Setting Up Your Portfolio Site
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to setting up your portfolio site. With so many services to choose from, it comes down to your budget, the time and effort you are willing to invest, and how professional you want to portray your brand. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular choices.
YOU HAVE NO BUDGET
Imgur is worth checking out if you don’t have any budget to work with. It’s an image host that is user-friendly and easy to use. The ability to create albums makes it great for showcasing different projects.
Sadly, Imgur is pretty bare-bones in terms of features. You can’t customize albums beyond rearranging your posts. Also, there is no way to change the album layout, so you are stuck with a single scrolling page.
Because Imgur gets so much traffic, there are times when the service is down briefly due to overcapacity. While the disruptions aren’t frequent, they might turn away some prospective clients. Overall, using Imgur isn’t professional, but it gets the job done.
BLOGGER AND WORDPRESS
Instead of an image host, you might want to consider something closer to a conventional site. For that, Blogger and WordPress are great choices. They are popular publishing platforms, with many customization options (even unofficial ones) available.
Blogger, as its name implies, is created with web blogging in mind. While it comes with default templates, they are pretty lackluster. Fortunately, it’s possible to change your website’s appearance with custom templates from resources such as Btemplates and Gooyaabi Templates.
Like Blogger, WordPress is a blog hosting service for those looking to share their content online. It has hundreds of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes, a user-friendly interface, and even allows you to create portfolio projects. Comparing the two, WordPress definitely has an edge over Blogger in terms of features and usability.
If you are new to WordPress, you might get confused between WordPress.com and WordPress.org — two platforms that are similar, yet different. WordPress.org is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to organize and facilitate content creation. You will learn more about using WordPress.org later on. Conversely, WordPress.com, as mentioned earlier, is a platform where you can host your website for free, but with some limitations.
Tumblr is great for a more hands-off approach. It’s a microblogging platform with a focus on multimedia content. Uploading images is easy, and you can use themes to create a professional-looking site.
In addition, as a social networking service you can readily share your projects among other users. In fact, many graphic designers use Tumblr as part of their marketing efforts, so it’s worth checking out.
Wix is a web development platform that lets anyone create a beautiful website for free. With drag and drop tools, it’s designed specially for those with no coding skills. You can even customize how your site is displayed on mobile devices for a better user experience.
For graphic designers, Wix has image galleries that enhances the visual presentation for your projects, with features that are easy to edit and customize.
INVEST IN YOUR OWN SITE
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
As you have seen, it’s possible to set up your portfolio site for free. However, most graphic designers choose to pay for hosting and domains — and you should do the same.
Consider the client’s perspective, specifically how they will see you as a freelance graphic designer. Will they respect you as a professional who’s serious about freelancing and willing to invest for success? Or will they dismiss you as an amateur looking to do things for cheap?
Having your own domain establishes you as a professional who is looking to work with serious clients. Not only that, with access to high-end features, you will have better control over the look and feel of your site. In fact, paid services don’t cost as much as you think. Hosting and domain registration usually comes up to around 100 USD a year. That’s about 10 USD per month, which is quite affordable. You might have to save up, but the rewards are worth it.
Even among paid services, there are many choices available. Deciding on one depends on how well you know web design.
You Want Something Intuitive
If you don’t have coding skills, consider services such as Squarespace and Carbonmade. They take care of everything, from custom domains to professional, mobile-ready templates — you pretty much just need to upload your designs.
Squarespace is popular among graphic designers. Not only do you have many templates to choose from, you can also customize nearly every aspect of your site using the style editor.
Carbonmade is dedicated to providing a service that’s lightweight and easy to use. If you are looking for quality rather than quantity, then this online portfolio builder should be perfect for you.
You Prefer More Control
For a challenge, why not build your portfolio site from the ground up? It’s not as difficult as it sounds, though you have to do some research and get your hands dirty.
First, register your domain. There are many domain name registrars available, but you can’t go wrong with NameCheap or GoDaddy. NameCheap is slightly cheaper (as of this writing) than GoDaddy if you are looking at something long-term.
Next, select a web hosting service. A reliable and affordable plan will be enough to serve your purposes for now. However, with so many services to choose from, it might be hard to make a decision. As a suggestion, take a look at SiteGround, a hosting provider that is rated quite favorably by users.
I’m using SiteGround for my web hosting, and have little to no issues so far. At 5 USD per month for a Small (Shared) Plan, I definitely recommend it.
After paying for domain and web hosting, you have to get your portfolio up and running. You can go about it in two ways: using a Content Management System or writing your own code.
A Content Management System (or CMS for short) allows you to create, edit and publish content from a central interface. WordPress is a great choice, with tons of themes to customize how your site looks and works.
ThemeForest alone has more than 6,000 themes created by designers like yourself, so you will definitely find one that fits your needs.
WRITING YOUR OWN CODE
For the more adventurous, you can write your own code. Be warned though — coding your site from scratch can be an exhausting process, though you will learn a lot about web design and development in the process.
If you are looking to kickstart the process, Start Bootstrap has a library of free to download Bootstrap 3 themes and templates.
You have many ways to set up your portfolio site as a freelance graphic designer. Even though there are free alternatives such as Imgur and WordPress, remember that to attract clients you need to show that you are a professional. As such, you should always go with a custom domain and pay for web hosting whenever possible.