A strong resume is important to any job seeker, but for a freelancer or consultant, the resume takes on even more importance. Most freelancers and consultants will have many jobs in a year, whereas most workers will have just one. The unique working situation complicates the resume-writing process, both in terms of how it's crafted and in how often it's updated.
It can be tricky to create a resume when you're jumping from gig to gig, but you can help yourself through the process by keeping some handy tips in mind.
Follow Traditional Resume Writing Rules
This is a simple tip. Just because you don’t have a traditional employment background doesn’t mean your resume needs to be a never-before-seen creative display. The basic rules of resume-writing still apply to you.
Avoid writing in the first-person. Traditional resume formatting is the third person. A resume is not about you as a person, it’s about your skills helping a company.
Hiring managers need to know what they are looking at. If you’re creative, don’t follow design principles that take away from clarity. Even if you think it looks better with a creative flair, remember that the point of a resume is to quickly share your work expertise. Any good designer will tell you: a design that makes a product hard to use is a bad one.
Consider Using a "Skills-Based" Resume Format
Rather than creating a chronological resume that attempts to follow your work history from gig to gig, you can create a resume that emphasizes your skills. The people and companies hiring freelancers are looking to solve projects with a person’s specific skills and abilities—they're less concerned with how much time they spent working for a given company. Start by considering which skills you want to highlight, then include specific projects or companies for which you used those skills.
Customize Your Resume to Fit the Job You Want
Recruiters and hiring managers often sift through hundreds of resumes to fill a single position. One way to get tossed out during the initial screening period is to have a general resume that doesn't directly acknowledge the company's needs. To gain attention, make sure that your resume includes experience and skills that are relevant to what the job requires. Include any buzzwords from the job posting, including the exact tasks in the job description—even the company name, if you can manage to work that in.
Include Any Relevant Education or Courses
Include any relevant degrees, courses or certifications that you have completed. Your educational background doesn't matter as much as your work experience, but it does matter. Education shows employers how long you've cultivated skills in the field, especially when your work history is complicated and doesn't easily convey the same information.
However, there is no reason to include your GPA. An exception would be if you have an impressive GPA at a well-known institution. Another exception would be if you haven't had a similar job in the past, then you would want to include your GPA to show your mastery in the field (but take it out after you land your first job).
Quantify Your Achievements as Much as Possible
Potential employers like to see that your work produced a measurable result, so try to include statistics where possible. As an example, a designer may be able to brag that a "homepage redesign led to a 25% increase in conversion rates." However, you don’t need to list every project you’ve ever worked on that saw results. Instead, be selective. Only showcase your most impressive work.
This can be more difficult to show when working with a wide range of companies/clients, or if you aren't involved in that data aspect of a company. Try to dig up data if you can, but if you can't, try to find a way to quantify more abstract concepts like your overall "success rate" with clients or how often clients re-hire you.
Include Links to Your Website and Online Profiles
You probably don't need to include every social media network you use, but you should at least include your active accounts that include relevant work. A photographer would want to share their Instagram page, for example. A reporter might want to share their Twitter feed if it's filled with breaking news updated.
Always Include Keywords in Your Resume
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important component of most things we do online, and your resume is no exception. Nowadays, many companies use automated software that screens submitted resumes and searches for relevant keywords. It is always best practice to include keywords from the job description in your resume. You should also try to include any key terms that you think generally apply to your industry or job title.
Don't Be Cookie-Cutter: Include Yourself on Your Resume
Most forward-thinking companies (the kind you want to work for) are looking for people who fit both the job listing and the company culture. That's why your resume should give a sense of your personality and who you are outside of work. The rule about avoiding first-person still applies, but you can find ways to convey your personality without using "I" sentences. You could describe your side business, a recent passion project, or how you spend your free time. Try to tie it into the job description, but stretch it so that it goes beyond your concrete skills and dives into your personality.
Don't Be Modest
If you’ve worked with major companies or big clients, mention them in your resume (unless you’ve signed some kind of non-disclosure agreement specifying otherwise). Hiring managers love to see reputable and recognizable names. It demonstrates that you can provide a level of service that major clients expect.
Also, when applying for positions, your resume and cover letter are your opportunities to shine. Don’t be afraid to show off your talents. Being too humble or modest will not convey confidence in your work. It can be uncomfortable for some, but the key to landing a job is by declaring that you're the absolute best person to carry it out, then proving it through your resume, cover letter, and work samples.
Remember: Recruiters Spend Very Little Time Reading Your Resume
Design your resume so that it has a clear visual hierarchy. Use the inverted pyramid method by getting right to the most important information. Use clear headings and keep descriptions short. The most important pieces of information should catch your eye first.
Recruiters decide on your resume within six seconds, on average. Give them a reason to go over it in detail by hooking them with good visual design and strong job descriptions that use as few words as possible.
Include a Call to Action
You should never assume that hiring managers will look at any of the resources that you provide, but you can prod them toward your work through calls to action, or CTAs. Include a request in your resume to view your website, check your references, or ask for more information if they need it. However, you should avoid giving the recruiter too much homework. It's best to stick to one CTA per application.