Manager Monday: Picking Your Portfolio Platform (Digital)

In the internet-heavy, networking-obsessed world of today, having a website is nearly non-optional. And by website, I don’t mean a Facebook profile page, an active Twitter feed, or a Tumblr with the best cat memes in the world. I mean a website. You know, those pesky places you go for information on the internet that usually work, but frustrate you when they don’t. Your website, filled with information about you, your services, previous work, and anything else that makes you look like a marginally successful human being.

But where to start creating this electronic version of you? Unless you’re a web guru (and if you are, you’re reading the wrong blog post), you’re probably going to want to go with one of the many available website creation sites. Here’s a list of the most commonly used, their pricing, and their main strengths (in no particular order):

  • Squarespace
    Squarespace costs eight dollars per month if billed annually, or twelve dollars per month if billed monthly. It has a terrifyingly long list of features, including robust free templates (and even more impressive paid ones), access to some Adobe Typekit fonts without having an Adobe subscription, a fully-optimized ecommerce section, automatic mobile conversion, and SEO support.
  • Wix
    Wix offers a basic plan for four dollars per month, but it displays Wix brand ads. However, upgrading to $9.75 per month removes the ads and gets you a free domain for the first year, which is a pretty sweet deal. Unique features include templates for everything from restaurants to portfolios to commerce, a remarkably robust WYSIWYG editor for layout and design, an app market, and built-in email marketing.
  • Weebly
    Like Wix, Weebly also offers a free version, and while it doesn’t feature ads, you won’t get a domain name of your own. A domain name kicks in at eight dollars per month, as do features such as the super easy-to-use drag and drop website builder, real-time website statistics, basic blogging and ecommerce options, and even SSL certificates (so your visitors can be sure your site is secure) and password protected pages.
  • WordPress
    If you want to create a blog-based website, the first place you should look is WordPress. For a grand total of zero dollars(!) WordPress offers a basic website, which may feature ads. Upgrading to the ninety-nine-dollar-a-year option gets you thirteen gigabytes of server space, a custom domain name, search engine optimization, a robust plugin/modding community, and a built-in comment system. Most importantly, WordPress is licensed under the GPL, so you’re free to modify and distribute your site in any way you see fit. Plus, WordPress estimates that more than 24 percent of websites are powered by its coding, which is pretty neat.
  • Portfoliobox
    Unlike the previous options, which are designed for creating a broad range of sites, Portfoliobox focuses on—you guessed it—portfolios. It’s seven dollars per month if billed annually, or nine dollars per month if billed monthly, and focuses on features designed to enhance portfolios. Advanced galleries, custom HTML and CSS, image control/options, and ecommerce/social media integration round out this platform.
  • Coroflot
    Perhaps the most unique on this list, Coroflot combines a design-oriented portfolio website with a job board. It’s great for artists and designers who want to put themselves out there and get something quickly in return. It’s free, but because of that, it doesn’t necessarily have all the cool features that the other website builders offer. However, it does offer free unlimited storage (rare!), a personalized short link (not to be confused with a domain name), and statistic tracking. And a great job board.

This is by no means a complete list. There are dozens of other website design platforms out there. Maybe even hundreds. If you want to go totally rogue, you can try out Jekyll, which is totally free, but requires advanced coding knowledge. There’s also Webydo if you want to create a suite of sites. There’s a website designer that will satisfy your every need; you just need to go out and find it.

Manager Monday: So You Need a Portfolio (Design)

Whether you’re about to graduate, you want to get a leg up on the job hunt, or you want to dabble in freelance on the side, developing a solid online portfolio is a must. Portfolio trends are as dynamic as the technology they rely upon, and there are hundreds of how-to videos and tutorials out there. The type of portfolio you create will vary depending on your intent, audience, and most importantly, personal preference.

Choosing a publishing platform and selecting work samples is the easy part; before making any of these choices, you should work to develop a platform—a philosophy, a brand—that will guide all your decisions. Ideally, this front-end brainstorming will simplify later decisions, streamline the production process, and ensure the portfolio communicates a unified vision. This development process is no small undertaking, with entire workshops, classes, and books devoted to the subject. At its most robust, your portfolio could extend your visual identity’s reach across various media platforms to include your personal story, resume, blog, and social media accounts. For those of us just starting out in our careers, building substance out of limited resources is the big challenge; hopefully these pointers will help to illuminate that process.

Articulate values. While it’s easy to take them for granted, it is essential to make note of your values. These values should be the driving principles for your interactions (virtual and otherwise) with prospective employers and clients. For example, if you want to portray yourself as creative, self-driven, detail-oriented, and flexible (as I do), these attributes should color everything throughout your portfolio—its layout, content organization, copy, tone, and visual aesthetic.

Tell your story. You are just as much selling yourself as an individual as you are your skills and the services you are capable of delivering. Your interests and experiences should be an extension of your personal philosophy and reflect your worldview; when combined with your qualifications, your story will help to fortify what makes you unique. Each of these touchpoints—your blog, portfolio, and social media accounts—should serve as windows into your personality.

Embed skills in narrative. Your experience will be grounded in your work samples. Framing your examples with a little context (each should tell a story) allows you to show how you approach the work you do, providing further opportunity to give your prospective employers and clients a glimpse into your process. Don’t be afraid to strut your stuff here, you problem-solving savant, you.

Be aspirational. Always be thinking of your audience and your objectives. What are you trying to achieve with your portfolio? For work samples, include the kind of work you’d like to be doing in your professional life. Also use this time to audit your skill set and fill in any gaps. Project the person you want to be.

Tie it all together. Ideally, everything in the portfolio should serve the same purpose. Is all the content relevant? Is the tone consistent? Is the sum of the work representative of the image you want to portray?

Inspiration

  • stephaniepodmore.com – This portfolio from a fellow Ooligan has a crisp design, is written with direct language and consistent tone, and is easy to navigate. It is helpful to compare your own organizational methods with someone who has a similar background and objectives.
  • mikehouston.me – Straightforward, no-frills portfolio from an experienced copywriter. The project descriptions are concise and capture both the essence of the client’s needs and his own skills and contributions.
  • fionaraven.com – While a bit cumbersome, this website is also comprehensive, inviting in tone, and relatively user-friendly. The author has a very well-developed platform, and the depth of resources makes evident that her expertise is without question.
  • bookdesigners.com – What this website lacks in personal philosophy, it makes up for with ease of interactivity and clarity of purpose.

Taking the Plunge: Assembling an Academic and Professional Portfolio

In the graduate program in book publishing at Portland State University, our graduation requirements are slightly different than those of other master’s degree programs. Instead of defending a thesis, we must participate in a three-part process in order to be eligible for graduation. This includes submitting a portfolio, composing a research paper, and completing an oral exam. The entire process spans the first half of the student’s last term in the program; after a student turns in her portfolio, she is given ten business days to research and write her paper, and the oral examination follows about a month later. For many of us, these final steps toward graduation are daunting and seemingly impossible, but ultimately we prevail. I should know: after months of losing sleep over the content of my portfolio and research paper, I recently passed my oral exam.

        Like many students, I feared the portfolio submission the most out of all the graduation requirements. The Ooligan workroom contains a trove of portfolios from alumni, and although they are meant to be used as examples and inspiration, I found them more intimidating than helpful. Some are heavy and dense, with several hundred pages of text. Others are impeccably designed and produced, almost indistinguishable from the books you’d find on the shelves of a bookstore. Although flipping through the pages of these portfolios made me question my abilities in making my own, it also comforted me to see that there is no single formula for a successful portfolio. After all, the content of any portfolio is entirely dependent on the experiences of the student; as someone who has focused primarily on editing and marketing, my portfolio has little in common with those of the designers in the program. And that’s okay! We all take different routes in this graduate program, and the portfolio is a reflection of our unique choices and experiences.

        Although no portfolio is identical, I found that there are certain steps one can take in order to create a portfolio that is both professional and unique. The first is creating an outline. It’s difficult to tackle the portfolio without having a clear vision of the content you want to include. I organized the projects in my portfolio by first writing down every course and internship I participated in during my time in the program. Then, I dug through my computer as well as my physical collection of completed assignments to find my best work from every class and internship I took part in. It’s important to be picky and keep your audience in mind—you only want to include work that you’d be proud to show a prospective employer or freelance client. The goal is to convey the quality of the work you produce, not the quantity. Once I knew exactly what I wanted to include in my portfolio, I organized the projects by type; I lumped all of my marketing, editing, and sales work into separate sections. These sections and their content make up a skeleton; the next step is to build up the flesh of the portfolio.

        Creating context for the content of the portfolio is almost as important as the projects themselves. For every piece I included in my portfolio, I gave a short description of the assignment and class it correlated with as well as the expectations for the project. The goal is to avoid confusion and answer any questions your reader might have when examining the work you’ve included. Your projects should tell a story of your journey in the program, and your explanations and reflections should serve as the reader’s guide. Like any story, your portfolio should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introduction should bring up questions that your content will attempt to answer, and your conclusion should convey a sense of finality while at the same time looking to the future. Of course, these aren’t requirements for the portfolio, but I found them to be helpful ways to look at the portfolio-making process. There is one requirement that can’t be overlooked, however: editing. Edit, edit, take a break, and then edit some more.

        Although I spent a lot of time stressing over the completion of my portfolio, I’m happy with the finished product. It certainly feels good to have a collection of my best projects in one place, instead of floating around my hard drive and various drawers in my desk. Perhaps the best part about completing my portfolio for my master’s degree, though, is that its value extends far beyond its purpose for the graduate program. It is a physical representation of the skills I have gained throughout my time in the book publishing program, so it is especially useful for prospective employers. As I apply to jobs and work on gaining more clients for my freelancing career, I have found my portfolio to be an indispensable resource. Whether you’re a student in the publishing program or not, I encourage you to stop fearing the creation of your professional or academic portfolio and give it your all. The time, effort, and stress is worth it in the end.