How to List Freelance and Self-Employment Experience on Your Resume

by Lisa H.

How to List Freelance and Self-Employment Experience on Your ResumeI had been a freelance corporate trainer and independent contractor for 10 years before accepting my current salaried position as a technical writer in 2007.

As a freelancer, going from one training assignment to the other, I would often grapple with how to list freelance and self-employment experience on my resume.

I wondered what a potential employer would think about the variety of jobs I held and the length of time I held them.  I wanted to put my best foot forward, but thought that the potpourri of jobs I held would make me seem flaky. So, I set out to find the best way to list freelance and self employment experience on my resume, and here it is.

Select your resume format

The format of your resume should reflect the type (freelancing, full-time, etc.) of positions you have held. Resumes generally fall into one of two formats. They are either reverse-chronological (listing all your experience from most to least current) or functional (highlighting various skills and accomplishments within categories).

A functional resume places more emphasis on your qualifications and expertise for a particular job than where you worked and how long you were there. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing management position, with a functional resume you might choose a category such as “Marketing Experience”, as opposed to a title like Marketing Manager. You can see a full example of a functional resume here.

If the majority of your work experience includes a series of freelance projects, you may want to consider a functional format. If neither one of these formats suits your experience to your liking, use a combination of the two. That is what I do.

List infrequent projects cautiously

If you pick up freelance projects infrequently and do not intend to make freelancing a full time career, omit them from your resume. The only time you would list occasional freelance work is if it allows you to fill any gaps in your professional experience.

If you freelance regularly, have worked as a contractor for a period longer than three months, or have ever owned your own business, indicate that experience on your resume. Highlight those attributes of the job experience that qualify you as a perfect candidate for the job that you are seeking.

List your job responsibilities in the same way that you would for any other full-time job you’ve held; focus on those responsibilities which best meet your career objective and quantify your achievements when possible. Exemplify your self-starter attitude under the Qualifications section of your resume. Make sure to list any employable skills you have acquired or strengthened while you were self employed.

Be prepared for the following questions

Even after you have listed the details of your employment on your resume, you may still get several questions from your potential employer about them. Questions may be along the following lines:

  • Were you self-employed because you were in between jobs, or because you wanted to start your own business?
  • Are you still working on your own, as a freelancer or a consultant? If so, do you intent to continue this work in addition to your full time job?
  • Is your self-employment presenting a conflict of interest for the company?
  • Are you working as a freelancer or a contractor on part-time basis, and never intend to have this replace full-time employment?
  • Does your long-term career goal include owning your own business?

You can see that all of these questions are valid from your potential employer’s point of view. Companies don’t want to spend the time and resources to hire you, train you and provide you with benefits only to have you quit after a year to start your own business.

Show your commitment to the job

As a final indication of your commitment to the job you are seeking. Make sure that your cover letter or email addresses anticipated concerns of your potential employer. Make references to anything on your resume that may raise questions. If you still own your own business, but are looking for full-time work, for example, make sure to let your employer know what your long-term professional goals are and how you intend to balance your roles at both businesses.

Avoid apologizing for how you make an income. Your resume and cover letter should present you as a credible and passionate professional. Focus on the positive experiences and skills you have acquired as a freelancer, and make sure to let the employer know how these will benefit the company if you are their chosen candidate.

Image by Pedro Lozano
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