How to build a better portfolio website and win more work - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

A portfolio website is a must if you’re a freelance designer looking for work. If you’re just starting your freelance career and need to build a portfolio site from scratch, or you’re an existing freelance who’s looking to improve their current site, then this guide is for you.

We’ll look at how you can ensure you showcase your work in the best possible way, and explore ways to attract the highest number of client leads.

Let’s get started.

1. The portfolio itself

Your portfolio is always going to be the centrepiece of this kind of website, and fortunately it’s pretty easy to get things right.

Make sure you include large, clear screenshots of the work that you’re must proud of. There’s no need to overdo it – one or two images per project should do.

You should also include a brief description of the project. Make sure to mention what the client needed from a website and how you were able to meet those needs. It’s also important to include a link to the sites in your portfolio as potential clients may want to see the sites you’ve created in action.

If you haven’t actually done any paid work yet, then you can always include sites you’ve created as part of your studies, or any hobby sites you may have created.

It’s up to you whether you take on any unpaid work to build your portfolio.

2. Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the most powerful marketing tools out there, and the best thing is they cost very little to gather and add to your site.

The best testimonials will show potential clients that you’ve already helped people like them get the website they need.

So when you’re asking someone for a testimonial, don’t just ask for praise, ask them to explain why they were looking for a new website, and the positive impact the site you built has had on their business.

That way, potential clients looking at your site can be sure that you’ll be able to provide what they need.

Consider including testimonials on your homepage and/or alongside the example sites in your portfolios.

We’ve only really touched the surface here skimmed the surface on testimonials, so we recommend checking out this guide to learn more about how to gather them and use them on your website.

3. Your contact form

Having a contact form on your site is a no-brainer. But how much thought have you given to how your contact form is actually performing?

A confusing or overly long contact form might actually be costing you clients. So ensure your contact form (and page) are as good as they can be.

Here are some general rules.

  • Make sure people know why they should contact you – focus the copy on the contact page what will happen next (ie you’ll contact them to discuss their project/provide a quote.)

  • Keep the form as short as possible. Longer forms are less likely to be filled in. If possible, stick to name, email address and perhaps phone number. There is a case for including a box where people can briefly outline their website needs, but you need to way the usefulness of this extra information against the possibility that some potential clients will opt not to contact you.

  • Offer an alternative contact method. Even if your form is short, not everyone will want to fill it in. Include an email address and phone number so people have another way to get in touch.

4. Create some lead bait

Although some people will happily pop over to your contact form and get in touch, other potential clients will need a bit more convincing.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create a piece of lead bait – something that you can offer in exchange for the email address of a potential client.

For lead bait to be successful it needs to be relevant to your business, and to the interests of your potential client.

So viable ideas would include an ebook on how to improve ecommerce sales through better design, a case study on how a new website can grow an existing business, or a beginners guide to split testing.

Now, you may be thinking that if you give away all your best stuff for free, why would anyone want to pay you for it?

Well, even if you were to publish a complete guide on how to build an ecommerce website, how many people do you think would have the time and inclination to create their own ecommerce site?

A handful at most, and they may have gone done that route anyway. And for the other people, you’ve positioned yourself as an expert who understands their needs.

So create something useful, give it away for free and then follow up with potential leads via the email addresses you’ve gather.

You can learn more about using gated content in this guide.

5. Consider blogging

Blogging has lost some of its power in recent years both because of the proliferation of social media, and the proliferation the number of bloggers.

But although it takes a bit more effort to cut through the noise, a blog can still add value to your portfolio website.

Make sure you keep things focused, and add regular updates. You may want to make projects you’re working on the main topic of the blog, as that way it will complement your portfolio and give you another way of showcasing your work to potential clients.

6. Promotion

The perfect portfolio site won’t win you any work if it’s never seen by anyone. That means you need to focus on promoting your site.

At the most basic level, this means being active on social media (perhaps with a focus on Facebook and Twitter) so you can share your blog articles and lead bait content with people.

You should also give serious consideration to paid promotion. You can try selling your services directly through AdWords, although you’ll probably want to make sure you bid on less competitive terms to keep costs down.

It’s also a good idea to promote your link bait content via paid social media ads. Facebook has some very good (and very specific) targeting options, which can help you get your content in front of specific audiences.

You can learn more about using AdWords in this guide, and you can learn about Facebook advertising here.

Summing up

Sometimes it can be tempting to treat your portfolio site as a secondary concern, after your clients’ sites.

However, a good portfolio site will ensure a steady stream of work, so make sure it’s never neglected.

Tweaks and updates to keep it fresh (mixed in with split tests to make sure your improvements really are improvements) will make sure your portfolio site keeps wowing potential clients.

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