In the wake of the Great Recession more software developers, engineers, designers, professional writers, artists, entertainers and media workers – educated, creative people – work for themselves than ever before. The Freelancers Union, an organization of independent U.S. contractors, estimated that in 2013 more than 53 million American workers – that’s one-third of the work force –freelanced for a living. And that number will only grow: 74% of Americans are thinking of leaving their jobs. ((You may want also to read Freelancer Or Employee: Identifying Your Next Job Move.)
“The nine-to-five job is kind of dead,” says Nik Badminton, North American director of Freelancer.com, a business that connects freelancers and employers. In just six years, Sydney-based Freelancer.com has gone from a home-based startup to 14.4 million clients around the globe, 2 million in the U.S. alone. “Globally the gig economy is going to be absolutely huge,” Badminton adds. “There are 50 million freelancers right now, and it’s probably going to double in the next five years. People see it as a better way of living.”
While freelancing has its privileges (you can work as much as you want, or as little; if you want to tell your boss to go to hell, say it to the mirror), its drawbacks (hours are unpredictable and forget about paid vacations), but one thing hasn’t changed: Freelancers still send out resumes. “A lot of experts say the resume is dead, but I think the resume’s gone through a huge change,” Badminton says. “It’s no longer just Name, Experience and Education, because it’s becoming rarer for people to do one type of job at a time. We’re becoming more entrepreneurial.”
1. The resume still starts with your name, but with telecommuting there’s no need to list your address: Clients can be located in Mumbai, Tokyo, or South Africa. Get a P.O. box instead. Also skip listing social media profiles such as Twitter or Facebook; employers know how to look themselves. Then briefly list your specialties (say, Ghostwriter, Researcher, Photographer), followed by email address and phone number, possibly your @twitter moniker.
2. A short objective sentence, tailored for that specific client and that specific job, one that says what you can do for them and what you bring to the table – why they should hire you. Don’t generalize or aggrandize.
3. List the projects you’ve done, tailored to the potential client's specific needs, not in reverse order by date. In brief, don’t copy it directly from your LinkedIn profile. Include the assignment, the client, the address, the supervisor and the results achieved – not only for the client but also you as an individual, and the economy as a whole. A resume is a marketing tool, so sell yourself; just don’t embellish.
4. Avoid dates – the date you graduated from college, when you were assigned and completed each project, in short anything that the client can use to calculate your age. Experience counts more than your birth date or the year you graduated from college or your major.
5. Proofread it. If your resume is littered with mistakes, it shows inattention to details. Avoid sesquipedalian dicta (i.e. using too many long, multi-syllable words). Use proper grammar. Don’t capitalize random words. Professionals don’t make rookie mistakes.
6. Attach it to the email message as a pdf file. It needs to be as long as it takes to tell your story, a story that’s interesting, a story that blows the client away. (See also How Long Should My Resume Be?) But remember the voice-over introduction to "Star Trek": Captains Kirk and Picard sold it with less than 50 words.
The Bottom Line
Freelance careers often don't look their best in traditional resume formats, particularly when you combine multiple kinds of work. It's best to relax about the old rules and instead develop a streamlined format that sells your skills best.