19 Reasons Your Online Portfolio Gets Barely Any Visits

19 Reasons Your Online Portfolio Gets Barely Any Visits

April 24, 2012 by

You are a wonderful artist and you have a great, clean portfolio site featuring lovely new art and pictures you’ve been creating. You’d like more people to see your work and to hopefully get some paid work too.

You check your site visits statistics and it’s heartbreakingly low. You decide to send a rushed email to everyone you know with a link to your work. You later regret how desperate you must have sounded, and the cycle goes on, and you continue to get very few portfolio visits.

Let’s not be that person.

Do bear in mind, that the better your portfolio and portfolio site is, the more likely others are to share and promote it for you. Let’s cut straight to the chase and talk about some of the things that are happening that are keeping people away from your site.

1. You don’t update your portfolio enough

An outdated, and un-maintained portfolio gives off the impression that, firstly, you don’t take your work seriously enough, secondly, that you are a bit of an amateur and lack professionalism, and thirdly you don’t get much work.

Putting up personal, self-initiated, or work done for free, is a necessary replacement for periods when you aren’t getting paid work from clients.

2. Not engaging enough with social media

You might not be making full use of the promotional potential of sites like Twitter and Google+. Using Twitter to promote your portfolio is not about constantly bombing links to your portfolio.

You need to be striking a balance between doing that and engaging with, and helping others out. The balance in this case, is skewed heavily towards engaging with others.

3. You don’t have a blog

Blogging consistent interesting content, especially to people (prospects) that could become your clients, and then linking that blog to your portfolio can work wonders.

People get thrown off blogging regularly because they try to create too much too often, at least in their minds, and never commit to it. Commit to posting something short and sweet to a set schedule. Your following, and traffic to your portfolio will begin to grow.

4. You’re not focused enough on your audience

Always be thinking about exactly who your targeted market group is. Who are you creating work for? What kind of people, customers and companies?

If you aren’t clear on this, your work will lack focus, and it will show in your portfolio. ‘Jacks of all trade’ portfolios lose out in this regard. If you have multiple skills, such as vector illustration, as well as page layout design, you need two separate portfolios. One for each skill, linking to each other.

5. You are not an expert in something

Being considered an expert in something that compliments the work you showcase in your portfolio is a very powerful way of drawing views to your work.

The way to get established as an expert in something like digital painting, apart from being well known in the field itself, is to participate in forums, have a newsletter, run a blog, contribute to tutorials, speak publicly, run a podcast, write an ebook, guest post, and so on.

6. Your work isn’t there yet

For some people, the reason you’re not getting plenty of views on your site, is simply down to the fact that your work has not matured as much as it can to begin to really stand out as something worth being of interest to prospects and fans.

You might still be in the phase that draws heavily from other artists, and you might not have established a style yet.

Don’t give up, now is the time to keep moving. Momentum and a unique feel to your work will follow.

7. Your site is poorly designed

There could be several technical reasons as to why your site is not bringing in visitors, especially if it is hard to use. Your portfolio might be trying to be too complicated and navigation might be difficult. Make it as easy as possible for users to…well… use the site.

You’re better off ignoring how other sites do navigation. Start with a clean slate, and think about what is the most simple.

This means reducing the number of times people need to think about what to do next when it comes to revealing your work. There may also be too many links and distractions that mean your site’s bounce rate (rate at which people leave without continuing) is high.

8. Not being actively engaging or responsive with others online

As well as engaging on social media sites, there are many other online platforms that provide the opportunity for engagement with people. Engagement in one form or another is crucial in this business, when it is ultimately people you are trying to guide to your presented work.

Get engaging on forums, respond to your emails promptly, retweet people, regularly reach out to people. It doesn’t need to be that much, just stick to do it a little, consistently. Remember that reaching out to one person, particularly someone who could be considered a higher profile ‘key influencer’ could lead to exponential visits to your portfolio if they like your work.

9. Not regularly marketing your work and portfolio

I’m not a huge fan of having a strategy when it comes to promotion, because strategy is boring and we lose interest.

What you need to do is make a pact with yourself to take regular action, ideally with a goal in mind, towards getting your work out there. You will get little back if you yourself are not taking action.

10. You aren’t taking advantage of other blogs

Blogs are a major form of currency on the web now in terms of acting as a source of exposure for you (and others), if done in the right way.

This means commenting and guest posting on popular blogs in your niche, as well as having your own, reaching out to bloggers, arranging joint venture agreements with other bloggers so as to raise both your profiles, and so on.

11. You aren’t telling enough people in real life

When you have the opportunity, tell people you meet and know about your work and your service. Telling friends and family about your portfolio and asking for help when you can, can lead to plenty of help being promoted, and some great rewards.

Business cards are not dead, and if they are, then you’ll stand out because you are the only person with some.

12. There are no calls to action, prompting people to help promote for you

You can have an excellent portfolio site with fantastic work, but if you lack some kind of a prompt that pushes fans and other users to actually take the next step in helping to promote the site for you, then you are limiting the amount of further promotion your site can receive.

13. You are too impersonal

Whether it be in the way you sell yourself and your brand online, interact with others, write your bio, email people, and so on, if you are holding back on showing more of you, as a human, in exchange for too much of simply your ‘brand’, you could be limiting yourself and the ability to draw more people to your work.

Even simply adding a photo of your face or describing what interests you in your ‘About’ area on your portfolio site, can garner a much better response from people. People are more willing to rant about your work, if they know who you are.

14. Your message and your site are too complicated

When people land on your portfolio, or personal site, you want to make your portfolio something that is obviously a portfolio. Avoid confusing and distracting the user with things that aren’t anything to do with your showcased work. This also applies to how you promote your work outside of your site, such as through online mailers.

Keep things simple.

15. No testimonials

Always be asking clients for testimonials if a job was done well at the end of projects. With a good selection of strong testimonials about your work and service, your credibility as a professional will go up, and with it, so will your commissions.

16. Being on too many portfolio sites

This extends from having too complicated a site. It’s ok to have a presence wherever possible on the Internet. The problem lies in not committing enough to a single platform from which to showcase your stuff.

You need somewhere that you can direct everyone to, that is your definitive portfolio, instead of giving people a hundred and one options for places to see your work. People simply won’t bother, because the options are too great.

17. You don’t have a unique selling point

As someone who provides a service in something creative, be that writing, film-making, painting or photography, each should be viewed as a form of business. And in business, having a unique selling point is the key to understanding how you market yourself, as someone who stands out from the rest.

What is different about the service you provide from everyone else out there?

This could range from your unique style, your location, your specialist skill, your ability to speak several languages as part of your service, and even your attitude (though this should be secondary).

18. You aren’t testing and tweaking

Monitoring as much as you can of your output, including all the feedback you get related to you and your brand is really important for ongoing improvement and ultimately drawing people to you.

You need to always be tweaking and editing how, where and why you share your work in the way that you do, based on how well you are doing (through looking at stats and analytics for example). It doesn’t hurt to ask others about what they think either.

19. You have little credibility

A lot of the reason people admire, share and hopefully hire you in the first place is down to them recognising that you possess a certain level of credibility. This means people trust in you as a professional, skilled respectable person.

There are many things that contribute to your credibility as a creative, which will in turn benefit your success in displaying your stuff online. This includes getting featured on- and writing for other popular blogs, having a growing Twitter network, having an interesting/strong client list, good testimonials and so on.

It really is up to you how many of these points you really take into consideration and act on.

Maintaining visits on your website does take interest and commitment.

Best of luck!

Comments please!

Do follow the Red Lemon Club tips newsletter for regular ideas like these for fruitful creatives.


About the Author: Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist

  • Alex Mathers

    Hi Frans,

    Re point 4: By all means have several styles, but those styles almost always cannot be aimed at one audience. You need separate portfolios for different styles and different audiences.

    I think bring some of your extra interests into your blog to link to your portfolio is OK. Good luck!

  • http://fi5hmark.blogspot.com Frans

    What if i put a tag? for example i do both realism, cartoon and manga style because i love it, if i made new blog for each style, isn’t this will be like number 16?

  • Alex Mathers

    I would suggest you have a separate portfolio (not blog) for each of your styles if you want to market them and make a living from each of them. If not, this is less important.

    Point 16 talks about having the same one style on too many portfolio sites like Prosite, Cargo and Viewbooks for eg, not individual portfolios, which should ideally be separate, if you have many styles.

  • http://fi5hmark.blogspot.com Frans

    Oh, i get now. Thank you very much! i hope i can fix it soon,

  • Alex Mathers

    Good stuff Frans!

  • http://www.evelynrowland.co.uk Evelyn

    sorry to sound dense but when you say individual portfolios, do you mean separate pages on the website or only have one style of work on the whole site? I have work on the A&I site, and in 2 Urban Sketchers groups on flickr. I don’t put everything on my site but i do direct to flickr sometimes from twitter.

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  • http://www.severnstudios.co.uk bex

    Hey Alex – this is a great article. I only just spotted the link on twitter and had a look. I see you used a snapshot of my site for the article! I have to hold my hands up to not updating things as much as I should – generally down to being too busy and having a number of projects that I’m not allowed to show. I agree with the social media comments too – I find that when I am more active with them, I get more traffic. I was interested to know if you based your article on a critique of my site generally? as any feedback (good or bad) about what you think works / doesn’t etc is always appreciated. All the best, Bex

  • Alex Mathers

    Hi Bex!

    Thanks for looking and reading the article. No no, the snapshot is not linked to the success of your own portfolio. I actually really like how you’ve done your page and presented your work. I just happened to be passing through your site and snapped it up as the picture for the article.

    Let me know if that’s not ok with you. Keep up the good stuff.


  • Alex Mathers

    Evelyn, re your question, you could have two separate portfolio pages within one page – but I think having two separate websites to keep things separate is even better, with a different brand to go with each.

  • http://www.severnstudios.co.uk bex

    Hi Alex – phew – I thought perhaps you used it as an example of how ‘not to do a site’. I’m sure we can all take away some great tips on improving visitors to our sites though – as it’s one of those things that’s easy to let slide. Your article is a nice reminder of ways to keep on top of it.
    Keep up the good work too and no worries using the image.

  • http://www.fiendishcreations.com Shawn

    Very timely and helpful information. Kudos!

  • http://www.evelynrowland.co.uk Evelyn

    ok, got you! thanks Alex : )

  • http://coroflot.com/monkeydoodledandy Elaine de la Mata

    Interesting to hear people say they like Behance. I have been wondering about that site. I use Coroflot and like it a lot, except that it is difficult to interact with other artists. I have an “invitation” to Behance and I’m going to get it set up. Thanks!

  • http://helenajuhaszillustration.blogspot.com Helena Juhasz

    Great info! Thank you.

  • https://twitter.com/thaopow Thao Luong

    This is exactly what I need, thanks so much! Really awesome and practical advice :)

  • Alex Mathers

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! Great to see these ideas connecting with people.

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  • Kaz

    Thanks, this has been really, really useful. Thinking about some of the tips of this article today has helped be make a decision not only on how I want to re-jig my online portfolio & presence but also what direction I want my art ‘career’ to go.

  • Alex Mathers

    Great to hear that Kaz! Nice to hear of real-world examples of how the articles are having an effect. Alex

  • http://www.eddiburns.com Eddi Burns

    This was a great article & it really has given me a lot of insight to what I am doing wrong! Thank you for the help!

  • http://marablestudios.com/ Marable Studios

    This was the perfect reality check for me. I feel lost sometimes with what to work on and improve upon with my sight. It’s just me and I’m NOT getting the exposure I feel I deserve. THANK YOU, I now know several things I can immediately do to improve.


  • Alex Mathers

    @Aaron, Always great to hear from people that this is benefiting!

  • http://www.stuartmale.com/ Stuart

    Thanks Alex, great info here. I find it hard to get noticed as I lack
    time due to a full time job and house renovation and sometimes just
    pure procrastination. I also find it hard to know what to specialise in,
    i’ve done quite a bit of packaging work but would like to lean more
    towards illustration as i’ve always loved doodling and drawing but
    hardly ever work up anything to final ilustration.

    Thanks again, this has helped me a lot

  • stevecinq

    We fight the impersonality issue ourselves. There is a fine line between sounding professional and being impersonal, unwelcoming and stuffy.

  • http://twitter.com/Virtualadgency Virtual adgency

    Great information and article. Cheers from Virtual Adgency. http://www.virtualadgency.me

  • http://twitter.com/Twilmedia Twilmedia

    A really good article. Even though I’m a Videographer, not an Artist, lots of good points to take away from this. Need to Spring-clean my vid portfolio! Simon http://www.videosurrey.com

  • http://twitter.com/Drisign Drisign

    This was a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing!

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  • AlexWende

    Seperation of portfolios makes a lot of sense but isn’t it kind of schizophrenic? Do you have a specific example of a person with more than one portfolio maybe even more than 2? This would be great! How do I manage those portfolios under one roof (which is my name) Do they need all a different company name? Maybe these are just stupid questions but would love to have a more in depth explanation if you can find some time since I’m currently working on my portfolio site :)

  • disqus_12AjFfmz9n

    I agree with most of the points which you have raised. Often choosing the right platform for making your portfolio can be the difference in how you showcase your work.Creative professionals need to go for simple, minimalist platform that is easy to manage and use is most crucial. I discovered a great platform in Pixpa which allowed me to create my portfolio with style and simplicity. I recommend that those looking redo their portfolio or create a new portfolio website try out http://www.pixpa.com/

  • Jason Rafferty

    Very very useful information Alex, thanks so much for posting it. I’m about to start up as a full-time business with my painting and this is quite good to read. Cheers!

  • Alex Mathers

    Brilliant to hear that Jason, knock em dead

  • ThisDesignUp

    I’m not the creator of the post, who you were talking to, but I hope you don’t mind me giving an idea. If you have enough works you could easily seperate your portfolio into sections. It’s still one portfolio but it’s not as overwhelming and shows that you can do a lot but still focus on that one thing instead of being all over the place, more organization too.

  • Simon McIntosh

    Some really honest and helpful feedback. Just throwing this site into the mix, apparently this new startup will tell you exactly what the pros think of your work! http://www.tyroe.com

  • Alex Mathers

    brill, thanks Simon, I’m always interested to hear about things like this, and what options there are. Cheers!

  • Amanda Wall

    My portfolio has a filtering option. It allows the viewer to see my work as a whole but they can easily select to only see “illustrations” for example. You could give that a try.

  • Alex Mathers

    thanks for the input guys, good idea from Amanda. I really do think you need to be separating different styles, i.e. present them under different brands on different websites – it’s ok to feature different categories of different mediums in the same site if it clearly shouts your brand or name.

  • JOhn

    Look into Dossiae. There any business with a portfolio can advertise, and also list your portfolio in the cities you service in. So it’s like Facebook pages with being able to upload your portfolio but with the capability to list it like Craigslist. It’s new but more possibilities.

  • http://www.pyramidpixels.com.au/ Radhika Shah

    Good to know that most of these points are taken care of on my website :)

  • Rojin Hamid

    This is a wonderful list, especially for new artists, designers and starting businesses. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://grafica-artica.blogspot.com.es/ Jesussanz

    Thank you very much, Alex, for such a valios list. How much details to improve!

  • John Martinez

    Why not try portfolio marketing websites, such as http://www.flickr.com, http://www.dossiae.com, or CL. These sites allow you to upload your portfolio and you can market it on your own or sites like Dossiae and CL they have a following to help promote your portfolio themselves.

  • http://www.rightsidestudios.com Derek

    A lot of great, concise points here, Alex. Much to think about in this beefy article to say the least. Glad to be a subscriber to the Red Lemon Club!

  • Alex Mathers

    pleasure to have you with us Derek!

  • Johanna Glas

    I would think 25 % on these channels is a whole lot… especially considering the fact it is very easy to engage directly and personally