How to Make an Online Portfolio

What’s an online portfolio? What should it contain? Isn’t Instagram enough? How do I create one? You’ve got questions. Here are the answers.

(As a preemptive disclaimer: We are not going to be debating whether or not it’s “fair” or “right” for employed professionals to have online portfolios in this post. You’re welcome to state your case in the comments, though!)

Online portfolios are great for not only attracting new clients, but also for giving your existing clientele an easy way to find you if the worst should come to pass. For example, let’s say you take a job at a new salon. On your first day, your new employer has you sign a non-solicitation agreement which legally prohibits you from contacting the clients you’ve brought to her business. Two days later, she fires you, reminding you that your clients are now hers. You’ve become the victim of a pretty typical form of client theft. The agreement is binding, so what do you do?

Normally, you would race to your computer and bash out an email to me, sending pictures of your contract, begging me to find some kind of loophole. However, if you had a proper online portfolio, it would take five minutes to post a message letting clients know that you are no longer at your old salon and to contact you via phone or email to book an appointment. No biggie.

A great portfolio site secures your clientele. It is the best insurance you could have.

In order to get the most out of your online portfolio, you’ll need to ensure that it has eleven very important things:

1.) Your name as the URL.
Your portfolio URL needs to be easy to remember. Really easy to remember. Don’t get cute here. Keep it simple. “” and “” are not good professional portfolio URLs. If at all possible, use your first and last name and follow it with a .com. Other domain extensions are catching on slowly, but stick to what people know. “.com” is everyone’s default when they try to remember a URL. My address is If you know my name, you know where to find me on the internet.

If your first and last name aren’t available, include your middle name as well and make sure that your middle name is on all of your business cards. Nicknames are completely acceptable if your clients know you by it.

2.) A way to contact you directly.
This can be your cell phone number, your email address, your mailing address, your work information, or all of the above.

3.) Professional images of your best work.
Can you use low-quality cell phone images taken from behind your chair? Sure. Should you? No. It looks sloppy and unprofessional. Join Model Mayhem and get involved in a few TF photoshoots. It doesn’t take much time or effort and shoots are a great way to make new friends and create awesome images.

4.) Your brief professional biography.
Your professional biography should be 95% professional and 5% personal.

Answer these questions:

  • Where were you born and raised? (There’s part of your 5% personal.)
  • How long have you been doing your profession?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • What do you specialize in?
  • Do you have anything to brag about?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What products do you use?
  • What is your professional philosophy?
  • Where do you currently work?
  • When do you work?
  • What are your hobbies? (There’s another part of your 5% personal.)

If you follow that formula, your professional biography should read something like this:

“Hilda was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Prestige Beauty Academy in 1969. Since then, she has specialized in classic roller sets, winning several speed perming and cap highlighting competitions. Hilda uses a variety of high-end salon lines, like Majirel and Roux Fanci-Full. She is dedicated to keeping Nashville’s seniors looking fantastic! Hilda understands that being restricted to an assisted living facility can be difficult and lonely, but she strongly believes that a human touch, some end papers, and a half can of Aqua Net can cure even the deepest depression! Hilda can be found in the salon at Rolling Hills Assisted Living Facility on Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. When she isn’t at the salon, Hilda can be found in the common room, watching reruns of Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote with her beloved clients.”

…ok, I was screwing around with that, but you get the point. Writing the biography doesn’t have to be complicated if you follow my sophisticated Mad Libs method.

5.) An online booking link.
If your salon uses online booking, link directly to the service. If you don’t have any online booking to speak of, add a “Request an Appointment” button that brings up an email form. Give clients a way to get on your books with the click of a button. Put it in your header and footer, where it’s visible on all pages. Don’t make it difficult for clients to book an appointment with you.

6.) Any social networking or blogging links.
This includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. Again, these need to be up in your header and footer.

7.) A “Join My Mailing List” button.
You can create a mailing list of up to 2,000 people for free on MailChimp. It’s simple to create a registration form. You can send emails out monthly or seasonally to your entire clientele. If you get fired or if the salon gets blown away in a hurricane (I’ve been there), you can easily let your clients know without calling them individually (assuming that contacting them doesn’t violate any non-solicitation agreements you may have signed).

8.) Your hours of operation.
You can put this in your “Contact” page right next to your email form.

9.) Your service descriptions and prices.
Listing descriptions and prices is a matter of preference. Some professionals prefer to have the clients call to inquire so the client can get a “feel” for the business. They believe that clients are more likely to book when they’re speaking with an actual person.

Personally, I believe the opposite. In my experience, clients aren’t likely to call at all if they don’t see prices. Some assume the prices are out of their price range if they aren’t listed. Many don’t want to have to call to have basic service information communicated to them. With so many competing businesses online, clients who don’t find what they’re looking for are more likely to bounce off your site and scroll to the next business listed.

never underestimate the laziness of people.

10.) A professional headshot.
Make it nice. No duckface “selfies” and no group shots of you and your “gurls” partying at the bar. You can have a friend take one for you, but you may be able to get semi-professional headshots done for free while you’re building your portfolio. Ask the amateur photographers you’re collaborating with if they would mind taking a quick shot of you looking like an approachable, classy professional if you’ll link the picture to their portfolio. (If you can, you should try to promote those you collaborate with whenever possible.)

11.) Client reviews.
If you have any client reviews, add them to your portfolio. Word-of-mouth truly is the best advertisement. Reading them at the end of a rough day can also be a great motivator!

Why isn’t Instagram enough?

Lack of functionality. Instagram lacks SEO capabilities and customization options. While it’s a strong platform for sharing images and gaining exposure, it isn’t a straightforward way to communicate your salon’s brand, mission, prices, service offerings, or other critical business information.

Lack of control. Social media algorithms change frequently, impacting your visibility. Essentially, social platforms are pay-to-play now, whereas proper search engine optimization requires little more than time and skill.

Low conversion rate. While social media helps increase your notoriety, it casts a wide net. You’ll gain followers from all over the globe, the majority of whom aren’t likely to convert to paying clients.

Professional websites are the most effective way to reach your local market.

It’s best to use Instagram in conjunction with an official website, funneling your followers from your social profiles to your online portfolio, where they can be converted into paying customers.

Poor public opinion. Hobbyists use social media in lieu of a proper website. Are you a hobbyist? If you are a professional trying to make a living in the beauty industry (especially if you are self-employed), you should be doing all you can to present yourself as a legitimate, respectable professional. A website shows others that you take yourself and your business seriously.

“How am I supposed to do all this? I’m a stylist, not a web designer!”

Chill out.

With point-and-click editing sites like Wix and Squarespace, you don’t need to be a web designer to put a truly terrific looking site together yourself. (Word to the wise: Stay away from GoDaddy’s “Website Tonight.” It’s horrid. It’s difficult to navigate, buggy as hell, and doesn’t deliver even a fraction of what the other two building sites offer. Also, it’s more expensive. I have extensive web design and administration experience and had a nightmare of a time with it. Save yourself the same aggravation I had to endure.)

Creatives of all types need online portfolios. Don’t delay. Carve out your own space on the internet and start attracting new clients. When your done, post your link in the comments!


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