7 Resume Tips for Freelancers
Resume Writing Tips and Advice for Freelance Workers
Creating a resume is tricky, even if you work for an employer and your career is pretty straightforward. For freelancers, it's even more complicated.
Not only do you have to grab the client's attention, pitch your skills, and prove that you're the best person for the job, you also have to make sure that the breadth of your experience makes you look accomplished, not scattershot.
Remember, even if you never have an employee or choose to incorporate, you are a small business owner, not someone who's doing odd jobs.
7 Resume Tips for Freelancers
Here's how to make sure that your freelance resume shows off your abilities to best advantage:
1. Make a list of everything you're good at.
Before you even start looking at resume templates or thinking about what you want your resume to look like, you need to remind yourself of why you're such an amazing catch for a prospective client. The best way to do that is to start with a simple list.
- Skills. This includes both hard skills, like software packages and computer systems, and soft skills, like teamwork and management experience.
- Education and training. Go beyond your degrees and formal certificates. Professional training and classes that are relevant to your work count, too.
- Achievements. Win an award? Graduate with honors? Publish a paper or acquire a patent or trademark? Write it down.
- Accomplishments. Include projects you've managed or participated in, from website redesigns to business acquisitions to department restructuring. Don't exaggerate -- and certainly don't lie -- but if you contributed to the success of a discrete, tangible improvement at a company or as a freelancer, put it on your list.
Here's some good news: once you have your list, you also have your resume keywords. Used by recruiting management software, keywords help your resume make it through the filter and onto a recruiter's or client's desk. (More on the best ways to use resume keywords, here.)
2. Decide which types of jobs you're going after.
And now here's some bad news: you're probably going to have to make more than one resume, especially as a freelancer. Unless you're only going after one very specific niche job in an industry, you'll need to create targeted resumes to apply to each type of gig.
To make this as easy as possible, think about what types of jobs and clients you plan to focus on, and then match those with your skills list. Pretty quickly, you'll start to see how many and what kind of resumes you'll need to develop. You can probably get by with no more than two or three basic resumes, which you'll then adapt further for specific clients.
Note: if you opt to create personal templates like these, it's a good idea to enlist an eagle-eyed friend to proofread each resume and cover letter before you send them out to prospective clients. Nothing terminates a nascent client-freelancer relationship faster than a cover letter with the wrong company name on it or a resume with totally off-base skills and focus.
3. Develop your elevator speech.
Now you know what you're good at, and what you want to do. Distill that into a description that takes a minute or less to deliver -- in other words, about the length of time it would take to explain your goals to a stranger in an elevator.
Another way to think about this is as your LinkedIn-headline speech or your Twitter-bio speech -- in short, it's the essence of who you are and what you want in a freelance career. Whatever you want to call it, this will be the organizing idea behind your resume. Depending on the format you choose, it might even go at the top of your resume or CV.
4. Pick a style.
There are many ways to organize your resume, but for freelancers, the challenge is to present your skills quickly, so that busy clients can't miss your abilities, without creating a confusing job chronology that distracts from your talents.
There are essentially three main ways to order your resume:
- Chronological, by gig or project. Full-time freelancers who've been working for themselves for a while will want to dispense with the life-story format used by many job seekers who solely work for one employer. The organizing principle here is the order in which you worked on projects.
- Combination, including your full-time employment. Newer freelancers might wish to do a combination resume, which includes both work history and skills.
- By skillset. Also called a functional resume, this style highlights what you can do, not the order in which you acquired your skills or demonstrated them.
5. Be ruthless.
Your resume is not an autobiography; at most, it's a profile piece in a glossy magazine. Better yet, it's your most targeted social media profile -- organized, precise, and directed unwaveringly at getting you the opportunities you want the most.
This means you need to cut out anything that isn't totally necessary, including unrelated job skills and accomplishments, no matter how impressive, and any projects that don't demonstrate your aptitude for the gig you're after.
6. Skip these unnecessary space wasters.
In fact, there are some traditional resume components that you can almost always skip completely, including:
- Objective. Usually taking up a line or two of space at the top of your resume or CV, this is redundant after your targeted cover letter and costs precious seconds that potential clients could be using to take in your skills and experience.
- References available upon request. You should definitely have professional references, ready to go -- but you don't need to tell people that. They'll assume that you'll be willing to furnish them with contact information for happy clients and previous employers.
7. Show your work.
In the olden days, graphic artists carried heavy portfolios and journalists toted binders full of yellowing clips, but now you can store your work samples online, via any number of free or paid services, and add your URL directly to your resume, cover letter, or application materials.
More Sample Resumes
Sample resumes, including chronological, functional, and mini, as well as templates for resume writing.