As a freelancer, you may feel you don’t need a CV if you gain work through freelancing platforms, your website, or referrals. However, it’s useful to keep a CV as a freelancer even if you don’t send it to clients. There are also some freelance roles—such as contract roles—that require a CV. So, let’s look at why you might need a CV as a freelancer, and what makes a great freelance CV.
Why should you keep a CV as a freelancer?
As we looked at earlier, it’s still worth having a CV and a LinkedIn profile even if you don’t necessarily need them because you don’t submit traditional job applications. And why is that?
The main reason is it enables you keep track of your skills and experience as a freelancer. That way, you can see whether you’re improving, take stock of new skills, and appreciate what you’ve achieved. In short, you can see your progress over time.
It also ensures you don’t forget what you’ve done. When you’re knee-deep in work, it’s easy to forget what you’ve been doing, so keeping an up-to-date CV will help you remember those important projects and skills when you need to sell yourself to clients. For example, when writing a pitch to clients, you can look back over your CV to remind yourself of relevant experience. Likewise, you might need this information when signing up to freelancing platforms that have an application process.
Finally, if you suddenly need to head back to the employed world or take up a part-time employed job for extra income, then you have the information to-hand, rather than wracking your brain to figure out what you did and when.
How do freelance CVs differ from employed CVs?
If you’re the type of freelancer who does contract-based work, then you’re much more likely to need a CV, rather than it being a nice-to-have. In these cases, you might wonder how a freelance CV differs from a traditional, employed CV? Well, you still include the same major sections:
- personal statement
- key skills
- previous work
However, the key difference is in the previous work section, where a traditional CV would read like the history of your job experience over the past few years. Any gaps in that timeline might lead to questions from the interviewer. In a freelance CV, the focus is less on the timeline of your work and more on the skills and experience gained through your work. As such, you don’t need to write a chronological history of your work.
Instead, it’s better to focus on your skills. Use a skills-based template and outline the main skills required for the role, then detail the projects, jobs, or clients you gained these skills through. The focus here often depends on the kind of freelance work you do. For example, a freelance set designer might emphasise the productions they’ve worked on, while an IT contractor might focus on the qualifications gained, and a book editor might highlight the big name authors they’ve worked with.
Think in terms of results
When it comes to writing your CV, it’s tempting to just write down what you did and the skills you have, but the key difference-maker between a CV that bags that client and one that gets ditched is results. This means quantifiable, measurable achievements. For example:
- Reduced build cost on projects by 25% by securing better value contracts.
- Increased sales for client from £1000 to £3000 per week on average through targeted social media advertising.
- Reduced on-site accidents by 40% due to implementing H&S protocols.
Focus on the results you’ve achieved for clients by asking yourself the following questions:
- How did I add value to the project?
- How did I improve the project?
- What quantifiable outcomes did I create for the client?
- Why am I better at what I do than other freelancers?
If you work in freelance roles that involve a team, such as construction, TV, etc., then think about how you work in a team:
- What effect do I have on my team members?
- In the team dynamic, what role do I play?
- Do I come up with ideas? Turns ideas into reality? Keep everyone informed? Steer the team in the right direction? Keep people on track? Ensure deadlines are met?
The basics of freelance CV writing
It should go without saying, but there are some simple rules that if ignored, will land your CV straight in the bin. These might seem glaringly obvious, but when I used to hire people, I saw some absolute horrors… (a six-page, triple-line-spaced CV with a 4-inch border and as much information as you could fit on a postage stamp!) So first things first, get the basics right!
Know your job market. Are you applying for jobs in the UK, the USA, or elsewhere? CV standards vary widely between countries, and a CV in the UK is totally different to the U.S. resume. This guide is for UK-style CVs, so if you’re applying elsewhere, look for a guide specific to your location of choice.
Know your industry. While the standard length for CVs is two pages, this does vary depending on the industry, so check out the standard in your particular industry before making a faux pas.
- Too long? Remove anything not relevant to the job. You can also use nifty tricks such as making your page margins narrower and putting lists of qualifications or training all on one line. Just make sure your CV doesn’t look too cluttered!
- Too short? If you’re new to the world of work, pad out your CV with other experience that demonstrates your skills, such as youth groups, work experience, volunteering, extracurricular activities, and the like.
All the right info in all the right places. The following sections should be included:
- Name: Your CV should be headed with your name in a larger font than the rest of the document so it stands out. You don’t need to include the words Curriculum Vitae or CV, so don’t waste space on them.
- Personal details: At the least, you need to provide a telephone number and an e-mail address; make sure it’s a sensibly named and that your answerphone has a polite message. You don’t need to include your full address, but include your city or town so they know where you’re generally based. You don’t need to include your date of birth. Don’t include your gender, height, weight, shoe size (yes, I’ve seen this in CVs), or a photo unless you’re applying for a modelling or acting job.
- Personal profile: This should be a few lines written in the third person not the first person i.e. “An impeccable timekeeper” not “I’m always on time”. It should concisely sum up your best qualities and unique selling points. Don’t be generic.
- Key skills: This should demonstrate how you have the the key skills required of the role. Include the jobs, projects, or clients you gained the skills through.
- Training: This section is for any relevant job-related training you’ve undertaken and the year you completed it, such as professional qualifications, trade bodies you’re registered with, or technical qualifications you’ve achieved.
- Education: Include your education history, levels, grades, and the year the qualifications were achieved, but don’t take up too much space with this info.
- Additional information: Only include relevant information here that might make you stand out. I stress the word relevant. Don’t tell them you’re married with three pugs and you love Beyonce.
The Visuals. In the same way as you physically dress to impress, your CV needs to look equally stand-out. So here’s a few tips…
- Font. Gone are the days when everybody used Times New Roman, and you can make your CV look more appealing using a different font. Try to match your font to the type of role.
- Font size. Depending on how much information you’re including, use font size 10-12 for the body text, 12-14 for the section headers, and around 18-20 for your name.
- Styles. Use a mixture of bold, italics, and underline to make the sections headings stand out, but don’t overdo it.
- Lists. Make use of a mixture of paragraphs and bullet point lists to break up the information and keep it visually interesting.
Got any great freelance CV tips? Comment below or get in touch!