Avoid these portfolio mistakes

It’s Time to Update your Portfolio Homepage

We say it often—keeping your portfolio updated is one of the most important things you can do to stay competitive in this intense job market. Especially if you’re a freelancer constantly looking for new clients, your portfolio homepage is the biggest sales pitch you can make. If you’re wondering why things feel a little stagnant, maybe it’s time to update your portfolio homepage. Here are some questions to ask yourself along with advice on where to start and how to fix common portfolio mistakes.

1. Is your navigation confusing?

When someone visits your page, can they easily access all the information they need? Is your organization intuitive? If there’s even a doubt, ask for feedback and begin fixing it.

Here’s how to fix it: After asking a few of your trusted (especially design-pro) friends, take their feedback seriously. Common mistakes involve using odd copy choices for your navigation titles, for example AAM, a cutesy abbreviation to mean “All About Me”, instead of simply using “About Me” or using unfamiliar icons instead of copy as links. Believe us, no one knows what you're talking about if you're not using widely known phrases. We promise their are better ways to show your personality. Also, instead of hiding pages under a dropdown, your menu should be simple (up to four links), laid out in a natural, hierarchical manner (for example: Work, About me, Contact). From there, each page should provide an endless scroll of information. You can link pages together, but only if the call to action feels natural and necessary. If the viewer feels like they are hunting or getting lost, you’ll need to further simplify the navigation with fewer links and pages.

2. Is your design cluttered?

You have a lot to communicate, and you love an endless scroll, but you placed way too much on your homepage with no real CTA (call to action).

Here’s how to fix it: Start by taking away all of your content and examine the basics of your layout and design. Clarify your template by only choosing two fonts (MAX) that aren’t super crazy and up to four colors. Most of the great portfolio website builders, like Squarespace, will do this for you from the jump. But if you’ve gone overboard with color or type, scale back. If your colors are too vibrant and clashing, limit your vibrant choice to one in a pool of three other neutral, but complementary tones. Play with more traditional typefaces. Add your content back and assess—you should see more of your work and fewer distractions (see tips 3 and 4 on how to further cut content). Finally, make your CTAs clear, strong buttons, telling the reader exactly what you want them to do from here. Copy examples include: View Portfolio, Hire Me, or Contact Me.

3. Is it immediately clear which projects are your specialty?

Are the projects you're featuring just sort of laid out how they come to you? or chronologically? Some are really old and others are really really old. Overloading your site also increases load time—which no one will wait for and simply exit.

Here’s how to fix it: Choose only the work you want to do moving forward. Distill your work down to between 3 and 5 major projects and eliminate any work that is over five years old. This can be tough—especially if you feel like you’re cutting some of your best work. However, dated work may date you as a creative and clients are always looking for cutting-edge skills and talent. If you need fresh work for your homepage, create a personal project for yourself that showcases more of the work you want to do from now on for clients. Continuous updates are also beneficial for SEO ranking, as search engines prioritize sites that are given constant love from their creators. Finally, to diminish load time, make sure you convert large, high-quality images into smaller files before adding them to your site. Bonus: you’ll be helping the environment, too.

4. Is there A LOT of text?

Copy is part of your strong suit and you’re very proud of all your projects. But you also know (because people always annoyingly tell you) that no one reads anymore. Plus, too much text makes your site look bonkers on a mobile device.

Here’s how to fix it: Consider leading your homepage with one succinct sentence about who you are and what services you offer. Place this phrase at the top of your homepage. As for updating text around projects, copy/paste your text from each case study or project into a notepad or Google Doc. Then turn your paragraphs into bullets, fine-tuning your copy into the need-to-know information (like client, task, your process, your product, and key metrics). Make each of these bullets into one sentence. Then add an image for each sentence that provides your client with a clear visual of what’s stated. While you are rewriting your copy, do not neglect SEO updates, especially when it comes to which keywords you’re using to explain your skills. Incorporating SEO terms will help people find you easily. 

5. Is your personal brand missing?

You’ve got a lot of great work for a diverse set of clients, and yet, this homepage isn’t quite reflective of you and the work still feels scattered.

Here’s how to fix it: You need to be the thread—and knowing how you fit and where you fit is extremely important. Knowing yourself comes from doing deep brand work. A great template may help declutter (see tip 1) but without clarity on who you are, what you do, and the style with which you do it, your entire site might still feel chaotic. Take a week or so to do deep inward work to answer those questions about your personal brand (who, what I do, what it looks like when I leave my mark). Make strict design decisions on what your brand looks like and hire a designer to help if needed. Once you create a brand guide for yourself, you’ll be able to infuse your entire portfolio with your true essence.

At Artisan, our recruiters get to know what can make or break a great portfolio. If you’re looking for additional help and tips on how to land a job in this economy, reach out to us. We’ve been placing top talent with great clients for decades.

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