portfolioEvery freelancer in today’s marketplace, whether they be a designer or an illustrator, should have their own Web site and domain name to house their portfolio. Sending a few JPGs along with a URL as work samples goes a long, long way with potential clients and job prospects – especially now that most companies use forms rather than email to solicit job inquiries. You usually can’t send large e-mail attachments, or risk exceeding the filesize limit and having your job inquiry bounce back. That’s the beauty of just typing out a URL, especially if that URL is your name or the name of your design business.

But aside from your own Web site, it’s becoming more and more simple for designers to show their work on multiple portfolio service web sites, and paid services aside, it’s like the old saying goes, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” (Granted, this is a BIT more tasteful usage of that seedy coloquialism, but you catch my drift.)

“Why, Rob, would I spend the time uploading my work samples to some website that will give me a strange URL when I already have a nice site that looks like I want it to look?” Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked!

  1. SEARCH, SEARCH, SEARCH – If I Google for “cartoon character design”, what are the odds that I’ll find your own portfolio website, that may or may not be optimized for search engines, let alone have a high organic Google ranking? Pretty slim. But if you have your work on five more sites, suddenly instead of 1 in 10, you could show up in 6 of my top 10 search results.
  2. COMMUNITY – Most if not all free portfolio services have at least some semblance of social networking built into the site. Discussion groups, the ability to comment or rank someone’s work, and the ability to add other creatives to your network of friends are all valuable features that will help you connect with more clients.
  3. VISIBLITY – I’ve heard some people say “I’ll never be able to connect with all the people you are friends with, but I can connect with you. Then you can reach others, and they can reach still more people that you will never meet, and so on and so on.” The same goes with the Internet. One visitor may arrive at your personal website, while another may land on a free portfolio/profile you have out there, and a third may find yet another example of your work somewhere else. But if they can all contact you in the end, you have 3 job leads rather than only 1. I don’t know any freelancer who doesn’t want people to find and look at their work, so why not make it easier for potential clients to find you?

Now that I’ve made my points, let’s look at a few sites that offer free portfolio services. Here are four popular sites that I use, and the pros and cons of each:

Coroflot.com – I’ve used Coroflot the longest of any of these four. It’s part of the Core77 network, and these guys know their audience.

coroflot

PROS: Clean and elegant interface. No limit on amount of portfolio pieces. Focused job postings.

CONS: Odd URL (It’s very hard to tell a client this website’s name over the phone.) Selecting 3 highlighted work samples is a complicated process, and you cannot adjust thumbnail cropping very easily.

(You can see my Coroflot.com profile here, if interested: www.coroflot.com/rob_c)

Flickr.com – Flickr is THE choice of online photography buffs, and it’s rapidly becoming a viable outlet for other visual artists such as designers and illustrators.

flickr

PROS: VERY HIGH search ranking (Place your work here and you’re pretty much assured a higher page rank in Google). Large community and lively discussion groups. Ability to share images with groups. Free account still allows large numbers of portfolio pieces to be uploaded.

CONS: Flickr’s free accounts give you a long, complicated URL – difficult for telling a client over the phone. Free accounts are also limited to 3 “sets”, so sort wisely. Each set can hold a large amount of work though. FlickrMail (the site’s internal messaging service) is tied to Yahoo!, and since Flickr is owned by Yahoo!, you’ll need to set up a Yahoo! account if you don’t have one already. Also, sorting the order of your presented pieces is unstandard and complicated.

(You can see my profile here, if interested: www.flickr.com/photos/robswork/)

Behance.net – This website, by nature, is by invitation only. I’ve sought inclusion here for a while, and finally I’m in! Let me know if you want in and I’ll invite you if possible.

behance

PROS: Since this site is invitation only, the quality of work here is of a higher caliber than what you’d find in Flickr (on average). Great profile features (multiple URLs, focused tags and relevant bio information. Large capacity for work samples. Powerful networking features (called “circles”).

CONS: Invitation only, so to join you need to be invited by an existing member. Very lengthy upload process for work.

(You can see my profile here, if interested: www.behance.net/RobTheDesigner)

Krop.com – I just discovered Krop.com yesterday, and so far I’m very impressed.

krop

PROS: Large name for easy visiblity for potential clients. Easy to upload work quickly. Great company blog that highlights members. High-quality job postings. Ability to adjust crops on your uploaded work for thumbnail views

CONS: After uploading work, you may need to take some time to redo crops for thumbnail views. Also takes time to rearrange order of presented pieces.

(You can see my profile here, if interested: www.krop.com/robthedesigner/)

All in all, I would be hestiant to recommend one service over the other, and there really is no reason why a designer or illustrator should not take advantage of each of these four services. Like I said earlier, the more places your work can be seen, the higher the chance of potential clients knocking on your virtual door. There are a few more online portfolio sites that I use, which you might be interested in checking out. Take a look at CreativeShake (formerly Portfolios.com), DesignRelated, and Veer Ideas.

I hope this helps you get your visibility up and your phone ringing. Happy freelancing!

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