9 Ways to Get Your Design Portfolio Seen

One of the biggest challenges for new designers and freelancers (and even for those who aren’t new) is simply getting their work seen. You may be able to produce an excellent level of quality, but if no one sees it you’ll probably be wishing you had more work. Here is a list from my experience of a few things that can help to increase exposure to your portfolio.

UPDATE: We recently launched a gallery dedicated to showcasing the best portfolio sites – Folio Focus.

1. Get Your Site Featured in Design/CSS Galleries

There are literally hundreds of design galleries out there, and they provide an outstanding opportunity to get some exposure to your portfolio site. If you scroll through the sites featured at most design galleries you’ll see that a decent percentage of them are portfolio sites from designers. Those who are able to get featured in some of the larger, popular galleries will have their portfolio site seen by thousands of people. The only problem with these galleries is that a large percentage of their visitors are other diesgners, so your work may not be seen by as many people who are looking for a designer.

Best Web Gallery

2. Start a Blog at the Same Domain

Blogging can also be an incredibly effective tool for bringing visitors to your portfolio site and to keep them coming back. A blog that publishes valuable content will attract subscribers, links, search engine traffic, social media traffic, and personal recommendations. While building a successful blog will take time and effort, it can have a huge impact on how many people see your portfolio and how well you’re able to build your name in the industry.

Graphic designer David Airey is an excellent example of someone that has been able to gain tons of exposure to his portfolio through his blogging efforts. David is one of the first people that comes to mind when I think about graphic designers and logo designers, but I probably wouldn’t know much of anything about him without his blog.

David Airey

3. Design for a Well-Known Client

One way to get your work seen is to piggyback on the success of your clients. Designing for the right high-profile client may give you the exposure that you need. Of course, landing work with these clients is not always easy and you may need to give a discount or free work in order to get their attention.

Unique Blog Design benefited greatly in its early days of existence by doing re-designs for both John Chow and Shoemoney. Doing work for clients with that type of audience got their name out very quickly.

4. Giveaways

As a designer, there are any number of different things you can create and giveaway, such as WordPress themes, HTML/CSS templates, icons, wallpapers, Photoshop brushes, etc. The purpose of giveaways is obviously not to make money directly, but rather to attract inbound links and referrals that will ultimately wind up in more people seeing your work, and hopefully more business.

Function has helped to build its reputation and exposure quickly in part by using a few giveaways. The free Outdoorsy Theme has gotten a good bit of attention, their set of 33 grunge brushes for Photoshop has also given them some exposure, and they also gave away a great icon set.

Function

5. Be Interviewed

Being interviewed by another website, blog, or magazine can provide an excellent opportunity to get your name in front of others and to help them learn more about you as an individual. Most interviews will include a link to your portfolio site, so it can result in interested visitors who want to check out your work.

FYC

6. Network Profiles

There are a lot of different networking sites (see 17 websites to Boost Your Designer Profile) that allow designers to post a profile, and some will give you an opportunity to share some work from your portfolio. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be active or to have a presence at all of them, but you can pick a few and use them to network with other designers and display your portfolio. Some of the more popular options include Behance, deviantART, Carbonmade, and Virb.

Rob Morris of Digital Mash is an excellent example of what can be done with one of these sites. He’s got a customized Virb page that I’ve seen mentioned in a few different places as an innovative and creative Virb page, and of course it gives great exposure to his work.

Rob Morris

7. Flickr Groups

For designers, Flickr can be much more than a place to host your personal photos. Many designers use Flickr to get some exposure for their work, and there are hundreds or thousands of Flickr groups that have been created for designers to share their work with others (see 99 Flickr Groups for Design Inspiration).

An example of a Flickr group that can provide exposure for graphic designers is the PSDTUTS group. The group has nearly 3,000 members that share their best Photoshop creations, and PSDTUTS even displays recent submissions in their sidebar.

Flickr Groups

8. PPC Ads

I’ve mentioned Pay-Per-Click ads a few times in recent posts. I’m really not a salesman for Google or anything (and in fact I currently don’t have any active PPC campaigns as of the time this article is published), but there are very few other advertising methods that are so flexible. You can run PPC ads leading to a landing page on your portfolio site with any-sized budget and pause them when you don’t need any new clients. When you do need new clients, you can easily turn them back on.

9. Freelance Blogging

In addition to having your own blog at your portfolio site, you can reach large, diverse new audiences by writing for other blogs and publications. I’d had the privilege of writing for a number of different blogs over the past year and I have to say that it’s been one of the best things I have done to grow my business.

A recent example that comes to mind is Jeffrey Way of Detached Designs. I remember clicking through to see Jeffrey’s site after reading an article that he wrote for Freelance Switch. Since then I’ve also read his posts at Freelance Folder and NETTUTS.

What’s Worked for You?

From your experience, what have been the best methods to get people to see your portfolio?

Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+

  • This was a very helpful article. I’ve bookmarked it so that I can check back and implement them one at a time. Thanks!

  • Good read, i have started a few of them points at – http://www.pinkpetrol.com but the PPC point is something I think some people might not go for! Selling your soul to google!

  • Good stuff, some solid advice – The only one I’ve not really tried is PPC Ads it’s something I might explore when things get a little slow.

    One thing I will say is that Flickr has probably been the best form of networking I’ve used. And that free icons really are a great source of traffic.

    My Suggestions:

    • Hold a Contest

    • Experiment with styles, create something that stands out, even if it is just for a personal project.

    Great read.

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  • Hi, really good post, will be trying to implement each one! thanks!

  • Great post. Good stuff for beginners, and lots of stuff for the not-so-beginners. Thanks

  • Steven Snell

    Angie,
    Good, I’m glad it was helpful.

    Pink Petrol,
    I don’t see how PPC ads are selling your soul to Google if they help grow your business. There are always other PPC options like Yahoo or MSN.

    Liam,
    Thanks for your feedback. I know Flickr is a great networking tool for some, but personally I haven’t used it that much. I use it more for inspiration and looking at the work of others. Yeah, I agree on the icons even though I have never released any. It’s clear that they generate a lot of traffic and links.

    Lynsey and Matt,
    Thanks for your feedback. Glad it helped.

  • Great post; lots of good advise. nice.

  • ive jsut realy started using flickr, the groups are really good to look at otheres work but some dont seem veryactive even the ones with huge numbers of members.

    ive used PPC before for anouther project they increase traffic alot, and ill be using them again no doubt, just depends if the traffic gets converted.

    also im going to be creating a few freebies for my design blog soon so hopefully that will impress a few people… i hope

    Max | Design Shard

  • Steven Snell

    Max,
    Yes, some of the Flickr groups are more active than others. Good point on the PPC, traffic is easy but you have to have a plan to get conversions.

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  • It’s funny, Steven, just looking at the screenshot image of my site has made me contemplate a design tweak—placing my content within a box, kind of like you’ve done. I’m not sure how, but it’s a thought. 🙂

  • Oh, and thanks very much! There’s no denying how effective a blog can be for self-promotion.

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  • Steven Snell

    David,
    That is really funny because I’m not sold on the borders yet. I was looking at your site and contemplating whether I should keep them or get rid of them. I’ll definitely keep them on the front page, but I think it can look a bit awkward on long posts when the sidebars are empty. I’ve also thought about giving the sidebars a slight color to see how that works. We’ll see.

  • Haha. You make a good point, paricularly where sidebars are to the left and right of content. A border may make the white space look a little odd.

    Adding colour or tone to the background was one reason for the border, but I might just leave it.

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  • I agree 100%. Very good tips!

  • This is a great article and I am going to test a few of these tips out. I just dont know about doing the whole adsense thing but have been thinking about it..Check out our design work http://www.daddydesign.com

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  • Great article, will come in handy

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  • There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

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  • Would you be interested in writing for The Neave Online Publication? I love your writing style and I feel like you would fit in perfectly with the other writers.

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  • Great article. The examples and plenty of links were actually useful. Thanks.

  • webn

    Nice article, certainly helpful for me and will test some of those soon.

  • O good way getting your work seen is to do some SEO research also!! I think this item should be in the list as well. ^^

  • certainly helpful for me and will test some of those soon

  • I love your writing style and I feel like you would fit in perfectly with the other writers.!!!

  • I didn’t know that Flickr works, i should try it… How about social networks like facebook? I think this is useful too. Nice article! Well structured!

  • Maybe you could change the post name 9 Ways to Get Your Design Portfolio Seen – Web Design Blog – DesignM.ag to something more better for your webpage you create. I enjoyed the post all the same.

  • Most of these examples are going to get your portfolio seen by other designers and not really clients. I suppose you might snag the odd overflow job or two but does anybody have tips for catching clients?

  • Excellent ideas, some of which I will definitely put to good use. I’ve also found that leaving comments on articles such as this another helpful way to gain inbound traffic. 🙂

  • Great post! I’m new to the game, so this will surely help me.

  • Nothing more helpful than these good ol’ tips! Implemented most of them, but without Flickr… kinda dislike the thingy. Besides I already have the DeviantArt profile rollin’ in my hands 🙂
    Thanks for the sharing Steve!

  • joe

    This i a great post that will help me! Check out http//:www.jddesigner.ie