Congratulations, your freelance business is proving successful. But how do you handle talking about it or explaining freelance work to potential employers, or on your resume? It can be a hard subject to explain as a single entry on paper, and you don’t want freelance work to look like an employment gap.
There are some things you can do to on paper (and on LinkedIn) to help present freelance work in a way that is more understandable to others. The key for many freelancers – especially those working part-time – is remembering to include freelance work as part of your resume and design portfolio. Sometimes those jobs can be just the thing you need to help land the next big gig!
List Work as a Freelancer
The simple answer is that you should include freelance work on your resume. This includes paid jobs, side projects or pretty much anything that relates to your competencies as an employee or independent contractor. How you choose to list these jobs is the real question.
To know how to best explain freelance or contract work, take inventory of your specific role and accomplishments.
- How long have you done freelance work?
- Would work be “worthy” of your resume if you had done it for an employer?
- How long have you been doing this type of work?
- Does it relate to your field or area of expertise?
- Does it show expertise in areas that other jobs might not?
- Do you feel comfortable talking about the work or companies you did work for and would they speak about you in a flattering way?
How you list these jobs can vary and how you decide to list freelance projects can depend on the type of work you do and the frequency of such jobs. Freelance work should be listed on your resume just like other jobs – in reverse chronology (newest on top) and in a consistent way.
Drop (Business) Names
When it comes to actually listing your freelance projects, start with current projects or clients and move through to less recent projects. This type of listing often works best when you do freelance work fairly consistently for a handful of regular clients.
Long-term freelance jobs can stand alone just like any position with any other company. You can list this type of work as you would any other “regular” job, just make sure your position or title is clearly labeled. You do, in fact, work for said company, just not as a full-time employee. One consideration here is always whether the company will acknowledge you. Make sure the point of contact is someone you have worked with at the company because your name and information is unlikely to show up in an employment verification check through human resources.
This option works great for a regular cluster of clients. It’s best if that number is small though. Listing more than a couple of current employers can look a little strange and be a red flag.
If you are doing work for a variety of clients, the business name might be your own – especially if you are already incorporated. (If you don’t have a business name and are doing a lot of this type of work, this might be the time to look at formalizing the business.) The other option is to list freelance work under a “business name” that is as simple as “Freelance Designer.” The list projects or types of freelance work just like you would under a formal business name.
Do You Have a Title?
A job title should be easily identifiable by others and help provide an explanation of what you do. Sadly, “freelancer” sometimes comes with an unfavorable connotation. Consider other title options for yourself that might come across better to potential clients or employers.
Here are a few options when it comes to your title:
- Independent contractor
- President, CEO, etc. of your company
- Freelance [insert job here, such as designer, developer or writer]
Add a Section for Freelance Work
If you have a history with freelance work that extends beyond a few jobs, add a standalone section specifically for freelance jobs. While you can format it in a number of ways, opt for simplicity.
Start with a simple title such as “Web Design Consultant.” List the number of years you have done this type or work and any relevant certifications or training. Then list some of the companies you have completed projects for. (Here’s a tip: Especially with design, check what the company is doing now in terms of visuals and if it is not the stuff you helped with or if it does not look good or modern any longer, don’t list it.) When it comes to companies that don’t have household names, consider a few words explaining what the company does.
Impress with Projects
For freelance designers, a portfolio is where you can really wow. This can be done with words as well on an actual resume by listing types of projects completed. (LinkedIn has a great tool for projects as well so each element can link back to a portfolio.)
Limit projects to a few that are different in scope and showcase your talents. Include a short description, client information and URL if applicable.
Now for Exceptions
Sometimes it might be best to leave freelance jobs off your resume completely. Freelance work should be included as a boost to your resume and is less valuable if you are doing work that does not relate to your field or would not result in a reference. (Yes freelance clients are checked as references as well.)
If freelance work causes a potential client or employer to ask more questions than it answers, you might consider leaving that work off your resume. The other exception is confidential work. If you are working for a company and are not supposed to name that company, do not list those freelance jobs without talking to the company first.
There are a few other exceptions that fall into the common sense category and are things that maybe should not appear in your resume:
- Sporadic freelance work, such as you did one project and decided freelance work was not for you.
- If freelance work was done for free or for family members. (That is more likely volunteer work.)
- If you are not proud of the projects completed.
Including freelance work on your resume can be somewhat tricky if you overthink it. To make things easier, think of freelancing just as you would any other job. Include projects, companies and positions that are relevant for the person or company getting a copy of your resume. (You can include more on online versions or LinkedIn where you don’t have to worry as much about space.) List positions and work that is most suited to you and your skillsets.
Note: This post is packed with various resume templates — click on any design to grab that template and use it to create a beautiful resume! (Or you can view our list of the best resume templates available to start from.