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How to Write a Freelancer Resume That Wins Contracts

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Usually, when we talk about creating a resume, it’s within the context of using it to land a job. Well, for the freelancing mom, a resume is a marketing tool that helps potential clients understand what you’re about and what they can expect to get from you.

Every resume has a job. The job of the freelancer’s resume is to get you to the negotiation table with clients who need your services. In order to get there, you have to learn how to build a resume that directly addresses the needs of your prospective clients and instills in them the confidence that you can help them get things done.

So, in this post, I want to walk you through the steps you can take to build a targeted, branded freelancer resume.

You’ll Need More Than One Freelancer Resume. Here’s Why…

“Did she just say more than one resume?” Yes, ma’am! I did. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume. Every job position, every gig, and every project has its own set of competencies and qualifications candidates must meet in order to deliver the right outcomes. That’s true even for gigs where the duties are similar.

You Have to Match the Right Skills + the Right Behaviors for Each Job

A client is going to look at your skill set, but they’ll also want to know about your behaviors:

  • Are you a fast learner?
  • Do you complete your work?
  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Do you finish in a timely manner?
  • Are you flexible?
  • Can you be trusted to do larger projects? Or are you going to complain about your workload?
  • Do you need a lot of hand-holding?
  • Do you know how to prioritize tasks and juggle multiple things? Find ways to get more done with fewer resources?
  • Will you offer your recommendations if there’s a better way to do something?

All of this matters because equally as important as your actual skill set are your behaviors – how you act on the job. Behaviors are a HUGE part of your ability to get things done and play well with others. This is true of freelancers as well as employees.  

Clients and Recruiters Will Search Your Resume to Find the Specific Keywords Related to THAT Job

How to Write a Freelancer Resume That Wins Contracts Pinterest pin

When you bid on a freelance project, there’s a good chance your resume will undergo an initial screening process.

Right now, my inbox is full of resumes as I’m looking at candidates to fill positions in the marketing department of the agency where I work. I published the job description to several job boards, including Indeed and Upwork.

Indeed has a feature called “deal-breaker” that keeps back any resumes from people who don’t meet certain criteria (like a certain number of years of social media experience).

Both Indeed and Upwork recommend candidates based on the keywords (or buzzwords) they use in their resumes to describe their skills and experience. If certain important keywords are missing from the applicant’s experience, bio, or cover letter, the platforms drop their resumes down to the bottom of the digital pile.

Some recruiters use software to do this. The software essentially combs resumes for certain keywords and phrases.  For instance, an attorney using applicant-screening software to narrow down the candidate pool for a Legal Assistant position may use the words paralegal, contract negotiations and, real estate as key search terms. Resumes that have those words will make it to the next round of review; resumes that don’t have those words probably won’t.

For me, you can get my attention by using words like social media manager, influencer marketing, SEO, and demand generation. But all of those skills are referenced in the job posts, so I totally expect applicants to address the skills I asked for when they submit their resumes and cover letters.

Clients and Employers Look at Certain Areas of Your Freelance Resume First

TheLadders.com released a report in 2012 called “Keeping an Eye on Recruiter Behavior.” According to the report, recruiters will spend less than 10 seconds reviewing resumes the first time around. What are they looking for? Relevance. And they focus 80% of their time on the following areas:

  • Name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Education

They spend the remaining 20% (1 to 2 seconds) pattern-matching position-related keywords. 

When you think about your current resume, bio, cover letter, or social profile, can you honestly say six seconds is enough to make your case?

Branding and targeting your resume gives you the best chance of landing the job you want because a targeted resume does three things very well:

  1. It presents potential clients and employers with the functional and behavioral qualities they seek in a candidate 
  2. It provides a detailed chronicle of your career achievements and professional value, and 
  3. It compels the client to call you in for an interview 

So, my goal with this post is to show you how to:

  • Give yourself an advantage by submitting a targeted resume that reflects a strong personal brand
  • Craft your resume specifically for the projects you want to land
  • Include the most common keywords for that position
  • Highlight both your behavioral and your functional abilities

7 Things You Must Do with Your Freelancer Resume (if you plan on making any money in this business)

During the Industrial Age, “assembly line thinking” was pervasive. This thinking went a little something like this: I come in, I do my job and I go home. As long as an employee performed the functions listed in the job description, she was doing that which was expected of her. The focus was on functional competencies.

Functional competencies (also called technical competencies and hard skills) are the specific job-related skills you need to have in order to perform your daily job duties.

Today, recruiters recognize a candidate’s work patterns, personality traits, and behavioral attributes are just as important to her productivity and success in a position as her functional skills. As recruiters grapple with the ongoing shortage of candidates with the right functional skills for a job, many of them have decided it’s more beneficial to create the workforce they need rather than wait for the perfect candidate to come along. Companies are finding contractors (like freelancers) and employees with the right behavioral competencies then training them in the functional skills they need to be successful in their new positions. 

Step 1: Inventory Your Skills

So, the first step in this process is to make a list of your skills. I actually wrote a lengthy post on how to figure out your market value. The point of this step is so that you can get back in touch with your natural abilities as well as any skills you’ve worked to develop over the years.

Step 2: Compare Your Skills to the Skills Prospective Clients Want to See

If you look at enough job postings, you can get a pretty good idea of the types of hard and soft skills companies are looking to gain when they bring in freelancers to do handle certain projects. So, this step is about doing your due diligence. Check out job postings and job descriptions of similar positions to find the skills that are repeatedly requested from different companies.

Take a look at the words I bolded from the different job descriptions I pulled from Google of open positions in the Atlanta area for marketing assistants (here’s the link to my search). See the similarities?

Company: Voice Atlanta
Marketing Assistant Responsibilities:
• Collaborating with the marketing manager, internal teams, clients, and partners on marketing strategy.
Preparing, formatting, and editing a range of documents.
• Organizing market research.
• Working closely with the sales and marketing department.
Creating marketing materials such as white papers, case studies, and presentations.
Giving presentations.
• Maintaining a marketing database.
• Helping identify marketing trends and key opportunities for innovation.
• Providing administrative support to the marketing and sales team.
• Learning and working with various types of software for digital marketing.
• General office duties.
• Creating and interpreting a variety of reports.
Company: Telemundo Atlanta
Sales/Marketing Assistant Responsibilities:
• Oversee and maintain marketing commitments with advertisers and organizations
Create and maintain sales packages, 1-sheets, sales materials
• Assist GM/GSM, Executive Team, and AE’s with daily sales duties and deliverables
• Serve as a liaison between sales and production teams
• Assist in creating and fully executing existing and new non-traditional revenue opportunities
• Maintain Station marketing/promotions such as, but not limited to: Events, marketing campaigns, radio/print advertising, website, watch & wins, social media, on-air promos, etc.
• To assist with any and all aspects of the station as needed, as teamwork is encouraged.

Please send resume to jobs@telemundoatlanta (dot) com.
Company: Green Fin Technologies
Marketing Assistant Responsibilities:
• Creating and maintaining social media profiles across various platforms (FB, Twitter, IG, Pinterest, Houzz, etc.) including copywriting, posting, reporting, and responding to fans.
• Track, analyze, optimize, report on social media
• Create concepts, ideas statement, scripts, and copy for digital content, videos, and product releases.
• Develop internal and external marketing communications through e-mail blasts and company newsletters.
• Design online and printed marketing materials.
• Ability to develop creative social media strategies and execute new and compelling marketing tactics.
• In-depth knowledge of social media platforms/reporting tools, graphic software, and basic SEO knowledge. Experience with video promotion a plus.
• Ability to understand social media and quantify results. Must be able to create monthly dashboard reports and include insights and recommendations.
• Strong writing and proofreading skills a must; impeccable spelling, grammar, punctuation.
• Excellent project management skills with the ability to handle multiple campaigns simultaneously work independently and have excellent personal organization skills and high attention to detail.

Interested candidates with requested to click on the “Apply Now” button to process their application or send their CV to hr@greenfintech.com.
Company: Robert Half
Marketing Assistant Responsibilities:
Interested candidates should apply for this job in the CPG Manufacturing industry with a client of The Creative Group; the role is for a candidate with strong organizational and communication skills to support the Marketing, Account Management teams, and Designers.

You will succeed in this position if you can work closely with agency partners, performing day-to-day administrative duties, scheduling and coordinating marketing projects, and other specified marketing functions as needed. This is a job for a detail-oriented candidate looking to grow their career in the creative space who has demonstrated the ability to work well in a fast-paced environment.

This short-term temporary-to-full-time employment opportunity is based in the Savannah, Georgia area. How you will make an impact
– Create research ideas and plans to assist the account management team
Amend and rewrite annual marketing and media calendars
– In addition to handling existing contact lists, you will assist with identifying new companies and producing contact lists using networking tools.
– Keep all marketing collateral and press coverage organized via tracking, filing, and archiving
– Build and manage advertising campaigns
  • All four positions want someone who can handle multiple tasks and pivot as needed.
  • They all need someone who’s creative, can provide administrative support to both the creative team AND the sales team.
  • At least three of these positions were looking for a candidate who understands what they’re doing well enough to produce periodic reports and make recommendations for ways to get better results.
  • They also want a marketing assistant who is smart enough to recognize new opportunities and spot trends as they arise and who can mobilize to leverage those opportunities.

So, if I were going for a position like this one, I would focus on talking up my past success as a writer and marketer. I would also play-up my ability to organize and prioritize tasks and how I thrive in the fast-paced chaos that is digital marketing. I would talk about my social media chops, even to companies that didn’t ask.

The idea here is to look at a few of the open positions in your field (aim to check out positions in different industries) and find out what employers are looking for AND WHAT LANGUAGE THEY ARE USING TO ADDRESS THEIR NEEDS. Use that same language in your resume and the introductory letter because trust me when I say they’re scanning the cover letters and resumes to see if you mention the two or three or five skills you MUST have to perform in the position.

Step 3: If You’re Not an Exact Match, Find the Gold In Even the Most Mundane Work History

Landing work these days isn’t just about having the right skill set. It’s about showcasing the results you have delivered. That means you have to be able to quickly tell employers and recruiters what you can do for them. I call this finding the gold. 

There’s “gold” in every job position you ever held, whether you headed your own company or mowed the grass at Nelson’s Shonuff Lawn Care.  Let’s say “all you did” was cut the grass, get the money from the customer, and load the equipment back in the truck.  Each of those three tasks seems pretty straightforward, but if you know how to find it, you can pull brand-building gold out of those three duties. 

Actual DutyThe Gold / Resume Speak
I just cut the grassLawnmowers only fit one person so you: “Worked independently as well as collaboratively with other team members.”

You couldn’t remember what the boss said all the time so you: “Implemented a checklist to inspect completed work, making sure the results met company standards.”

Your boss was a pain in the butt so you: “Delivered what was required, always on time.”
It probably rained some days, so you: “Stepped in as one of only two on-call team member for flexible shifts.”
I just collected the money from our customersYou didn’t want to lose your job so you: “Consistently provided quality service to meet and exceed customer expectations.”

You didn’t want the customers to be afraid of you so you: “Established positive relationships with both customers and prospects.”

Your boss had strict orders and he:  “Assigned a list of responsibilities for which I strived to deliver exceptional results.”
I just put away the equipment… Your boss would kill you if you messed something up so you: “Followed company policies and safety practices to use and maintain lawn tools and equipment.”

In order to get the equipment back on the truck, you had the: “Ability to lift and carry 150 pounds.”

You may be used to thinking in terms of the duties you performed, but as you can see from the job descriptions above, you have to speak in terms of the value you delivered. If someone paid you to do it – even if it was a little job – that payment is proof that what you do has value in the market. 

When it comes to winning freelance contracts, always think in terms of deliverables and craft your resume to showcase the results you can deliver.

  

Finding the gold is not about omitting the challenges you faced on the job or whitewashing your experiences. Any good hiring manager will ask you to talk about your failures alongside your successes. There is a need for both in the business world.

Finding the gold is about using your good experiences to demonstrate what you delivered to past clients and employers. It’s also about positioning your negative experiences to highlight the strategies you’ve learned that will keep you from failing in the same way again. New failures are acceptable. Repeated failures, not so much.

 Step 4: Highlight What You Can Quantify

I often tell people when they craft their resumes, they need to deal in what I call “quantifiables” – things that can be counted and measured.  How much? How many? How long?  Those are some of the questions you want your freelancer resume to be able to answer on your behalf. 

This is a little easier to do when you work in sales because your performance and progress are based on the numbers you produce.  If you work in another kind of business – let’s say as a cashier at the grocery store – your position is more service-focused than sales-focused. 

But think about this: If you work at your local grocery store for two years and over the course of that two-year period you have three separate days where you just couldn’t win with your customers, you can measure your success as a customer service representative.  Two years working 4 days a week for 52 week is 416 days.  If you only had problems on 3 of those days, you have a 99% satisfaction rating (3 days / 416 days is .007, or 1%). 

If during that time your drawer never came up short by more than a penny or two, you can safely say you deliver results with 100% accuracy.  So it’s not so hard to quantify things after all.   

Step 5: Design Your Resume

Canva. I know the old way of doing things was that resumes were to be .txt files that any Commodore 64 hooked up to a dot-matrix printer could read, but you’re better off adding design elements to your resume, saving it as a PDF (instead of a Word doc… like it’s the 90s) and send that to prospective clients. Keep a plain version of your resume on-hand, but if a client doesn’t specifically request a text-only resume, it’s better to show a little bit of personality and creativity (especially if you’re going for creative projects) that will allow a potential client to give your resume the once-over, find what they need and shortlist you to move on to the next round of interviews.

Canva has some really great-looking resume designs (like the ones below) and all you’ll have to do is drop your info into the template. Some of these templates are premium so they aren’t included as part of your freemium level Canva subscription. But you don’t have to shell out big bucks since the free templates look pretty great, too.

Step 6: Include or Link Out to Your Portfolio

You’ll also need to give prospective clients access to your finished work in the form of URLS, social media handles, and/or online portfolios. Your portfolio may be scattered all over the web. It may be housed on your website, or it may be better to provide clients with at-handles to social media accounts you manage or that you’ve created the visuals for, or maybe it would make more sense to send prospective clients links to posts you’ve written or websites you’ve built.

Step 7: Invite Prospective Clients to Find Your Work Online

We’re living in a time in history when one team member’s uncouth Facebook post from 2015 could compel people to cancel an entire business. Customers expect companies to be as committed to social issues as they are to their profit margins. That means brands can hardly afford to bring on a freelancer who spends her free time bad-mouthing curvy women or stereotyping large groups of people. So, your best defense against the “trust threat” is to make your online presence transparent and easy to find. This is particularly true for Western service providers.

So…

Make sure you have social media accounts that are publicly available and include your social media handles on your freelancer resume. And, of course, you want to make sure those publicly available accounts are populated with content that builds your brand. ?