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ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: How to Create an Online Portfolio

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Hi, Tim!

I’ve been working as an instructional designer and e-learning developer for a large corporate organization during the past eight years. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my career. At this point, I’m not sure if I should stick with working for larger companies, if I should look at smaller companies, or if I should explore the possibility of working as a freelancer. Either way, I do know that I need to build an online portfolio of my work.

So, here’s my question: Where the heck do I begin?

Hey there! Thanks for reaching out. First, let me commend you on thinking about your career and how you can best position yourself for your next venture. As you mentioned, portfolios are an important part of any learning professional’s toolbox. However, this wasn’t always the case.

I remember when I was first getting started, the idea of creating a portfolio seemed unnecessary. I used to think portfolios were just for graphic designers, photographers, and videographers. Nowadays, it’s been my experience that a strong portfolio carries more importance than a traditional resume. It’s amazing how so much has changed in a few short years.

So, how can you get started with creating your online portfolio? Here are the three main things you need to do.

1. Get a Domain Name

The thing about having an online portfolio is that people need a way to get to it. What you want is a simple and memorable domain name or URL that folks can easily type into their web browser to see your work. For example, when I’m chatting with a potential client, it’s easy for them to type in to see examples of my work.

When selecting your own domain name, it’s important to balance simplicity and your long-term brand. Do you want to use your own name for your domain name? If so, is it relatively short and easy to spell? If not, you may want to think about branding yourself under a business name and getting the appropriate domain name.


Here are some places you can quickly and easily purchase a domain name:

2. Build a Website

Once you have a domain name, you need to think about what potential employers or clients will see when they get there. For many folks, the thought of designing and building a website can seem overwhelming. However, it’s become easier than ever to create a website without having to write a single line of code.

When designing your website, you need to think about what you want to do with it, both in the long- and short-term. Do you just want a simple, one-page portfolio, or do you want to create a full website around your professional brand? In addition to showcasing examples of your work, you may want to consider adding an about me page, a blog, and more.

Here are some simple, template-based website building tools:

3. Showcase Your Work

Finally, after you’ve created your website, you can now use it to showcase your work. If you’ve never built an online portfolio, you may find yourself stuck, trying to figure out what to include in it. I like to think of my portfolio as a retail window display. The goal isn’t to display everything I’ve worked on but rather curated examples that demonstrate my talents and the types of projects I want to work on.


If you don’t have examples to show, consider creating your own. Potential employers and clients care more about seeing your skills rather than evaluating whether or not your examples are from a real-life project.

In terms of how you lay out your portfolio, consider linking to a demo of the live course and providing a description of the project, the tools you used, and what problem(s) it helped solve. If you can’t link to a live version of the course (or it’s not an e-learning course you’re showcasing), use images and video to demo your work.

Here are some great portfolio examples you can use for inspiration:

I hope these tips help you create your own online portfolio. Best of luck!


What other tips do you have for creating an online portfolio? Share them by commenting below.

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer Hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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When building a portfolio, please provide your thoughts on including materials that might be or are considered "work for hire, copyright or proprietary". Are there any approvals one should consider obtaining before posting work samples in their profile? If a work sample was used outside the US, do you see any challenges with including it in the profile?
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Great tip about including a demo! Thank you!
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