How To Make a Digital Portfolio in 5 Steps (Plus Tips)

Updated March 10, 2023

A person in a studio holds a ceramic mug while leaning down to look at a laptop.

A digital portfolio can offer information about your professional background when you're applying for jobs, networking with others or attracting new clients and freelance opportunities. It can serve as proof of your industry knowledge and skills and showcase accomplishments you've made throughout your career. Learning how to make a digital portfolio can help you distinguish yourself from competing job candidates and improve your chances of achieving your career goals.

In this article, we discuss how to make a digital portfolio, offer tips to help you create one, and list its typical components.

Related: 12 Elements of a Career Portfolio

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What is a digital portfolio?

A digital portfolio is a collection of examples of your work that's all accessible online. Typically, you only include your best work in your portfolio so it can showcase your professional competencies, technical prowess and creativity. Digital portfolios can include many different types of content, such as:

  • Photographs

  • Text

  • Illustrations

  • Technical drawings

  • Spreadsheets

  • Blueprints

  • Web pages

  • Animations

  • Graphics

Besides your work samples, you can also include a brief description of yourself, where you can introduce yourself to the reader, discuss your interests and upload a photo. An online portfolio makes it easy for you to access and share models of your previous projects. Including a portfolio in an application allows you to convey evidence of your skills to hiring managers. A visual representation of your qualifications also helps employers decide if you're the right fit for their company and position.

Related: How To Make an Interview Portfolio

How to make a digital portfolio

Follow these steps to create an impressive digital portfolio:

1. Understand your audience

When creating content for an audience, it's helpful to consider what your audience may want. Since the target audience of a digital portfolio might include hiring managers, clients and individuals in your industry, think about what kinds of content they could be seeking.

For example, if you're seeking a job as an architect, consider including architectural drawing samples and past project images. If you're pursuing a prospective client as a freelance copywriter, you might incorporate samples of previous campaigns you've worked on that resemble the prospect's brand into your online portfolio.

Related: How To Find a Company's Target Audience (And Importance)

2. Tell a story

One of the best ways to engage your audience is to tell a story. In your online portfolio, explain why you chose this career path, provide details about your work experiences and offer insight into your daily life. Consider creating a separate section designated for your biography, skills and career goals, such as an "About Me" section. 

You can connect emotionally with the reader when you include relevant information about yourself. If you're appealing to a potential mentor or job reference, they may appreciate learning about the evolution of your career to feel more confident in speaking positively about you to other interested parties. Make sure your biography reflects the audience's interest. For instance, as a job candidate, you can describe your passion for your industry and your commitment to quality work.

Related: Key Elements of an Online Biography (With Examples)

3. Keep it simple

Creating a visually pleasing portfolio can foster engagement and excitement as people review your content. It can also convey thoughtfulness and professionalism. When choosing the layout, font and artwork for your portfolio, keep your page design clean, cohesive and uncluttered so that your message and intentions remain clear. Limit the amount of text that describes your work to retain the reader's focus on the actual samples.

4. Use categories

To make your portfolio easy to explore, include categories on a navigation menu that demonstrate your range of experience. For example, if you're a freelance writer who has covered several topics, like parenting, career advice, health and community building, you might create sections in your digital portfolio for each topic.

Alternatively, photographers specializing in various styles may create lifestyle, wedding and family categories in their portfolio. Separating your content into more manageable sections directs people to the exact information they seek.

Related: Website Navigation: Definition, Importance and Tips

5. Highlight your most impressive work

When you're ready to start adding samples, only include material demonstrating your most impressive abilities. Instead of including every piece of content you've created, focus on featuring projects that make you proud. For example, for a marketing role, you can showcase snippets of successful marketing campaigns.

You can also include pieces that have garnered praise from others. For instance, if you're a business owner, you might choose to include past work that earned positive client feedback. If you've won any awards for your work, note this with a small caption that describes the award and when you received it.

Tips for making a digital portfolio

Once you've finished adding content to your digital portfolio, consider the following tips to enhance the collection:

Pay attention to search engine optimization

To increase the chances of people finding your portfolio online, take steps to help readers find your landing page. Ensure that your portfolio is HTML-based, which makes it easier to view from other devices, and use keywords relevant to the industry within the content and corresponding URL. You can also write a unique meta description that tells people what to expect from your portfolio when they click the search engine results page.

Include links to social media

Social media is an integral part of today's society, so it's wise to include a widget that links your portfolio to your professional social media accounts. This makes it easy for people to share your information with others, which increases your visibility. It can also allow people to contact you to learn more about your services.

For example, in a photography portfolio, you can direct readers to your social media page that displays your work and shows how you positively interact with your clients. The people reviewing your portfolio may appreciate your commitment to maintaining an active, online presence that is a positive reflection on you and your career.

Related: 26 Do's and Don'ts of Business Social Media Accounts

Update your portfolio frequently

Individuals who create new content constantly may forget to upload new work to their digital portfolio. Set a monthly reminder to update your site with new work, and consider phasing out older, outdated content. Doing so can show that you're up-to-date on the latest trends in the industry.

It can also show that you have recent work experience. For example, if you display samples from a software application that you designed two months ago, a hiring manager can learn that you're knowledgeable of technological advancements and have grown professionally while diversifying your skills.

Related: What Is a Work Portfolio? (Plus How To Build One)

Add customer reviews

People today tend to spend a lot of time researching before they buy a product or enlist the help of professional services. That's why it's important to include positive customer reviews in your portfolio.

This helps establish trust and credibility, especially for people who've never met you. Consider creating a section for testimonials that includes direct quotes that customers may have left on social media, emails and blog posts, for example.

Related: A Complete Guide to Customer Service Reviews

Who uses a digital portfolio?

Students and employees in various industries use digital portfolios to demonstrate their artistic skills and showcase their work online. Nearly anyone can use a digital portfolio to present their qualifications using visuals, but here are some of the most common individuals who use this tool:

  • Writers

  • Photographers

  • Graphic designers

  • Illustrators

  • Marketers

  • Architects

  • Teachers

  • Makeup artists

  • Developers

  • Models

  • Videographers

Related: How to Make a Stellar Graphic Design Portfolio

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Components of a digital portfolio

Here are some typical components you can include in a digital portfolio:

  • Statement of originality: It's good practice to have a short paragraph stating that the content within your digital portfolio is original, confidential and belongs to you. This statement may specify parts of the portfolio that others can't copy.

  • Work biography: Include a brief description of what you do, specifying the services you provide or your areas of expertise. You can organize this information in your "About Me" section.

  • Career goals: It may also be beneficial to write a summary of your professional goals to show employers your ambition and give them an idea of where you see yourself in the future.

  • Resume: Make sure to include a link to your resume in your digital portfolio. This way, if an employer, recruiter or potential client finds your portfolio online, they can also access your resume.

  • Contact information: If you want employers or potential clients to be able to contact you with questions, make sure to include your contact information somewhere that is easy to find. Enter a phone number and email address.

  • Relevant skills: Another component you could include in your "About Me" section is a list of your most essential industry skills. For example, if you work in graphic design, you could discuss your creativity, attention to detail and computer skills.

  • Work samples: Your work samples show proof of the skills you've mentioned in your resume, in your "About Me" section or elsewhere in your portfolio. These samples may be photos, artwork, articles, advertising mock-ups and other visuals or written content.

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