How To Be a Web Developer – Part 6: Creating Your Web Development Portfolio

Uncategorized
htbawd6

Post Tags

This is Part 6 of our How to Be a Web Developer Series. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

It’s never too early to start thinking about your web development portfolio. Even before you make any decisions about your dream development job, you can begin curating your work. This post is an overview of how to create an effective portfolio even if you’ve never had a paying client.

What Your Portfolio Does

The most basic thing your portfolio does is offer prospective employers and clients a peek at your previous work and your level of ability. In a field where many people are self-taught and careers are non-linear, résumés and college degrees, while still important, are not as important as your ability to demonstrate your skill. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and a finished project speaks louder than a list of skills.

Another thing your portfolio can do, though, is help to inform your brand. Whether or not you plan on having your own business, your portfolio communicates what types of projects you are potentially interested in. If you are primarily interested in developing websites for experts in the wedding industry, for example, it’s going to be more challenging to find those clients if your portfolio is filled with websites for realtors.

At the very beginning, it’s hard to be choosey about selecting the “perfect” projects for your portfolio, and it is totally fine to include projects you are proud of even if they don’t really fit your end goal. I would just encourage you to keep the concept of “curation” in mind as you put your portfolio together. You are not required to put every single project you’ve ever done in your portfolio, and as your list of clients grows, you can select the ones that best match your values and vision as a web developer.

What Goes in Your Portfolio

Anything can go in your portfolio, but here are a few categories of items you might want to include.

Projects You’re Proud Of

Like I mentioned, you don’t have to include every project you’ve ever worked on. In fact, if there are projects that didn’t go particularly well or that you don’t really want to associate with anymore, then don’t add them!

Instead, select the projects you feel really good about. Maybe it was the first one where you wrote custom PHP or a website for a non-profit you’re really passionate about. Ideally, looking at your portfolio should make you feel happy and proud of what you have accomplished.

Projects That Demonstrate a Certain Skill

If you’ve done something really well on a particular project, don’t hesitate to show it off! You worked super hard to create some awesome jQuery animations? In the project description, make sure to point this out so people know to check them out.

Or say you came up with a neat new layout for a portfolio website. Even if the rest of the project feels underwhelming, you can still include it to show that particular creative achievement.

Projects You Want to Create More Of

You just developed your first e-Commerce site for an independent jewelry designer, and you loved it. Be sure to put it in your portfolio! If there is a type of client or a type of website that gets you really excited, be sure to feature them front and center.

Ideally, these projects will be your strongest projects, but even if you still feel like you are learning how to develop certain websites that excite you, it’s never too early to get people landing on your website to think “Wow, she develops websites for jewelry designers!”

What If I’m Just Starting Out?

All of these suggestions might be fine and dandy if you have a swath of previous projects to choose from, but when you’re just starting out, you feel lucky to have any projects in your portfolio at all. I don’t want you to feel pressured to leave out some early projects because they don’t fit the categories I listed above. Sometimes at the beginning, you do just work with what you’ve got and put it all out there, and that is totally fine!

So where do these early projects come from? One obvious answer is doing smaller projects for friends or family members. There are a lot of strong opinions out there about when it’s okay to work for free or whether it’s a good idea to work with family. Each person needs to sort out what’s best for them, especially at the beginning.

Whether or not you have people around you in need of your web development skills, though, you can still get a head start on your portfolio by creating self-initiated projects. These are just projects that you do for fun or for practice. It’s tempting to feel like these aren’t “legitimate” projects because no one paid you for them, but they still meet the requirements for your portfolio: they show what you can do.

How to Include Self-Initiated Projects

So where do you start with self-initiated projects? You have a couple of options. Think about any websites you might have created in the past that would look good in your portfolio. Do you have an old blog? Are there any projects you started but didn’t finish and just need a little TLC? Are there any projects you completed that didn’t get used for some reason? Resurrect these old projects, polish them up, and add them to your portfolio.

Or you can just dream up a new website and create it from scratch. One of the first projects in my portfolio was birthed when I challenged myself to create a single page website with jQuery scrolling. I pretended it was a website for a Minneapolis-based conference and used lorem ipsum to flesh out the content. I felt really accomplished when I finished it, and though I could create a much better version of the site now, it’s really fun to look back on it. Just let your imagination run wild and start developing!

Comments are closed.