Your Website is Your Greatest Asset
Your website is likely going to be your primary selling tool. While maximizing your social media reach is vital (quality over quantity though), there's a big difference in how you package and position yourself on a portfolio site versus a social media site.
A portfolio site's benefits are that you can artfully organize and curate your portfolio and personal work, and viewers can customize their experience from there. Use a template from a well-known portfolio site: a ton of time and research has gone into perfecting their appearance and functionality. And since they're widely used, there's no learning curve to figuring out how to navigate your site.
Organizing Structure and Flow
Three to four portfolio categories/specialties (i.e., Food, Interiors, Travel, Motion) should allow you to showcase your storytelling abilities and connect with great clients. Don't try to be relevant to everyone by creating too many categories/specialties, you'll end up relevant to no one. And about 20 images in each category/specialty is enough to show off your skills while keeping the viewer's attention. Have a flow to the images: positioning images in a way that tells a story (i.e., transitions of subjects, styles, colors, textures) helps the viewer breeze through your work without getting distracted by jarring groupings.
Organize personal projects into their own categories. The benefit of including personal projects is to show how your creative expression translates where there isn't a sales goal or an editorial brief to guide your process. It's also a way for you to show the issues, communities, and ideas that are important to you. Being a true artist is all about translating esoteric ideas into a single frame or video experience. Here's your chance to demonstrate your visual storytelling abilities.
Have a logo or a type treatment for your name. It doesn't have to be fancy, but if it's a logo, it should be on trend with what's happening in the design world. A logo or a type treatment is a visual reference for your name, digital presence, and brand. It helps to build name recognition and give character to your ideas and visual assets. It's also a reflection of you as a person. Fonts (serifs, line weights, kerning, line spacing), colors, and overall design (shapes, angles, framing, negative space) all have a spirit to them. Yours should reflect your personality, values, and approach.
Bio and Clients
Your bio could be an expansion of your elevator pitch. What you want to communicate are your background, experiences, inspirations, and abilities to meet your clients' expectations. Speak from the heart, but keep it focused on what's relevant to your ideal client. Avoid clichés (i.e., I held a camera for the first time and knew I wanted to be a photographer) – while it may be true to you, it's made the transition from sincere emotion to cornball sentiment. Include a client list if you have notable clients. The value is affirming that these agencies, magazines, and brands trusted you with the vision for their messaging. But also, don't oversell it. For example, if you worked as an assistant on the shoot, and weren't the creative lead on the project, don't mention the client. You may not get fact-checked, but it's about being relevant and providing an excellent customer experience by being straightforward and trustworthy.
SEO and Search Ads
Once your portfolio website is complete, see how it compares to general search engine searches for your type of business (i.e., Dallas based food photographer). If you're finding yourself on page three of results, consider hiring an SEO or Google Ad expert to rank hirer organically or through paid search ads.
Set up your Google analytics. This will tell you the demographic of your audience, how you acquired visitors (i.e., direct, organic/paid search, referral, social), and how they interacted with your website (pages viewed, time on page, bounce rate). This is valuable to see what's working and not working about your website.
If you're not confident about any of the above, enroll a friend with up-to-date industry knowledge and experience, or hire a creative consultant. Your portfolio is your primary sales tool – getting it wrong will impact your business; getting it right will open countless doors of opportunity.
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