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The Importance of a Web-Based Portfolio



Summary

Web-based portfolios are an essential part of being a successful freelancer. In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways to create a web-based portfolio, what type of work to include, and why they’re so important.



What is a web-based portfolio?

A web-based portfolio is a website, social media profile, or account that is used to display a freelancer’s work for potential clients to see. Portfolios are most important for freelancers who do product-based work, like developers, artists, and builders. For freelancers who provide non-product-based services like management, loans, currency conversions, or advertisement, a portfolio may include vouches from customers, but typically these freelancers use resumes instead. Check back later to see a post all about resumes!



Why is a web-based portfolio so important?


Proof of Concept

First and foremost, a portfolio (of any type) proves to your potential clients that you know what you’re doing. It’s one thing to say it in an email or a private message, and another entirely to actually show people your skills; a portfolio enables you to back up your claims with proof of your ability and knowledge.


Style

For many product-based services, there is a very wide range of personal styles, genres, and sub-services. Sometimes, a client is looking for a very specific style or genre to fit their needs, and viewing past work is the easiest way for a client to tell whether a freelancer has experience with that style.


Client Trust and Confidence

A combination of the two reasons above, having a portfolio enables the client to trust you and your work. In this market, and most freelancing markets, clients don’t trust freelancers who don’t have a portfolio of some kind or another (or, if applicable, a resume).



What websites can I use?

When you’re creating a web-based portfolio, there are a lot of websites that already exist that you can use to display your work. Which site you use will depend on the services you provide.


Imgur and Behance: Both of these sites are used to display images. With both, you can organize images into albums, apply captions and tags to images, and input context for each image. These are often used by digital artists, render artists, builders, configurators, server setup specialists, GFX artists, and web designers, but they can be used by anyone whose work can be displayed via images.


Spigot, Bukkit, and Curseforge: These sites are used by Minecraft developers to publish their plugins or mods for others to download, use, and review. Many freelancing teams require that plugin or mod developers have a minimum number of published works, and these websites are a great way to do that. They also allow users to leave vouches and reviews on your profile, mods, or plugins. Typically, these are used as additions to another portfolio site (like GitHub or a personal site).


GitHub: This site is used to display raw code and project repositories. It can be used by any freelancer who works with code, such as bot, web, app, mod, and plugin developers, configurators, and Minecraft server setup specialists.


YouTube and Vimeo: These are video sharing sites that are often used by video editors, animators, and trailer creators to publish their work.


Google Drive: This is a great jack-of-all-trades place to store work. It can be used for anything, from videos, to images, to a Google Doc with a series of links, and can work well as a functional portfolio. However, it doesn’t look very visually appealing. This is our recommended option for storing embedded files and keeping a copy of all the work you do, but there are better options for visually appealing portfolios.

This being said, it’s definitely possible to make a good-looking Google Doc-based portfolio! Check back later to see a post about effectively formatting Google Docs.


Discord: Though niche, a Discord server can be used by Discord bot developers to show their bots in action. This also allows clients to interact with the bots.


Personal Websites: If you have the time to dedicate to creating and maintaining one, we strongly recommend that freelancers have personal websites as their portfolios.



Why should I use a personal website?

Though the websites and services listed above are acceptable formats for most freelancing portfolios, they aren’t the best option. Though they can cost more money or time, personal websites make a bigger impact and project more professionality than the sites above do. Even a simple landing page with links to your profiles on those sites is more impactful than just providing the links themselves.



How do I get a personal website?


Free Website Builders: If you don’t mind using a domain with a brand name in it, then the free plans on website builders are a fast, easy, and (usually) free way to make a portfolio. Simply make an account on a service like Weebly, Wordpress, Carrd, or Wix, and let the algorithm design a website for you (or design your own). The tradeoff here is that these websites aren’t usually very customizable beyond the built-in features, and the free websites always come with domain names like .weebly.com, .wordpress.com, or .wix.com.


Paid Website Builders: There are some website builders made specifically for portfolio websites, like Carbonmade. Other paid site builders include Squarespace and Webflow, and free website builders also include paid plans. These plans vary wildly from host to host, but most provide an acceptable amount of customizability, the ability to attach a custom domain (some even come with a complementary custom domain), and plenty of storage space. When going this route, make sure to research and compare the plans you’re interested in; look up user reviews, check out the support or Wiki pages, compare prices and features, and make sure they can do everything you need them to do. It's also important to note that you will most likely need to purchase a domain in addition to these plans.


Wordpress: Wordpress is a free, open-source backend website manager that allows you to install themes and plugins to design your own custom website. In order to run it, you’ll need to purchase either Wordpress or VPS hosting (see the difference here). Most major hosting services include a free domain for a year in their hosting plans, but if they don’t, you’ll also need to purchase a domain. Hosting plans like these, even if you buy a domain separately, are usually cheaper month-to-month than the paid plans on website builders. However, it requires more setup and maintenance on your end; although installing page builders like Elementor or Beaver on Wordpress is easy, as is installing a theme, there is no algorithm to create the website for you. Wordpress offers a lot more versatility and customization than sites like Weebly or Wix, but that comes with a steep increase in complexity.

Wordpress.org is a website manager, whereas wordpress.com is a website builder (most often used for blogs, though it has some great features for portfolios too) like Weebly or Wix.


Custom Websites: Though this is the most expensive option up-front, it’s also the most customized to your needs, and will always produce a unique and custom website. You will need to purchase both VPS web hosting and a domain name, and then you’ll hire a web developer to design and code your website to your exact specifications and needs. If you plan on keeping this website for a long time, this could also be cheaper in the long-term than using a paid website builder; typically, website creation is a one-time fee, and after that your only expenses are the hosting and domain name. Paid plans on sites like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Carbonmade, or Webflow can rack up a significant yearly cost, while the yearly costs for cheap hosting and domains can be comparatively small.

To make a commission with some of the best web developers on the market, join the Senior Team Discord server from the link in the navigation bar above!



How do I pick a domain name?

Picking a domain name for your new portfolio can be difficult. Generally, though, you want something that’s simple and identifiable, but also unique and catchy. Usually, using your username or initials and either the service you offer or “services” is a safe bet. For personal portfolios that will house IRL work, simply using your name (or a nickname) is often effective, and it's almost guaranteed that the domain will be available.


For example, I have two freelancing portfolio domains (since I use my writing portfolio for more than just freelancing). My “parent” portfolio, a Weebly site that has links to my portfolios and some info about me, is “noteservices” — my username, “Note,” plus “services.” My writing portfolio’s domain is “lkswriting” — my initials, “LKS,” plus the skill I’m showcasing, writing. And lastly, my “real life” portfolio with all of my IRL work is simply my name — “(first name)(middle initial)(last name).”


Once you have your domain name, it’s time to look at extensions (or TLDs). These are the things at the end of the domain, like “.com” or “.xyz.” The extension on your website domain can be just about anything; it’ll depend on what your domain host has available. To help out, here are some of the most common domain names that are great for portfolio sites, and some you should avoid.


Good Extensions:

.com: This is probably the most common extension across the internet. It’s simple, memorable, and professional. However, it’s also usually one of the most expensive.

.net: This is another common extension that has most of the same virtues as .com. It’s also fairly expensive.

.xyz: This extension is nice for portfolios because it’s simple and memorable, but it isn't as common as the two above. Typically, it’s not an expensive domain.

.me: This is a great extension for freelancers who use their (user)name dominantly in their branding, and works very well with a domain that’s simply your (user)name. Typically, it isn’t very expensive.

.portfolio: This is the flip side of the .me extension: it’s great for freelancers who use their services dominantly in their branding, and works well with domains that include “services” or the name of the service you offer. Typically, it isn’t very expensive.


Bad Extensions:

.io: There’s nothing inherently bad about this extension. However, due to the rise of “io games” using this extension, it reminds people of simple flash games, and therefore isn’t as professional as other extensions.

.org: Again, there’s nothing inherently bad about this extension, but freelancers just shouldn’t use it to advertise their services since it's typically used by non-profit organizations.



How do I decide what work to include?

Deciding what work to include on your portfolio can seem daunting, but there are a few general rules to follow that will make it easier for you.


Only display work that you’re proud of. If you aren’t proud of it, chances are it doesn’t showcase your skills as effectively as it could. If you realize you aren't proud of a piece of work you really like, then it might be a good idea to revisit the project and revise it so that it can be displayed!