6 Essential Resume Tips for Freelancers and Contractors

Published: Aug 05, 2019

 Resumes & Cover Letters       
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Most of us are familiar with how to profile traditional experience on a resume. But what if most of the work you’ve done to date has been on a freelance or contract basis? How, in a culture that still favors permanency and stability, do you go about presenting a series of short-term assignments in a positive light?

Here, we dive into the topic of the freelancer resume and explore how best to portray a fairly scattered, nontraditional background during your hunt for either permanent employment or more contract work.

1. Get the basics right 

When considering how to write a resume as a freelancer, it’s worth remembering that most of the basic resume writing rules till apply to you. As your work history is probably diverse (and possibly a little tricky to make sense of), it’s important to make use of simple, consistent formatting and to organize your sections neatly and logically on the page. If you’re battling with structure, recruit the assistance of a reputable resume builder.

2. Broach the subject in your summary statement

Most professionals now agree that the resume objective statement is more or less dead. However, as a freelancer or contractor, you might want to bend the rules slightly and include a summary-objective combination that (a) highlights what you can bring to the table and (b) directly addresses the fact that much of your experience comprises short-term work (without apologizing for this). If you’re eager to move from freelance to full-time employment, communicate your goals in plain terms and paint your project-based background as an advantage. If, on the other hand, you’re a professional contractor seeking additional assignments, clearly position short-duration work as your area of expertise.

3. Classify your experience as freelance- or contract-based

You don’t want recruiters to look at your fairly bitty work timeline and assume that you’ve hopped around a lot. So, if you opt to list project experience on your freelancer resume like you would salaried jobs, make sure you explicitly mark all contract positions as such. Add the word “freelance” in front of your job title or include “contract” in parentheses after it. Stay away from terms like “temporary,” which have slightly negative connotations, and avoid simply referring to yourself as a “freelancer” or as “self-employed” with no further elaboration. Rather, be specific about the role you filled when working on each assignment, labeling yourself a “freelance graphic designer” or a “software engineer (independent contractor),” for instance. 

4. Group related work experience

If you don’t want a work history section that’s undesirably lengthy and fragmented, consider grouping related experience together under subheadings. If you’ve done multiple jobs for one client, you could cluster them under the company name. 

Alternatively, you could categorize freelance assignments and contracts by work type. As an example, if you specialize in media and communications, you might want to include one subsection for writing work, one for editing jobs, another for social media management roles and yet another for content strategy-focused gigs. Grouping experience like this will make your freelancer resume appear more cohesive while drawing attention to your different areas of expertise.

5. Choose a resume format that serves your needs 

When you’ve hopped from assignment to assignment, what you’ve achieved and learned will likely be of more interest to hiring managers than where you’ve worked. Therefore, you might want to consider using a hybrid resume format that puts more focus on your key competencies—with concrete evidence of how you’ve applied your skills to achieve results in the past—and a little less emphasis on company names and dates. Bear in mind, however, that most hiring managers prefer a more traditional approach, so make sure your resume has a reverse chronological component too. 

Whatever format you choose, make sure it spotlights your accomplishments. Your bullet points should center on the results you’ve achieved, expressed in numbers wherever possible, and not just on tasks completed. That way, you prove you can be trusted to not only deliver but excel in future roles.

6. Only profile relevant experience

As a contractor, you’ve probably worked on a diverse array of projects. Don’t feel pressure to list every single one in your freelancer resume. Rather, include only those experiences that are relevant to the opportunity for which you’re applying. Similarly, only profile competencies that relate directly to your target job. Remember that if you’re on the hunt for more contract work, one soft skill that’ll always be highly valued is adaptability. Show that you can hit the ground running and you’ll be several steps closer to job search success.

Since 2005, LiveCareer has been helping job seekers create resumes and cover letters via its free resume builder and cover letter builder tools. Also available are collections of free, professionally written resume templates and resume samples, all of which are organized by industry and job title.