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12 Things You Should Remove From Your Portfolio Website Immediately

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Your online portfolio is arguably the most important website you’ll ever create.

It presents you to the world and often determines whether or not people choose to hire you. Even if you haven’t designed and coded your portfolio from scratch, you still control what content you include on it.

But freelancers (and college students) are notoriously bad at writing copy for their websites. I know this because I made the same mistakes!

Early in your career, you won’t have much experience. Everything is new and your portfolio website can feel like a playground where you can explore and experiment.

But if you’re not careful, that inexperience can reflect poorly on you and even cause you to miss out on great opportunities.

Over the years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of online freelance and student websites and found that there are some common mistakes everyone seems to make, especially early on in their career.

Note: Each example below was taken from a real portfolio website I personally reviewed — and some of them are quite embarrassing. I’ve also included the equivalent client translation to help you understand how you think you sound vs. how prospective clients think you sound.

Here are 12 brutally honest tips that will make your freelance portfolio or business website instantly sound more professional.

1. Hobbies & Interests

Employers and recruiters don’t care what you do in your free time and neither do freelance clients. Employers might want to ensure you’re a good cultural fit, but leave that for the interview. It’s generally good practice to not mention your hobbies and interests unless someone asks.

Including your hobbies and interests on your portfolio website could make you seem amateur if you don’t have incredible work to showcase too. Established professionals rarely do this and you could be perceived as having nothing better to talk about (like your work experience).

No one cares what your juggling record is or that you love puppies. Never include hobbies + interests on your resume either. Unless you lightly mention these on your about page, it will feel like filler content.

What to do instead:

Remove the fluff. Stay focused on the professional skills, experience, and projects you have to showcase. Portray yourself as an established professional until you are one. If you feel like your website is too “empty”, try doing a personal project to fill in the gap. Resist the temptation to fill it with tertiary facts about yourself.

 

2. Personal Introductions

Put your name in the top left corner and leave it there. There’s no need to say “Hello! My name is [whatever] and I’m a…” in gigantic text that takes up half your home page. In my opinion, it’s a rookie move and distracts people from the work you’re trying to show them.

Your name is not the most important thing a client needs to know about you and you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.

Conversational design is great, but this isn’t effective and doesn’t make you stand out. Unless you think employers are going to hire you based on your name, get it out of their way and make your work more prominent.

As Alex Cornell says, clients just want to see your work — right away. They don’t want to chase it around the internet for half an hour, only to find angled photos of hands holding iPhones in 400px rectangles.

What to do instead:

Say what you do or don’t say anything at all. On my company website, I let potential clients know what I can do for their business with a short, bold tagline. If you don’t feel comfortable writing one, don’t feel obligated to. Just get people straight to your work with as little scrolling as possible.

3. Your Age + Location

Only kids talk about their age. Being 23 is only relevant when you’re 23. The job market is too competitive for you to compete against yourself too. No one markets themselves as a 43-year-old designer from the UK. That’s because at that age, they’ve got years of industry experience and reputation to talk about instead.

As Josh Johnson shares, the only time that a potential client might think twice about hiring you based on age is if they think you’re too young, so it’s always beneficial to keep your age to yourself.

Don’t share your location unless it can be used to your advantage. For example, saying you’re from North Dakota just makes it seem more difficult to hire you. Conversely, saying you live in San Francisco or New York is likely a benefit.

Don’t ever share how much you hate the city you live in. While you’re at it, remove any references to your childhood, upbringing, and background prior to college. Clients don’t care and this is just making you look bad.

What to do instead:

Find something more relevant to talk about. Write headlines and content that you think potential clients or employers will find valuable. Most often, that will include nothing more than your skills and experience.

4. Skill Graphs

Skill graphs are a really elegant way of showing employers where your skills are lacking. As far as your portfolio and resume are concerned, all your skills are equal. Skill graphs may highlight your strengths, but they also point out your weaknesses.

Just because skills graphs might be popular doesn’t make them a good idea.

If you don’t feel confident enough about a skill to list it as equal to the others, don’t list it at all. If you’re not a freelancer, you can list it anyway and clarify your capabilities during an interview.

What to do instead:

Kill the skill graph. List your skills equally and be sure not to give employers a front-row seat to your flaws.

5. Fictional Job Titles

No one is searching Google for “UX Guru”, “UI Wizard”, or “Pixel Mason”. They aren’t searching for your passions either. Don’t be too clever or cheeky with what you call yourself. It makes it impossible for anyone to understand what you do.

There are industry-standard job titles for a reason. The people writing your check each month don’t want to decipher your skill set. If you want to be found more easily, use a well-known and widely accepted title for yourself.

What to do instead:

Just call yourself whatever you want to get hired for. In my case, UI/UX Designer for Web & Mobile is the most appropriate.

6. Attempted Humor

The only person who thinks you’re funny is you. The problem with online humor is that you have no idea who’s reading it and who may or may not find it funny. It’s great to show some personality, but avoid humor in your portfolio. Let your personality come through in your work or in an interview setting.

It’s fine to show your personality, but let your future co-workers decide if you’re funny. Clients and employers only care about what you can do for their business and stand-up comedy isn’t on the list. Don’t make people question whether you might actually be funny or a really bad cultural fit.

What to do instead:

Get serious about not telling jokes or the joke will be on you for not having a job.

7. Lack of Confidence

“Fake it until you make it” is an underrated tactic. This might be another failed attempt at humor, but clients and employers don’t want to hire the shy lonely person who constantly speaks in a whisper. Portray confidence in yourself and your ability to produce great work even if you don’t have much experience yet.

Online portfolios are ideal for timid or unassertive folks. You can write a bold email even if you’re sweating the whole time or take 20 minutes to hit the send button and no one will ever know. To succeed as a freelancer or get a great design job, you’ll need to boost your confidence

What to do instead:

Present yourself as confident even if you aren’t. All it really takes is being more direct, overcoming your fears, and not over-sharing your emotions and feelings.

8. Social Profiles

Social media profiles can be a quick way to show people how unprofessional you are. If you’ve only tweeted 5 times in the last year to the 10 followers you have, don’t link to your Twitter account. Don’t link to your Facebook or Instagram page if there’s proof of you acting unprofessionally.

Most importantly, never link to any social media account you don’t actively maintain in a professional capacity. Giving clients access to your Facebook page is usually a bad idea. Instagram can be even worse.

What to do instead:

Focus on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a profile, make one. It can be incredibly valuable as you search for jobs or freelance clients. Above all, remove links to any social media accounts that don’t portray you in a strictly professional capacity.

9. School Projects

Delete them. If that’s all you have, remove any mention of what class or assignment the project was for. After you graduate, people only care about your recent and relevant real-world experience.

Recent graduates looking for their first job get a free pass here, but as soon as you have real work to show, replace your school projects and update your portfolio. Don’t put anything on your website you wouldn’t be willing to do full-time, every single day.

What to do instead:

If you’re struggling to fill your portfolio with quality work, try re-designing an old-school project, but don’t hold yourself to the rules of the assignment. Do whatever it takes to make it amazing and then write about your design process.

10. Hamburger Menu

Do you have so many links in your portfolio that you simply can’t fit them all on the page? No? Then why are you making it more difficult for people to navigate your website?

If you’re using a pre-made theme or template and can’t change this functionality, get a different theme or template. Anyone looking to hire you is likely browsing dozens of websites each day. Every second counts and if takes your page too long to load or too many clicks to view your work, you might get overlooked.

What to do instead:

List your main pages at the top of your website. This instantly lets people know what you do, what information they can access, and maybe even how to contact you without a single click. On mobile, hamburger menus are usually necessary, so this advice doesn’t apply to the mobile version of your website.

11. Bad Grammar & Spelling Mistakes

There is absolutely no excuse for improper grammar or spelling mistakes on your website. These instantly make it seem like you’re careless and lack attention to detail. Worse, they can make you sound uneducated.

Treat the copy on your website like you treat the rest of your work. Creative folks tend to be really good at Photoshop, but notoriously bad at writing sentences.

What to do instead:

Go back and proofread every word on your portfolio website. Fix any spelling or grammar mistakes. Spend actual time on this. While you’re at it, take a few extra minutes to improve what you’ve already written. What you originally wrote may have been done hastily so you could launch your portfolio in the first place.

12. Blurry Images

Blurred images leave a terrible first impression, especially if you’re a designer. Either you didn’t take the time or don’t have the pride in your work to ensure that your images are sharp and clear.

You have to keep your image sizes small without sacrificing the details. It’s better to have crisp, clear images than save one second of page load time and leave people feeling like they need an eye exam.

Fix Your Portfolio

If you want to make your portfolio better, try browsing it from the perspective of a prospective employer. Imagine digging through dozens of portfolios before your lunch break and stumbling upon yours. How quickly can they see your work? Learn a little about who you are? Download your resume? Contact you?

There are 4 main ingredients to a stellar portfolio that will have more job offers landing in your inbox:

  1. Tell them you can do the job
  2. Show them you can do the job
  3. Make them want to work with you
  4. Give them an easy way to contact you

Remember, freelance clients are very different from employers and recruiters. Employers are trying to fill a specific position. They know what it will take and what they’re looking for in a new employee.

Freelancer clients, on the other hand, might think they know what they want, but could benefit from some added explanation and guidance. You can be more verbose about your services and invest in a dynamic contact form if your website’s purpose is to attract freelance clients.

Maintain Your Portfolio

Don’t stop updating your portfolio after you graduate or start finding success as a freelancer. Keep working on it. Redesign it. Recode it. Keep the content fresh. Your online portfolio presents you to the world and you could easily miss out on new opportunities by not keeping it updated.

By keeping my portfolio up to date after college, I got enough freelance projects to quit my job and freelance full-time. Even though that was never a goal or dream of mine, it changed my career path forever — and for the better!

Last updated on June 22nd, 2023

About Matt Olpinski
I've been freelancing since 2009 and have worked with over 100+ clients including some of the biggest brands in the world. I later started my own company Matthew’s Design Co. and now teaches 50,000+ freelancers each year how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers.