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How to Make a Portfolio Website

April 28, 2022

Are you a freelance creative or development professional suffering from Cobbler's Children Syndrome? It's time to learn how to make a portfolio website.

Cobbler's Children's Syndrome is based on an adage, "The cobbler's children have no shoes." It means that professionals often neglect to use their expertise for their benefit. Freelance designers, writers, and developers who help create stunning web and marketing experiences for their clients tend to put creating a portfolio website on the back burner.

In this post on how to create a portfolio website, we explore:

Why Portfolio Websites are Important

Ironically the more successful a freelancer, the more likely they are to have a cruddy portfolio website or no website at all. When you're busy working on client projects, it's challenging to get motivated to spend non-billable time working on your portfolio. This shortsighted thinking can lead to problems when you're trying to find your next freelance gig. A portfolio site is essential for marketing your services to potential clients.

Benefits of Portfolio Websites

  • Improved Visibility. Without a website, you won't show up in search results. A portfolio website gives you greater exposure to potential clients.
  • More Professional Appearance. Freelancers want to give the impression they're working from a cool downtown loft and not their mom's basement. A professional portfolio and website gives the appearance of an established business.
  • Easier Proposals and Interviewing. When submitting a proposal or interview for a project, someone will ask for samples of your work. If you have a portfolio website you're proud of, you can just send them a link instead of trying to assemble a collection of screengrabs, links, and PDFs.

How to Make a Portfolio Website

Making a portfolio website is simple when you have the right tools and follow the correct steps. These step-by-step instructions work best for writers, graphic designers, and other creative professionals. If you're a freelance web developer, you probably already know how to create a website. Feel free to skip to the next section about what to include on your portfolio site if this applies to you.

Step 1: Buy a URL

Just like you need a professional-sounding email address, you need a professional domain. Domain registration costs about $20. Yes, some site builders allow you to create a website for free, but then you end up with a long and unprofessional-looking URL like designerjoe1984.websitebuildingservice.com.

Step 2: Decide What Tools to Use

Many freelancers opt to go with WordPress for their portfolio website. Why use WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular content management system and website software in the world. WordPress makes a great choice for a portfolio website. You could also decide to use a proprietary system like Wix or Squarespace, but WordPress is open source and free. You just have to pay for hosting.

Related reading: Open Source vs. Proprietary: Which Is Better? >>

Step 3: Secure a Hosting Plan

A hosting service provides the servers your website will run on. You may be able to buy the hosting plan from the same company you used to register your domain. If you're using a web-building tool like Wix or Squarespace, hosting is probably included in your plan.

If you're building your portfolio site in WordPress, you need to set up a new installation of WordPress before customizing your site. Managed WordPress hosting plans take care of installing WordPress for you, so if you're new to website building or just want to save time, pick a managed hosting plan. Managed hosting has other advantages, including automatic updates, and some plans include backups.

Step 4: Set Up Your Website and Add Content

If you're using a proprietary web building tool, follow the instructions from the service. You need to install and customize your theme if you're using WordPress. When searching for themes, look for portfolio-specific themes. For a detailed step-by-step guide on setting up your theme and building pages in WordPress, read our How to Create a WordPress Website for Beginners post.

Step 5: Launch Your Site

When you're ready to make your site live, follow your host's instructions for pointing your domain name to your site. You'll need to edit the DNS records for your domain. A DNS record is like an address that tells computers and phones where to find your website.

What Belongs on a Portfolio Website

One of the many reasons freelancers end up without a portfolio website is that they're unsure what to include. For some people, talking about themselves and their work is difficult. Use this checklist to ensure you've included all the essentials on your new website.

Create a Portfolio Website That Includes

  • Your Best Work. Obviously, a portfolio website should showcase your best work. But you need to do more than just show your work. You need to do a little show and tell. Explain why the work was a success.
  • Your Experience. Highlight your experience, which could include education, previous work, and the types of clients or projects you've worked on.
  • Something Unique About You. This website is your elevator pitch and possibly someone's first impression of you. Include something that helps you stand out from the crowd. It could be including an interesting fact about yourself, a description of your mission, or explaining the purpose in your work.
  • Contact Information. Make sure you include a way for someone to contact you. If they like what they see, they may want to hire you immediately.

Create a Portfolio Website with Managed Hosted by Nexcess

Nexcess offers Managed WordPress Hosting that eliminates the hassle of setting up your website. Your new WordPress site is ready to customize in minutes with a managed plan. Sign up today and make your portfolio website.

Lindsey Miller
Lindsey Miller

Lindsey Miller knows WordPress inside and out. She has been working with WordPress since 2010 when she started her first WordPress blog. Since then she has attended WordCamps all over the world and had the honor of speaking at many WordCamps and other WordPress events such as WooSesh and WordFest. She is currently the owner of Content Journey, a content marketing agency that focuses on increasing organic website traffic for their clients through SEO and blogging.