How to Make a Portfolio

A portfolio is a great career tool for everyone to start accumulating right now if you haven't started already.

A professional portfolio collects all the important academic and professional items that you may ever need for the future. 

But people often wonder how to create a portfolio. Let's go over some of the how-to's of portfolio making so yours can be the most effective.

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What is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is like a visual resume. It is a collection of work samples and other important documents that show your skills and abilities. A professional portfolio is especially helpful when the type of work you do often requires lots of examples of your work. 

If you are a writer your portfolio will include a collection of your best writing. If you're an artist you'll include a collection of your best pieces. 

Creating a career portfolio is something job seekers are doing a lot now to best illustrate their qualities. There are two kinds of portfolios you can create, a printed hard copy, or an online portfolio. 

Online portfolios are usually made as personal websites. Using a website portfolio is nice because all you have to do is send employers your website, instead of sending large email attachments. 

But even if you have a website, it is still a good idea to have a PDF copy of all your portfolio content, in order to save all the documents and images in a safe place you can always pull from later, even if you aren't ever going to print the portfolio. 

A portfolio can also be helpful as a kind of CV or master resume so that you can save all the information an employer could ever want in one spot. 

portfolio examples

What Goes into a Portfolio?

The main element of a portfolio is the samples of your work. But there are a few other sections you can include to really complete your portfolio. 

Here are the main sections of a professional portfolio, regardless of your field of work: 

Name, About Me, and Contact Info

You'll want to address yourself, introduce yourself, and provide the best way to contact you. 

Resume Info

Include your basic resume, with your experience, education, accomplishments, and skills sections, so that you have the option of sending just your portfolio, instead of having to send in a portfolio and a resume. 

resume example

Samples of Your Work

Then you'll actually show your work—the proof of your skills. This is like a cover letter, where you write about your skills, but in a portfolio, you instead show your skills. 

So if you're skill has to do with photography, include your best photos. If you work in app development, include trailers, photos, and links to the best apps you've made or been a part of. 

If part of your work samples includes images of any kind, make sure that they are high-quality images with high resolution. 

Other Important Documents

You can also include copies of any important documents an employer might need to see. For example, if you have a certificate for knowing Spanish then include that document here. You can even include a copy of your degree here too, or any other certificates or awards you've received. 


Keep a list of references and credentials somewhere in your portfolio. This includes anyone an employer could contact to talk about your skills, projects, and experience. 

Don't forget to ask permission to include someone's name and contact information in your references first. 

files in a cabinet

How to Design a Portfolio

Resumes, cover letters, and portfolios can sometimes include elements of design to make your portfolio just a little more eye-catching. Usually, unless you are making a graphic design portfolio, it's best to keep your design efforts simple and clean-looking. 

But with a portfolio especially you are allowed to design your website or your book. A good idea for designing your portfolio is to think about how you want to portray yourself, and the field of work you're in. 

You can use search engines to explore keywords that have to do with your work to see what kind of images come up or look for example websites from successful people in your field to see what they're like. 

You can especially get creative with the design for the cover of your portfolio, or the main page of your website. 

Just remember, the center stage of your portfolio should be your content, so don't allow any design work to obscure what you need employers to focus on. 

A final insight into designing your portfolio is to remain consistent throughout.

How to Make a Printed Portfolio

Printed portfolios can be especially useful when an employer prefers having a hard copy, especially if they want to go over it with you in your interview. It's also helpful if you ever need to bring your portfolio with you on the go. This can happen a lot with people in the arts, like artists, photographers, or models. Likewise, sometimes the print form is just better for the medium you're portraying. 

For artists, make copies of your work, don't give out the originals because you might not get them back. Artwork can also come in nonstandard sizes of paper, making original copies unideal to carry around with you. 

So copies of your work, resized to fit your book, are better. Always make sure you print out quality images on good paper. Any images should be set in CMYK color for printing.  

1: Make PDF file of all your portfolio content.

Not only will you be able to use this PDF file for your basic portfolio, but you'll also have When accumulating your PDFs, make sure they are set as printer-friendly PDFs.You can use Adobe Acrobat or Hello Sign to make up your PDF files.

2: Make a cover page.

Your cover page can have your name, the title of your portfolio, and your preferred contact information. 

cover letter example

3: Include a table of contents.

Adobe Acrobat has a feature that allows you to create a linked table of contents for your PDF file, so that a viewer can see an outline of your portfolio, and easily jump back and forth from each section to the table of contents. Make sure you number all your pages. 

4: Print out a couple of copies of your resume to pass out

You can include your resume inside your portfolio, but you can also print out a few copies of your resume in case there is more than one person in an interview who might want a copy as well. 

5: Pick the best examples of your work.

Include your best work first, and go in descending order from there. But pick the best pieces you have. 

If your work is visual it's a good idea to include around 10 examples, give or take a few. If your work isn't visual you can usually include less, especially if they're writing examples. 

6: Make copies of any important documents

This would be any license, certifications, awards, or degrees you've received.

A folder named important

7: Have a list of references.

Don't forget to include who they are in relation to you, and their preferred contact information. 

8: Use a good binder to put everything in.

Make your printed portfolio look good using quality binders, printers, and paper. There are several places you can use to help you create, design, and print out your portfolio in beautiful book form. 

Where you can create a printed portfolio:

The key to a great website is being user-friendly. To achieve this, have clear sections, or web pages for each of your portfolio sections. 

Gather Your Content

Plan your website before you start creating it. Knowing what all you want to include, writing out all your blurbs first, and organize everything into their sections will help you format your website and keep everything organized. 

Design Your Website

Any good website will have some design elements, so whether you're creating the website from scratch or with a template, you'll want to pick a layout. 

A website also needs clear organization. One of the first things you'll do for your website is create a navigation bar with all your different sections. 

Website example

Home Page

The main page of your website can be an information-free kind of cover page, or you can include some basic introductory information about yourself. 

About Me Page

This page can include an introductory blurb about yourself and your preferred contact information. Since this website is for your portfolio, you can also combine the About Me Page with the Home Page. 

Work History

Include a version of your resume on your website, especially if a viewer wants to see a quick overview of your work history instead of going through all of your website. 

Work Examples

Divide your different types of work examples into different pages of your website. Images should be set in RGB color for digital websites. 


Have a list of references. Don't forget to include who they are in relation to you, and their preferred contact information.

Where you can create an online portfolio:

Here are some portfolio sites, where you can build your portfolio. You can link this website to your social media accounts and promote your work, and get potential clients for the expertise you have to offer be it art, photography, or writing.