Are you considering pursuing a career in applications or software development? Have you ever wondered what it will take to get hired, land clients or prove yourself to become successful in this field? If you have, I’m here to tell you that in order to be successful, you absolutely MUST maintain an updated online portfolio/resume of work that you’ve done.

WHY?

Why do you need a portfolio site as a developer? If you find yourself wondering that then, by all means, quit while you’re ahead and pursue a mundane and less challenging career like project management. Applications and software development is not for the type of person that doesn’t find a challenge fun and solving a complex problem rewarding. If you’re not willing to go above and beyond to prove yourself in this industry, you’ll get left behind. You’ll wind up building jQuery sites cause you’re scared to move forward and grow.

The single biggest answer to the question of why you need a portfolio site is simply to set yourself apart from developers that think they don’t need one and to show the world that you’re capable of doing what it is you say you can.

Where should I start?

You should start by first securing a domain, this can be anything really, but preferably will be your own name. For example, I own michaelkranker.com, among other domains. On that URL, I host my portfolio site, so that when employers and clients search for my name online, they’re immediately taken to my portfolio site to view my sample works and projects. Getting a domain is the first step in owning your own digital real estate on the internet. From there you can go about building up your online brand. Typically .com domains run about 12 USD and I’d recommend going through google domains, over another DNS registrar like godaddy or namecheap.

I own a domain, now what?

Once you own a digital chunk of the web, it’s now time to start building your portfolio site. I’d recommend building your first portfolio site with tools that you’re already familiar with. Doing this will allow you to further gain experience in building sites with those tools, as well as, will speed up development by not having to read documentation or find examples of how to do things.

My first portfolio site was simply HTML, CSS, and jQuery. I didn’t then, and still don’t design my own websites. I simply find a theme I like and customize it to my needs. This is fine and I’d even encourage it for beginners. If you don’t plan on branding yourself as a designer (which I’m not), there’s no need to go through the hassle of designing your site. I focus my skill on development and building actual sites based around other peoples designs. If you want more practice building a site from a design, you can find pretty cheap PSD files on ThemeForest to work from.

My site is built, what do I put in it?

After you have a simple portfolio site built, you’re ready to start adding content to it. Depending on the path you want to take as a developer will shape the projects you should be adding to your portfolio.

Here are some projects I’d recommend for building up a FRONT END portfolio site

  • Rebuilding/Updating local small business sites
  • Example landing pages (your own designs / or built from PSD templates)
  • Javascript games (p3.js)

Here are some projects Id recommend for building up a FULL STACK portfolio

  • Mock social network (very simple auth, text posts, liking/disliking posts)
  • Mock eCommerce storefront (product directory and management, simple cart, NO CHECKOUT/PAYMENT NECESSARY).

If you want to focus solely on BACK END development, build out the API portion of the mock social network or eCommerce sites, focusing on persisting and working with just the data aspect of the site.

Now don’t get overwhelmed by the idea of building a social network or eCommerce site. I’m not saying you should try to build facebook, or amazon. The world doesn’t need more of that. Simply having the ability to log in, write a text post (not even uploading photos or anything) and liking/unliking other users posts is more than enough to show you’re capable of building applications and working with data persistence to a database.

My portfolio is built, I’ve added some projects

Now that you have a portfolio showcase of all of your work, its time to deploy it. You can use a shared host provider like digital ocean, heroku, or any other platform that will let the world see your work. I happen to host my own websites, not only because it saves money, but because server management and LAMPP hosting is just another skill I can add to my list. I have a couple of various posts about hosting your own site with a raspberry pi, as well as, how capable it is for hosting sites, and how you can manage and backup your personal server.

For getting started, a Raspberry Pi will be more than capable of hosting your own website for nearly no cost besides buying the Pi.

My site is live!

Great, now you can let it sit there and work for you, when you apply for jobs, or point clients to your site they’ll be able to see what you’re capable of, and just having a portfolio site will set you apart from other developers who don’t see its value. I can’t count the numerous time’s employers have told me “checked out your website, loved what I saw”, and because of that I’ve gotten numerous jobs. When I apply for freelance consulting gigs, I have a space to show off other works that I’ve done, and again have landed clients based on my past work being displayed and viewable to them.

If you still don’t feel like you need a portfolio site after reading this, best of luck in advancing your career. You’ll need it!


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