How to Make a Portfolio Website For your Freelancing Business- A Step by Step Guide

Aug 16, 2021 | Freelancing

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In the bustling digital marketplace, standing out as a freelancer can feel akin to shouting into a void.

However, with a well-crafted portfolio website, you can effectively echo your skills, experiences, and professionalism across the digital realm.

A portfolio is not just a repository of your past work; it’s a marketing tool, a brand statement, and a magnet for prospective clients.

Optimizing your portfolio for digital marketing can significantly ramp up your visibility and attract quality clients.

We’re going to assume you already have hosting and WordPress installed. If not, you can do that now, or use another means to build the site and ignore the WordPress references.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to create a captivating portfolio that’s primed for digital marketing success:

portfolio website

Understand Your Target Audience:

Before you dive into creating your portfolio, understanding your target audience is crucial. Who are your ideal clients? What problems are they looking to solve? Tailoring your portfolio to address the specific needs and preferences of your target audience will set a solid foundation for your digital marketing efforts.

Identify the Ideal Client:

Demographics: Start by identifying the basic demographics of your ideal client such as age, gender, location, and occupation.
Industry: Determine the industries that require your services the most.
Budget: Consider the budget range of your potential clients. Are you targeting startups, mid-sized companies, or large enterprises?

Understand Their Pain Points:

Delve into the problems or challenges your ideal clients face that your services can solve.

Engage in forums, social media groups, or networking events to listen to their discussions and understand their needs better.

Research Competitors:

Look at the clients your competitors are serving and analyze how you can differentiate yourself or serve a segment that may be overlooked.

Create Client Personas:

Develop detailed client personas that encapsulate the characteristics of your ideal clients.
Include their goals, challenges, and how your services can benefit them.

Survey and Feedback:

If possible, conduct surveys or get feedback from existing clients to understand their needs and expectations better.

Analyze Past Projects:

Look back at your past projects and identify the type of clients you enjoyed working with and projects that were most profitable and fulfilling.

Engage in Online Communities:

Participate in online communities related to your field to understand the ongoing trends, challenges, and the type of assistance potential clients are seeking.

Keyword Research:

Conduct keyword research to understand the terms your potential clients are using to search for services similar to yours. This will also help in SEO optimization later on.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation:

As you progress, continuously learn from interactions with clients, feedback, and analytics to refine your understanding of your target audience.

Consult with a Mentor or Industry Peers:

Sometimes, insights from seasoned freelancers or industry peers can provide valuable perspectives in defining your target audience.


Defining your target audience is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. As the market evolves, staying attuned to the changing needs and preferences of your target audience will help you stay relevant and continue to attract the right clients for your freelancing business.

Showcase Your Best Work in your Portfolio Website

Your portfolio should exhibit a selection of your best work, not everything you’ve ever done. Aim for a diverse representation that underscores your versatility, expertise, and the value you bring to the table. Each piece should reflect your skills and the positive outcomes you’ve achieved for clients. You should use a theme you are comfortable with and plugins that enhance your website.

Here are some plugins and themes to help with that:

Plugins

Portfolio Gallery: Portfolio Gallery provides a beautiful, responsive gallery to showcase your projects. It offers various layouts and customizable styles to match your brand.

Envira Gallery Lite: This is a lite version of the popular Envira Gallery plugin. It allows you to create beautiful, responsive galleries and albums to showcase your work.

NextGEN Gallery: NextGEN Gallery is one of the most popular gallery plugins on WordPress. It provides a variety of display styles including thumbnail gallery, slideshow, and more. If you are a photographer, this one is for you!

Portfolio: Portfolio by Radius Theme is a responsive plugin that allows you to showcase personal or your company’s portfolio items like websites, images, and videos in a clean, modern interface.

Elementor Page Builder: While primarily a page builder, Elementor offers a portfolio widget that you can use to create a stylish portfolio section on your website.

SiteOrigin Page Builder: Similar to Elementor, SiteOrigin Page Builder allows for the creation of custom layouts, and you can use it to design a unique portfolio section.

FooGallery: FooGallery is a responsive photo gallery plugin but can also be used to create a portfolio. It offers various layouts and is retina-ready.

You can see a full list of Portfolio related plugins at WordPress.org/plugins/search/portfolio and also by typing “portfolio” into the plugin search bar, when clicking on, “plugins” in the WordPress side bar, and then clicking on “add new” located on the top left.

Themes

Divi: Developed by Elegant Themes, Divi is a highly versatile theme and page builder that offers real-time design and a plethora of modules. It’s renowned for its flexibility and mobile responsiveness.

Astra: Known for its lightweight design and speedy performance, Astra offers pre-built websites and is compatible with various page builders. It ensures that your site looks great on all devices.

OceanWP: This theme is built with a mobile-first approach and offers a range of demos suitable for various types of websites, from blogs to e-commerce sites.

Avada: As one of the best-selling themes of all time, Avada offers numerous demos, a fusion builder, and is fully responsive, ensuring your site adapts to any screen size.

GeneratePress: Celebrated for its lightweight design, GeneratePress offers a modular structure, allowing users to activate features they need, ensuring site speed and mobile optimization.

Neve: Created by ThemeIsle, Neve is built for speed and fully integrates with Gutenberg and other popular page builders. Its responsive design ensures a great look on all devices.

Bridge: This multipurpose theme offers a vast array of complete website demos and is known for its comprehensive options panel, ensuring a seamless mobile experience.

Flatsome: Particularly popular for WooCommerce (e-commerce) sites, Flatsome offers a live page builder and large library elements ensuring sites look fantastic on mobile.

Sydney: Aimed at companies and freelancers, Sydney offers a range of customization options, and its responsive design ensures it works well on mobile devices.

When choosing a theme, it’s crucial not just to rely on its popularity but to ensure it suits your particular needs. Always check out live demos on various devices, read user reviews, and ensure compatibility with plugins or builders you intend to use.

Tell a Story:

Storytelling is an invaluable asset in a freelancer’s portfolio. Unlike traditional resumes that simply list qualifications and experiences, a narrative-driven portfolio provides context, showcasing not only what the freelancer has done but also how and why they did it.

This approach allows potential clients to connect with the freelancer on a personal level, understanding their motivations, problem-solving abilities, and the journey they’ve undertaken to hone their skills. By weaving a compelling story around their experiences, freelancers can differentiate themselves in a crowded market, demonstrating their unique perspectives, values, and the transformative impact of their work.

Moreover, as humans are naturally drawn to stories, a well-crafted narrative can make a portfolio more memorable, leaving a lasting impression that can greatly enhance a freelancer’s chances of securing new opportunities.

Here’s an example of a creative way to tell a story for the about me section:

You get the picture, right!? Or the text, in this case. You can style it how you want and make it your own, but with a general flow to the site, added by a connecting story, your message is easier to understand, and it is creative. Alright, time for SEO.

Optimize for SEO:

Optimizing a freelance portfolio on WordPress for SEO requires a strategic blend of on-page, off-page, and technical considerations. Firstly, it’s vital to create high-quality, relevant content that speaks directly to your target audience.

Use keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, KWFinder, and Google Trends to determine phrases and terms your potential clients might use when searching for services you offer. Google Trends is free service and is a great option if you don’t want to fork out any money just yet. Once identified, incorporate these keywords organically into your portfolio’s content, meta descriptions, alt tags, and URLs.

On the technical side, ensure that your WordPress site is mobile-responsive, as Google places significant emphasis on mobile usability in its ranking algorithm. The speed at which your portfolio loads is another crucial factor; therefore, optimize images, use caching plugins, and consider a content delivery network (CDN) to boost site speed.

Cloudflare is a great option for a CDN and they have a Caching Plugin for WordPress. Also, installing an SEO plugin like Yoast can guide you in making on-page optimizations, creating XML sitemaps, and generating breadcrumbs, all of which can help in enhancing search visibility.

Additionally, secure your website with an SSL certificate, as search engines prioritize HTTPS sites. Off-page SEO involves building your site’s authority through backlinks. Engage in guest blogging, share your portfolio on professional networks, and ensure you’re listed on relevant directories or platforms. Lastly, monitor your site’s performance using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to gain insights, adjust strategies, and continuously improve.

Remember, SEO is a long-term game. Regularly updating your portfolio with new projects, testimonials, and relevant content not only showcases your growing expertise but also signals to search engines that your site is active and up-to-date, further helping in ranking higher.

Mobile Optimization:

In today’s fast-paced digital world, if you use analytics, you will notice, most of the internet traffic for your website originates from mobile devices. As a freelancer, your portfolio is often the first point of contact for potential clients, and first impressions matter.

If your portfolio isn’t optimized for mobile phones and tablets, or isn’t optimized correctly, you risk alienating a large segment of your audience. Mobile users expect swift loading times, easy navigation, and a user-friendly experience. A portfolio that doesn’t meet these expectations can deter potential clients from considering your services.

It’s Easy with WordPress Themes

Fortunately for freelancers using WordPress, mobile optimization has never been easier. WordPress, as a premier content management system, has a plethora of themes designed specifically with mobile responsiveness in mind. These themes automatically adjust the content layout to fit various screen sizes, from desktop monitors to the smallest mobile screens. By simply selecting a responsive theme, freelancers can ensure their portfolio looks professional and accessible on any device without delving deep into coding or design intricacies. See the list of themes above.

Reasons to Optimize Your Portfolio for Mobile Devices

Increased Reach: With over half of the world’s web traffic coming from mobile devices, a mobile-optimized portfolio ensures you’re reaching the broadest audience possible.

Enhanced User Experience: A mobile-responsive design ensures that visitors have a seamless experience, free from zooming in excessively or navigating cumbersome menus.

Improved Search Engine Rankings: Google and other search engines prioritize mobile-friendly sites in their rankings. Optimizing your portfolio for mobile can lead to better visibility and more organic traffic.

Higher Conversion Rates: A well-optimized mobile site can lead to higher engagement rates and potentially more inquiries from potential clients. If users find it easy to navigate and view your work on their mobile devices, they’re more likely to reach out for your services.

In conclusion, in an era dominated by mobile devices, optimizing your freelance portfolio for mobile responsiveness isn’t just a luxury—it’s a necessity. With the readily available mobile-optimized themes on WordPress, ensuring your portfolio is mobile-friendly is both straightforward and essential for maintaining a competitive edge in the freelance market.

Include Client Testimonials:

In the world of freelancing and business, trust plays a pivotal role in securing potential clients. Client testimonials serve as social proof, showcasing the positive experiences and outcomes previous clients have had with your services. For many prospects, testimonials can bridge the gap between uncertainty and conviction, helping them decide to invest in your offerings.

These endorsements act as third-party validations of your skills, professionalism, and the quality of your work. In essence, they tell potential clients that others have taken the leap, worked with you, and found value—a compelling message for those on the fence. Don’t worry, if you have no client testimonials yet, below we’ve included some tips on how to secure some.

Fast-tracking Testimonials Through Time-Sensitive Work

For freelancers or businesses just starting, the lack of testimonials can seem like a catch-22; you need testimonials to get clients, but you need clients to get testimonials. One effective strategy to break this cycle is by offering time-sensitive or urgent services. Many clients have immediate needs, and they’re willing to take a chance on someone who can address them promptly.

By positioning yourself as a solution to these urgent requirements, you not only increase your chances of securing the job but also put yourself in a prime position to request feedback upon successful completion. After delivering quality work in a pinch, don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial. Given the relief and satisfaction clients typically feel after their urgent needs are met, many will be more than happy to provide positive feedback. This approach not only helps build your testimonial bank rapidly but also establishes you as a reliable professional who can handle time-sensitive tasks—a valuable reputation in any industry.

Call to Action (CTA):

In the digital world, having a visually appealing and informative freelance portfolio is only part of the equation. To convert visitors into clients, it’s imperative to guide them towards a specific action. This is where the Call to Action (CTA) becomes indispensable. CTAs serve as navigational beacons, leading visitors towards a desired outcome, whether it’s to contact you, download a resource, or book a consultation.

Firstly, CTAs address the fundamental principle of user experience. Many visitors, after being impressed by your work, may wish to take the next step. However, without a clear and visible CTA, they may be left wondering how to proceed. A well-placed CTA eliminates this confusion by providing a direct and intuitive next step. It streamlines the user’s journey, reducing the friction that might otherwise deter a potential lead.

Moreover, CTAs play a psychological role. A compelling CTA not only instructs but also entices. Phrases like “Let’s Start Your Next Project” or “Discover How I Can Help” resonate with potential clients because they instill a sense of collaboration and possibility. Such proactive language can subconsciously influence decision-making, nudging visitors closer to engagement.

Additionally, by strategically placing CTAs on various pages of your portfolio, you can segment your audience based on their interests. For instance, a CTA on a graphic design showcase might cater to clients specifically looking for design services, while a CTA on a content writing page might appeal to those in need of written content. This allows for more personalized engagement, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

In conclusion, incorporating CTAs in a freelance portfolio isn’t just a design choice; it’s a strategic decision. Effective CTAs bridge the gap between admiration and action, transforming passive visitors into active clients. By guiding, enticing, and personalizing the user journey, CTAs ensure that your portfolio doesn’t just showcase your talent but also catalyzes business growth.

Utilize Analytics:

In the ever-evolving realm of freelancing, merely having an online portfolio isn’t enough. To truly maximize your portfolio’s potential, it’s vital to understand how visitors interact with your content. This is where analytics come into play. Analytics provide concrete data on user behavior, helping freelancers identify what’s working and what isn’t.

With this insight, freelancers can optimize their portfolios to better cater to their audience, ultimately increasing the likelihood of converting visitors into clients.

For instance, analytics can reveal which pieces of your portfolio are most viewed, indicating the type of work that generates the most interest. If a particular project consistently attracts attention, it might be beneficial to feature it more prominently.

On the flip side, pages with high bounce rates—a metric indicating that visitors leave without interacting—might need content or design adjustments. Beyond content, analytics can shed light on other crucial factors like the devices visitors use, the times they’re most active, and their geographical locations. Each piece of data serves as a puzzle piece, coming together to paint a clearer picture of your audience and their preferences.

When it comes to analytics tools, there’s a variety to choose from, each offering its own set of features:

Google Analytics: Perhaps the most popular tool, Google Analytics provides a comprehensive overview of website traffic, user behavior, and a plethora of other metrics. They also have a plugin that integrates your analytic account called Google Site Kit that is easy to use and easy to manage.

Jetpack by WordPress: Specifically designed for WordPress sites, Jetpack offers simplified stats right on your dashboard, giving insights into site visits, popular content, and referral sources.

MonsterInsights: This is a powerful WordPress plugin that integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics, offering an easy-to-read report on your website’s performance.

Clicky: A real-time web analytics tool, Clicky is loved by many for its straightforward interface and the immediacy of its data.

In conclusion, analytics aren’t just for large corporations or e-commerce giants. Freelancers, too, can harness the power of data to refine their portfolios, ensuring they resonate with their target audience. With the range of user-friendly tools available, integrating analytics into a WordPress freelance portfolio is both a smart and accessible move.

Social Media Integration:

Link your social media profiles and consider integrating social sharing buttons to extend your portfolio’s reach. Social media is a potent tool for building relationships and engaging with potential clients. Some great tools to achieve integration with your social media sites are:

Monarch: Developed by Elegant Themes, Monarch offers a wide array of social sharing options. You can place social sharing buttons in five different locations, and it supports various networks. The design and animations are top-notch, ensuring a seamless fit with most themes. You do have to have a Div Membership for this one, but if you use Divi as a theme it is definitely worth looking into.

Social Warfare: This plugin is known for its speed and customization options. It allows you to add social sharing buttons without slowing down your site, and you can tailor the look of the buttons to match your website’s design. This is a great option if you are looking to add social integration to a theme that doesn’t offer it already. The price is pretty reasonable and you can scale it if you build sites for clients.

Easy Social Share Buttons: Recognized for its flexibility, this plugin supports more than 50 social networks and offers 30+ display locations, along with multiple templates and button designs. You can purchase it on Code Canyon by Envato.

*While these are some of the popular choices, the WordPress plugin repository is vast. When selecting a plugin, it’s vital to consider your specific needs, the plugin’s compatibility with your current theme, and its impact on site performance. And remember: always keep plugins updated to ensure optimal functionality and security.

Continuous Improvement:

The digital landscape is ever-evolving. Regularly update your portfolio with new work, optimize for the latest SEO trends, and tweak your digital marketing strategies based on analytics insights to stay ahead of the curve.

Creating a portfolio that resonates with your target audience and is optimized for digital marketing is a meticulous but rewarding endeavor. It’s about striking a balance between showcasing your uniqueness as a freelancer and meeting the expectations of your prospective clients. With the right mix of creativity, technical savvy, and marketing acumen, your portfolio can become a powerful magnet that draws clients towards your freelancing business.

Feel free to share your insights below, and thanks for reading!

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