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Modern best practices for your online design portfolio

(BUSINESS) Do you have an online design portfolio? Does it hold up to modern standards or is it stuck in 1997?

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Whether you’re looking for your next gig or full time opportunity, your online portfolio is your showcase, your chance to shine. But so frequently, we see creatives that either don’t have an online portfolio, or an awful (or incomplete) portfolio. It’s a challenge, because you often sign NDAs and are not at liberty to share all of your work, it’s a challenge.

Let’s talk about the modern best practices for your online portfolio.

First, before you even open a browser tab, put pen to paper and commit to your goals and consider what you are looking to express. Look around at what others are doing so you know what to compete with. Are you just going to slap up some pics of your work, or are you going to tell the story about the process and why you made certain choices? The language you use will differ if you’re looking for a job or for a client.

Second, where are you pointing people to? If you have some thumbnails on your Geocities site from 1997, you’ve already lost. Owning your own site is the best method, and the most common option used in the industry is WordPress (here are 50 themes to consider), and ideally you own the URL for your name that points to any site hosting your portfolio.

If WordPress feels too advanced for you, Squarespace is the most popular drag and drop option in the industry, and some even use Wix (which was recently improved). Or, you could consider a design portfolio platform like Big Black Bag or Behance.

Next, consider what you’ll display. You’re in a real catch-22, because you want to express experience, diversity, and quality, but if some of your work doesn’t apply to what you want to be hired for, it could actually work against you. Think of this as an art show at a museum – they would never show every piece of your work, rather they would curate specific pieces to tell a story.

And if your portfolio is light on applicable work, create your own concepts and redesigns (so long as you label it as such). Hate Google’s logo redesign or maybe the search interface? Mock up your own, show a before and after, then disclose it as a concept piece you’ve imagined. You could even have a section for concepts that is separated from client work.

Your display should match your work – if you design mobile websites but your portfolio isn’t responsive, you’ve screwed yourself. If you’re an animator, your portfolio shouldn’t be a bunch of websites you redesigned. If you’re a graphic designer, your portfolio shouldn’t showcase a bunch of emailers you created copy for. People are judging you within the first three seconds, so your offering better match the story you’re trying to tell about yourself. If you’re not a deconstructionist designer, your website design better not be deconstructionist. Get it?

Always be updating your portfolio, even if you’re not looking for clients or employment. It’s harder to go back in time to recreate a portfolio than updating as you go. But remember – you can’t just slap up 800 images of a project, again, you’re curating. Select only the best images and add them as you go to save endless time. Try doing this at least monthly (plus, it’s a great way to tell search engines that your site is fresh, thereby improving your ranking).

If much of your work is physical or print, take the time to take high quality photos of these works, potentially even mocking them up on physical products (you can use a site like Smart Mockups as a shortcut).

Next, you want to make sure that your online portfolio serves client or employers’ needs. Is your About page sparse, or does it talk about how you connect with your profession? Does your site tell people who you are, where you are, who you’ve worked for, what kind of work you’re looking for, how you charge, and how they can contact you? If you can’t answer each question in under three seconds, you’re losing opportunities. Design your portfolio for them, not for you. Do you have a logo and tagline? Testimonials? Can they find you elsewhere online (do you have social media buttons in the header or footer)? Everything we’ve mentioned in this paragraph is the equivalent of dozens of “Hire Me” buttons, so don’t take this part lightly.

Make sure that your portfolio is error free. Test every single page to make sure it works, then before going live to the world and sharing the URL, have at least three people (ideally that are writers or editors) review all of the copy for accuracy. You’re not a professional writer, so trust their input if they suggest the copy is off.

If you have the time and capacity, blogging is the cherry on top. Not only does it help your search engine rankings (don’t stress too much about SEO, though), it creates new opportunities for your thoughts to be shared, expanding your reach. You’re smart, you know not to blog about conspiracy theories or politics, blog about your work – why did you choose this profession, what enriches you, why do you make certain design choices, what do you think of large brand designs, etc.

Get the word out. Be sure to add the URL to your design portfolio on all of your social media profiles, even LinkedIn. Audit your online profiles annually to make sure they point to the place that will generate business opportunities for you.

TL;DR – get a WordPress site, curate your best work, make it easy to contact you.

And if your brain needs some samples of modern design, start clicking:

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Marketing

7 ways Instagram Stories get people pumped about your brand

(MARKETING) Instagram stories are widely used, so why shouldn’t marketers get in on the Insta-story action?

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Instagram Stories long ago surpassed Snapchat at it’s photo-sharing joy, and has found to be a great place to build brand awareness and build your customer base.

Here are a few ways that you can use stories to get people excited about your brand, products, and service.

1. Share the story of your business

Showcase the creation of a product or service, or share something (legal and fun) that your team is working on. These behind the scenes productions humanize your brand and can really get people excited about it. Check out what Union Fare does!

2. Preview live broadcasts

Are you doing a Facebook Live or WebEx demonstration? Use Instagram Stories to tease and generate some excitement or pull attendees from one social media platform to the other.

3. Showcase your stuff in action

Whether it’s demonstrating an application, showing off a recipe, or showcasing an outfit, you can use stories to show what the end result of a product is and help them generate ideas on how to use that stuff! Because Instagram Live can be done spontaneously, you can show authentic, non-scripted demonstrations easily.

4. Brag time

When you support a brand, you get excited that you are a part of their wins. Share relevant milestones (subscriber counts, new products, new revenue, new contracts, new products, etc.) with your base. This helps build connection with your base.

5. Countdowns and giveaways

You can use stories to facilitate ways to get people excited about upcoming giveaways or new launches. Unlike static marketing, the use of countdowns can really get people emotionally excited and build anticipation for new products or services. You could also use stories to give special sales or unique giveaways that give a more “exclusive” feeling.

6. “Takeovers” from influencers or partnerships

If you are working with a promoter or influencer, you can have them generate content to send them over to you to use their voice to target your audience. The influencer can send you pictures and videos that you upload yourself, rather than handing over your account username or password (like with Snapchat). This is a great way to work with someone who already has a following that can help you expand your service or product reach.

7. Create unique content

Odds are, especially for smaller businesses and new entrepreneurs, you don’t have a lot of time to invest in production value for other advertising. Instagram Stories with the use of stickers, paintbrush, and text can be a great place for raw, but still polished content that has a one of a kind feel. Familiarize yourself with the tools, and don’t be afraid to get artsy.

Make Instagram work for you

Instagram is constantly adding new features, so make sure you stay tuned for updates and play around with those features often. For example – Instagram stories can rewind or being hashtagged. Or use the eraser brush to do slow teases or product reveals.

Given that users can now bookmark content as well, you can create demonstrations or examples and give your audience a quick reference to your content. Get learning, check out stories, and start building those unique, intimate, and creative engagements with your consumers.

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Business Marketing

Half of all Instagram users buy immediately after seeing an ad

(MARKETING) If you’re advertising on Instagram and yielding no results, read on – it’s a gold mine for *some* types of brands.

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If you’ve been on Instagram you’ve likely fallen victim to the algorithm’s knack for showing you advertisements for something that seems exactly suited to your tastes. Or, someone you follow on the app tags their post with the name of the brands that make up their cute outfit and you decide to see what else they might offer. I’ve ended up with more than one pair of sneakers this way.

Instagram’s popularity and effectiveness have made it a marketing powerhouse. Over 130 million people look at product tags on the app each month.

Recently, Facebook commissioned a study asking users to explain what their interaction with companies and brands on Instagram was like. A whopping 66% of people said that the used Instagram to interact directly with brands — and 54% of users said they purchased something immediately after seeing an ad in their Instagram feed. Ads that are in the “stories” feature, independent of users’ feeds are especially effective.

After it was acquired by Facebook, Instagram has grown to account for over 19% of the tech-giant’s advertising spending — nearly double what it was in 2018.

Facebook is planning on continuing to capitalize on Instagram. They announced that soon users won’t need to navigate out of their feed to the retailer’s website purchase items, but rather have the ability to buy things in-app.

Instagram will take a cut of these in-app purchases and partner with PayPal to process payments, adding a new revenue stream to the growing platform.

As part of expanding its foray into shopping, Instagram is also partnering with its most popular influencers.

These people will be able to directly sell the products that their sponsors are offering through their accounts, rather than direct them to their sponsor’s account. At the beginning, only major accounts belonging to celebs like Kylie Jenner or Gigi Hadid will have this option, but it seems like after its initial launch more sellers will be to take advantage of the feature.

So, be prepared to have even more sneakers in your future, friends. It looks like those Instagram ads are going to get even more powerful.

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Business Marketing

10 podcasts that every business owner should hear

(MARKETING) If you’re a business and want to learn something, give one of (or all of) these ten podcasts a listen.

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So many choices, so little time

As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

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From interviews with business leaders to industry specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

Business podcasts for your listening enojoyment

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly populat show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further thna Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real world applications and cover everything from marketing to techology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

#LearnSomething

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