If you’ve been a WordPress developer and/or designer for long, you’ll have likely dealt with this problem.
You landed several really great clients or even a full-time spot. Your workday is filled with answering client demands, attending meetings, and hunting down that perfect plugin. It’s a good place to be, especially if your goal has been to make money with your WordPress expertise. However, something might have fallen by the wayside. In all the flurry to meet client needs, you’ve neglected to maintain your website.
You can justify letting it slide for a day; perhaps a week. But soon, months go by and your blog or portfolio is dustier than a volume of Ayn Rand on a library shelf. You tell yourself it’s no big deal, you’ve got more important work to do. However, neglecting your professional website is neglecting your face online. It’s what attracts new clients. It’s the place on the web you have complete control over.
If you’re having trouble landing new clients, your outdated portfolio may be playing a bigger part than you could ever imagine. So, here are five easy ways you can keep it fresh while still managing your workload.
1. Revise Your Portfolio Samples
The lifecycle of a WordPress developer/designer takes a specific path. You start out as a novice, cutting your teeth on the basics of the technology. As you gain confidence in coding PHP and/or implementing custom themes, your skills grow. Eventually, you are handling advanced work for clients, getting in deep with databasing or optimizing website performance.
As your skills grow, your older samples of work will become grossly out-of-date. Every designer knows the pain of looking at their earliest work; it’s cringeworthy, we know. Don’t let those old designs become ugly warts in your portfolio.
Taking the time to update your static portfolio (meaning the page that features a set number of samples of your dev/design work) is crucial to landing new clients. You know how fast design trends change. WordPress seems to push out a new version every few days, and that amazing plugin from 2010 just won’t cut it today. However, that doesn’t mean you should take a hatchet to your finest work. Make sure your portfolio is diverse. Keep your best work (even if it’s older) and include your newest as well.
You may not think you have enough recent work to showcase, especially if your area of expertise is the back end. Take a good look through all your work and you’ll be surprised at what you can feature on a portfolio page. Even highlighting a screenshot of a theme or code, with accompanying explanation, is great.
2. Tell Your Story
A portfolio website is more than just a place to feature your work. It’s the only place you can share exactly what you want from the world. Even social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr have limitations set by their creators. Your website doesn’t. A blog is like a living portfolio, it is an ongoing conversation about your skills and capabilities as a developer.
There are no set rules for what you can share, but the best strategy is to chronicle your journey as a professional. Adding a dab of honesty to your blog – letting readers in on your path to success – will help potential clients appreciate you first as a person, then as a contractor. This is the first step when attempting to nurture a great client relationship.
It can be as simple as writing about your education. How did you come to be a WordPress developer? Share small moments from your creative career; the lessons you learned or skills you gained. Even mistakes or failures have their value in the story. Don’t be afraid of being open and transparent. Not only can this attract readers and clients, it’ll help you gain a better perspective on where you’ve been and where you want to go.
Things to avoid: dishing out dirt on old clients (always a bad move), venting or complaining (emotions, both positive and negative are contagious), and writing about personal matters better left offline. Keep it focused on your goal – growing your business as a WordPress developer and designer.
A word on style: you may not feel that you’re a strong enough writer to blog. Don’t worry about it. The message is far more important than the style and structure. And the more you work at it, the better you’ll get (just like your skills at WordPress).
3. Show Your Work
Thought leaders from Austin Kleon to Martha Stewart understand the power of showing their creative process. Nobody uses magic to get to where they are. Show how you work, whether it’s the steps you take when working on a WordPress theme or how you test the latest and greatest plugins. This can be the most effective way of building an online audience (and therefore attracting new clients). Readers always have questions about technology; WordPress is no exception. Showing that you have mastered the CMS to the point of showcasing your work will prove your abilities in a way a portfolio can’t.
Also consider how often you looked up WordPress tutorials in the early days (or how much you still look them up. Don’t be ashamed, we all do it). Those articles equipped you to tackle early problems and helped you build confidence. As an accomplished developer, you are now in a position to help others grow in their understanding of the technology. Educating novice developers – even in simple matters like installing a cache program – will position you as an industry influencer, not a follower. People will look to you for answers to their problems and direct others to you. Just imagine how many clients will be knocking at your door then.
4. Hook With a Series
You may be familiar with websites that run tutorial or blog series, posts that cover a particular topic over the course of a few days or weeks. This provides a more thorough discussion of a subject or enables a more complicated one to be broken down into easier to understand segments. This is a great way to keep your portfolio and blog updated over a set period of time.
You could start a series covering a new project. Each update will show the progress of the project (for instance, designing or implementing a new WordPress theme) with screenshots and steps you took to overcome hurdles. The series ends, of course, with the finished work showcased on your portfolio page.
This is a great way to stay motivated. Instead of scrambling for ideas, you have a subject you can write confidently about for days or weeks. Just a tip: don’t drag it out for too long. Depending on the frequency of your updates, a month should be the max a series runs for. A few areas to discuss are teaching WordPress basics, tips or tricks when customizing a theme, or the process of developing a special plugin or tool.
5. Plan Ahead
Most of us want to keep our websites and portfolios fresh, but with a busy schedule it may seem impossible (especially if you work full time). The best way to avoid letting your website slip is to plan updates long before they go up. This is especially important for your personal blog, but you should plan ahead even if you maintain a static portfolio.
You know your time is valuable and you may not have even an hour spare to hammer out a week of new updates, but working out a schedule for posts/portfolios updates will transform an insurmountable task into an easy set of steps.
Use a calendar or spreadsheet to chart exactly what you want to post and when. Take advantage of free time this week, for when you’ll be slammed next week. Remember WordPress’ handy scheduling function too, for when you don’t even have time to publish a post.
These days a portfolio is more than just a page of thumbnails, it’s an ongoing conversation about your progress as a WordPress developer. Despite your daily workload, you can’t afford to let it become weed-covered. Remember our top five tips for getting (and keeping) your portfolio up to date:
- Regularly revise the samples you are showing to prospective clients.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your personal story on your blog.
- Showing your work is a great way of drawing both readers and clients to your site.
- Creating series posts will hook readers.
- Always plan ahead of time for when you’re too slammed with other things.
A portfolio is one of the most effective ways of drawing in new clients, so you can’t afford to let it slide.
Do you have other ways of keeping your portfolios fresh? Do you have a blog or need advice on how to start a portfolio? Share it all with us in the comments!
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