Let’s say you’re looking for a regular job. Meanwhile you’re doing a little consulting or freelancing to cover the gap. If you put freelance work on your resume, will employers believe it and respect it?
The answer is yes – but only if you do it right.
In today’s gig economy, freelancing is much more common than it used to be. It can be a great way to fill the gap after leaving a job.
And that’s the problem! Too many unemployed job seekers use “freelance” or “consultant” gigs to cover their current unemployment when in fact their “consulting” experience is as thin as the emperor’s new clothes.
Recruiters have become skeptical of resumes listing various forms of “self employment.”
Here’s how to list freelance work on your resume – credibly.
1: First, get real clients.
If you want it taken seriously, be serious. Do what it takes to get business. It’s fine to start with a little work for your neighbor or uncle, but go beyond that. Once you have a decent-sized clientele, list them on your resume. If that doesn’t work – either because your clients are confidential or the list is too short, too long or doesn’t look impressive – summarize with a phrase like “several small retail businesses in the Seattle-Tacoma area.” (Dictionary.com defines “several” as “more than two but fewer than many.”)
You can include some pro bono clients in your list, as long as the work was substantial and relevant, not just stuffing envelopes.
If you really haven’t been doing any work, take freelancing off your resume. Even aside from the ethics of it, lying on a resume is not worth the risk to your reputation.
2: Look good online.
Develop a professional-looking online presence including a website. Hire an editor and/or a proofreader. Give your business a name. Try your own name plus a keyword: “Terry Lee Marketing.” Get a good profile photo. (Amateur photos can look good; just google up some how-to’s and take at least a couple dozen shots to choose from.) Don’t neglect social proof: actively seek testimonials, especially published ones like LinkedIn recommendations and Yelp reviews.
All of this demonstrates to employers that you’re energetic, hard-working, a self starter, in demand, and so on – in short, the kind of person they want to hire.
3: Be able to show results.
Too often, consultants have no idea how their work benefited a client over time, so they lack testimonials and are unable to answer interview questions about the success and impact of their work. You might want to make it part of your consulting agreements that the client will complete follow-up questionnaires immediately after the project and a couple months later. Make it a priority.
4: Develop and share work samples if possible.
Look for opportunities to develop work samples you can show off in your LinkedIn profile and at interviews.
5. Pull it all together on your resume.
Let’s say during a certain time period you’ve done some free-lancing through a platform like Upwork or Fiverr, a little volunteering, a short contract gig through an agency, and maybe some blogging or speaking, all related to the same industry or occupation. Listing a lot of little “jobs” on your resume could look cluttered or insubstantial. Instead, try treating all of these as projects of your freelance business.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
If you’re still looking for a regular job you’ll need to set aside time for direct job search activities such as networking, applying to jobs and going to interviews. But freelancing in itself can also advance your job search by providing new connections and experience.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
When you land your new job and put your business on the shelf, make sure you retain good relationships, records and files so you can revive it all later if needed. Or you can keep it going as a “side hustle,” an ongoing source of extra cash and income security, tax deductions, networking, career development and an opportunity to flex expertise-muscles you may not use on your regular job.
Now you know how to list consulting work on your resume – in a way that really works!