Do I Need a Free Online Portfolio?

September 24, 2012
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When it comes to the most important tools a graphic designer has at their disposal, a good portfolio is pretty high on the list. It’s an absolute must have for anyone wanting to get ahead in this industry and quite frankly there really isn’t any excuse for not having one. As I’ve said before, you portfolio really needs to be available online and ideally be on your own website at your own domian name. Directing potential clients you is the very best setup to have and should be what all designers ultimately want to achieve.

The Free Portfolio

If you’re not covering £4.37 a month through your graphic design business, then I’m sorry to say that you don’t really have a graphic design business

From time to time, I get emails sent to Hunting Town from other designers and illustrators looking for work, with a link to thier portfolios. I make a point of always look through the portfolio of every designer that contacts me and I’m astounded with how many of them direct me to free portfolio sites! I’ve heard designers give countless excuses for not having a domain name portfolio, like “I don’t know how to build a website” or “I can’t afford the hosting”, and they’re all rubbish. There are loads of tutorials out there on how to set up a quick portfolio website (you could even redirect the URL to one of your free portfolios!). As far as cost goes, I know for a fact you can get hosting for just £4.37 ($6.95) a month, because that’s what I get charged for this website through Bluehost, and that’s with a free domain name! If you’re not covering £4.37 a month through your graphic design business, then I’m sorry to say that you don’t really have a graphic design business.

So with that all said and done, am I totally against the idea of a free online portfolio? Hell no, they’re a great idea.


I have set up countless free online portfolios for Hunting Town throughout the internet, simply because every single one makes my chance of being found a little bit better. Think about your online presence as a shop window. If you have a huge, awesome display in your shop window, then that’s great, but only the people who wander by will ever see it. Now if you have lots of posters out there all up and down the high-street, and all of them pointed in the direction of your main store, you’d end up getting a lot more eyeballs.

The idea being that visitors who like your stuff will want to see more and follow the links through to your main portfolio

On my free portfolio sites, I don’t put every scratch of work I’ve ever done on them. I pick a few of my favourite pieces and put them up with links in the description to my main website. The idea being that visitors who like your stuff will want to see more and follow the links through to your main portfolio (which should be set up to better convert them into clients). If you think about it, it’s really pretty simple; the more links there are to your website online, the more people will find it. For free portfolio sites that’s doubly true as you know that visitors there are already interested in your industry.


Another great aspect of these free portfolio sites is that they more often than not have a pretty strong community built up around them. No doubt enticed by the successes of Facebook and LinkedIn a lot of these website also offer commenting on portfolios and integrate methods of social media sharing, tagging and following. All of this adds up to a strong niche community of likeminded designers and artsits.

Now you may well be thinking “Why do I want to appeal to to other artists? They’re not exactly going to hire me are they?” and you’d be right, they probably wont hire you to do what they could themselves. Connecting with other artists however does give you further methods for exposure and by tweeting links to each others works, or sharing images on Facebook you’re extending your reach to potential clients who may have otherwise not have heard of you.

Where Do I Start?

So where to begin with all this? Well a simple Google search for ‘free online portfolios’ will yield thousands of results no doubt, but to help try and thin the herd a little, here are a few of the websites I use and would recommend to get you started.

  1. Behance. Behance is a must for all graphic designers and illustrators out there. Even if it’s the case that you don’t have a portfolio at a domain name, this is the place you absolutely need to be showcasing your work.
  2. Coroflot. Another leader for design portfolios, this website has recently had a rebrand and is looking slicker than ever. Coroflot also has an active jobs section so you know that potential clients are passing through there.
  3. Deviant Art. Perhaps a little more directed at the hobby artist, Deviant Art is still a good place to have a presence online, if just for the community if nothing else. They actually have a very nice free portfolio feature hidden away in the menus that’s very clean and professional.
  4. Carbon Made. This website looks so cool and funky, it definately seems more directed at illustrators. The free portfolios it offers up are very clean and practically unbranded, so it’s well worth a look if you want something to redirect your domain to.
  5. Shown’d. Very similar to Carbon Made, this website offers uncluttered and unbranded portfolios. They also have a jobs section and agencies section however so it may be better suited to finding work?

As I said, these are just a few examples and whilst I’d recommend you having a presence on all of them, I’d by no means stop there. One last slice of advice I’ll offer up is to keep a record of where you have accounts and keep track of all the passwords and usenames as they can build up very quickly. Also whenever you complete a major project that you’re really proud of, do the rounds with it and update all of these portfolios to keep them looking fresh.

If you use any other sites you believe are vital that I haven’t listed here, or you have any questions about using free portfolios alongside your main portfolio, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Photo Credit to :Duncan

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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