DEV Community

Cover image for What **is** a portfolio? 🤷🏼‍♀️ Why do I need one?

Posted on • Updated on

What **is** a portfolio? 🤷🏼‍♀️ Why do I need one?

👀 Firstly, an acknowledgement that I need to do some serious work on my own portfolio, it is not finished.
I suppose this article is a reminder to myself that I need to finish it... 😳

What is a portfolio? 🤔

A 'portfolio' is defined in the dictionary as:


  1. a large, thin, flat case for loose sheets of paper such as drawings or maps.
    "under his arm he carried a large portfolio of drawings"

  2. a range of investments held by a person or organisation.
    "a portfolio of insured municipal securities"


I need a folder of maps...? 🤯

They are strange definitions.... what we mean by portfolio is 'a sample of your work'.

A portfolio is a collection of work samples that you can bring to an interview, send to a prospective employer, or even post online.

That makes more sense, but why are they important?

🖼 Let's say that you wanted to commission an artist to paint a portrait of your family. This is obviously a very important thing for you, and you want it to be perfect - this painting will hang on your wall for decades. It needs to be an excellent artist to make you all look beautiful. 👩🏽‍🎨

You put out an advert for an artist and set your budget. You are quickly contacted by many, many people saying that they could do a wonderful job and that they are esteemed artists. A few of them boast of having gone to the best art school in the country and having first class art degrees. This all sounds great...

How would you know that any of these people are right for the job that you need? You aren't saying that they aren't great artists, but it may just be that their style isn't quite what you want for your family portrait...

What you need is physical proof or examples of their work!

What you need to see is a portfolio of their work.

Hopefully this analogy isn't too abstract for you to see where I'm going with this. Just swap 'an artist' with 'a developer', 'portrait' with 'website' and 'family' with 'business'.

Ok, but why do I need one?

You and I know that you're a great designer and web developer, but you need to prove to your potential clients that you are too! Your potential client wants to be able to see that you can meet their requirements, and that you have the experience and skill to be able to help them decide what they want.

Remember that most clients will require a fair amount of guidance about what is needed or isn't needed - just like with the artist, you are hiring them to paint because you don't know how to do it yourself! Similarly, a client is hiring a web designer because they don't know how to do it themselves.

You need to prove to them, through your portfolio, that you know what you're talking about; your portfolio, as well as your communication must exude confidence.

How do I make one?

When you think of a portfolio, you might think of an artist or designer with a physical folder of things that they have made. As a developer, this wouldn't be a practical way for you to showcase your work.
Your portfolio needs to be in the form of a small website and needs to show potential clients what you can do! You can just start with HTML and CSS, and build it up from there!

What do I put in it?

You need to include your name, a bit about you and any qualifications* you might have, any projects that you've worked on (or links to open source projects) and links to your social media and github profiles. Essentially, you need to give your potential clients as much information about you and what you can do, without them actually asking you to do anything yet. It's like a virtual interview where you do all the talking.

Imagine what a client might ask you about, and then include your answer in your portfolio!

No life stories please...!

*Consider linking to your full CV rather than taking up lots of space on your main page with it!

Great, I'm going to put everything I've ever done on it!!

Woah there cowboy 🤠.... you don't want to overwhelm whoever looks at your site... try and keep it stylish but simple, find a good balance of showing off your skills while keeping it looking good. A good way to do this might be to provide links to your projects rather than having lots of thumbnail images...
I've provided lots of links at the bottom for you to get some inspiration!

Great, I want my portfolio to look just like THAT one!!!

No, no, no. You don't. Don't ever copy someone's portfolio. Get inspiration, sure... but if your portfolio ends up looking exactly the same as someone else's...that's just not on. If you really can't help yourself, at least message the person who created the portfolio in the first place, and show them your portfolio and code - they may be able to offer suggestions or guidance.


Yes, as I said at the beginning, I have a lot of work to do on my own portfolio, however I have seen so many incredible examples of other people's work that I wanted to share them here (in no particular order):

Aseer, @electromorphous

Ekta, @darecoder

Grant, @granticusdev

Nat, @natmiletic

Eddie, @eddieaich

Kelvin, @kelvin_sanchez

Michael, @codebysheen

Also, shoutout to all of the 🚧 work in progresses out there... 🚧

Top comments (3)

the_greatbonnie profile image

Awesome post over here. I like your writing style. I think I will draw a lot of inspiration from you when I start writing.

javascriptcoff1 profile image

Thanks! I haven't written anything public for a while, been very busy with client work

natmiletic profile image
Nat Miletic

Thank you so much for the mention!