Monthly Archive: September 2019

How to Create a Successful Digital Portfolio

Do you find yourself jealous of graphic designers’ online portfolios, and wishing that you could showcase your work as they do?

Don’t you wish you could photograph pretty hipsters enjoying your product?

You’re not alone. That nagging envy is common for people who are selling services rather than retail products. And wondering how to showcase those works is a common conundrum—making consulting or freelance writing sexy is difficult.

It’s difficult to put together an online portfolio without a visual product to show off.

Hedgehog on his laptop

But it’s not impossible.

And without an online portfolio, you’re losing out on sales opportunities. Let’s make sure that money doesn’t go into someone else’s pocket!

Let’s dive into how to create an online portfolio when you have nothing physical to sell. We’ll talk about how to document your work, make it visually appealing, and deal with common obstacles like confidential projects. So buckle up, we’re about to cure that portfolio envy!

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Before you let your enthusiasm get the best of you, we have to do the boring work of documenting your work. I know, I know, that’s not as sexy as editing a picture of a pretty landscape, but we’ll get there soon, I swear!

First, let’s get one thing clear—an online portfolio is not the same thing as your entire website. An online portfolio is (usually) one page on your website that sells your service.

It’s easier to be less intimidated if you think of it as just one page. You can boil down your experience into one page!

Right now, take a pen and paper, and try to write down the 15 projects you’re most proud of. One project you write down may be nothing more than the name of a client. Another may be the result of a series of projects.

Pro tip: Don’t use the computer for this—studies show that writing things by hand commits them to memory better than typing. And knowing your top projects by heart will help you to pitch your services at networking events or on sales calls. We’re multi-tasking here, friends!

Embrace Your Accomplishments

Before moving on to the next step, take a look at your list. Maybe you only came up with seven things because you’re new to your industry, or perhaps only four clients came to mind. No matter the length of your list, this is your list, comprised of your works, and your accomplishments—be proud!

Hedgehog with awards

Embracing your accomplishments before showcasing them is important—an artist would never sloppily doodle something and staple it to a museum wall. They would labor over their project as you did yours. This online portfolio is your museum, and you’ve curated the finest works.

You have your list of projects, and now you’ll need to label them in a way that someone from outside of your industry can understand (which is something many of your competitors fail at). This is a sales page, like it or not.

Here are some examples:

  • “Got the company’s website compliant,” is far inferior to “Brought Dallas’ second largest financial firm’s 2,433-page website into full ADA compliance.”

  • “Wrote articles about health insurance,” isn’t nearly as insightful as “Published 77 articles for a major health insurance company, which increased their blog’s traffic by 56%.”

  • “Did transcription work,” doesn’t tell as strong a story as “Transcribed meeting notes for 83 broker meetings, saving them over 100 man hours in labor costs.”

Get the idea? You may not have retail tangibles, but you have deliverables to sell, and this is not the time to be humble. Someone should be able to spot an attractive accomplishment that calls to them within the first three seconds of opening your portfolio, or you’ve likely lost them.

Display Your Achievements Properly

If you already have a website, start a new page, dedicated just to this portfolio. And for SEO purposes, you’ll want to literally name this page “Portfolio.”

Let’s gather what is necessary for displaying your works.

  • Website? Check.
  • New page called “Portfolio”? Check.
  • Attractive project names? Check.

Now comes the sexy part—the aesthetics!

Maybe this is where you roll your eyes and swear there’s nothing visually appealing about your works. That’s where you’re wrong, pal. Take a look:

before and after images of portfolio image

What’s wrong with the before image (besides the old project name that didn’t sell you properly)?

It’s a lame stock image. Pictures of strangers in an office acting happy are so 2002, so let us arm you with a secret weapon:

Librestock. You can search across several royalty-free image sites at once and have access to thousands of modern pictures that don’t cost you a dime.

Pro tip: When looking for images for concepts instead of something specific, just search the word “work”—it’s a great shortcut! That’s how I found the person on the laptop in the “after” image.

You’ve just now improved your offering visually by avoiding generic, aged stock photography. Marry that with your amazing caption, and you’re already off to the races.

How could it get even better, you ask? How could it be even more aesthetically pleasing?

Image consistency.

Here is an example of images that are visually inconsistent:

portfolio images at different contrast levels

You have more than one project to display, so there are two great options for image consistency. Either (1) use images from the same photographer in the same collection, or (2) edit them yourself.

These images have been edited to have similar contrast and brightness, and so look more consistent:

images that have been edited to be consistent

The fix took under five minutes. An online photo editor that you might like is BeFunky, and two free editing options to check out are Color (adjust the saturation so it’s not overly processed like the middle image in the inconsistent example, or under-processed like right example in the same lineup) and Exposure (playing around mostly with contrast and highlights helps).

Pro tip: If you struggle to get images consistent, just turn the saturation all the way down to make it black and white, and try to get the contrast to match between all images. If you’re feeling ambitious, in your photo editor, create a colored rectangle over your new black and white image, and turn transparency to 40%. This is another way to achieve consistency, especially if it’s the same color as your logo.

How Do You Show that which Cannot Be Displayed?

There is a project that you can’t exactly profile because you signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so you’ll never be able to name that client. While a graphic designer must profile their end product, you can use sets of images (as seen above), and use project titles that don’t reveal any company name (as none of the above examples do).

Hedgehog working on portfolio website

Focus on the deliverables and the end results of your efforts that would inspire someone to hire you.

This is where metrics can be your friend. Maybe you can’t show the whitepaper you worked on for six months, or display the internal documentation you labored to create. You can mention the general topic, length, number of users or downloads, efficiency improvements, or other things that speak to the success of your work.

Other Points to Consider

Here are a few other things you need to remember to do in your portfolio.

  • Be relevant. Don’t list anything from a past life that isn’t relevant to the audience you’re trying to attract. Writers, it doesn’t matter that you were a dental assistant a decade ago if the niche you’re looking to master is real estate marketing. Engineers, your work in college managing a roller derby team is cool and all, but not relevant here.

  • Accuracy matters. Your portfolio will throw red flags high into the air if it is riddled with errors. After you’ve treated your accomplishments like the precious works of art they are, and you’re ready to tell the world to come see it, read it forwards and backwards, then ask three trusted people to review it. Don’t let a typo prevent you from getting the dream gig.

  • Don’t forget the call to action. Online portfolios are almost always missing a call to action. You just made a sales pitch, and no matter how awkward that is to you, this is the time to close them. If the person viewing your portfolio is looking to hire someone, and they’ve made it all the way to the end of the page, give them some next steps (because they’re interested). Most people will simply link to their contact page, but you’re smart, you’ll offer them a complimentary 15 minute consultation (and link to your contact page), or invite them to join your monthly newsletter where you’ll share common mistakes made in their industry (that you’re an expert in and get paid to fix or prevent).

  • Be findable. You don’t want your portfolio to get lost in the shuffle. Be sure to put a link to your portfolio in the menu of your website’s landing page. Even better, consider making it the bio link on your social media sites.

    Be proud of your new portfolio. You’ve taken more steps than your competitor, you’ve avoided pitfalls, you’ve offered a professionally presented version of your work, and you’ve asked for their business. You’ve got this!

Why Using a VPN While Traveling Is Essential

If you’re traveling, a virtual private network (VPN) is fast becoming a must-have accessory. Just like when you buy a padlock for a suitcase or take out insurance, your digital life needs protecting too. That’s because most of us take at least one smart device when we travel, whether it’s a phone, tablet, or laptop. 

Wherever you go, you’re likely to be online in some capacity—sharing photos on WhatsApp, checking your emails, booking flights, or watching your favorite shows when you need some downtime. A VPN will keep you secure when you’re online, especially when browsing in public places. In this article, we’ll explain what a VPN does and why it’s crucial to your online security.

What is a VPN, and What Does It Do?

A VPN is a private network that delivers Internet traffic through a public server to connect to remote sites, guarding your online activity. VPNs help ensure security—anyone who tries to intercept your data won’t be able to read it. Another benefit of having a VPN is the ability to switch your location. 

One of the most attractive features of a VPN is its ability to allow you to bypass geographical restrictions and access content wherever you’re traveling. Let’s say you’re going to Amsterdam. That means that with a VPN you can divert your IP address to your home country and browse local content like you never left. 

Understanding the Value of a VPN

VPNs offer more than just convenience. If you want to understand their real value, then imagine logging free Wi-Fi in a public place. In theory, anyone could access your device the moment you log in. Cybercriminals have been known to set up duplicate networks, luring people to log-on so they can swipe their passwords and credit card numbers. So without a VPN, a public Wi-Fi network is never secure. 

hands around a padlock

Wi-Fi hotspots are frequent targets for ‘Man in the Middle’ (MITM) attacks. A recent study analyzing up to 31 million Wi-Fi hotspots concluded that 28% of the hotspots pose a risk to users’ personal information. All your traffic transmitted over those networks, including private messages, passwords, documents, and photos, can be easily stolen and sold by hackers.

Cybercriminals can also use Rogue Access Points (AP), or “Evil Twins,” to steal your information. These illegal hotspots are designed to trick travelers into giving away their passwords. Let’s say you go into Costa for lunch, and their official Wi-Fi is “Costa Wi-Fi.” Hackers can easily set up a fake network “Costa_Wi-Fi” and when you open your laptop, both will seem genuine. 

Without a secure VPN in place, anyone who uses a public network is putting themselves at risk. Travelers are particularly vulnerable because they need public Wi-Fi as they’re no longer protected like they are at home. Free Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, coffee shops, and hotels, often don’t require a password and going online without a VPN is potentially dangerous. Just because a public network appears legitimate does not make it safe. 

It’s for these reasons that a VPN is a must-have tool when traveling. It will encrypt your connection and prevent criminals from accessing your data. If you connect to a public network using a VPN, you can browse on public networks with security and confidence. Safe in the knowledge, outsiders, cannot access your traffic—eliminating the risk of criminals swiping your passwords.

How Do I Decide which VPN Service to Use?

Frequent travelers who are reliant on public Wi-Fi networks need a VPN that has servers all over the world. If your privacy and security are important to you, then choosing a VPN that does not log your data should be a top priority. If you go for a “no logs” VPN, then it will be far less susceptible to data leaks than those that openly log your browsing habits.

Another VPN feature to consider is the ability to use it on all your devices. Whether you’re working from a Windows desktop, Mac, or your iPhone or Android phone, your VPN should be able to support them all and operate simultaneously.

Trust and Security

A “no-log” VPN means it does not collect or “log,” any information transmitted through its network. Advertisers and governmental agencies cannot access your online data—not even your VPN provider. Some VPNs collect a basic amount of information, such as your email address, but if you have any doubts, read over your VPN’s privacy policy before purchasing. 

shredding documents for privacy

If you value your privacy, then downloading a free VPN is something you should avoid as they typically sell your browsing data to advertisers as a way to monetize their service, putting your anonymity at risk. A subscription-based “no logs” VPN is a wiser choice, especially if you value a private connection while traveling.

Speed of Access

If you’re traveling for work or pleasure, then having fast Internet is necessary to keep in touch with people. When you go online in airport lounges or work from your hotel room, having a slow connection is often infuriating, costing you time and money. If having speedy Internet access is important, then when logging onto your VPN, choose an IP address in your current location. From your phone or desktop app, select the area you want to browse and click connect. 

Just remember, the further your data has to travel to make a connection, the slower it will be.

Working Remotely on Your Travels

Remote workers need to take online precautions to protect your company’s data, especially if your laptop or phone is lost or stolen. A VPN will help protect your network in public places and is fast becoming a mandatory requirement for companies, who expect their clients to take security precautions when they travel.

globe showing international networks

If you’re on vacation and want to keep your inbox down, then having a secure VPN will ensure you can safely work online. When you work remotely, you will need access to your company email, files, and other content management systems. If you’re using a public Wi-Fi hotspot at your hotel or cafe, then a VPN will be essential to protect your company or client’s information. 

Many companies have a bespoke VPN or require you to buy a private one to manage your affairs. Alternatively, you may have multiple clients as a digital nomad and need a VPN for your safety. Either way, having a secure “no logs” VPN connection will protect you and your clients.

Take Precautions before Traveling

Using a VPN is the best way for any traveler who has concerns about their privacy. With an estimated 50 million public Wi-Fi access points around the world, the data risks are self-evident.

Like adding a padlock to your suitcase or taking out insurance before you travel, it’s always safer to use a VPN on your travels. It will help protect your passwords, banking details, and photos. Hackers won’t waste their time trying to break through your VPN-protected connection when other people are logging onto their password-free networks. 

So take care when you’re traveling, and always use a VPN when you log onto a public Wi-Fi network.

The Greatest Domain Award

Update to Contest

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to end our Greatest Domain Name Awards contest today, August 13.

Thank you for all of your submissions, and our winners will be announced soon.

The Categories

  • The King of all COMs 

Think your .COM domain has what it takes? Is it clever or just plain awesome? The competition will be huge for this one!

  • “Punniest” Domain Name 

Who doesn’t love a good pun? Reject your right to domain silent (yes, pun intended) and showcase what you’ve punned.

  • Best Country Code Domain Name 

Time for a national celebration! Everything from .US to .CO.UK—show us your best country code top-level domain. 

  • Clever use of a TLD 

You got that .CLUB, .STORE, .PIZZA, or .SPACE domain and you did something amazing or unusual with it. Show us your creativity! 

Backing Up Your Website is Easier Than Making an Ice Cream Cone…For Some!

Not quite sure how to backup your website? You’re not alone. For many business owners, it seems like a daunting task. They incorrectly assume that it will take them hours to complete, or that they need ridiculous amounts of tech knowledge to finish the job.

But here’s the thing: with the right tools, backing up your website can be easy as pie. No coding experience necessary, and no additional time added to your day.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through some backup basics – and tell you which plugin we think is best for the job. Now let’s jump right in!

Why backup my website?

First, you may be wondering if you even have to backup your website. Is it really necessary? Or can you let it slide?

Bottom line: if you value your business’s data, you’ll back it up.

Just imagine what would happen if your website crashed and you lost everything. How quickly would you be able to get it up and running again, from scratch? Would you be able to do it yourself, or would you have to hire a web developer?

Your time offline won’t just cost you lost sales. It will also cost you time and money.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all the time. Business owners put off website backup in lieu of more ‘important’ tasks and then when the worst happens, they’re left scrambling.

Regular backups of your website can help ensure you never end up in that position.

How to run a backup

Running a backup isn’t difficult under the worst of circumstances. At worst, it might be a bit time consuming – but only if you choose to run your backups manually.  With a plugin, the process can be seamless.

Manual backup

If you have a bit of tech knowledge and you know how to access your system files, running a manual backup is quite simple. Unfortunately, they’re also very easy to ignore.

Many business owners start with the best of intentions: they’re going to run a backup every single Friday at 5 p.m., without fail. But then life gets in the way, and they forget one week. Then they forget the next week. And the next.

As entrepreneurs, we all have a lot on our plates, and mundane tasks like how to backup your website don’t always seem like the most important thing. We always suggest that our clients set up auto backup, so this critical task can’t get ignored.

Auto backup

Auto backup allows you to go in, set a schedule once, and never think about it again. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to check in on occasion and make sure everything is running smoothly – but the time saved by not doing manual backups is immense. Plus, there is no chance of forgetting and no chance of human error.

There are dozens, or even hundreds, of WordPress backup plugins available today, but weespecially like WordPress backup plugin by BoldGrid.

Here’s why:

BoldGrid backup plugin

The BoldGrid backup plugin for WordPress makes backing up your website SUPER easy. Customizable schedules and features such as database and filesystem backup, improved retention, and granular automation, make it incredibly simple to use. And with both free and premium options, there is something for everyone.

If you already have a BoldGrid site, you can quickly download the backup plugin from the plugins menu.

From there, installation is fast and easy. Simply log into your admin dashboard, go to the plugins menu, and then click “add new.”  

Look for the button labeled “new plugin,” then “upload new” and find the BoldGrid Backup Plugin zip.

Even for a newbie, the process is incredibly simple and easy to figure out.

How to run your first backup

Ready to get started? Just log into your WordPress admin dashboard, click on the BoldGrid option, run the preflight check, and then click on backup. It’s that simple!

The BoldGrid backup plugin allows you to make a backup at any time you want, for true convenience. The first time you use it, it will give you several warnings – this is to make sure no errors occur and everything runs smoothly. More importantly, you can also set automated backups to run on a pre-set schedule.

You don’t need to wonder anymore about it. BoldGrid makes it fast and straightforward, and you can truly just set it and forget it. If you’re looking for the best free WordPress backup plugin, our vote lies with them! Reach out today to learn more.