Portfolio Sites: To Password Protect or Not?

In one of our Facebook groups, the question was asked whether or not a designer should password protect their portfolio area on their website. As the response is long and it's a question that keeps popping up I decided to create a post instead.

Some companies/art directors (not all), prefer designs they buy/license not to have been seen or published online before. Others however, are fine with it and will even allow you to keep your Etsy or Spoonflower products live. Alternatively, they may request that you take down any posts featuring a design they have purchased and remove any Print on Demand products featuring the design(s).


It's a bit of a catch 22 because you need to show your work in order for your audience to grow and for a visitor to get a sense of who you are and ultimately get the deals and sales. 

Things to consider:

  • How much traffic do you have to your website
  • How large is your body of work (only the good stuff)
  • How big is your database of clients/potential clients
  • Have your clients ever requested designs that have not been posted online before


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Tips For keeping a Password protected area:

  • Rotate the content so your site always looks fresh
  • Ensure your site gives a good feel of who you are and what you can create
  • Show snippets of password protected work not the entire piece
  • You may want to consider the type of content you want to password protect, for example designs you want to sell outright could be password protected while, designs for licensing are shown.
  • Another option if you have already worked with a few clients is to show work already licensed (as long as it is still true to your current style and the type of work you are wanting to get presently.
  • Remember that if you want someone to take the extra step of requesting access, you need to make them really want to!
  • You may want to test the waters by setting up a protected page and seeing if it works for you and if people are requesting access or not

Benefits of Keeping a Password Protected Portfolio:

You get to know who is looking at your work *Bonus Tip: add a note that informs them they will be added to your newsletter, then send them new work with the rest of your contact list

When it works well:

If you have a distinctive style, a visitor will be able to get an idea of whether or not you are a good fit for them without needing to see the hidden gems. They will happily request access to see what else you have or request something specific

If you have a good mailing list of contacts you can email them access every so often inviting them to see the new collections and include their password access to your exclusive portfolio - this lets them know they will see something not everyone has access to!

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PoSsible Pitfalls:

  • It can be a little time consuming
  • Some people will be put off by a "request access" call to action, and not bother
  • If requested access isn't swiftly granted, (ie. if it is not an automated process), and the user has to wait to be approved, you may miss the boat.

All in all, as with most business and creative decisions, you have to see what works for you. What works well for one person may not suit your individual business and client set up. There is no harm in testing one approach and changing tact to see if the results can be improved. 

Good luck in your endeavours!