An online portfolio is a virtual representation of work you have created, as well as a compilation of your skills and experiences. It allows potential clients and employers to see your work before they actually meet you.
It also gives you the power to choose the overall layout you want to display: from what projects to show at the start, to the type of background information you’ll provide with every image you select.
Whether you’ve been in the industry for years or are fresh-out-of-college, it’s crucial to have an online portfolio to demonstrate what you can do and why you believe that you’re the right person for any job you’re pursuing.
The goal is to appear as professional as possible when applying for any position and having an online portfolio increases your chances of getting that job.
It’s a no brainer!
Additionally, many companies and schools now ask you to provide a personalized URL to an online portfolio directly on the application. Believe it or not, many fashion professionals do not currently have an online portfolio, which puts them at a huge disadvantage regardless of whether they are applying to a job or school.
If YOU are one of these people, I hope this episode will not only push you to create a digital portfolio, but that these guidelines help you create an online space that reflects who you are as a professional and how passionate you are about your work.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking: “I already have so much to do, I don’t have time to create ANOTHER online space.”
It’s true, online portfolios require upkeep and extra effort. However, creating one invites more career opportunities and by extension, more projects you can feature within it. By keeping this digital file throughout your career, it gives you the ability to document and keep track of your growth as a professional.
Additionally, one of the greatest benefits of having an online portfolio is that it can display skills and projects in a detailed and visual way that complements the information in your resume and cover letter. Online portfolios also allow you to organize all of your work in one place, even if that work spans different projects.
Important to note:
As you gain experience, you should remove images that no longer serve the purpose of highlighting your best work. Similar to a resume, the more experience you gain, the more space you need to make.
You want to capture the viewer and keep them engaged while showcasing your wonderful current projects.
Before breaking down how to create your own portfolio, I want to take a minute to say that they are NOT exclusively for designers. This is a common misconception amongst fashion professionals.
While online portfolios are a must among designers, Anyone from stylists, to models, hair & makeup artists, photographers and even marketing professionals should have some version of one.
HOW TO CREATE AN ONLINE PORTFOLIO
So, how do you start the process of creating an online portfolio that speaks to you as a professional and truly showcases your work?
There are a few steps you can take to simplify the creation process even before taking a single step to plan or create your online portfolio.
First, take the time to understand what brands or companies align with your aesthetic the most.
What types of companies are you hoping to work for?
The reality is, you will use the same portfolio to apply for multiple positions with various brands. This is why image selection is so important. You always want to make sure that your work is cohesive and aligns with your professional aesthetic.
For example, if you love neutral tones with a minimalist style, find brands with a similar look and feel, and design your portfolio to complement the brand’s aesthetic. This will not only give you direction, but it will help the hiring manager envision you already working at their company.
Think of your online portfolio as the visual equivalent to adding keywords from a job description to your resume.
While the work you’ve done at previous jobs doesn’t change, the way you describe it – bullet point by bullet point – complements what that company is looking for in an employee.
Look to other professionals and fashion platforms for inspiration. Based on what you find, create a mood board or an idea folder that will motivate you to plan the overtone of your site before even creating it. While it’s never a bad thing to get inspired from other people’s work, just make sure that yours is distinctly your own and never a direct copy.
Browse through fashion sites and magazines, Pinterest boards and any other relevant platforms to get insight into colors, shapes and other elements to include in your portfolio. Additionally, take some time to look through online portfolios within your industry. See how other professionals lay out their work, what they include and get a feel for the image quality hiring managers are looking for.
Doing all of this will also help you keep an eye on industry trends to make sure your work stays current and fresh.
SELECTING A PLATFORM FOR YOUR PORTFOLIO
Once you have an idea of how you will be setting up your work, it’s time to select a site or digital platform to host your online portfolio on. Because there are so many different options out there, it’s important that you do your research to make sure you select the one that fits your needs the best.
Some platforms require a monthly or yearly membership fee while others are free, but have limitations. The good thing is that ALL of these platforms usually have portfolio templates to select from where you can simply add in your selected images and complete your portfolio in no time.
The most important thing to remember, regardless of whether you use a template or create an online portfolio from scratch, is: make sure the design of the website DOES NOT overpower the design of the work you are going to showcase.
Anyone who visits your portfolio site, needs to see YOUR work, front and center. You do not want them to be distracted by any other design elements on the site.
There are a few platforms that do this beautifully and that I recommend for creating a stunning online portfolio. They vary in price point and tech level needed, so be sure to try each of them out for yourself before committing to anything.
For beginners or people with limited experience, I recommend Behance, a platform that showcases work on a white background in a grid formation. The platform is free to use and there are no restrictions on the number of projects a member can create. There is also no limit on the number of images or media users can upload.
For those of you with a little more work experience to add, there are 2 platforms that are easy to use. The first is Squarespace – a drag and drop platform that gives you the option to pay monthly or annually. Their rates range from $14-$49 a month based on the plan you select.
Another great option is a platform called Pixpa. It’s an all-in-one portfolio website builder for photographers, designers, artists and creators. Pixpa has a 15 day free trial and ranges from $3-$16 per month after the trial period is up.
Use code MARIA10 to receive 10% off your first year on any Pixpa subscription plan.
For those of you with a higher level of tech skills, one of the best ways to have your own site is by creating one on WordPress. With WordPress, there is some level of coding involved, if you want to customize features, but if you don’t know anything about coding, don’t worry! There are hundreds of portfolio templates you can choose from so you’re covered either way.
Make sure that if you decide to choose this platform, you use wordpress.org and NOT .com. WordPress.org is the free version.
Finally, the platform I always personally recommend to fashion professionals for their online portfolios regardless of how much experience they have is a site called VSBLE.ME.
The best part of Visible.me’s platform is that it has beautiful ready to use templates that are perfect for fashion professionals. There is a version that they call the “forever free plan” which includes unlimited videos, a free domain and 50 images. There are 2 additional versions that are $6 and $13 a month called Pro and Pro Max, respectively.
The list of features that are included is extensive, so I definitely suggest you check it out yourself!
Use code VSBLE25OFF to receive 25% off for 12 months when you sign up.
YOUR PORTFOLIO CONTENT
Once you’ve decided on the platform you want to use, you have to think about the content you will feature. First, select the best samples of your work and make sure you are using high-resolution images. It’s also important to note here that you shouldn’t be showcasing ALL of your work, but instead choosing the strongest images.
Once you have selected these, lay everything out so that it tells a story rather than just looking like images thrown together to fill a page. You want to make sure you start and end strong.
Whether you’re creating a single or multi-page site, these are the areas you must include:
– Past work you have done with other companies
– Your Best (And only your BEST) personal work
– Some variation of a creative, but professional resume or past experience
– A contact page so they can get in touch with you
– A way to view any other social sites you might be on such as Pinterest or Instagram
In terms of projects, there is no magic number on how many to feature. However, a good starting point is 4-6 projects, each with a few of the best images. If you’re just starting out, 2-3 may be enough.
Keep in mind that even if you are just starting out, you can still create a stunning portfolio of spec work and assigned projects. Additionally, you can create personal projects as a way to fill up your portfolio if you don’t feel your assignments are strong enough.
Now, if you’ve been doing this for a long time, the max number you should have is 6-7 projects, unless you do a cover image thumbnail for each project that opens an entire collection when clicked.
Regardless of your experience level, make sure that you are highlighting skills hiring managers will want to see.
For example, if you are searching for a visual merchandiser position, your portfolio should have 3D mockups of in-store displays and all previous work within retail settings that you may have.
Take time to understand the job requirements, evaluate your skills and put them all on display. Show your range. Include images that show your ability to work with different materials, themes and techniques.
…And make sure Hiring Managers don’t have to scroll through too much to get to the good stuff.
First, make sure your portfolio site is cohesive.
Use the same colors and font throughout and don’t introduce too many of them. The idea is to keep site details in the background and let your work shine through as the star.
Try to avoid using cursive or fancy font.
Sometimes these are hard to read, no matter how pretty they may look. Keeping to fonts like Open Sans is always a good idea. Make titles larger and bold while keeping subheadlines smaller than the title but larger than any other text. If you have a logo, be sure to include it as part of your header or footer sections.
Remember that your portfolio is about quality and NOT quantity.
You want to make sure that there are more images than anything else, including words, and that you are showcasing the best high-resolution images you have.
Separate your images by a theme or color story.
This ensures that you are guiding your viewers on a specific path you created from project to project.
Promote your work.
Your portfolio does more for you when you drive traffic to it. Add the website address to your resume, business cards, social media, LinkedIn, etc. and make sure your portfolio works well across all different browsers.
Adapt and adjust your portfolio based on the specific position you’re applying for.
Just like your resume-your cover letter, or anything else in your job hunt…your online portfolio should showcase what you have to offer in a concise, compelling and interesting way.
Be intentional with the work you showcase.
Recruiters will usually make their hiring decision within the first minute of meeting you, and that same rule should apply for your online portfolio. From the second someone arrives on your page, you have to make sure that they get the best, most effective impression of you.
Don’t showcase TOO much.
If a project you completed has over 20 images you love, select the best 1 or 2. Wait for a prospective employer to request the rest. It’s a great sign. And then, once someone is interested in your work, you will have plenty of time to give them more information.
And finally, don’t forget to include the link to your portfolio on your resume.
This will give hiring managers a complete idea of the professional you are when it comes time to interview.
IN THE END…
You want to break down the steps of creating an online portfolio the same way you were taught to write an essay. It requires an introduction, body and conclusion. In one way or another, this is essentially the same structure you want to follow or be aware of as you’re creating yours.
Everything about your fashion portfolio should prove that you take your work seriously. It should look and feel professional, cohesive, and polished.
The time and effort you put into creating the portfolio will pay off once you get the job. Remember to have fun creating your very own online portfolio and don’t overthink it!
LET’S CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION!
I’d love to see some examples of what you’ve created or answer any questions you have about this topic. To continue the conversation, be sure to join our private FB community, Into the Fashion Industry. There, I answer all questions and help you even further.
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