Welcome to day 3 of my 12 Days of Freelance Writing series. You can view the whole series here.
You are buzzing with excitement, ready to start applying to your first writing gigs. You have the right clips, polished your LinkedIn profile and your website about me page, and tweaked your go-to email template.
But wait. This job posting is asking for a resume. What now?
Do you really need a freelance writing resume? The short answer is that it is complicated. Today I am going to unpack when to worry about a resume and how to make it shine even if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Freelance Writing Resume 101
Majority of writing gigs do not want to see your writing resume. Instead, they just want to see a snapshot of your experience. If a potential client asks for a resume, why not give them a one-page sheet that tells of your amazingness?
A potential client will want to see a writer’s resume for two reasons. Either they are old school or they want a deeper look at your education and experience. In both cases, sending your resume is a win. Sending a resume signifies that you follow directions if they ask for one. You might even be the only applicants to send a resume. A good resume takes extra effort, and many writers will be too lazy to apply this extra effort. Kick them out of the competition pool by going the extra mile.
Think about it. If a law firm wants help with their content needs but have never dealt with freelance writers, they are going to approach the hiring process similarly to how they hire attorneys and secretaries.
On the other side, a potential client might need a specific set of experience that cannot be easily summed up in an email. For example, a medical publication might need to see a certain level of education, training, and/or certifications to ensure any content they put out doesn’t fall into a liability risk. If you are an RN or physical therapist assistant, then you already know your schooling and experience are easier to lay out in a resume format than trying to squeeze it all into one paragraph.
In the end, you can avoid job listings that ask for resumes like the plague, or you can create one quickly to keep on hand. Your call.
Compiling Strong Points for Your Resume
If you decide to create a writer resume to have on hand, know that it should look a little different than the resume you used to apply for an in-person job. Your writer’s resume is not a dumping ground for everything you have done in life.
I find it easiest to start a resume by visualizing what my ideal client and job is. If you need a little help, try looking for a few ideal job listings that you would love to have. What types of experience and skills are they asking for? Can you match any of these points?
Take a look at this listing from NerdWallet for an educational writer. They want someone who loves stats, is great at time management, and has experience working for a start-up. These are all points that can be touched upon even if your writing experience is lacking. For example, maybe you were a remote intern for a tech start up or as an assistant to X, you handled many different tasks on a daily basis. The company loves data, so you are going to infuse data wherever possible in your resume. Even if you don’t know if your potential client loves data, numbers and stats help boost your experience. Writing weekly email newsletters for 1,000 is going to shine brighter than writing emails for a group of 50.
Visualizing ideal clients or looking at dream job postings is meant to assist you in the gathering process. It is easy to throw up our hands and say, “I don’t have any writing experience. I shouldn’t even apply.” However, you might have a wealth of relatable experience in other forms. This exercise will help you remember and utilize skills that seem unrelated.
Making Your Resume Shine
Once you have an idea or a list of which job highlights you want to add on your resume, then it is time to craft your work of art. If you have a lot of different publications under your belt, I find it best to group like things together. So instead of me listing each publication as a job entry, I instead put it under the heading of “financial writer” or “copywriter.” For example, I might include all of my finance experience in one chunk and then have another section of experience devoted to feature writing where I will include stats about pieces that were featured on big name sites or garnered over a million views.
Don’t have much writing experience? That’s okay. You probably have other experience that will benefit your dream writing job. For example, are you trying to break into the tech market? If you have experience as an IT analyst, then you are going to be more qualified to write on tech than I am, even though I have more writing experience. The key is to relate your IT skills back to your writing. Your potential client is going to ask, “How does her skills help me?” Knowing the question allows you to shape your answer better.
For the IT professional, you might highlight the fact that you managed over 100 computers a day. This shows you are productive and highly qualified. Instead of sharing how you migrated your company’s computers, maybe you can share that you wrote the internal documents that pushed for the migration and saved your company $X in the process. Point out the times you were able to handle a lot of work, able to work remotely, able to lead, and able to write or edit important IT information. These might be things that you do daily but overlook because they are so second nature to you.
Finally, for individuals without a lot of work experience as a writer and outside of writing, don’t despair. It would be more beneficial for you to build up your career than to tackle a writing resume at this point. Did you visualize or find your dream writing job listing? Great. Print that out and pin it up in your office. This is now your roadmap.
For example, if that NerdWallet posting was your dream job, you would break the listing down into your to-do list. They want experience in writing about college debt and loans, great. Which outlets publish a lot of college debt articles and who do I pitch an article to?
Remember, a freelance writing resume is just another way for you to prove how awesome you are. If you think the job posting is worth it, then take the extra time to send them a polished resume. If you don’t think the posting is worth it, then skip it all together. You don’t want to waste time on ventures that won’t return your investment.
Want to increase your writing productivity? My new freelance writing planner can help you set quarterly and weekly goals to ramp up your output so you can increase your income.