Improving the Quality of Leads Through Your Online Portfolio

Developing a portfolio site is a priority for freelance designers, and online portfolios are often one of the primary methods for marketing services and generating leads for new design work. However, from my experience, the quality of leads that you receive through your portfolio can vary greatly.

Some people will contact you wanting something for nothing and with no real interest in following through with hiring you. Others will have a solid idea of what they want from a designer or developer and they’ll be ready to get started if you’re the right person for the job. Most likely you’ll get some of both, and many who fall somewhere in the middle.

Over the past year I’ve worked on improving the overall quality of leads from my portfolio site and I have a few thoughts that I’d like to share (and I’d love to get some feedback from other designers). I’m personally still a work in progress, so this post is also a reminded to myself of things that I need to improve.

Consider Your Pricing Strategy used to publish set prices for various design packages. The reasoning for this was simplicity for visitors, but  since the prices were low due to just getting started, inquiries typically came from those who were just seeking out a cheap designer, not from those who were serious about building a quality website. I found myself dealing mostly with bargain shoppers while the prices were posted.

Since the prices have been removed and things are now handled and quoted on a case-by-case basis, the quality of inquiries has noticeably improved. Yes, there are still some bargain shoppers, but a higher percentage of the inquiries are from individuals and businesses that want a productive and attractive website and are willing to pay for the work that’s involved. Most of these people have done a bit more research on their own and they are more knowledgeable on the realistic costs involved in building a website.

Whatever your pricing strategy is, consider how it is impacting the amount and quality of leads that you receive. Claiming or promoting low prices will almost always lead to the types of clients that you really don’t want to deal with. Promoting affordable or fair prices can be much more productive at eliminating the lower-quality leads.

Improve the Quality of Your Site

Also at, a re-design was done a few months ago that improved the overall quality of the website, particularly the blog as compared to the old blog theme. For very obvious reasons the quality of a portfolio site is generally a good representation of the designer’s work and ability. This is the biggest reason that so many designers go to a great deal of trouble to build a killer portfolio site.

If you’re finding that your quality of leads is lower than you would like, consider how the design of your portfolio is impacting the leads. If it is high quality maybe you should focus your efforts elsewhere, but if it could use some improvement, try to dedicate some time to making it the best that you can.

Improve the Way Your Work is Displayed

Designer portfolios can be extremely creative. In some cases the presentation can improve the impression made by your work, and in other cases it can distract and take attention away from the work. Be careful that the strength of your work remains in focus for visitors and potential clients so that it can maximize the impact.

Take a look at some creative portfolios in web design galleries to get some ideas and inspiration. Try to think of creative ways to display your work that will still be usable and will not take away from the work itself. Some designers do an excellent job in their portfolio of explaining specifically what was done with each website or pointing out certain aspects of the work. This can be helpful because it allows you to point out things that visitors might not otherwise recognize.

Improve the Quality of Your Work

In addition to the presentational aspect of a portfolio, the quality of work in the portfolio will also have a huge impact on the quality of leads that you received. Any potential client that knows what they want and has done some research will want to be able to see that you’re capable of doing a good job with their project. The best way to know that is by observing the work that you’ve already done.

Use Professionalism

Most of your potential clients will be businesses that expect to work with someone who handles their job with professionalism. While portfolios can be creative and a bit more extravagant than most other types of sites, they should not become unprofessional. Make it clear to potential clients that you take your work seriously and that they can be confident with how you will handle their project.

Mention Your Specialties

Most designers have one or two areas where they really excel in their work. If there is one aspect of design or one type of site that you specialize in, make it clear on your portfolio site. If you get a number of leads for the services that you specialize in, these would be considered high-quality leads. You’re more likely to get those leads if you can sell your services based on the fact that you specialize in what the potential client needs.

Get Some Details Through Your Contact Form

Another item that impacts the quality of your leads will be the information that you get upfront. If all you get is a name, phone number and email address, you won’t know anything about their situation until you talk to them. By getting a general idea of what they’re looking for and what their budget is, you can be more prepared for the initial conversation and more likely to land the business.

The difficult part is finding the balance between getting enough information and overdoing it to the point that you discourage people from contacting you. I like to get their location, current website, approximate budget, and what they’re looking for in addition to their contact information. I’ve found that this helps me to measure their interest and to see a little bit about what they need before I contact them.

Have Clearly Defined Services

In the world of web design and web development there are tons of different products and services that various companies and freelancers provide. By taking the time to clearly describe the services that you offer you can prevent people form contacting you for things that you don’t offer, and they will be more in tune with your services right off the bat.

Build Name Recognition

A few weeks ago I posted an article about whether designers need to build name recognition. My conclusion was that name recognition is helpful, but not essential. If you want to increase the quality of leads that you receive, name recognition should be considered.

Most potential clients will understand that the more well-known designers are likely to charge higher rates, and therefore they will not contact these designers if they’re looking for bargain basement prices.

Have a Strong Network

Some of your highest quality leads will come from others in your network. Maybe this will be other designers that aren’t taking new clients, other designers that don’t offer exactly what the client is looking for, SEO’s, logo designers, freelance writers, etc.

In addition to improving the quality of your own leads, you can also be more valuable to your clients by being well-connected to others in related fields. If one of your clients asks you about a service that you don’t offer, wouldn’t it be nice to have a friend to point them towards?

Weed Out the Spam

Contact forms will frequently get spammed. Use a type of form that doesn’t reveal your email address and use some other type of spam protection if necessary (such as a CAPTCHA or a spam-prevention question). If you’re spending too much of your time filtering out the spam you’ll have a harder time getting to the real inquiries.

Develop a Solid FAQ Page

Some potential clients will look for a FAQ page before contacting you. With a detailed and helpful FAQ page you may be able to encourage the types of leads that you’re looking for. Try to answer the most common questions, but also think of questions that can help you to show the quality of your services through your answers

What’s Your Experience with Your Portfolio Site?

What have you found to help or hurt the quality of leads that come via your online portfolio?

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design, a popular design blog.
  1. September 3, 2008

    Great article Steven. I had the opposite effect in regards to pricing. When I did not have pricing listed on my site, I would get the bargain hunters. Now that I have ‘starting at’ prices, it seems to help weed those types out. I guess it depends on where you are getting referrals from, etc. When I first started designing, a lot of my leads were from people I knew through ebay… and that place is bargain hunters galore. 😉 Love the FAQ page suggestion. I need to work on one of those.

  2. Steven Snell
    September 4, 2008

    I think the reason we had different results on the pricing issue is because my prices were very low and yours are a good bit higher. My prices encouraged bargain hunters whereas yours may encourage people who are serious about building a great website.

  3. September 4, 2008

    you’re probably right. That’s one of the reasons I raised my prices… I too was tired of the bargain hunters.

  4. September 4, 2008

    Worse than the bargain hunters are the SPEC hunters that come through your site.

    Thanks for the article.

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  7. February 20, 2009

    thanks for the inspiring article! i’m in the process of a re-design and will take many of these tips to heart.

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  10. June 7, 2010

    Good Article!!

  11. June 29, 2010

    I found that my current portfolio, which is done 100% in flash, has greatly hindered me. I was really impressed and proud with it when I first finished and I received great feedback. Now however, after more minimalistic websites have come out, I’ve gotten some usability complaints. Search Engine Optimization has also hurt me a great deal.

    Since a few weeks ago i’ve been working on the third version of my portfolio which is going to be done in html5 and css3. It’s fun working in this way, and I’ve come to grips with a lot of the great design aspects such as headers, breadcrumb trails, and more font control.

    Thanks for this great post, really coming in handy. Keep it up : D

  12. November 24, 2010

    This is educational for me. I hadn’t thought that there are a lot of factors to consider in web design. I thought it was just a matter of layout. But the article above is certainly an eye opener.

  13. March 12, 2011

    thank you for sharing this article 🙂

  14. March 25, 2011

    Great points. Sometimes, it’s not even a matter of “improvement” but simply keeping things fresh and just making a few changes. I frequently wonder about the amount of traffic one gets as opposed to qualified traffic. If you have a lot of traffic but not getting any true leads, which convert to paid jobs, then the traffic isn’t really meaningful. Thanks for the article!

  15. April 16, 2011

    Thanks a lot for the article.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to view and to understand what you need for your own portfolio even when it’s essential for out work.

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