What Is A Portfolio? Why Every Web Designer NEEDS One & 5 Tips To Make Yours Stand Out

Designer holding a cup of tea while looking at her portfolio in a laptop

Nowadays, it's not enough to have a resume and leave it at that. Especially when you work in design, the arts, or other similar creative endeavors. I have heard a lot of people talk about their ‘portfolio,' but what exactly Is a portfolio? 

A portfolio is a collection of work, ranging from photographs, drawings, writings, earnings statements, and any other physical document that can support proof of your skills, education, and background. It showcases your talents. 

Web designers attract clients and employers by building strong portfolios that sincerely represent who they are and what kind of work you can do. Just like with resumes, employers and clients like to see something novel and new when perusing the stacks of portfolios. I discovered several ways to make your portfolio stand out above the crowd.

What is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of documents and materials that best represents your skills, beliefs, education, and ethics. Having a well-crafted portfolio can increase the likelihood of being hired by a desirable employer and can help guide the initial interview process.

What are the Parts of a Portfolio?

Now that we’ve answered the surface of the question, “What is a portfolio?”, let’s explore portfolios in greater detail.

A portfolio consists of seven vital parts, and each piece contributes significantly to the impression you give prospective employers. The seven crucial components of every portfolio are:

  1. Statement of Originality. This section is a short paragraph stating that you have not plagiarised any of the work contained within your portfolio.
  2. Work Philosophy. A statement of beliefs when it comes to the workplace and personal work ethics.
  3. Career Goals. Where do you plan to be within the next five years?
  4. Resume. The basis for any good portfolio is an outstanding resume.
  5. Skill Areas. Think about three to five broad skill sets you perform exceptionally. Perhaps you have insanely good accounting or customer service skills you'd like to mention.
  6. Certifications & Degrees. Include copies of all certifications, degrees, diplomas, and awards that are relevant to your line of work.
  7. Work Samples. While it is recommended to submit finished samples within this section, keep in mind that it is acceptable also to include unfinished work samples as well.

A portfolio can be both a physical object, such as documents placed inside of a binder, or a digital representation, such as a website.

What is a Web Designer?

Web designer working on the laptop

​Image Source: Pixabay

A web designer is a professional who is responsible for designing the look, layout, and the efficiency of a website. Most beginning web designers do freelance work, and often, this work is done free of charge. After building a positive reputation and creating enough work to begin building a strong portfolio, a web designer can earn an average salary of $52,000.

How do You Become a Web Designer?

Most web designers begin their careers with a keen interest in website creation and design! There are many free and paid lessons, tutorials, and classes online for those who are interested in becoming a web designer!

​There are a few essential things that every novice web designer must master before they can become successful.

  1. Study the right skills. These include HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, and more.
  2. Start simply. When creating your first sites, it can be helpful to use PHP and MySQL.
  3. Keep things efficient. Think about your user interface. Improve bandwidth as necessary, and keep things aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Once you have mastered the necessary skills, you need only follow your interests and passions, and study the programs and skills that captivate you. Employers and clients are far more likely to hire someone who seems happy to learn new techniques than someone ends their technical education at HTML.

Many web designers struggle financially for the first several months or years of their career, but patience and hard work can pay off in a lifelong dream career that allows you to create, dream digitally, and innovate.

Why Does a Web Designer Need a Portfolio?

making portfolio on a laptop

Image Source: Pexels

“What is a portfolio? Why do I need it?” asked the web designer, nervously wringing his paper resume between his hands.

While a resume is entirely satisfactory for applying to most jobs, web design is not like most jobs. To begin with, most web designers initially work without any contract, for very little or no pay, and struggle to make ends meet. Being an excellent web designer is 50% technical skills and knowledge, and 50% creativity and understanding of the market and client. Employers and clients need to see what they're working with, and a portfolio can provide the visual proof that a resume cannot.

Portfolios contain many parts, and each section is designed to better explain who you are and what you are capable of. Rather than scanning lines of text on a resume, employers may prefer to gaze at your design layouts, your color schemes, your graphic designs, your certifications, and recommendations. These forms of ‘evidence' are powerful and can sway a prospective employer or client to either enlist your services or never seek your help again.

With nearly 2 billion websites active in the world today, you can begin to see the scope of the web design career field. Every site had to have a designer, and with only 64% of all small businesses having a website, and therefore an online presence, the number of employed web designers is only sure to increase.

​An increase in people learning web design also means an increase in ‘standard’ portfolios that often read exactly like one another, creating a stagnancy and lack of creativity in the collections that prospective clients and employers read, which leads to two things:


A greater need for originality, stemming from increased competition.


​Challenging projects which could prove to be your key to more significant opportunities.

When competition is increased, the natural result is increased variation, allowing those with the passion, interest, and creativity to shine. The other side-effect to increased competition within your career field is the need to complete a challenging and unique project. What kind of website have you always dreamed of creating? What’s stopping you?

The innovators, inventors, and revolutionaries of the last century all leaped into the unknown, and without their ‘projects,' we wouldn't be as technologically or socially advanced as we are today. So, who knows? You could be the next world wonder, through web design!

Ten Tips to an Exemplary Portfolio 

Now that you no longer must wonder “What is a portfolio?”, we can answer the question of “What makes an exemplary portfolio?”

Don’t get lost among the crowd. Express yourself! Here are ten helpful tips that will help you build the best portfolio possible.


Design Your First Website 

Before you can walk, you must first learn to crawl. Your first website should be an ongoing project and one that you only continue to improve with time. Create your layout and avoid using templates. Get creative and try new things. Use your first website as a tool to continue learning and include it as part of your portfolio. Prospective employers and clients will likely be interested to see your ‘baby'.


Turn Your Portfolio into a Website 

If you are trying to gain clout as a web designer, it is vital to have and to maintain a constant web presence. Not only should you be continuing to hone your skills and techniques, but you should also be transforming your physical portfolio into a digital masterpiece. Create a website that will become your online portfolio. Successful portfolio websites generally contain the following distinct pages:

  • A blog where you can write about your experiences in web design and discuss any upcoming or ongoing projects.
  • An ‘about me’ page where you can briefly discuss your history, education, credentials, and personality. 
  • A contact page where interested persons can find your email, phone number, or additional contact information.
  • A services page which lists and describes the web design services you currently offer. Be sure only to index the services you feel competent performing.
  • A work sample page that displays previously completed work. This page is excellent as it can be used to showcase your web page layouts, designs, any vector work you may have done, and other related jobs that you feel proud to share.


Don’t Be Afraid to Tackle Personal Pages

Maybe you have a family member who is starting their own small business. Maybe your sister wants you to build a website showcasing her recent wedding. Perhaps you have a group of friends that are forming a band, and they need help creating a website for their new musical group. 

Whatever the case may be, when you're a web designer, you hold the keys to so many projects, and you can make a lot of people feel delighted by employing your skills and vision properly. Many web designers begin their careers with small, odd jobs for family and friends. This tendency is not only healthy but extremely helpful! You can take these different jobs and use them as work samples in your portfolio. 


The Best of the Best

When you're low on work to show in your portfolio, the easy solution is to add anything and everything you can that might pass for a work sample, credential, or proof of experience. The best thing you can do is avoid this compulsion. Imagine that you are invited to two art galleries. One is cluttered with paintings, but most of the pictures are very bad. The other gallery is nearly empty, but the few pieces that it has are breathtakingly beautiful. Which gallery are you most likely to enjoy and remember?

Only display your best work when creating a portfolio.


Stay Current

Novice web designers are often downhearted when they begin their careers. It can be tough to build a customer base, and often, designers are forced to complete work for free to create a massive selection of work samples for their portfolio. Before you can achieve financial success, you must first achieve professional success within the web design field.

This notion essentially boils down to never giving up. Sure, your new website might not be getting loads of visitors. But you can study SEO and improve your traffic. You can design a website that functions more efficiently on mobile phones. You can do many things to improve your situation, and each action is a learning scenario that you can later include in your portfolio!

When things seem slow, harsh, or unfair, remember where your passion lies. Study harder, create new and different components, and better your skills! With a positive attitude and a fair amount of perseverance, you are sure to be successful. 

​Featured Image Source: Unsplash