The Creative Freelancer’s Guide to Drafting a Resume

Last month (also last year), we posted part 1 of this article by Kristen Fischer (author of brand-newly-published “When Talent Isn’t Enough”) on whether or not freelancers need a resume. Here’s part 2:

…because yes, you do need one

Hopefully, I have convinced many you that you need a resume. What happens next? The writing part—and I know it’s not always easy. Here are a few tips to assist you in developing your resume.

Skip the objective. The first thing I tell people when they ask for help writing a resume is to omit an objective. (Recent graduates only use them nowadays.)

Instead, put a few sentences together in a profile, or overview, of your skills. This is the perfect spot to make an awesome first impression. It’s similar to the objective in that you target the specific role you want, but you talk about what you have to offer instead of what you want.

If you’re making the switch from an unrelated field into a creative one, try to think about the skills you’ve acquired that translate to the creative field—chances are that past experiences in sales, customer service or business development will all translate nicely into your creative career.

Get descriptive. In the profile, I start each sentence with an adjective. See how I’ve done it on my resume:

Innovative copywriter generating sales-boosting marketing collateral that enhances organizational image and cultivates sales. Articulate leader collaborating with clients to devise brochures, website content, sales letters, and newsletters. Detail-oriented editor with exceptional command of the English language; leveraging AMA, AP and Chicago styles to maintain editorial consistency. Esteemed creative professional advancing thriving profession as an author and journalist.

This gives you the breadth of my experience as a copywriter, author and journalist. It also shows examples of the types of work I do and the goals of those projects, which are to boost corporate image and drive sales.

Throughout the rest of the resume you would start each statement with a verb—and try not to repeat the same one. You would be surprised how many other words you can find for “create,” for example: Originate, innovate, develop, conceptualize, generate, produce, formulate…the list goes on.

Go for third-person. A resume should never be in first-person tone. Instead of writing “I help companies create marketing strategies,” a creative professional could say, “Developed marketing strategies alongside corporate executives” or something like that.

Stick with a timeline. Skills-based resumes that lump your experiences together based on your aptitudes are nice, but your profile already tells about your capabilities as they pertain to what you want to do. Let the professional experience tell a chronological story so a client or employer can see how you’ve progressed.

Even if you’ve got some experience that doesn’t relate to your creative dream job, the skills gained in previous roles will likely position you to thrive as a creative professional. Let’s say you have tons of smaller projects to highlight or maybe some gaps in time—you can still present them under a title of your own business, and use bullets to talk about some of the jobs.

Use bullets to break up some of the text—I like a few sentences that describe the responsibilities of the role, then bullets to highlight achievements.

Toss in some keywords. Just as resume writers recommend for all job-seekers, your resume should include some keywords. Think graphic design, web development, marketing collateral, and the like. You can also put a table after your profile to highlight some of your competencies.

Don’t forget to inject a few corporate favorites into your resume—especially if you want those big-name clients. Keywords such as consultative sales, business development, lead generation, branding, and strategic planning may sound too stuffy; yet they can go a long way to build credibility and show you are a well-rounded professional—not just an artistic one!

Drop names. Prospective corporate clients want to know what companies they know that have used your services. So if you work with any well-known companies or organizations, don’t be afraid to list a few—so many creatives I hear from say that makes them feel shallow, but it’s just good self-promotion.

A Fortune 500 company may want to hire the person that has worked with a fellow Fortune 500 business over those that handled business for mom-and-pop shops—saying you created a campaign is great, but if the resume reader sees you’ve generated one for a brand they know, they may be more impressed.

Be authentic. Be professional and genuine at the same time. Your resume doesn’t have to be too “corporate speaky,” but sometimes making it semi-formal isn’t a bad thing—even if you still work in your pajamas every day.

Finally, remember that a resume is a marketing document—and one that should be ever-evolving. I regularly update my resume to tweak wording and make other changes as I grow. It’s okay to make yours a work in progress…having one to start with is what really counts.

Want some feedback on your resume? Post a link to it below—I’ll pop on to offer up tips if you’re interested. I would love to see what you’ve got cookin’!

Kristen Fischer is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). Her book “When Talent Isn’t Enough: Business Basics for the Creatively Inclined” is due out in stores during January 2013. Visit www.kristenfischer.com to learn more.

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