How to Make an Online Portfolio [+ Tips, Examples, Guide]

Just like how arguments are more persuasive with supporting evidence, resumes and job applications are also more appealing with portfolios. 

But some may ask, what is a portfolio

By definition, a portfolio is a document of various materials compiled, that showcases both your personal and professional skills, qualifications, as well as education and work experiences.

Traditionally, a job applicant could present a physical copy of their own work portfolio to the recruiter. However, as we grow to be more and more dependent on technology, online portfolios have become the more common method of presentation. 

What sets an online portfolio apart from the conventional printed portfolio is that the collection of your works can be accessed on the web. Think of it as a personal webpage. An online portfolio could be used as a way to show and not just tell your potential employers about your skills. 

By using a portfolio, you can demonstrate and show the evidence of the skills you have written on your resume. Having an online portfolio of your various skills and previous works could help you stand out among other applicants during a job search.

What is an online portfolio?

An online portfolio (or also known as digital portfolio) is a document which summarizes your qualifications and is presented online on a digital portfolio website. Online portfolios are more advanced in a way, as they are able to present a wider variety of contents compared to paper portfolios.

Videos, audios and links to other sites or resumes could be included in an online portfolio; a feature not available if you choose to go for paper portfolios. Online portfolios are also just a link-click away from anyone all over the world, hence allowing your works to gain exposure more easily.

⚠️  Attention

In the field of finance, the term portfolio (or also known as investment portfolio) is used to describe one’s collection of financial investment products such as stocks, bonds, commodities and other assets like real estate or art.

The main purpose of an online portfolio is to showcase yourself - your skills, experiences, passion and potential - in a compelling, creative, interesting and convenient way. Having a professional portfolio increases your credibility, as it allows employers to see the evidence of what you tell them on your resume or during your interview.

Showing your works through a professional portfolio also allows potential employers and/or potential clients to imagine what it would be like to work with you, which could be more intriguing and persuasive than just words.

Personal Portfolio vs. Professional Portfolio

An important point to consider before you start to create your online portfolio is which kind of portfolio you are going to make. Generally, based on the style and formality degree, portfolios can be classified into two general categories: personal portfolio and professional portfolio.

Simply put, a personal portfolio is made for the main purpose of personal branding and self-promotion. The style of this portfolio can be more casual, as it is meant to show your personality through the aesthetics and word choices of the portfolio. The works that you would include in your personal portfolio would also be the ones that portray you the best.

Meanwhile, a professional portfolio would be catered to an audience who requires you to be more formal, and they should be more persuasive than a personal portfolio because you want your professional portfolio to help increase your chances of getting hired. A professional portfolio should be tailored to the requirements of the job position that you are applying for. This is important because not all of your work can be relevant to every job, and you want to include only the ones that can help you shine more.

Check out these Online Portfolio Examples!

Who needs an online portfolio?

Everyone, no matter in which career field or for what purpose, can benefit from having a personal online portfolio.

If you work in the creative industry, such as arts, interior design, architecture, graphic design, photography or videography and writing, having a career portfolio is essential. Writers, teachers, models and other professions that rely on visuals also require a portfolio for job search and also personal branding purposes. Employers and potential clients view your work portfolio to know your background, experiences and how well you did in those previous experiences.

If you are applying for college or scholarships, your online portfolio can become a tool to promote yourself. If all the conditions previously mentioned do not apply to you, keeping a career portfolio can still serve as an archive for all your accomplishments. This will come in handy when it is time to go for a promotion or for unexpected situations like change of jobs, as compiling all the data into a nice portfolio design might take quite a while.

How to build a professional work portfolio

Your work portfolio is your tool to impress employers, so you want to make sure that your portfolio helps you shine and not the other way around. There are many factors to consider when creating your very own professional portfolio, such as what materials to include in the portfolio, the portfolio design, as well as what and how much text to include in your portfolio. But worry not, as it can be easier than you imagine it to be. Follow these 5 steps to create your own great online professional portfolio:

Step 1. Gather your portfolio ideas

It is important for your online portfolio to be aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-read, so that it catches the eye of your audience and can look through it with ease. You could check out some online portfolio examples created by Cake users or see countless of different portfolio ideas with a simple search on Google to find a good reference when creating your own online portfolio.

💡 TIP:

Maintaining a consistent font style and color palette throughout your portfolio design makes your digital portfolio more pleasant to the eyes. Creating a mood board is a great way to systematically gather ideas for these elements (the theme, fonts and color).

Step 2. Choose a design that best suits your style and needs

The attractiveness of your online portfolio design plays a big role in improving the quality of your portfolio. Nobody wants to look at an ugly, crowded and disorganized document, with hard to read fonts and incomprehensive text.

Different kinds of portfolios may need different kinds of design layout to deliver the contents in the best way possible. Make sure to find a layout design that can present your work best.

Step 3. Find a suitable channel/platform to create your online portfolio

Creating an easy-to-read, eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing yet professional portfolio can be daunting and tricky. Thankfully, many online portfolio websites offer tools that are easy to navigate, allowing portfolio-making to become easy and accessible to anyone from all backgrounds. Check out these great online portfolio maker platforms:

   1.   Cake

Cake is a free online portfolio website which also provides a resume builder tool. In Cake, you will be able to link your online portfolio to your digital resume, and easily include them to your job application with a link. This makes it suitable for not only creative professionals, but also other professionals who would like to strengthen job application with a digital portfolio.

UI/UX Design Portfolio by Rooni Shiu on Cake
UI/UX Design Portfolio by Rooni Shiu on Cake

The free online portfolio maker in Cake allows users to create multiple portfolios under their profile, allowing them to organize and highlight different projects in a way that is most efficient and convenient for viewing.

Xin Tong’s portfolio page on Cake

🔑  Key features:

  • Tools include: Single image, image grid, text, embed links, HUD background color picker,  spacing between contents
  • Option for portfolio to be linked to digital resume for convenient job application
  • One user can create multiple portfolios
  • FREE for registered users

   2.   Behance

Behance is a free portfolio website where creators can showcase and discover other creative works done by other creators. On Behance, users’ works which are made public will appear on the homepage of the website, allowing all website visitors and the online portfolio link visitors to view the works.

Behance homepage

🔑  Key features:

  • Tools include: Single image, photo grid, text, video/audio file, HUD background color picker, import images from Adobe Lightroom
  • One user can create multiple portfolios
  • FREE for registered users

   3.   Dribbble

Dribbble is a social networking platform that is often used as a design portfolio platform by digital designers & artists. Dribble allows users to showcase ready-made works in 4:3 size ratio by uploading the single image onto the platform as postings called “Shots”. On a user profile page, the shots are displayed as thumbnails, and viewers could click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image and view any descriptions provided by the creator.

Example of an online illustration portfolio/user profile page on Dribbble by Meghdeep Sarkar

🔑  Key features:

  • Use of social media-style profile page as an online portfolio page
  • Allows single images upload

Step 4. Showcase your best work/projects

It is important to use a moderate amount of material. You do not want to include unnecessary materials, but you also want to show potential employers what you have got.

For most online portfolio making websites, the most basic action for you to do would be to upload the relevant files onto the platform. The next step is to lay out the files so that they are convenient to view. Sometimes, aside from visual aids, some text descriptions would be necessary as well. It helps the readers better understand the ideas and process behind your creations.

Take a look at these DOs & DON’Ts when compiling the materials for your professional portfolio:

🟢  DOs

  • Put only relevant and useful material that can help highlight your skills and show off your best works to impress your potential employer/client.
  • Be concise, but make sure your audience gets an insight into your thought process. Some things you can include: date of project, project brief & concept introduction, project goals, clients & credits.

❌  DON'Ts

  • Put too many/ALL of your materials, making your portfolio design layout too crowded and hard to read.
  • Write a whole analytical report. It messes with your portfolio layout and nobody has the time to read all of them anyway. Let’s be honest, pictures sometimes do speak louder than words.

Step 5. Maintain your portfolio

After creating your online portfolio, the last thing you want to do is abandon it. Just like a resume, a portfolio needs to be continually updated. Online portfolios are not a one-time-use document — they remain on the Internet (unless you take them down, of course), and they can be viewed over and over again, even if you are not actively applying for jobs. As time goes by, your biodata changes, you work on new projects and achieve new milestones. Make sure to continually update your online portfolio so that it represents your most recent self.

What to include in an online portfolio (+ tips for 15 different portfolios)

Perhaps the longest, most dreadful and most complicated part of putting together an online portfolio is deciding what to include in your portfolio. You definitely do not want to include too much, but then how much is enough? Take a look below for tips on what to include in an online portfolio, according to portfolio types and professions.

1. Career Portfolio

A career portfolio can be useful during job search. It includes anything that is relevant to your profession, that can emphasize your experiences, skills, eagerness, potential and personality to your potential employers. You can think of it as a documentation of your career journey and growth.

As there are so many aspects to your career, you might not know where to start and how to make a career portfolio concise yet efficient. Check out these points below to know what to include in a career portfolio:

  • About me page
  • Up-to-date resume
  • Official transcripts/student records
  • Certificates or licenses from tests, trainings, professional workshops
  • Written references/letters of recommendation
  • Photos/videos of you at work or other relevant activities that could show your personality & skills
  • Previous work samples, such as photographs, drawings, writings

2. Interview Portfolio

An interview portfolio is a secret weapon to help boost your confidence and make a great impression during your interview. Technically, an interview portfolio is a compilation of the supporting evidence or artifacts that can show that the stuff you wrote on your resume are real, and that you did them well.

These are some materials to help you consider what to include in a portfolio for an interview:

  • Up-to-date resume. Even though passing for the interview means recruiters have reviewed your resume, you could still include a copy just in case you need to refer back to them during the interview.
  • Certificates or licenses as evidence of the skills required for the job (i.e. TOEFL/TOEIC, DELE or other language test certificate & scores, or other professional training certificates
  • Work samples that are relevant to the job you are applying for (i.e. programs of events you planned, infographics of your work performances, etc)
  • Documentation pictures of your previous experiences

3. Graphic Design Portfolio

To land a position, get hired by a client or get into graphic design degree programs, a graphic design portfolio is always required. Even though you have not had any paid work experience, there are still many materials that you can incorporate into your graphic design portfolio. Take a look at these tips on how to make a graphic design portfolio and what to include in a graphic design portfolio:

  • About me page
  • A previous work that you are most proud of, to show recruiters what your personality is like, your design style and what your passions are
  • A work for your best client. Don’t be afraid to show off — noone is going to know about your achievements if you do not tell them
  • Something eye-catching and different from others — like a funny statement or pop-up animation, to leave an impression and make your portfolio stand out
  • Brief introduction about your thought process & inspiration for every work you included

You could also check out these Graphic Design Portfolio Examples.

4. UI/UX Design Portfolio

Although UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) are very closely related in their work, both are separate fields and require different portfolios. Both would require a UI designer portfolio or a UX designer portfolio for job for client search and also personal branding. Though, compared to other design fields, a UX designer portfolio should include slightly different components, such as a brief explanation of the case study and work process of the projects that are introduced in the UX design portfolio.

Check out these tips of what to include in a UI/UX designer portfolio:

  • About me page
  • Images of your previous work. Make sure that each projects’ graphics showcase the important highlights of your work and are not repetitive/similar-looking, as it could bore your portfolio’s viewers
  • A brief case study for each work. You could include a few details on your research findings, the challenges you faced when working on the project and a summary of what was successful.

Or, you could also check out these UX Portfolio Examples.

5. Teaching Portfolio

Unless your recruiters are your students, it must be quite a challenge for recruiters to know and understand your teaching skills. It should be equally difficult for you to show your skills to the recruiters prior to a teaching demo. This is why teaching professionals should use a teaching portfolio to give recruiters a glimpse into your techniques and methods during the application process.

Check out the list below to know what to include in a teaching portfolio:

  • Up-to-date resume
  • A teaching statement which includes your expectations, values and principles, achievements or any related awards, grants and fellowships.
  • Evidence of effective teaching which can include evaluations from students & colleagues, or statements of appreciation from your past or current students
  • Teaching products, such as workbooks, creative works, publication or students’ reflective journals that relates to your teaching expertise

6. Art Portfolio

Art is a broad field with countless mediums, so different artists require different kinds of portfolios. A digital artist requires a digital art portfolio, a 3D artist requires a 3D artist portfolio, and so on.

Take a look down below for tips on how to make an art portfolio and what to include in an art portfolio.

  • About me page
  • Artworks of multiple mediums and techniques, to show your ability and style diversity
  • Artworks that are inspired by your experiences, to show your personality

💡 TIP:

Photos of non-photograph artworks (i.e. paintings, sculptures) should be taken clearly and from different angles, but only include the good and important sides.

Additionally, you could check out these Artist Portfolio Examples.

7. Marketing Portfolio

Consider including these things in your marketing portfolio:

Whether you work in traditional marketing, digital marketing, social media marketing or any field of marketing, having a marketing portfolio is a great tool to promote your achievements and skills. If you are a digital marketer, using a digital marketing portfolio is a great method to showcase your digital skills as well.

  • Up-to-date resume, with a short introductory paragraph and mission statement (why you find your work meaningful)
  • Contact information
  • Visual images of your most successful projects (event photographs, social media posts, etc.) accompanied by brief explanations of the thought process and methods used for the project.
  • Metrics or infographics that show how well your projects performed
  • Positive testimonials and review from previous clients, to assure recruiters of your ability
  • Awards & recognitions in the related field

Check out these Marketing Portfolio Examples.

8. Writing Portfolio

For writers, the best way to show prospective employers your skills is by showing them your previous works. This is why a writing portfolio is very important for all writers, be it journalists, copywriters, students or aspiring writers and even bloggers. As the term “portfolio” is normally associated with graphics and visuals, many writers might not realize that the profession requires one as well.

Take a look down below to know what to include in a writing/copywriting portfolio:

  • Up-to-date resume
  • About me/self introduction page that briefly tells your personal background
  • Social media where you post written content or any sort of writing that can showcase your style or creativity, such as Twitter
  • Your writings
  • Relevant and eye-catching thumbnails for each writing

💡 TIP:

You can classify your writings into categories such as by writing type, topic or time created, making it easier for the recruiter to find the most relevant writing work that interests them.

9. Nursing Portfolio

Newbies and experienced nurses alike require a nursing portfolio during a job search. It allows future employers to confirm the credentials you wrote on your resume or in other words, increases your credibility.

If you are not sure about what to include in a nursing portfolio, consider these materials that can help you stand out:

  • Up-to-date resume
  • Health records
  • Certification cards (i.e. CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support), BLS (Basic Life Support), PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support), NALS (Neonatal Advanced Life Support), or other relevant certificates.
  • Letters of recommendation and appreciation

10. Photography Portfolio

An online photography portfolio is a simple and quick way to share your photography works to potential clients. Aside from your photographs, of course there are a few other important elements to include to make your portfolio more effective in attracting clients. 

Check out these important tips components to know how to make a photography portfolio and know what to include in a photography portfolio:

  • Brief about me page that shows your personality and style
  • Publications, features and clients history
  • An up-to-date contact information, so that recruiters know how to reach you
  • Your social media handles that showcase your photography works, such as Instagram and Tumblr
  • Your past works
  • Categorize your photograph works so that you can easily present relevant works to relevant clients. You do not want to show a bride-to-be pictures you took at a corporate event
  • Include only your best works
  • Use images that are consistent with your style

You could also take a look at these Photography Portfolio Examples.

11. Architecture Portfolio/Interior Design Portfolio

Impressing potential employers with your portfolio does not only require great architecture skills. What is more important is to present those skills well with an engaging architecture portfolio. Having a great architecture portfolio shows employers that besides having great skills, you could also communicate your thoughts well, which is an important skill to have in any work field.

Take a look at the points listed below to know how to make an architecture portfolio:

  • An appealing, concise, up-to-date resume
  • Your best and most relevant architecture works/projects. Include a brief description of your design concept, to give recruiters a glimpse of your personality, logical thinking and thought process. You could also include a few process sketches to help elaborate your work process.
  • Any design or art-related works can be helpful too. If you have a passion for fields such as painting, sculpting or photography, they can be a powerful addition to your work portfolio.

💡  TIP:

Use consistent layout, grid, font and color pallete, as they should not distract the attention from your actual works.

12. Model Portfolio

To land gigs or get signed by a modeling agency, models rely on portfolios. This is to show recruiters and agencies what works you have done, your versatility and the different looks you can pull off.

Take a look below to get an idea on how to make a modeling portfolio and what items to include in your model portfolio:

  • An up-to-date resume and contact information, so they know how to get in contact with you if they want to work with you
  • A beauty shot or clean head shot (with minimum to no makeup and no smile)
  • A good full-length body shot, that clearly shows your body figure/built
  • Swimsuit shot, if you are of age and are comfortable with showing a bit of skin
  • Editorial fashion shot, for fashion models
  • Commercial shot, for commercial models
  • A smiling shot, because recruiters would want to see how you look smiling and also your teeth
  • A closing shot which is strong and could be a little different from your opening beauty/clean head shot. Last impressions are as important as first impressions!

13. Web Developer Portfolio

Web developers can use various methods to showcase their works on an online platform. For a front end developer portfolio, introductions of the works can be compiled and presented in a single page online portfolio. On the other hand, programmer portfolios could utilize platforms like Github or a personal webpage to showcase their skills. Here are some other materials to consider putting into a web developer portfolio:

  • Up-to-date resume
  • Newest contact information
  • About me page
  • Your past projects. It can be a blog, an HTML5 game or a website
  • Relevant social media profiles, such as Github, or personal website
  • Any awards or recognitions you have gotten in the past, but make sure they are relevant to the position that you are applying for

14. Acting Portfolio

When working as an actor, having an acting portfolio is pretty much a requirement. An acting portfolio allows you to show your abilities and diversity. No matter if you have zero experience or have worked in various works before, consider these elements to include into your professional acting portfolio:

  • An up-to-date resume, that also includes your professional headshot, physical size and appearance (height, weight, hair and eye color), and acting credits
  • A couple more headshots, with expressions that vary and are tailored to the role you are applying for
  • Demo reel, which includes footage from your previous acting works (can be shot in a theater, or clips from a film or TV, or online media), or you can film yourself acting a script.

15. Freelancer Portfolio

An online portfolio is an essential document for all freelancers. Does not matter if you are a writer (creative, content or copywriter), designer (graphic, interior design, UI/UX), illustrator, content marketer, web designer or developer, you will need a portfolio to persuade your potential clients to work with you. 

Here are a few things that you can include into your freelancer portfolio:

  • About me page that directly tells who you are and what you do
  • Up-to-date resume and contact information, so that potential clients can reach you easily
  • Past projects and clients that you have worked with, with relevant and attractive pictures and infographics
  • You could also include a few personal projects. This can help showcase your personality, style, passion and potential
  • Any features and testimonials from your past or current clients that can help improve credibility and increase chances of getting hired

Summary/Key Takeaways

What is an online portfolio?

An online portfolio is a compilation of artifacts of any kind from your previous works and can exemplify your skills and qualifications for the purposes of personal-branding, job hunt or even personal record.

Why is having an online portfolio important?

  • During a job application, having an online portfolio increases an applicant’s credibility and makes resumes more powerful with backing evidence, hence increasing chances of hiring. Keeping an online portfolio helps you keep track of your achievements, skills and milestones. 
  • Outside of a job application, online portfolios can also be useful when negotiating a promotion at work. 
  • For freelancers, a portfolio showing previous projects and works helps in increasing potential clients’ trust and confidence in your works.

How to make an online portfolio?

  • Step 1. Gather your portfolio ideas
  • Step 2. Choose a design that best suits your style and need
  • Step 3. Find a suitable channel/platform to create your online portfolio
  • Step 4. Showcase your best work/projects
  • Step 5. Maintain your portfolio

What to include in a career portfolio?

The key is to tailor your portfolio content to the job application requirements and to include only works that you feel confident of, and are relevant to the job. The key to narrowing down the materials to include in your portfolio could differ depending on your profession and the kind of portfolio that you wish to create.

Now that you know the steps and what to include in your own professional online portfolio, the last thing left to do is to START creating your very own professional online portfolio. Showcase your great works in a great portfolio, and you will surely be on the right track to achieving your dream career.

✨  Good luck! ✨ 

Create your very own, unique and outstanding online portfolio! 💪🏼


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