How to Create Your Own Portfolio Site to Get a Web Development Job

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

Developing your own portfolio site is a good way to get work as a web developer. Strive for attractive, interesting, easy to digest, and demonstrating that you’re plugged into the web development world as a fully capable professional.

You need a portfolio site because the nature of how people get work has changed. Often, potential employers are researching you online well before you’re even aware of it.

One problem with some projects is that they’re confidential — for an internally facing website, or work in progress. To solve this problem, put the project on your website, but with no identifying details. Refer to similar sites and describe your role.

A portfolio site does several things that put you well ahead of most jobseekers:

  • Brings your resume to life: People use chronological resumes because they answer many key questions, but they’re terrible for helping people understand what you really did in a job. A portfolio site demonstrates your skills and ties them to live projects that people can check out.

  • Distinguishes you from people without one: If a recruiter has several possible candidates for a job, and one has a portfolio site and others don’t, guess who’s more likely to get called first?

  • Saves you from wasting time: Recruiters are picky, and they may be looking for someone who is almost like you, but not quite. You don’t want them to call you if you’re not quite a fit. And, having seen your site, the recruiter will probably come straight back to you when there is a fit.

  • Solves the “confidentiality” problem: If you fill in your portfolio site with “like this one” entries for internally facing, confidential work, you’ve filled gaps in what your experience looks like to recruiters.

  • Solves the “too much hassle” problem: When a job posting or a recruiter call includes a request for work samples, it often seems like too much trouble. If you create your portfolio site up front, it’s easy to apply for all positions that fit your interests.

  • Solves the “narrowness” problem: Resumes tend to put people in a box — graphics person or coder, writer or artist. LinkedIn makes this worse because you can’t customize it to fit a job requisition before a recruiter, unbeknownst to you, looks at it with that requisition in front of her. Portfolio sites show the full range of your abilities.

  • Helps with the “getting started” problem: There’s an old conundrum: You can’t get experience without getting a job, but you can’t get a job until you have experience. A portfolio site lets you put student work, pro bono work, and consulting work front and center, inviting the viewer to see what you can do.

Creating a portfolio site is the single biggest thing that most people in web development can do to boost their careers. You may well find that a resume gets you an interview, but a portfolio site gets you the job. Get going on starting your portfolio site — or improving your existing one — today!