How to Write a Freelance Resume
Many differences separate freelancing from a traditional full-time job. That contrast often leads to many positive things (like the option to choose your boss and your assignments), but it can also inspire quite a bit of confusion—particularly when you’re trying to land freelance jobs.
We’ve offered tips and answers to many of the common questions that freelancers have, from an overview of different types of freelancing to setting your freelance rate to finding a freelance career mentor. Below, we dive into questions revolving around freelance resumes, including whether or not you need a freelance resume and how to structure one.
Do Freelancers Need a Resume?
So, do you absolutely need a resume as a freelancer? The short answer is—not always. A lot is dependent on how you structure your freelance career. One of the big myths about being a freelancer is that you always run your own business for multiple clients at a time.
Sure, that’s definitely an option, and many freelancers build their business this way. There are, however, many other freelancers that work for one company (or several) in a long-term contract role. They are essentially unbenefited employees with more freedom in how and where they complete their work. If the consistency of that structure sounds appealing, you’ll most likely be submitting a resume to managers or recruiters when applying for new contracts.
Having a resume ready to go ensures you’re not frantically trying to create one when you come across a job that requires one. Set yourself up for future success by pulling together a resume that showcases your projects and skills, capturing what a truly impressive freelancer you are.
Creating Your Freelance Resume
Writing a resume is one of the most challenging aspects of marketing yourself regardless of whether you’re a traditional employee or a freelancer. Because freelancing is so different from a standard full-time job, figuring out how to fit your value and experience into the limited real estate of your resume adds in an extra challenge. We’ll cover the basics.
— Consider Alternate Resume Formats
Traditional resumes are set up to list your jobs in chronological order, but when you have many jobs in a year where most workers will only have one, it creates a unique challenge. As a freelancer, a different format for your resume probably makes sense. Consider a functional or hybrid resume to skip the work-date conundrum.
First things first, your resume should still follow resume best practices. You need to format it correctly and tailor keywords to the individual job postings. Add your personality, but keep it professional, and don’t write in the first person. Also, you’ll generally want to keep it to one page. That means if it doesn’t directly add value to the job you’re aiming for, it doesn’t make the cut.
— Utilize Headlines and Summaries
The resume headline and the professional summary section are a freelancer’s best friends. Here, you’ll get to list out a summary of what makes you the best fit for the role in a more generic way without molding your work experience into the traditional job sections. Don’t forget that you’ll also be complementing your resume with a cover letter, giving you more real estate to expound on the experience you bring.
Additionally, if you’ve only been freelancing for a short time, your resume should still include the most recent roles you filled before becoming a freelancer. Those past positions help provide some context and background about your professional experience.
— Listing Freelance Work Experience
When it comes to listing your freelance work, a lot depends on your job history. If you have contracted in several long-term freelance roles, breaking them into several sections might make sense. This is especially true if you scaled experience or responsibility. For example, suppose you started as a junior content writer for a year with one business and moved on to SEO specialist in your next role. Listing both will show career and experience growth.
On the other hand, if your experience is primarily short-term freelance gigs, or they’re all relatively similar, you’ll list it as one job. Underneath your job listings, dedicate your bullet points to give a rundown of the type of work you do and the services you offer, as well as sharing any notable projects or accomplishments that you’re incredibly proud of. Remember, much like any other resume, your goal is to tout your skills and prove your value. So, don’t be shy about bragging about the extraordinary work you’ve done so far.
In practice, that might look something like this:
Freelance Writer, The Awesome Writing Company LLC
2014 – Present
Author career-related articles and blog posts for a variety of companies and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, and Business Insider
Communicate with clients to understand and execute their project goals
Analyze content performance for a 65% increase in click-thru rates
Collaborate cross-functionally with design departments, ensuring engaging content resulting in a 40% increase in page views
Focus on meeting deadlines and exceptional execution, creating a 75% recurring customer base
Your resume bullet points should cover a wider breadth of experience since you’re talking about numerous projects and not just one position. As a best practice, your resume should include actual data whenever possible. Numbers drive attention, as the recruiters can see that it’s not simply your opinion that you increased page views or created recurring customers.
Beyond a Resume
A resume is a staple in a traditional job hunt. But in the freelance world, it’s something you’re going to lean on more often to land projects and gigs. Undoubtedly, some other outlets—like a website, a polished LinkedIn profile, and an active social media presence—will also be essential when securing new clients.
Realistically, what’s the most essential tool of all? The portfolio of your work that backs up your resume. Clients don’t just want to hear what you’re capable of—they want to see it. Make sure that you’re armed with some samples of work that you’re proud of. And then, ensure that you’re leading the recruiter to your portfolio through links and references on your resume.
We've got more advice on the pros and cons of freelancing and how to set your freelance business up for success. FlexJobs members also have access to our database of vetted jobs, where you'll find listings in over 50 categories that include freelance roles. Find out all the ways that a FlexJobs membership can help you grow your freelance business.