We’ve stressed many times within the pages of Freelance With Us that it’s critical to a writer’s success to continue to market herself. Every writer should engage in at least one marketing activity every single day.
In response, we’ve gotten questions about freelance writer resume samples, and whether we can provide one. A freelance writer resume is different from, say, an accountant’s resume. Our work is different, and thus our resume will take a much different format than a traditional resume. There are actually two types of resumes used by freelance writers, and I’ll cover them both here.
But before I begin, I’d like to state that the jury’s still out on whether a writer needs a resume. If you’ll be applying to editorial positions with newspapers or other publications, your experience will certainly need to be outlined and your education summarized. But for freelance writing online, you may decide that you’d rather not use a resume. Opinions are as variant as the writers who have them, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Freelance Writer Resumes
As I mentioned, a freelance writer resume is quite different from a resume that you’d send out over a job search engine. This is because your work experience can vary from writing about crossbows to editing true crime books. A traditional resume is a streamlined and bullet-pointed list of the places you’ve worked and what you’ve accomplished there. But you, as a freelance writer, can’t provide that information.
Here’s what your resume should include:
Provide a summary of your experience, just as you would with a traditional resume. Feel free to name drop in this section. Were you published by the New Yorker back in 1946? Mention that! Graduate magna cum laude with a degree in journalism from Duke University? Don’t forget to include it. Your summary should only be a few sentences long – no more than a paragraph. But it’s where you’ll make a first impression, so make it count.
Next, you’ll tell your prospective clients what you’ve accomplished in the past. This should be bullet pointed and very easy to read. You can do this in a number of ways; you can organize them by skill (first list editing experience, then publications, and so on) or you can sort them by the most impressive publication first.
My personal preference is to start with the big names. I once was a contributor to a national newspaper, and as I feel that’s the most impressive point on my resume, I start there. What’s important is that your clients get a feel for your versatility and your skill set.
The experience section should take up the bulk of your resume. List specific publication titles and edition numbers, as well as article names. If you’re outlining your editing experience, cite each work.
Areas of expertise
This should be no more than five items. Maybe you’re a restaurant critic, resume writer or you just love to write about photography. List a few areas of expertise.
Finally, you may choose to list your education. If you have college experience, this is usually a good idea. Clients like to know that you’ve got a handle on the English language, and college graduates generally possess that quality.
Freelance Writers Portfolio
The portfolio is my preferred method of showcasing my ability. As I recall, I’ve had to submit my resume twice in my entire career, and that was because the organization was a local newspaper. The majority of clients who want to hire you will care more about your writing ability than what you’ve done in the past, so it’s a good idea to compile a portfolio.
There are websites which can host your portfolio for you, but I actually host my own. I purchased a domain name through a hosting provider, installed WordPress on the website, and that was it. It took me literally twenty minutes to get my portfolio set up, because I already knew which samples I wanted to include.
Portfolios are beneficial if you intend to submit a lot of proposals on platforms like Fiverr or Freelancer. Clients can click on your portfolio and view your writing samples, saving you the time that you’d normally spend sending those samples to them. They’re also an excellent way to display your diverse writing abilities. Here’s what every freelance writer’s portfolio should include:
• A short form news piece
• A long form news piece
• A personal essay
• An editorial piece
• A blog entry related to a specific niche – choose your favorite
• A press release
Now, of course there are others. If you choose, you can write about a controversial subject. If your specialty is writing resumes, include one here. And you can always include your own resume on your website.
Be sure that your portfolio page lists how your clients can contact you. You don’t have to give personal information; it’s easy to install a contact form on a WordPress website. Clients can contact you directly, and will never have access to your address or any other information.
Freelance writer resumes: a few more thoughts
As I mentioned, not everyone agrees that you’ll need a freelance writer resume. It may be a good idea to compose one, “just in case.” But the majority of your work will be published online, and your marketing will, as well.
If you do choose to have a resume, it’s best to start early in your career. For every job you complete, write down one sentence about it in a notebook. Your sentences only have to make sense to you; for example “Wrote an article about Canadian electric smokers for Dave Leonard – May 2014”. Later, as you develop your resume, you’ve got a compilation of all of your projects. It’s easy to add gigs to your resume as you find your client base or niche.
And finally, whether you choose to have a portfolio, a resume, both or neither, you absolutely must always maintain a database of writing samples that you can send to clients upon demand. Read through your files regularly; as you advance in your career, your writing will improve. You can update your database from time to time to reflect your quality and style of writing. But this database is important because there are some clients who want neither a portfolio nor a resume. They just want to see a sample. Keep these files updated, and you’ll be ready when they ask.