Is having a website worth it? Where should you create your design website? Where should you post your portfolio online? If you’re serious about building a freelance design business, find out why you should have your own website.
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- Episode 52: 17 Essential Elements for an Effective Portfolio Website
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I see designers asking about this a lot in online design groups: Is having a website worth it? Where should I create my design website? Where should I post my portfolio online?
A lot of designers throw their work up on popular portfolio platforms in hopes of getting work that way. But there are many issues with this approach.
So I am going to get into many reasons why designers need an actual website. Stick around to find out what to do instead of just using a portfolio platform and why.
Many graphic designers and web designers post their work on popular platforms such as Upwork, Behance, Adobe Portfolio or Dribbble.
But if you’re serious about building a freelance design business for yourself, then you should have your own website.
One reason is control. When you have your website on another platform that you don’t own and it’s not your own website, then you don’t control that platform. You don’t have any control over it—Upwork, Behance, Adobe Portfolio or Dribbble, for example.
The other thing is longevity.
Any of these platforms could go away at any time and then with that goes your business. Remember Elance?
When you use a job or portfolio site, you cannot change the design or rearrange where things are shown. They have a templated look, and you just upload your content to them.
When you have your work on a job or portfolio site, you don’t have any control over the domain, unless it allows you to connect your own custom domain name to it.
It’s important to be able to control the domain too, because that’s the link that you use in your marketing. You send it to prospects and clients over and over again. If you give out the link to your website for years, it’s out there in social media posts, maybe print materials such as business cards or postcards, and it’s really hard to replace that later on.
A custom domain name is usually more professional sounding, easier to remember and to type in. Gratzergraphics.com, for example, is much better than colleengratzer.myportfolio.com.
If you one day decide to not have your portfolio anymore on a portfolio site, somebody could go to that link later and end up getting an error page. Will they know how to find you then? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a missed opportunity.
Another thing is that if your website is on a platform such as Weebly or Wix, you can’t take your website with you if you decide to go to another website host or another platform later.
So all the work that went into putting up the website and marketing that domain all over the place will have to be redone later when you move.
When you leave and that domain changes to no longer have Wix or Weebly in the name or whatever it is, you have to put in a lot of work to make sure that clients know the new URL and stop using the old one.
You can still have an account on a job or portfolio platform to give a taste of your work and get yourself out there a bit, but having your own website allows you that flexibility with the marketing.
Another thing is speed. If you use a job or portfolio site, you have no control at all over how fast the site loads.
If you’re using a platform such as Wix or Weebly, you may not have any control over how fast it loads either.
If it loads slowly, a prospective client may not wait around and they might just go elsewhere.
If your website is on a platform that you can control, such as WordPress, then you can take measures yourself to speed up your website. You could find a faster web host or install a caching or image compression plugin, for example.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you have your own website, you can have a blog, services page(s) and portfolio pages with case studies. It helps with search engine optimization (SEO). That means you’re more likely to be found through an online search for a particular type of work or from being in a certain geographic location.
That actually helps draw potential clients to you organically—meaning free!
This is quite different from a job platform, where a client may go searching for a designer. You’re at that platform’s mercy for how you come up in search results. If you’re on page 5 or 10, will a potential client even see your profile?
When you have your own website, it becomes the central hub for where potential clients and existing clients can find you. It houses your contact information and social media links.
That means whenever you send out an e-mail or you post on social media, everything leads back to your website.
Any time you get people to your website, it helps your SEO, and it’s getting people onto your site, which is what you always want to be doing. Once they’re there, they may see your new projects or your new blog post and then contact you about potential work.
It keeps them reminded of you, so when the next project comes along, they will remember to get in touch.
Your choice of platform can also affect a potential client’s perception of you, which relates to your marketing.
Having your own website with a custom domain name builds trust. It shows you’ve made an investment into your business and that you are serious about it, that you’re not a fly-by-night freelancer that may not get back to them.
That means potential clients will take you more seriously.
Another thing to think about is that when you send potential clients to a portfolio platform such as Behance, Adobe Portfolio or Dribbble, you’re also sending them to where a sea of other designers are. They could easily get distracted and go searching for another designer there.
So you’re actually putting yourself right in front of the competition.
Something else to think about is: where does your ideal client go to look for the type of work that you do?
Your ideal client may not be going to a portfolio site to look for a designer. I know for the type of work that I do with publications and with accessibility, they’re not going there.
Unless your ideal client would go to a portfolio site to look for a designer, then you are not likely to get work from that type of site.
Another thing is that when you have your own website, you can use it to build authority. You can add whatever content you like and place it wherever you like. You can add case studies and have a blog.
So you can showcase your unique value proposition (what you do and who you do it for) and highlight certain design projects that you want people to see.
Clients will be able to find out more about your process and doing business with you. They can see testimonials from other clients.
You can use your website to build an e-mail list by offering a helpful free resource to clients.
When you use a job or portfolio site, you don’t have the option to add any additional functionality or any integrations that you may want.
That’s important because when someone leaves your site, you want to be able to contact them or market to them later. You can’t do that on a job or portfolio site.
Should Graphic Designers Have a Website?
OK, I hope this has helped you decide that having a website is worth it and where to put your portfolio online.
Different website platforms have their place in the market, especially if you’re a student, just starting your freelance business and also based on your web development skills.
Just keep in mind their pros and cons to each type and think about the long term as well.
If you want to find out what to include in your portfolio website, check out episode 52, 17 Essential Elements for an Effective Portfolio Website.