Why you don’t need an online portfolio

It’s never been easier to create an online portfolio for your business. Whether a graphic designer, web developer, illustrator or photographer – it’s expected to have a place where we showcase past projects.

To accommodate this, the portfolio industry was born. We have companies such as Behance, Adobe Portfolio and loads of plugins for WordPress to create a beautiful portfolio. We also have LinkedIn to show our work history and build credibility.

Though I am all for credibility, it is questionable if an online portfolio gives you the credibility that you’re seeking.

I’ll unpack this theory in this article.

What is the reason for an online portfolio?

Though an online portfolio should give credibility and showcase the quality of work, I’ve found it to be an easy way out for potential clients who aren’t sure they want to work with you. For example, a potential client recently contacted me for some software development work. When I started asking questions about the project, he asked about my previous work and if I have an online portfolio. I sent him an email with all the links and details about some of my previous projects – and all of a sudden he went very quiet.

It’s the strange thing, but every client that has ever asked for my portfolio didn’t convert to a business engagement. It’s taken me months to build an online portfolio. But customers aren’t really interested in that.

What is the real purpose of an online portfolio?

Social media and Google Ads are full of advertising where companies are showcasing their portfolios in an attempt to attract clients. Using the skills available, freelancers and small businesses will show their competence and tacit knowledge through a plethora of design, photos, screenshots and text.

An Online Portfolio Provides a Platform to Highlight Your Best Work.


The new portfolio for sales conversion

As a business, you have two ways of making sales. The first is building or ordering a product and spending big bucks on advertising and marketing. Spamming potential customers to death through advertisements is something we see every day. We have a minimum of two ads on YouTube and billboards telling you why you need to buy it.

But most of us don’t have the budget.

It would be more profitable for small businesses and freelancers to build credibility and a community. Whether through content creation, networking meetings or interviews – spending your time better can pay off great dividends. Here are examples of this:

  • Software developers can do YouTube videos explaining code and frameworks
  • Graphic designers can do creative events with extended friends where they create together and connect with likeminded people
  • Photographers can create a lifestyle account on Instagram and build a community by connecting and commenting on similar accounts

Relationships and credibility are much more valuable than a beautiful business card website.

Is an online portfolio helpful?

Does your industry have a meeting after a project/sprint? A freelancer and small business hardly ever get (or make) the time to do this. Using your online presence as a tool to grow and learn can help you to become better in your industry and profession. From personal experience, I’ve found that portfolios aren’t there for convincing clients to work with you – they’re there for you to reflect on your work. Your online portfolio is not a marketing tool – it’s a self-reflection tool.

My website where I share details about personal finance, property and small business. It’s helped me generate leads not only as an influencer but also in my software development company

For example, this blog has helped me a lot to grow in my understanding of money and how it works. It’s become my portfolio of knowledge, understanding and credibility. It’s also become my marketing tool where brands and individuals will come to me – and (almost) know me already before our first meeting.

In some industries, you are required to have an online portfolio. For example, for art directors, you need to send your ‘portie’ to potential employers before they decide to interview you. A few years ago, I’ve also had to create and send this on. If I had to redo this today, I would showcase this with my research and online community.

Documenting your journey as your portfolio

A portfolio is often used as a tool to show off how amazing we are, but people don’t really care about how amazing others are. They are more interested in how you can address their needs. These needs are identified when you share pieces of your journey with them that they can identify with.

A portfolio is cool to have, but the clients’ problem isn’t a banner ad or a beautiful wedding photo – it’s design management, handling technical IT things, speaking to their clients, etc.

Gary Vee explains that we need to document our journey. It’s not always about how beautiful and aesthetically pleasing something is – it’s about how relevant, connected and real you are. People want to connect with you, not a robot or a beautiful portfolio.

Use your online presence as a journal.


For me, the online portfolio is dead – it’s like a business card that we flick to random people. It would be more valuable to spend your time building an online presence and community that can pass work to you.

In this day and age relationships are more valuable than being able to do the work.

Happy investing!

Sources consulted