If you want to make a living as a freelance writer, designer, or developer, you’ll need a portfolio website. This guide on how to create a portfolio website in WordPress will show you how to make one in only six simple steps:
- Choose a domain name
- Pick a web host suitable for portfolios
- Choose a portfolio theme
- Set up essential plugins for a portfolio site
- Set up your core pages
- Consider a marketing plan
First, though, let’s talk about what makes a good portfolio website.
What makes a good portfolio website?
A portfolio website needs to showcase your work appealingly. To accomplish this, it must have four elements: relevant design, clear copywriting, a display of your best work, and some info for people to contact you.
Relevant design 🧮
Your portfolio site should use colors and imagery to tell people something about your work. For example, if you’re a freelance technical writer, your portfolio might use neutral colors and minimal imagery to keep the focus on your writing.
On the other hand, if you’re a designer, you might want to go for something extravagant showcasing your skills. 3D designer Danny Jones does this quite well with a brilliant, colorful image on the homepage:
Clear copywriting ✏️
Your portfolio website should explain the work you do, how it can solve your customers’ problems, and why you’re qualified to do it. This should include a short explanation on the homepage and more detailed information on the About page. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the section on how to set up your core pages.
Your best work ⭐
If you’re just starting out, you might need to share all of your work samples in your portfolio. As time goes on, though, begin to curate your portfolio to focus only on your best work. You’ll also want to emphasize the jobs you enjoyed most. When learning how to create a portfolio website, we recommend you apply these tactics to get hired for similar jobs in the future.
A way for people to work with you 🚧
Your website should include a Hire Me page with details on how people can contact you. This might be through a contact form, an email address, or a scheduling tool people can use to book consultations.
💡 Note: Sharing your email address directly may cause an increase in spam sent to that address, so it’s typically recommended you opt for a contact form.
You may also want to include a call-to-action (CTA) button with your contact information on other key pages, like your About page.
How to create a portfolio website with WordPress
- Step 1: Choose a domain name
- Step 2: Choose a web host suitable for portfolios
- Step 3: Choose a portfolio theme
- Step 4: Set up essential plugins to run a portfolio site
- Step 5: Set up your core pages
- Step 6: Consider a marketing plan
Step 1: Choose a domain name
The first step in how to create a portfolio website is to choose a domain name. Most professionals default to using their first and last name as their domain since it’s easily identifiable and is unlikely to be taken unless you have a common name like Chris Johnson. This can be effective, but there are a couple of good reasons to consider using a different domain name:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Using your name as your domain name ensures that you’ll rank first when people search for you. However, the number of people searching for your name is likely to be small, especially in the beginning. Using a keyword like “freelance writer” or “web designer” in your domain can help you rank for high-traffic keywords and bring more organic traffic to your site.
- Future opportunities. Using your name gives the impression that you’re the one people will be working with. If you hope to expand your business into an agency with multiple professionals, you’ll want to use a more general name that gives you room for expansion.
Step 2: Choose a web host suitable for portfolios
The next step in how to create a portfolio website is to choose a web host. These companies provide server space and management tools to help you share your website with the world.
The best web hosting companies offer several benefits:
- Free domain registration with your purchase.
- Free SSL certification to ensure that your site is secure. Portfolio websites without this security measure in place are deprioritized by Google, so you want to make sure this is either bundled into your package or available as a low-cost add-on.
- One-click WordPress install so that you can start working on the design and content right away. Some plans also come with preinstalled WordPress.
- Advanced security measures like anti-DDoS protection.
Many web hosts also offer more expensive plans with things like automated backups, WordPress management, and email hosting to support your portfolio site and run other parts of your business.
If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use web host with flexible plans that can grow with your business, we recommend Bluehost. Plans start at $2.75/month and include free domain registration + SSL certification. Bluehost also has managed WordPress plans, a WordPress website builder, and custom WordPress themes, making it an ideal choice if you’re using WordPress to build a portfolio.
Step 3: Choose a portfolio theme
Once you’ve purchased a web hosting package and installed WordPress, it’s time to choose a theme for your portfolio. This will determine the overall layout for your site, including the customization options you have access to.
You can view thousands of free WordPress themes by going to Appearance > Themes in the WordPress dashboard, and clicking Add New. Many of these themes are already optimized for use as professional portfolios:
Some of them have limited customization options. Some also restrict most features to a paid version, so you’ll have to upgrade to get your site to look the way you want it.
If you want a free theme with maximum flexibility for creating all types of portfolios, and one that starts you off with professionally designed, pre-built starter sites, we recommend Neve. This theme is lightweight, optimized for mobile and SEO, and highly customizable. Plus, if you decide you want to upgrade to the premium version, you’ll get access to even more pre-made portfolio layouts and even more advanced customization options.
Furthermore, Neve offers dozens of starter sites made just for running portfolios, with designs for photographers, agencies, developers, artists, animators, writers, and more!
Step 4: Set up essential plugins to run a portfolio site
The next step in how to create a portfolio website with WordPress is to set up your plugins. Plugins extend the functionality of your portfolio site, allowing you to do things like set up contact forms, filter spam, and much more.
The exact plugins you’ll need will vary based on the goals of your portfolio, but there are some basic plugins we recommend for all users:
- Yoast SEO – This plugin offers a variety of SEO tools to improve the ranking of both individual pages and your portfolio website as a whole.
- Akismet – This plugin filters spam, ensuring that only relevant comments and contact form submissions reach you.
- Otter Blocks – This plugin adds new blocks to the Gutenberg editor. Otter Blocks also gives you access to advanced block customization options and can be used as a lightweight page builder. You can even use it to create a beautiful portfolio gallery to an existing WordPress site.
- Wordfence – This plugin uses a firewall, malware scanner, and other security tools to keep your portfolio safe.
- Contact Form 7 – This plugin makes it easy to create a contact form on your website and ensure that all submissions for work reach your inbox. Contact Form 7 is fully integrated with Akismet to reduce spam.
- Optimole – This plugin automatically optimizes images to improve your site loading speed. It’s particularly useful on portfolio websites, since they often include bulky images that could slow down your site.
You may also want to look into a slider plugin when learning how to create a portfolio website.
Step 5: Set up your core pages
With your plugins in place, you’re ready to start adding content to your portfolio website. There are four core pages every portfolio needs:
- Homepage. This page provides an introduction to your services. You want to include high-quality images, a short written introduction to what you do, and a CTA directing people to check out your previous work and/or head directly to your Hire Me page. Major awards, logos of notable companies you’ve worked with, and your best 2-3 testimonials can also appear on this page.
- About. This page provides a more detailed explanation of who you are and what you do. Focus on your story: why you do this work, how you got started, major projects you’ve completed, awards you’ve won, and the type(s) of work you want to do going forward. All of the details included here should be chosen to emphasize how you can help your customers.
- Hire Me. This page will tell people what they can hire you for and how they can hire you. It should include a list of your services, your contact information, and a strong CTA encouraging people to hire you. You may also want to include your rates, typical turnaround times for various types of projects, and other information that can help potential employers decide if they’re the right fit.
- Portfolio. This is the page where you display your best work. Use high-quality images and clear, concise descriptions (under the image or after someone clicks through) to showcase each project. If your projects are published online, include links. If not, use screenshots. Projects with multiple screenshots can be organized into galleries.
If you’ve already worked with a few clients, you’ll also want to include a Testimonials page where you display positive things clients have said about you or your work. Each testimonial should be displayed with the quote, client name, and company name. You can also add images of your clients to show the real people behind them, as copywriter Kayla Lalewkowicz has done on her Testimonials page:
This page also groups testimonials together to emphasize different aspects of Kayla’s work, with headers like “Your personal content cheerleader,” “Storytelling that resonates,” and “Built with your audience in mind.” This makes the page easy to scan and ensures that readers are taking the right message from the testimonials they read, a crucial element when learning how to create a portfolio website.
There are several testimonial plugins you can use to create your Testimonials page. Some also allow users to submit testimonials to your website so you don’t have to email testimonial requests to clients manually.
Step 6: Consider a marketing plan
Congratulations, you’ve learned how to create a portfolio website with WordPress! So…there’s nothing else to do, right?
That depends on your goals. If you want your portfolio website to exist purely as something to include in job applications, you can simply publish your website and leave it be, updating occasionally to include new work samples.
But if you want to use your portfolio to build a successful business, you should definitely come up with a marketing plan to help you connect with potential clients.
A good online marketing plan has three core components:
- SEO. A few high-ranking pages can bring in thousands of visitors from Google and other search engines for many months after you publish content, making this strategy incredibly valuable. You can boost your SEO by choosing an SEO-friendly domain name and website tagline and optimizing all of your static pages for relevant keywords. You can also create a blog and use high-traffic keywords to create content ideas that will rank well.
- Social media. You can use social media sites to share projects you’re working on and inform people about updates to your portfolio or availability. You can also share industry insights on social media to establish yourself as an expert.
- Email. You can use email marketing to share your availability, announce products and sales, and generally keep in touch with potential clients.
If all of these options feel overwhelming, I recommend you start by making your SEO sparkle. You can always expand into other types of marketing later on.
Final advice on how to create a portfolio website with WordPress 🎯
Your portfolio website is your professional home online. Take the time to build it right, focusing your efforts on six key steps:
- Choose a name that fits your industry and your business goals.
- Choose a web host that provides free domain registration and SSL certification. You may also want to seek advanced features like email hosting, WordPress management, and automated backups.
- Choose a portfolio theme (such as Neve) with extensive customization options so that you have full control over your site’s appearance.
- Set up your plugins for SEO, spam filtering, contact forms, security, and image optimization.
- Set up your core pages: your Homepage, About page, Portfolio page, and Hire Me page. Plus, if you have more than four testimonials, create a Testimonials page.
- Consider a marketing plan to attract potential clients to your portfolio site.
📢 Need some inspiration on how to create a portfolio website? Check out our collection of awesome design portfolios to see before creating your own!
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