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Escapee Speaks: An Effective Portfolio Website Part 3 – The About Page

November 7, 2009

This article is part 3 of the series entitled 7 Elements of an Effective Portfolio Website, which aims to encourage Illustrators to consider some crucial features when building or refining their portfolio websites.  You can find the rest of the series here.

The About Page

Okay.  It’s time to let your visitor know that you’re human.

A captivating, well-branded site design and a stunning image gallery is the perfect one-two punch when it comes to drawing a potential client into your world.  Now that you’ve gotten their attention, the best way to go for a knockout is an effective About page.

Why Do You Need an About Page?

If your visitor is intrigued enough by your work to stick around, the next thing they’re going to want to do is find out more about you.  In order to gain their trust, you need to show them that you are a real live person, engage them by telling them about yourself in your own words, and present yourself as a professional, qualified candidate for their next project.  An Art Director’s chances of remembering you, and contacting you, are greatly increased when they feel like they know you at least a little bit.

This is your chance to convert them from interested to invested.

(Note: A member of the EFII community recently mentioned the approach of linking to a Google search of their name instead of using an About page.  The idea was that this would lead to a lot more information without creating a page for that purpose.  While this is an interesting concept, it sends up a big red flag for me.

The danger in this is twofold:

1. You’re sending them away from your site to the infinite void of Google, where they will find plenty of irrelevant links and reasons to never return.

2. You’re giving away all control over what you want to say about yourself.

In my opinion, it’s much better to keep them in the cozy little world that you’ve created for the sole purpose of selling yourself.  Don’t throw this opportunity away by leading them right to the Exit.)

So What Should You Include in Your About Page?

A Photo

An effective About page should include a photo of you.  This idea may feel a little uncomfortable for some artists, but remember that a potential client is looking for a person to hire, not a website.  Working with a client on an Illustration project requires making a connection and building a relationship, and letting them get a look at you starts that process early.  A photo has the effect of planting your roots a little deeper in their memory banks and establishing a subconscious link between the work and the person creating it. In addition, it adds a level of transparency to you portfolio which is increasingly important as the Internet grows as a business environment.  You will see plenty of successful Illustrators who don’t include a photo, but taking this small step could help you elbow your way into a crowded field.

For those who don’t wish to include a photo, an Illustrated self-portrait could be a valid secondary choice, allowing you to use this option to feature yet another piece of your work.

A Bio

Briefly share elements of your background, expertise, experience, and even what inspires you.  This not only helps to sell your credibility as a professional, but also gives your visitor a feeling for the creative spirit that you would bring to the table if they hired you.  Writing in a confident, conversational style can help to put the reader at ease and further establish a personal connection in their mind.  If you approach your bio from too much of a sales angle you risk making the reader feel like you’re trying to hide something or sell them something they don’t need.  I recommend visiting the portfolio websites of multiple Illustrators and reading their bios from the perspective of a potential client and pay attention to the way they make you feel.

You may also want to round out your bio by including any organizations or groups you are a member of to further display that you are an active participant in the Illustration community, rather than just a hobbyist.

This is also a perfect opportunity to tell the reader what you can do to meet their needs.  After all, that’s why they’re here, and it can help to seal the deal.

Call to Action

Now that they love your Illustration portfolio and know who you are, put all this effort to work for you by telling them to contact you.  Use verbs such as “contact” or “hire” to inspire them to act upon everything they’ve seen.  Include your contact info, link to your contact page, insert a contact form, or whatever it takes to catch them in this moment of intrigue.  Up until now they’ve been consuming, but now’s the time to turn this passive state into an active one by making it as easy as possible to get in touch with you.

I’ll be going into more depth about how to do this in Part 7.  In the meantime, I’ll be talking about how to win over those visitors who are still on the fence.

Painting a Complete Picture

Obviously, everyone will approach their About page with their own style and personality, and that’s the point.  If you keep the above features in mind when creating this section, you can capitalize on the impression your portfolio has made on a potential client by making them feel more comfortable with the idea of contacting a stranger to talk about their needs.

Read Part 4 of the series – The Testimonial.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2009 9:25 AM

    It’s like opening a whole new window in my already built house, bringing a new light and making me see a whole new dimension. Wow, that I just wrote sounds
    pretty intense, but it’s great info! Thanks!!!!!
    I’ll definitely be working on my About page! I can see it needs a bit of love translated into professionalism.

    I was never into “the picture thing”, but I see the point and I’ll be adding my pretty face there soon. (LOL, well, maybe not pretty for everyone, but I like to think so.)

    I really appreciate what you are putting into the Illustration community!


    • November 7, 2009 9:58 AM

      Hello Marcela,

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad that you’ve gotten some good ideas out of this article. It’s easy to overlook the importance of elements like the About page, but an effective portfolio website is more than just great Illustration work. I hope this inspires you to make your site even more compelling to potential clients.


  2. November 7, 2009 12:39 PM

    Wholeheartedly agree that the About page is crucial and that you need a photo of you. Making a connection with potential clients and then building that into a working relationship happens because they like your work first then like you second. What keeps it going is the second part of that equation. Your work is NEVER good enough to overcome them not liking you a s a person.

  3. November 11, 2009 2:34 PM

    While I’m a writer, not an illustrator, these tips work for me as well.

    • November 11, 2009 6:29 PM

      I agree. You could easily take out the word Illustration and apply it to many different practices. I’m glad you’ve found use in it.

  4. November 25, 2009 12:43 PM

    This great information. I am in the process of getting my new children’s illustration website finished. After reading your blog on the successful website for artisst, I will be adapting it with some of the features you listed. Thank you for all of the information.

  5. March 24, 2010 3:48 PM

    Your comment about the Google link as an exit from your site made me also think about the other exits we create from our web sites. I often find myself wanting to click on a link because I don’t want to forget to come back to it, but I am also not done with the content or with navigating the site I am on. I personally like to be able to click the link and have it pop up in a new tab so that when I am done with what I was in the middle of, I can easily have the content waiting for me. Any thoughts on this?

  6. August 20, 2010 9:28 AM

    Well, this seems pretty useful!
    On my blog it is pretty the same:))
    But what I am wondering about is following:
    pretty often people make the CONTACT page, is there any use in leaving contacts on the ABOUT page then?

    • August 21, 2010 12:40 AM

      I think it’s always a good idea to have your contact info as easy to find as possible, so including it on your About page as well can’t hurt.


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