We’ve talked a lot about how to best present yourself in your designer profile. Using professional-looking avatars, designing an eye-catching profile cover, backing yourself up with shining testimonials and sharing your specialized experience in your bio are all great ways to make a first impression.

But what about your actual portfolio of work? In this article we’ll dig deeper into how your designs can stand out from the crowd and capture clients’ attention.

To get started, go to your portfolio and click “Add a design from your old portfolio”. You’ll be taken to a new window where can crop your design’s thumbnail, add a title and description, choose the category and industry, explain any tools used and tag your design. If you’ve already added a design and want to edit it, click on the design thumbnail, click on the 3 dots next to the social buttons, and select “Edit Details”.

Got it? Great. Now let’s help you build a an even better portfolio.

1. Arrange your work with a creative eye

designer portfolio
workerbee showcases his distinct handcrafted style with a brief, curated portfolio

A portfolio isn’t a dumping ground for your latest work, but rather another project that requires skillful design. Be sure to utilize your artistic sensibilities by selecting works that display a diverse array of skills and styles. Arrange them in a way that does’t feel cluttered or visually distracting.

This is your chance to sell yourself and your vision. If your portfolio looks sloppy and overloaded, it’s going to reflect badly on you.

Do: Tell a consistent story. Do you have a specific style? Do you thrive in a certain industry? Here’s your chance to etch out your niche, so clients know exactly what they’re getting when they hire you.

Don’t: Add everything – and you certainly don’t need to add every variation of the same design. Pick the best one and stick to it.

2. Don’t forget to crop

UndoRedo highlights eye-catching aspects of her website designs via the cropping tool

Going hand in hand with design selection is cropping. If you have large-format or zoomed-out images, it’s going to look busy – and that’s not a good thing. Here’s your chance to focus on the best part of that Brand Identity Pack or to highlight an aspect of an app you think is exceptionally well done.

Crop your design thumbnails in a way that maintains consistency throughout your portfolio and draws the client’s eye to your strongest work. No need to make them squint!

Do: Play around with your design in the thumbnail preview. Try zooming in on a logo or cropping just the top of a website.

Don’t: Be afraid to turn cropping off completely. Sometimes your design looks good just the way it is and that’s perfectly fine. Just slide the button next to “Preview Thumbnail” to off and carry on.

Don’t: Submit designs to clients that are 500px wide or less. You won’t be able to crop them and the design will be featured as is.

3. Tag your work for better search

Project 4 increased their searchability by accurately choosing tags that represent their work’s industry, design applications and visual style.

Tagging is one of the most exciting aspects of the new designer profile. In time, these tags will be used for easier designer search – and bring clients straight to your portfolio.

You can tag each of your designs with up to 10 tags that specify tools, style, industry or anything else you think is important to call attention to. Be sure to tag your designs accurately, so that those browsing can better match what they’re looking for with you. Inaccurate tagging will only hurt your credibility.

Do: Tag things that aren’t represented in the category drop down. Here’s your chance to represent all those designs in the “Other” category – 3D, industrial design, product design… the list goes on and on

Don’t: Create a new tag without checking what is already available. If “Photoshop” already exists, there’s no reason to create an “Adobe Photoshop” tag – it will only make your design harder to find.

Do: Consider tagging the industry your design was for. Get specific with tags like “yoga studio”, “dental”, or “boutique” and appeal to a wide audience of clients looking for something similar.

Do: Use tags to call out different design elements. Is your work minimal or masculine? Art Deco or skeuomorphic? Blue or black and white. Photoshop or hand drawn? If a client is looking for a specific look, these types of tags will bring them right to you.

Don’t: Waste a tag on something that’s already represented somewhere else on your portfolio. Logo design, website design or any other category that’s covered in the Category and Industry drop downs is unnecessary. You should be getting more specific.

Don’t: Include a hashtag (#) before every tag.

4. Titles and descriptions will take you far

99designs portfolio
Eye Creation does a great job explaining the contest, his design concept and how he created the design

This may not seem like an important part of your portfolio, but – as we’ve said before – it’s crucial to justify your designs. They key to success on 99designs is explaining to (potential) clients why you made the design decisions that you did.

This simple explanation allows for much higher understanding and appreciation of your work and often elevates it from a pretty picture to a design that’s taken much more seriously. Don’t let your designs be taken at face value. Take the effort to title and describe each design and you’re sure to see some positive feedback.

Don’t: Forget to change the title. Otherwise, the default will be the contest’s original title and will be either confusing or appear lazy to potential clients.

Do: Keep your title simple. Here’s your chance to take charge and clarify what you worked on, such as “Typographic Coffee Logo” or “Minimal Boutique Website”.

Don’t: Make your description too long. Find a way to explain your work in a short and snappy way that’s easy for a client to understand.

Want more tips on how to build a better portfolio? Read “The do’s and don’ts of a great design portfolio” for ways to improve the look of your 99designs profile.

Featured image: Kamotext