Find out how to use the portfolio post type to show off your best work to readers and potential clients.
You do great work. Whether you’re an artist, writer, photographer, designer, or other, your creations inspire and amaze others. You’re constantly going above and beyond producing work you’re proud of.
I know it. You know it. But, does everyone else?
Portfolios help you to put your best work out in the open, regardless of whether you’re trying to attract new clients for your business or highlight pieces you’re proud of for readers. Here are some tips for shining the spotlight on your top stars.
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Pick the right canvas.
All WordPress.com themes will display portfolio projects once they’re enabled and created, which means you can show off your work regardless of what theme you’re using. By default, they’ll exist at the following URL:
However, what if you wanted to showcase your work on your homepage? Some themes are built specifically with portfolios in mind and have special page templates for displaying your projects front and center. For example, Espied offers a special front page design that highlights portfolio items with space for an introductory blurb above.
Note: Setting up the portfolio page format requires a few additional steps after activating the theme. Check the theme’s support page for more info!
Regardless of whether you’re using a portfolio-oriented theme or any other theme at WordPress.com, your portfolio page should have two attributes:
- Clutter-free – Make it easy for everyone to find and see your work. Don’t clutter the page with unnecessary text.
- Appealing design – Use high-quality images that show off the finished product.
Display your work with a shortcode.
You aren’t restricted to just using the default portfolio page for showcasing your work. If you want to include your portfolio projects on a different page (like at the bottom of your About page, for example), you could do that using the portfolio shortcode.
Shortcodes are snippets of text that can help you add objects (like portfolio posts) into a page or post. Don’t let the word “code” trick you; shortcodes are easier to use than you might think. Check here for more info!
For example, say you did want to include your portfolio projects at the bottom of your About page. You could insert the following text into the bottom of the page:
Just that little bit of text will list out your projects. But, let’s say you wanted to get a bit more creative and adjust how the projects appear. You can use various attributes like
orderby to achieve the exact look you want. We could adjust the above shortcode adding the additional attributes like this:
[portfolio columns=3 orderby=title]
That would display your projects in three columns in alphabetical order by title. Here’s an example of how it would appear on the page:
You can mix and match the various attributes (listed here). With the portfolio shortcode, you can display your work anywhere on your site and make sure that it looks perfect every time.
Figure out what to showcase.
While it’s tempting to include every item you’ve produced, that might actually hurt you in the long run. Here are three questions to help you decide what to include:
Is this the best example of the particular skill I want to showcase?
Portfolios should highlight your best work, not all of it. Otherwise, weaker items will drown out your star performances.
Is this the first piece of work I want my audience to see?
Just like our appearance and demeanor influence first impressions, your portfolio impacts how others view you as a creative professional. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Does this piece of work attract the type of work I want to do?
Your portfolio is about showing off your work, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to attract more of it. You’re probably skilled in multiple disciplines within your craft (long-form feature stories, first-person narratives, etc). What kind of work are you looking to do more of? Highlight examples of that work in your portfolio.
Now that we have our theme set up, we’re ready to start adding projects. Here are three tips to make your portfolio projects as effective as possible.
Use simple language.
You might have used the latest and greatest programming language for your latest piece of work. In your portfolio, you’ll be tempted to show off your technical prowess using industry jargon. While that might impress colleagues and coworkers, there’s a chance that your audience will be intimidated if they don’t know the lingo.
When adding portfolio items, think back to who you’re trying to attract in the first place. For example, if you’re a website designer, frame your project descriptions in a way that appeals directly to your intended readers. Discuss how you decided on a certain layout and how it can help to increase newsletter subscribers, not the fancy PHP you used to make it happen.
Explain your thinking.
Your audience loves to see your finished product, but they’re also interested in hearing about your thought process as well. For example, in his web design project for Inspiration Lab, designer Ken Zinser breaks down the discovery and user workflow exercises he went through to help form his design:
This gives readers some insight into how Ken works and what it would be like to work with him on a project.
If you’re a writer, you probably don’t have design-oriented workflows or wireframes to showcase, but you can still give readers a behind-the-scenes look. Discuss how you came up with a story topic and how you collected information. Did you have to interview multiple sources?
Set a featured image and custom excerpt.
Featured images ensure that your portfolio page is visually appealing. This could be an image of your finished design or even the client’s logo where your work was published. The custom excerpt allows you to control what text appears on your portfolio page. By default, you’ll see the first few lines of the actual project text. However, you might want to include a customized introduction. Then, readers can click on the project title for the full details.
Organize your work.
Similar to posts, which can be organized by tags and categories, portfolio projects can be organized by Project Type and Project Tags. This helps to organize your portfolio and ensures that readers can easily find the work they’re looking for. For example, take a look at the portfolio of website designer Jonny Evans:
Underneath each portfolio item, you’ll notice the specific project types (App Design, Branding, etc). This represents the type of work he did on the particular project. If a reader is trying to find more icon design examples from Jonny, they can easily do that by clicking on the project type.
Project tags can be used in a similar fashion. For example, you could use the project type to define the type of work you did on a project or the specific photography technique you used (“App Design” for example). The project tag can be used to identify the client that the work was for or the outlet where it was published.
For those already using the portfolio post type, what are some other best practices and tips you’ve found helpful? Share them in the comments!