Whether you have employment gaps on your record or you’ve been commissioned to work on big freelance projects, you should add all of your self-employment and freelance work to your resume. They’re fantastic additions as they bolster your qualifications, experience and showcase you’re competent enough to work on your own.
Where most trip up is how to list self-employment and freelance work on a resume. In reality, they’re just as important as any other job where you’d be employed. For example, running a business on your own or working on a big-name client on a freelance basis are impressive feats you should shout about.
To enhance your resume, here’s how to list self-employment and freelance work on your resume and impress your potential employers.
Add a job title
Start by giving yourself a job title that reflects the work you do on a freelance or self-employed basis. Just because it isn’t your typical full-time employed work, it doesn’t hold any less importance. Treat it the same as you would with any other position and share your job title on your resume.
It could be as simple as ‘contract’ or ‘freelance’, but something is better than blanking that section.
Add a company name
If you have a mix of self-employed and full-time work, it’s better to keep your resume consistent. Although this can depend on whatever agreement you have with the organization you completed work for, provide a company name, so the format of your resume looks the same. Plus, it helps you look more established.
What services do you offer?
After you’ve listed your job titles, the company’s you provided services for and the dates of your employment, share a brief summary of your services. You don’t need to be so extensive as if it’s your personal website or portfolio, but it should be detailed enough to quickly highlight the type of work you completed as a freelancer or self-employed person.
If it’s a wide range of services, utilize bullets so even hiring managers that skim-read will be able to see what you’ve offered and what you’re skilled at. If you’re trying to be as brief as possible, quickly highlight the types of work you’ve done for the clients you’ve worked for and also the industries they’re in.
Highlight noteworthy clients or projects
If there are big projects or well-known clients you’ve completed work for, don’t hide them in the middle of your resume. Projects and clients that demonstrate your skills and achievements deserve to be recognized, so use bullets to direct attention towards them. You can go into more detail later, but placing this underneath your services is a good idea.
Another option you have is to use subheadings to split up either the types of projects you worked on or your skills. For example, you could have one section on copywriting and another on editing — this will be unique to you and your skills. Underneath each heading, note down your achievements and the work you did under each skill or project.
However, there’s one trap you should avoid falling into. As beneficial as it is to list all of your self-employed or freelance experience, only list the projects and clients that relate to the position you’re applying for. It can be difficult to leave out projects you enjoyed working on, but if the new position you want doesn’t require that particular expertise, it won’t help your resume.
Add a portfolio
Like any other resume, it’s helpful to prove your success by giving examples of your work. Simply stating the projects you worked on as a freelancer is one thing, but actually letting interviewers and hiring managers see your work is what will back up your claims.
Suppose you have an online portfolio; brilliant. Add in the link as it won’t take up valuable real estate on your resume. If you don’t, you can still link to a handful of published work you completed. Again, make it context-dependent and how relevant the projects in your portfolio will be to the position you’re applying for.
If it’s a writing role, add in links to articles you produced. If you’re looking for a developer role, add in links to websites you’ve built. Again, try and limit the number of examples you highlight in your portfolio. Only pick the ones that reflect your skills the best for the position you’re applying for.
By honing in on your achievements like this, you offer something tangible for the interviewer to judge your resume from. Plus, it allows them to compare with other candidates. Having these examples is a lot better than letting words do the talking for you.
Just like any other resume, you should add references when you’ve worked in a self-employed or freelance role. You never know when a hiring manager will want to pick up the phone and speak to a former employer or email the person who commissioned you to work on projects for them.
List the references’ names, titles and contact information. Before you do this, make sure they agree to serve as a reference for you. This way, they can at least expect a call or email at some point asking about you as a person, your performances and the quality of your work
You don’t need to overthink your structure when listing self-employed or freelance work, either. Here’s a basic structure to follow to keep readers engaged and only providing the information they need to know:
<Company name> <Duration of work>
<A brief description of your responsibilities
Highlight a result of your work
Highlight another result of your work>
Any variation of this could work — which could look like:
The Developer Company: 2019-2021
Freelance Senior Developer
- Built websites and updated websites
- Improved all website site speed by 60%
- Grew online website presence by 120%
Try to keep your examples as short as the one above for each project. As tempting as it will be to describe everything, save the thorough descriptions for your eventual interview. Keep it short, sweet and to the point to interviewers know precisely where you completed freelance of self-employed work, for how long, what you did and the impact you had.
Repeat this for your top five projects and you’ll enhance your resume.
Skills to showcase from a self-employed or freelance background
Where freelancers and self-employed differ as a concept is that freelancers don’t have long-term commitments with anyone. However, there are specific skills an interviewer will look out for, especially if your work history doesn’t involve full-time employment and the new position will be your first venture into this type of work.
In your resume, explain how you build relationships with clients to maintain ongoing work. If you ever communicated with partners and customers, showcase this as it’ll show interviewers communication isn’t a problem for you and is second nature.
Growth and development
How have you grown from a freelancer or self-employed worker? In your resume, when running through projects, showcase how you’re always learning and are a self-developers. Highlight your passion for your work and you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
During your freelance of self-employed work, how did you come up with new ideas to create new working opportunities for yourself? This will show interviewers you’re creative and have vision.
This is a big one for hiring managers when interviewing people from a freelance background. As you control your own schedule, you need to showcase how you manage your day-to-day tasks and complete work to a high standard — and on time.
What to include on your self-employed or freelance resume
There tends to be a lot of confusion regarding what you should and shouldn’t include on a resume from a self-employed or freelance perspective. If you’re in the process of building your resume from scratch as you gear up to apply for new positions, here’s what to include:
- List clients as you would list any other employer
- Highlight brand names, organizations and individuals if possible
- Add the location if it’s relevant
- Showcase the work you’ve completed
- Describe the projects and your involvement clearly
- Highlight the skills you used and the results you achieved
- Client references
- Add your portfolio
- Explain how your work helped the client achieve their goals
But there’s also a lot you shouldn’t include on your resume, even though it can feel tempting to continue adding more. If your current self-employed or freelance resume features any of the following, it needs removing as soon as possible:
- Don’t include confidential information as you don’t want to lose trust
- Don’t include client information if you’re already using that same information in the references section
- Don’t fluff up your resume with unnecessarily elaborate language
- Don’t list every step involved in every single project. Keep it concise
- Don’t share your prices
- Don’t include average results. Only share the ones that are genuinely impressive
To help your resume stand out and have a great chance of landing your dream role, work with VanHack. It’s a valuable platform where you can create a profile and film videos so prospective employers can get to know you — the person behind the profile. Get started today, film your videos and list your self-employed work on your resume to make employers sit up and pay attention.