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Showcasing Your Work Online

Kristin Kane writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.

The word portfolio comes from the Italian word portafoglio, meaning "a carrier for papers." Traditional portfolios, large black folders holding a collection of drawings, paintings, or photographs, are a means for artists to show a sampling of their work to curators and collectors. Today, fine artists, graphic designers and writers alike are moving their portfolios online. In a few short years, online portfolios have become one of the most efficient ways to show creative work to a wide audience. And for the independent professional, online portfolios represent an indispensable tool for attracting new clients.

The Contents of an Online Portfolio

Whether you are a seasoned independent or just breaking out on your own, an online portfolio is an excellent way to market your services. But to be an effective marketing tool, your site must convey professionalism. Poor navigation or sloppy writing can detract from the work on display and leave a negative impression. Depending on your area of expertise, you may wish to enlist the help of a friend or hire an independent to design a professional site or finesse the content.

As you draft the content for your site, start with the standard components of an effective portfolio:

Bio. A professional biography is an essential element in any online portfolio. Your bio should include the same information as your resume, but in a web-friendly format. Use it as an opportunity to highlight:

  • Professional experience in the field, including a list of previous and current clients
  • Pertinent educational experience
  • Any awards or honors

Description of Services. Since the primary purpose of an online portfolio is to secure future clients, be sure to describe your services in detail. As you work through this section, consider the work you have already done, as well as other avenues you are interested in exploring. If your background is in web design but you are interested in working on the content side as well, you may wish to market yourself as a full-service web development consultant. If you are a writer with experience writing investment advice but you want to write on arts and culture as well, highlight both areas in your description of services.

Work Samples. The heart of a portfolio is a collection of work samples. Choose pieces that support the emphasis in your description of services. Broadly speaking, samples fall into two categories:

  • External links. If your work has appeared online, you can direct visitors directly to your published sample by means of a hyperlink (URL). Remember that in many cases your work may be the legal property of your client, so be sure to use proper citations and follow the terms of your contract.
  • Works showcased on your site. You may also wish to publish work directly on your site. This is an excellent way to display work that was not created for a client, especially if you are exploring a new area of your field or just starting out as an independent. Occasionally, you can also get permission to reproduce client work on your site.

Contact Information. Finally, be sure to provide potential clients with a way to contact you. Some independents provide just an e-mail address, while others include a daytime phone number and address as well. You might get e-mail from a large number of virtual passersby, so you may want to dedicate a separate e-mail account just for this purpose.

Creating an online portfolio is an excellent way to promote your business. It is also a venue for sharing your work with family and friends. Sometimes constructing your portfolio can be as creative and rewarding as the work you are showcasing.

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