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.