Get physically networking and do some talks
Now is not the time to be shy. Your town or city should have plenty of local events where you can network with other freelancers and agency owners. Go on Meetup to find some suitable events.
Once you’ve attended a few, you’ll notice that some have opportunities to talk. Be brave and put yourself forward as a speaker. It’s a chance to make a name for yourself and raise your profile on the local scene. Read our Alternative Guide to Public Speaking to refine your presentation skills.
Become a guest writer
There’s no harm in making friends with bloggers and online magazines, writing content for their sites. If you’re looking for inspiration on which ones to write for, you should first consider where your target audience might be active.
For some inspiration, you might approach some of the more famous blogs like Life Hack or SitePoint. You could even become an instructor at something like Tuts+. However, these larger sites tend to have a low acceptance rate and might take ages to respond to your request. In which case, check out sites like A List Apart or Noupe who also accept contributors.
Or approach the founder/editor of the blog you love, and ask if they’ll accept guest articles. It does no harm to ask, and you’ll be getting you and your online portfolio in front of a much wider audience.
Co-work or hot-desk
One final tip is to get yourself away from home and join a co-working space. You’ll not only make friends and be able to network your business; you’ll hopefully get lots of referrals from other freelancers who work there.
Central Working is a growing community of co-working spaces with four venues in London and one just launched in Manchester. It’s one of those impressive offerings where you don’t just get a desk; you also get access to business support and networking events. If you are in London, then the Co-Working London website lists all available spaces across the capital.
One Final Note
If you enjoyed these tips, then look out for the final article in this four-part series brought to you by Creative Boom in association with Squarespace, the website publishing platform that makes it easy to create beautiful websites, portfolios, blogs and online stores.
For a short time only, Creative Boom readers can benefit from 10% off their first purchase using the code: CREATIVEBOOM.