19 Reasons Your Online Portfolio Gets Barely Any Visits

You are a wonderful artist and you have a great, prostate 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An outdated, and un-maintained portfolio gives off the impression that, firstly, you don’t take your work seriously enough, secondly, that you are a bit of an amateur and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.



  1. Thanks for this wicked article! This supports a lot with the social media post you made 🙂

    I agree with #3 where we must have a blog because it is the ideal home for our works. We can share more thoughts and ideas to discuss all our projects – ideas, inspiration, procedures, etc. Moreover, it’s the core of our identity.

    • Thanks Boris, you are right about a blog acting as much more of a platform to share what you think and what your brand is and what you are about.

  2. I’m missing one essential point in this list:
    What do you do when clients make you sign a contract you don’t post any of the work you have done for them on your website or on your portfolio at all? This situation occurs regularly. Besides that an outdated portfolio can be a result of lack of time not necessarily not having clients, how do you go around that? These are two interesting questions that I haven’t found the answers to yet

    • Hi Marry,

      Great question Marry. This is something that happens a lot, and I’d think there are a couple of things you can do to keep your portfolio up to date in this regard. Firstly, that is to work on self initiated pieces whenever you can, and to ideally keep one or two works to the side to use in case this does happen. Secondly you could make it clear in your contract what your requirements for showcasing work in your portfolio are, and remind clients of this, if they are slow to let you show the work.

      You could also add a section of sketches or preliminary work that came with those client projects to keep the portfolio fresh, if those are under your ownership.

      Other ideas from others are welcome..

  3. Thanks a lot Alex!! GREAT article. I’m actually trying to find the way to show our (my) work so it’s also really useful!!

  4. Really good article & interesting points raised. I find the hardest bit is time management to fit it all in, especially if in a busy run of jobs.

  5. this is the most useful and complete article i have read on this subject. I have put all my online bits and pieces together and am now looking for ways to create interest. I often send people to my website, but wonder if it would be more effective to send them to my blog instead, as the blog is updated daily and links easily to the online gallery I am associated with, as well as to my website. The blog site address isn’t as easy to remember though. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. Thanx again for the great article. Barry

    • Thanks Barry, what I’ve always supported is the fact that your portfolio is secondary to your expertise in a related area. This is the way to get online traffic. It’s possible to get plenty of hits straight to your portfolio, but where you showcase your work should be viewed as an ultimate destination for people, having learnt more about you through other means prior to getting there, including a blog, twitter feed, google+ feed, public speaking, writing books, and so on.

      Best of luck!

  6. Great, clear, helpful article. Thank you so much.
    I mostly can’t hear another word about marketing strategies for artists without cringing. But this was logical and helpful, and there are things I can put it into practice right away.

    I just want to say, I don’t do Twitter of Facebook for various considerations, I know I miss out on a lot that way. But my blog still gets way over 1000 hits a month after 5 years of quietly and steadily writing and sharing what matters to me.

    My intent is to keep it small, intimate, honest. And your advice fits in with that perfectly.

  7. Very informative, especially for someone like myself who is an older emerging artist. Trying to catch up to the current technology can be challenging. I’m getting help in redesigning my site and hopefully improving it.

    One question. I saw a video from the Google folks who rank sites. They stated that it’s better to post a blog once every two weeks or even once a month, if the blog is substantial–rather than frequently, but lacking in depth. What’s your take on frequency? I think quality is better. Sometimes when I get posts of daily blogs it’s more than I can take in–and I simply don’t respond. Wonder if that’s true for a lot of folks or just old cutes like me? Your post gives a lot of meat to think about.

  8. The Behance-Prosite connection has been the most effective system for me. Seems most pros I know are using it. Have others explore this network + personal website ecosystem approach, whether on Behance or others?

  9. Brilliant interesting article. We are doing most of these things but need to do them better. Also do the rest of the points that you mentioned, and do them good.
    Thank you.

  10. Thank you Sarah, I really appreciate the comment, great that this is useful for you :).

    Hi John, absolutely – quality is better than quantity, no doubt BUT if you can combine the two (perhaps with help from others), and post frequently AND with quality stuff, you will see great results.

    MR, really useful to know that Prosite is working for people. Anyone else use Prosite alongside the Behance ecosystem?

    Thank you Susan!

  11. Great information Alex, very useful. Hopefully by implementing these tips I can increase my exposure and get some fresh and exciting freelance opportunities. Thanks.

  12. There is a lot that creatives need to juggle. Alex, you offer some good ideas as to connecting with your audience.

  13. Great article, Alex! I heard it’s good to have an opt-in to collect email addresses on your website + to email your list a couple times a month, for the “hey, I’m alive” factor. I’ve just added an e-book for my opt-in + paid had it edited from a writer on fiverr.com. I still think it’s a little long…time to whittle it down some more.
    Arigato! 🙂

    • Great Anna! Sounds like you are heading in the right direction. This is a great approach. All the best with it. Alex

  14. Thanks for the well-written article, Alex! definitely can be a challenge to become an active member of an online community if you don’t have time to post regularly, but it’s surprising how simple and intuitive it can be.

  15. Thanks for these important points, Alex! Obviously I did at least some things right.
    My site is a Behance ProSite, great for updating and promoting my work but people seem very reluctant (or afraid?) to interact/follow or to click on the “Appreciate” button. Sure, maybe they don’t like it but on the other hand I’m asking collaborating art directors, upload the results and still the same. I am pro-active on the Behance network, too, but it’s a matter of time, especially when browsing through so much awesome work there.

  16. Great article! It validated some of the steps I’ve taken, but will push me to do more. My wife and I both freelance. She’s a copywriter and I’m an illustrator. The advice applies for both of us. I’ve been in the business over 35 years. Resisted social media for a long time. It’s hurt me professionally. Your tips provide structure to help embrace new opportunities to expand my online presence! Old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

  17. I can say from my own experience with my new blog and participating actively in Social Media , I get more traffic. But this needs to be consistent + having epic content. Thanks for the post

  18. Hi Alex,

    A great list and is very helpful. As a designer just starting out I feel most of these points hit home..hard. There is much I know I need to learn and much I am studying post grad in order to get up to speed, however the trouble I find as a freelancer starting out is in not having like minded individuals who are already where you want to be, look at your site, and offer a sound evaluation.

    My second dilema is prioritization. I understand all these are excellent and extremely valid points. But which of these would you advise would be the most important to work on first?

    Thanks again for your posts mate and I hope I don’t sound like too much of a whiner :), am just a total enthusiast currently in a lull.



    • Totally valid points, Dennis, and something I think we all have gone through and/or feel fairly regularly. I haven’t yet seen your work, but my suggestion is, since this is about portfolios, to make sure you get to a certain point in your craft where three things have been reached: 1) You have reached a style that others can recognise as your own, 2) You are unique in your field, 3) if you are in this for commercial success, you provide a service that addresses the need of a particular market who want and like your work.

      After this, you can start focusing on attracting people to your portfolio.

      All the best with it, if your stuck yet passionate, it’s a sign you need to keep going.

  19. Thanks Alex,

    I really appreciate your quick response. This is, as always, excellent advice. Currently my work is a bit all over the place as most of what I have to display is entirely catered for the clients needs, which does not allow for too much freedom when they have nearly all had very specific ideas as to the look and feel of their sites… and adding personality to their site was not a point that they wished to include.

    I feel where I may be lacking is that I am not displaying more of my personal projects that have more of my personality coming through and am conforming totally to each client as I get them. Whereas, If am successful in following your advice, the clients I get will be more attuned to where I am at and most likely, be clients that I would be happier working with.

    I noticed your use of the term craft. I heard a very interesting comment the other day that no matter your profession, if you work at it, little by little, every day, then it will cease to be a job, but instead becomes a refined craft.

    I felt this was an excellent attitude to take when you are feeling stuck and with together with your comment above to keep going am feeling inspired again.

    Perhaps there is a topic for you right there on how to kick start your creativity when in a lull hahaha.

    Thanks again mate.



    • Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for the comment. In fact, your mention of ‘craft’ got me thinking about another post I’ve been meaning to put up, which it now is.

      All the best with it!


  20. Interesting thoughts but I’m not so sure about Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook as a way to reach art directors…unless you’ve already connected with them through an assignment.

    What I’ve recently discovered is that only 25% of art buyers are using Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook to find new talent and of those 75% use Facebook. This is such a small percentage of art buyers that today this is not a viable way to reach them…this study was for finding a photographer. We’re now doing a study of art buyers who buy illustration and see what we find there. The photography study didn’t break it down by demographics so we’re not sure about the age group of the 25%, their actual position or their decision-making power.

    But speaking from experience as an ad agency art director, there isn’t enough time in the day to be scouring the web for artists and certainly no reading blogs–way to troublesome to scroll down to find something interesting.

    What we face in the States is a low awareness of illustration with only a small percentage of art directors really interested in using illustration, the preference is for photography. Anything we can do to elevate illustration in their minds is a worthwhile goal for our industry.

    Yes using social media may help create a fan base for selling work but it is still an untested way to market yourself–it remains a source to talk among ourselves and not reach the people who buy illustration. Same goes for Facebook, too many un-edited works showing up so it’s frustrating trying to find artists.

    Getting the word out is crucial but beware of free space as while it sounds good it’s not always beneficial.

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

  21. Great read Alex. After what has been an unproductive day I found this very useful and inspiring. The problem I have is also what I consider to be my strength, that being diversity and variety in approach and techniques. Im sure you are very busy but if you could spare a minute and browse my site I would really appriciate any personal feedback you could offer. Thanks again.

  22. This is the first of the articles on Red Lemon that I’ve read and I’m really impressed – I can see where these 19 points are relevant to my own efforts to get my art skills and ambitions recognised. I’m doing a lot right but I can do a lot more. Thanks Alex!

  23. Thanks. Your story is very good, but I am tired. As my friend said :”Marketing is harder than pulling teeth!”

  24. I have a problem on 4, i like to experiment with different artstyle, and i’m comfortable like that. Somehow i found one style that i like very much but not very engaging if i applied it on children book story…

    As for 13, i like writing a review about books, and random event that i write in separated blogs, should i linked it to my porfolio site? I turned it down now since i think it not necessary….

    • 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!

  25. 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?

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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.


  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.


  35. 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

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

  37. 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 🙂

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

  38. 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/

  39. 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!

  40. 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.

  41. 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!

  42. Sadly, I fall into most of these categories.

    I am now redesigning my website and trying to ‘brand’ myself. I am my worst critic because I am having that hard of a time. Trying to figure out what separates me from everyone else in the design / developer world is harder than I thought. Whenever I finally think of something, someone has already been there, done that, or is doing that.

    • No problem Robin, at least you know what to focus on. What about your own story, struggle, character could set you apart that you could highlight? What insight do you have that few others have?

      Well done on the comment!

      • A story. Now I feel like I have to make up something, which I’m not going to. And I have had little to no struggles in my life.

        I’ve basically been the very obedient and shy only child up until my parents decided to have another child when I was 11. I’ll really have to sit and think about this. I’m sure that there is something; everyone has something.

        Some people say I’m witty… I may have to draw from my online person for reference. As a Sims 3 creator, I kinda have to be … funny-ish.

        And thank you.

        If you don’t mind me asking, what do you think sets you apart from everyone else?

        • Thanks for your story Robin 😉

          I’m a nomadic digital illustrator specialising in isometric landscapes with additional interest in marketing and helping other visual creatives succeed.

  43. How the portfolio will be look like depends upon which work are you doing? For the artist, graphics designer or photographers, its always good to show their skills through sample works other than any written explanation. And its always good to make a site as simple as possible.

  44. You really make it seem sso easy along with your presentation however I in finding this topic too be really one thing
    tha I feel I’d by noo means understand. It seems too complex and
    very wide ffor me. I’m looking ahead on yopur next post, I’ll attempt to get the hold of it!

  45. Thanks a lot Mr. Alex for giving the taste of an great article. Your tips will help me to be a good designer. Your article is really useful. I will not belittle you giving a simple thanks. Best wishes for you man.

  46. I blog quite often andd I genuinely thank yoou for your content.
    This great article has trulky peaked my interest.

    I am goijng to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new
    details about once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

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