Hiring a web designer or developer has become as common as having an accountant for taxes. Everyone needs one, but no one knows quite what they do or what makes you better than someone else. This is what makes having a targeted online portfolio so critical in landing a job. Properly and effectively communicating your skills and showcasing your work will help those outside of your field better understand what you do and what you can do for them.
Clarify Your Objection
The main goal of your portfolio is to explain who you are, what you do, and how you work. In order to do that, first you need to define your job-hunting goals.
Are you a web designer or web developer?
Most web designers have some web development skills and vice-versa, but focusing on the title that best aligns with your skill-set ensures that you are setting up proper expectations.
If a website is a construction project, then a web designer is the architect and the web developer is the foreman.
Frequently, you will see jobs descriptions that use these as interchangeable terms, but you know the marked characteristics of the designer and the developer. Keep in mind that they are not at all mutually exclusive, because a web designer and a web developer have different tools in their toolbox.
A web developer’s main focus is the technical side. They have a comprehensive knowledge of the popular programming languages, such as HTML, CSS, C++, or PHP and is concerned mostly with a website’s functionality. Clean and well-documented code is a stand-out characteristic of a good web developer.
A web designer is focused on the content, style, and usability of a site. While a working knowledge of HTML and CSS is needed, tools such as Sketch and Photoshop are most frequently used. UI and UX are the primary problems that web designers try to solve.
Are you looking for freelance, part-time, seasonal, or full-time work?
The type of position you are looking for will affect the structure of your portfolio site.
If you are looking for freelance work, explain your process when working with someone and showcase clients that you have done work for. Take some time to map out what your ideal project timeline would be from start to finish. Use those big pieces and break them down into 3-4 steps that you can explain on your site.
One way to add credibility to your work is by highlighting companies you have worked with or projects you were a part of. If you are fresh out of school and haven’t had the chance to build up clients, that’s fine. Use school projects or projects you have worked on for fun to showcase what you feel like is quality work.
If you are looking for a position within a company, whether for part-time, seasonal, or full-time work, the approach is slightly different, but not by much. You are still looking for a job, but you can use the “About Me” section of your website as an extended cover letter. Talk about your background, what work you’ve done, and why you feel like you would be a fit for the company type you are targeting. Being clear in your desires means that no one wastes time.
What decision maker are you targeting?
Depending on who you are speaking to, your text and layout will be different. Recruiters or someone in the web industry will value seeing completed work since they know the process it took to get the work done. However, a small business owner who has decided it’s time to upgrade from a website building platform to something more powerful, will want to understand what is needed from her to get the project completed.
Taking into account the needs of your target audience will be critical in making sure that your site is working to land that next job.
Communicate Your Skills
For web developers showcasing your talent and work can be tricky. Showing how you solve problems will allow someone to value your work without the technical specifics of how you do it. Storytelling is a great tool to use and through case studies and testimonials most client questions or concerns will be addressed.
If you’ve created assets or tools, such as a WordPress plugin, include links for it from the WordPress repository. Another tool for developers to show their work is GitHub. Not everyone will appreciate the code, but anyone can reckon with an impressive webpage. For front-end developers, consider using a CodePen to showcase how your code plays into design.
As with the developer, it’s all about problem-solving. Artistic license can make for a better user experience.
Use your client work as your example. If you’ve worked for a small business, illustrate how you streamlined the purchase or contact process Your design helped your client gain positive feedback.
Don’t let design be an obstacle for your clients. They might be wary of potential clashes between their vision and yours. Set yourself apart by not only showing your ability to give people what they want, but also to sell them on your process.
Having screenshots of before and after will show the difference your work makes. You can also include drafts of wireframes and mockups to really illustrate the design process and the detail you put into it. Sharing the story of a project, including feedback from each stage, will also contribute to the full picture of what working with you looks like. If you have numbers, such as a business’ growth by percentage as a result of your design work share that data to show your expertise.
Include a Call to Action
You are selling your skills on your website. Identifiable calls-to-action will walk potential employers through the steps they need to take to work with you. The contact form is your primary and obvious call-to-action, but on each page of your site include some action a visitor can take to move forward in the hiring process with you.
Beyond Your Website
Having a well-designed website is great, but getting people to visit your site is the real challenge. Networking, both in-person and online will be your first step in getting your name out there. If you take time to get to know people, they will take time to get to know you by viewing your portfolio. Let your work tell your story, but don’t forget that you must take the first step.
Build Your Brand
LinkedIn and Twitter are great for building your personal brand. You have the opportunity to engage with other web designers and developers as well as meet those who may need your help.
Use Twitter as a way to stay connected to the industry and position yourself as an industry leader. Curate a list of people to follow that you respect and want to emulate. These companies and individuals will typically post items that either you will benefit from or your followers will benefit from. Make sure you have an active posting schedule and that you are contributing original posts and not just constantly retweeting. Share projects you created and highlights from your online portfolio.
LinkedIn will be your primary source for networking when you are job hunting. Make sure you connect with past employers and friends in the industry. The hardest part about LinkedIn is connecting with people you don’t know in real life but they would be a great part of your network. Commenting and direct messaging these individuals will go a long way in your job hunt. Putting yourself out there for a job is difficult, but is often rewarded.
In addition to connecting with people, use LinkedIn as a place to showcase your talent through write-ups, sharing links, screenshots of work, and videos.
Get That Job!
Whether someone needs a website from the ground-up or a more aesthetic front for a site, it’s about what you can do. Put your storytelling skills to use and show what you are made of.
You’ve built your portfolio for yourself. Now, it’s time to get out there and show the world.
Written By: Chris LaFay
Chris founded Classic City Consulting after trying to figure out how to have the work-life balance that everyone dreams of. Not only does he get to enjoy designing and implementing websites, he also gets to play with his dog, travel, enjoy family dinners, and keep up with baseball.