Creating a Freelance Writer’s Resume

by Alicia Sparks on January 8, 2010

I know I can't have been the ONLY writer having trouble with them.

We’re eight days into 2010, and a major trend I’ve noticed this year is that more job advertisers than ever before (at least, in my experience) are requesting writing resumes. Fortunately, producing a copy of my writing resume doesn’t aggravate me as much as it used to.

Since I started freelance writing, I’ve spent the first few weeks of every new year following exactly the same routine: Telling myself this is the year I will consistently apply for new writing jobs (no need to put all my eggs in one basket again, right?), sticking to that goal with fevered excitement, and then finally realizing I have to take a break to update my writing resume.

Here’s the deal: I used to hate updating my writing resume. I mean, I really loathed it. (Sure, I never ran into a ton of job advertisers who required them, but all it takes is one, right?) I’ve had tons of clients – big companies, small companies, individuals – I can’t include them all! What makes the cut? What goes unmentioned? How do I organize it all?

Then, last year, I sat down with a pen and a pad of paper and made an outline – a very old school, to-the-point outline of headers, subheaders, and even squiggly doodles when my mind started wandering. What I ended up with was an outline that looked very much like what the resume for a traditional, 9-5 job would look like – with a few tweaks, of course.

Well, that was easy. Maybe I’d been overthinking it the whole time? Maybe I just needed a visual? Probably both.

Whatever the case, below is the cleaned up version of the outline. It’s nothing new for seasoned freelancers, but it might help those of you just getting started.

No-Brainer Information To Include

There are certain bits of information every resume must include – no matter what job you’re applying for – and this information generally appears at the top or bottom of your resume depending on the template you use.

Make sure your writing resume includes:

  • Your name. (Regardless of the template, this usually is always at the top.)
  • Your website name and address if you have one – and really, you should.
  • Your contact information such as your email address, your physical or mailing address, and your home, office, and/or cell phone number. Some freelancers also include information such as their Skype or Yahoo Messenger names. (Note that if you’re applying for jobs via the Internet, feel free to omit any information you’re not comfortable handing out to strangers.)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the thing.

Start With An Objective

Depending on the job advertiser, this objective might be as specific as “To obtain employment as the Senior Editor at Rock Out Company” or as generic as “To provide search engine friendly web content and copy that will help improve the look, usability, and visibility of small businesses websites.”

Actually, don’t copy that last one. I might use it myself in the future.

List Your Specialties

Press releases? Newsletters? Sales copy? Here’s where you’ll include a brief list of all the kinds of writing in which you specialize.

If you’ve noticed, many job advertisements call for writers who are “proficient in Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Express” or “know how to create PDF documents,” so you might also want to include any programs or software with which you’re experienced.

Move On To Your Work Experience

Really, this is the only difficult part of the whole resume-writing process you’ll have to deal with (and who knows – it might not be difficult for you). This is where you decide what stays, what goes, and how to organize it all.

Making it no easier is the fact that freelance writers have such wide variety of experiences under their belts. Long-term contracts with companies, brief liaisons with individuals,

I handle this section by breaking it up into subsections. For example, one copy of my resume includes a subsection about the companies I’ve contracted with, a subsection about the various kinds of web content I’ve provided, and a subsection about my blogging experience.

It’s also important to make sure that you include subsections, and jobs under those subsections, that are related to the job you’re applying for.

NOTE: Remember when you listed your specialties? Now’s a good time to elaborate on those, if you can. For example, if you write spectacular sales copy, this is the section to mention the sales letter you wrote for Whatever Company more than doubled said company’s sales that month.

Link To A Few Writing Samples

One of the best things about resumes you can email or post on your website is the ability to link. Clips of articles archived in online versions of magazines, copy you wrote for the front page of a website, a client’s About or Bio section – you can link to all these.

Be careful to uphold any privacy policies you have with your clients, of course; you might have an agreement with some clients about not disclosing the nature or results of your work with them.

Tell About Your Education And Training

Some job advertisers specifically call for people with “at least [this degree] in [this or a related area]“; some don’t care.

If you have a degree or some sort of special training (if it’s related to the job), go ahead and include it.

Show Off Your Awards, Achievements, Etc.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Just be sure to keep your list succinct and stick to awards and achievements that are related to your writing career. I’m willing to bet the job advertiser looking for a copywriter doesn’t care if you won the neighborhood award for Most Original Use of Red Christmas Lights back during the winter of 1997.

Tips to Consider:

  • Create a “master copy” of your writing resume – one that includes everything but goes out to no one. Having this copy will help you keep up with all your jobs, skills, etc. and act as a quick reference for when you’re creating the resumes that do go out.
  • Don’t shy away from having multiple writing resumes. Different jobs call for different experiences, and pretty soon you’ll have a nice stock of resumes you can make simple tweaks to and use over and over.
  • Regularly update your writing resume. Whether it’s your master copy or the more targeted versions, make a point to update your resume(s) as you gain new experiences in order to prevent scrambling and trying to remember what happened six months ago for a job you’re applying for today.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen March 29, 2011 at 10:59 am

Great advice! I was on the right track and this article confirmed it for me. Thanks!

Jimmy Sorenson April 21, 2011 at 1:58 am

Thanks for sharing the information.

Was looking out on the same topic. My friend needs one resume ready for him, so told me to help him out and this post has certainly helped in a great way.

Jimmy Sorenson
Visit us at: Connecticut Summer Camps

Anna May 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm

The beauty of the being a writer in the web age is that you can easily brand yourself. Register your name (if still available), personalize your website, post your resume and link back to you online articles. For print articles, post a .pdf.

Sally June 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Thank you for this! I have been tying to write my writing resume for a while and had no idea what to put on it.

Kellie June 20, 2011 at 10:24 am

This is exactly what I need right now. Thank you so much. I am a freelance writer apply for a copywriter job at a newspaper. My resume can use a little sparkle, and this is a step in the right direction.

Charles June 22, 2011 at 2:45 am

When I first started do freelance writing, the biggest obstacle to overcome was when people asked for references (not just samples). The way I dealt with this is to offer free writing services to about 10 people on a popular forum. In return for the free work, they had to agree to give me a testimonial and be willing to act as a reference. Fortunately, once you build up some client base, word-of-mouth pretty much eliminates this problem. But if you’re just starting, consider it.

Rob F. August 29, 2011 at 6:44 am

My biggest problem is that I’m literally at the starting point – I’ve got some samples, including articles published in daily papers, but almost all of them relate to video games and I’ve never had a paid gig. How can I sell my writing skills when I’ve never sold my writing skills?

Alicia August 29, 2011 at 9:38 am

Hi Rob,

I have a few thoughts on that –

1. At this point in your writing career, is it imperative to apply for gigs that require actual resumes? Not all of them do, so, depending on your own situation, you might wait until you build up some clients (and references) you can refer to on your resume.

2. Don’t underestimate those video game articles! Many job ads call for 1-3 samples or “clips,” so you won’t want to use all of them, but I’d suggest choosing the best one and using it.

3. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a paid gig. Throw that thinking out the window! :) You’ve provided writing that people have used. You should be able to list those papers on a resume, right? What about using those editors as references?

4. I checked out your blog, and I see you’ve done book reviews, too. No reason you can’t use those as clips and to sell your writing. Check out this WritingSpark.com post about the various ways you can use your blog to produce clips (and sell your writing): http://wp.me/pykPf-az

What do you think of those ideas/thoughts?

Rob F. August 31, 2011 at 4:31 am

Thank you for having a look at my blog and the post on producing clips, Alicia! I’ll have to give those a try soon, especially the series and interviews.

I have the feeling I just need to find some gigs to apply for – not to mention present myself to potential leads! That’s the really scary bit…

Alicia August 31, 2011 at 10:42 am

That’s true, Rob! I don’t think the scariness goes away, either (maybe from huge monster butterflies gnawing at your insides to little cute one fluttering away, but that’s about it, ha)! GOOD LUCK, and keep me posted on Twitter or on here!

Stefanie Lou November 15, 2012 at 1:52 am

Two thumbs up on that! Those were really helpful tips! I especially liked the part about keeping a “master copy” resume that you can check on from time to time as a quick reference. But what if you only wrote once for a magazine? I wrote a literary article for a teen mag (back in ’85) on their very first issue. Does that count as a writing job that I can put on my resume? I’m a mum reentering the workforce after two decades of writing hiatus; and targeting a virtual article writing job. I’ve been an English Tutor to neighborhood kids for the past few years. Apart from my stint as a literary and features staffer in our school organ in college to writing short story entries for contests to writing correspondence for our subdivision’s homeowner’s association, I’m afraid that is the only writing experience I’ve ever had.

Don Potochny December 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

For writers who do not have any paid gigs on their resume, I recommend finding clients on oDesk and/or Elance. Additionally, I list my writing skills under the Experience section of my resume. Each job that I list required different skill sets. I only list writing jobs that lasted at least six months.

Joseph Solares March 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm

This was awesome. I’ve been looking for answers online for a while, and didn’t find one that fully gave me everything I was looking for. Thank you so much.

Mandy Eve-Barnett January 31, 2014 at 3:21 pm

This is extremely helpful as I am focusing on freelancing this year to grow from a fledgling start up. I can organize my work but a resume specifically for my writing had me stumped.
Thank you

Alicia Sparks January 31, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Mandy, I’m so glad it’s helpful for you, and if you run across another step or idea, please feel free to come back and share with us!

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