We’ve talked a lot about how to best present yourself in your designer profile. Using professional-looking avatars, designing an eye-catching profile cover, backing yourself up with shining testimonials and sharing your specialized experience in your bio are all great ways to make a first impression.

But what about your actual portfolio of work? In this article we’ll dig deeper into how your designs can stand out from the crowd and capture clients’ attention.

To get started, go to your portfolio and click “Add a design from your old portfolio”. You’ll be taken to a new window where can crop your design’s thumbnail, add a title and description, choose the category and industry, explain any tools used and tag your design. If you’ve already added a design and want to edit it, click on the design thumbnail, click on the 3 dots next to the social buttons, and select “Edit Details”.

Got it? Great. Now let’s help you build a an even better portfolio.

1. Arrange your work with a creative eye

99designs designer portfolio
workerbee showcases his distinct handcrafted style with a brief, curated portfolio

A portfolio isn’t a dumping ground for your latest work, but rather another project that requires skillful design. Be sure to utilize your artistic sensibilities by selecting works that display a diverse array of skills and styles. Arrange them in a way that does’t feel cluttered or visually distracting.

This is your chance to sell yourself and your vision. Do you have a specific style? Do you thrive in a certain industry? Here’s your chance to etch out your niche, so clients know exactly what they’re getting when they hire you. If your portfolio looks sloppy and overloaded, it’s going to reflect badly on you.

2. Don’t forget to crop

cropping 99designs portfolio
Martis Lupus highlights eye-catching aspects of her website designs via the cropping tool. On the left, you can see how she created her thumbnail.

Going hand in hand with design selection is cropping. If you have large-format or zoomed-out images, it’s going to look busy – and that’s not a good thing. Here’s your chance to focus on the best part of that Brand Identity Pack or to highlight an aspect of an app you think is exceptionally well done.

Play around with your design in the thumbnail preview. Try zooming in on a logo or cropping just the top of a website. Make sure your thumbnails are consistent throughout your portfolio and draw the client’s eye to your strongest work. No need to make them squint!

Keep in mind, sometimes your design looks good just the way it is and that’s perfectly fine. Just slide the button next to “Preview Thumbnail” to off and carry on.

3. Tag your work for better search

tagging 99designs portfolios
Project 4 increased their searchability by accurately choosing tags that represent their work’s industry, design applications and visual style.

Tagging is one of the most essential aspects of 99designs’ designer portfolio and will help you and your work become more discoverable to clients. Call out different elements in your designs. Is your work minimal or masculine? Art Deco or flat? Blue or purple? Photoshop or hand drawn? If a client is looking for a specific look, these types of tags will bring them right to you.

Consider tagging the industry your design was for. Get specific with tags like “yoga studio”, “dental” or “boutique” and appeal to that specific niche. The same goes with design categories that are usually lumped into the “Other” category on our site.

4. Titles and descriptions will take you far

99designs designer portfolio
Eye Creation does a great job explaining the contest, his design concept and how he created the design

This may not seem like an important part of your portfolio, but it’s crucial to justify your work. A designer’s key to success is explaining to both current and potential why you made the design decisions that you did.

A brief explanation allows for much higher understanding and appreciation of your work and often elevates it from a pretty picture to a design that’s taken seriously. Don’t let your designs be taken at face value. If you take the effort to edit the title and describe each design, you’re sure to see some positive feedback.


Want more tips? Find out how to make the most of your designer profile.