Conversion Optimization: 5 Key Ingredients for Your Portfolio

A woman viewing an online project with her laptop

Gaining clients in the digital arena can be an ongoing challenge. Whether you’re a photographer, designer, writer, or visual artist, slapping together a standard portfolio doesn’t necessarily position you for long-term success. In recent years, conversion optimization has become a hot topic among marketers. Success isn’t just about building traffic – it’s about converting targeted traffic into buyers through various on-site ingredients.

So, what makes a portfolio “optimized” for a high conversion rate? Here are 5 key ingredients to consider:

High-Quality Images

High quality photo of a landscape

For photographers, images are a given. The problem is, not all freelancers make use of high-quality images, which we’d define as crisp and clear without obvious compression. Size is also a factor. If your images are too small, clients will strain to see detail. If they’re too big, they might distort or slow down your website.

Check out David Woolfall’s photography portfolio. His images are not only high in quality, but compressed just enough to provide an acceptable load time with no visual compromise.

For compression, we recommend a tool like TinyPNG, whether you’re using PNGs or JPGs. You could even consider using BPGs in the future.

Links to Live Projects

A woman viewing an online project with her laptop

Linking to live sources of your work online is extremely important. Demonstrating real world experience will build trust with potential clients, and we all know that trust is key in any business.

Take a look at Yoke Design’s portfolio. Notice how they link to each live project? This gives them instant credibility because the projects are presented right before your eyes.

When linking to projects, it’s also a referencing opportunity. Potential hires may want to get in touch with your past clients to get the scoop on working with you. Just be sure to check your links regularly! If your work is moved or changed, you might lose trust (not to mention feel embarrassed) when people see that it doesn’t match up to your portfolio.


An image showing 4 silver stars on the wall

Getting a positive testimonial from a client is gold dust for getting more work. And while written testimonials are widely used, very few people display them correctly. A testimonial shouldn’t just be a quote. It should have the client’s name, their company, and a professional headshot, whenever possible.

Sleepless Media’s testimonials are a perfect example of how testimonials should be displayed. In this case, the testimonials are a separate page to the portfolio, which is fine. It’s even better to embed them into your portfolio, though, and also add a few to your home page.

To take testimonials to the next level, consider video testimonials. Check out Jordan Matter’s video testimonials as an example. In a single reel, he has multiple clients on camera talking him up. To see these people talking is truly reassuring.

Problems Solved

A birds-eye view of someone working on a project

Providing a service is about solving a problem – any entrepreneur will tell you it’s that simple. Problem solving comes first, and your technical skills come second.

A $1,500 design solution might make someone’s website look better and marginally improve their business, but a $15,000 solution might triple their income by focusing on elements that drastically increase conversions.

When showing off a portfolio piece, summarize the client’s brief. Did they need more traffic? Greater brand awareness? More sales? Describe what you did to achieve their goal. Potential clients will be more inclined to give you a call if they see you’ve cured similar pain points before. Check out 64 Digital’s portfolio for an example of this direction in action.

Only Your Best Work

A woman viewing a design portfolio with her laptop

Lead with your best work. Your first entries will naturally get the most clicks. But that doesn’t mean you should follow with uninspiring work.

By showing anything of lesser quality than the rest of your portfolio, you might give the impression that you’re inconsistent. They might remember the samples they didn’t like more than the ones they did.

As you move on in your career, your skills will become stronger. Your newer work will outshine older projects. With this in mind, you should continuously update your portfolio over time to reflect your current level of ability.

Look at any successful freelancer or agency: Will Pearson Photography, Beluga Labs, Chris Burge Illustration, and many more. Their portfolios only contain their best work, despite the fact they were all beginners at some point.

Master the Art of Conversion Optimization

Getting a steady stream of clients through your portfolio website isn’t an overnight task. However, if you’ve got quality projects under your belt and there’s an ongoing demand for your services, you can have clients lining up by keeping all of the above in mind.

Do you have other conversion methods that have worked wonders for your portfolio? Tell us in the comments below!

Image credits: danfador, StartupStockPhotos (1), PatternPictures, FirmBee, StartupStockPhotos (2)

2 responses to “Conversion Optimization: 5 Key Ingredients for Your Portfolio”

  1. JW Headshots Avatar

    Excellent tips and definitely gives me something to think about regarding my own creative portfolio. I totally agree with leading with your best work. Besides video, what other tips would you suggest for getting testimonials?

    1. Tom Ewer Avatar

      It’s easy – simply ask them! Prepare some questions, and suggest writing up a short blurb once you’ve received the answers. Send the testimonial back to the client for approval, and it’s good to go. 🙂

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