Remember how after 9/11 the airline industry took a nosedive and flight attendants were laid off in droves? I felt for them. After all, I was (and still am) a writer; if I did enough hustling, I could make a living. All I needed was a keyboard and a screen. But those flight attendants needed a plane.
Those of us with the capacity to freelance have more “job security” (among other benefits) than you might think. Yet many of us suffer from Freelancer’s Insecurity because we don’t have “real” jobs. However, especially in the creative arena, companies commonly grow and shrink, disappear and reappear. Employees are hired, then laid off, then hired back as contractors (generally onsite) or freelancers (usually offsite). People know the deal; “freelancer” does not mean “second-class citizen.”
Regardless, whether you’re angling for a salaried gig or digging your indie status, great work is great work, and great work belongs on your resume.
If you’re out and proud as a freelancer, rock on. If you can’t shake the sneaking suspicion that the designation still carries some baggage, reframe yourself as a “consultant.” (You might also consider these wise words from Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso: “I stopped feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, and realized that I actually belonged anywhere I wanted to be.” Free your mind and your career will follow.)
If you’re a salaried employee with some consulting and/or contracting engagements on your resume, one of these configurations will likely fit the bill.
Freelance Brand Strategist, 2008-2010
San Francisco, California
Consulting Creative Director, 2013-2015
Nasty Gal (online apparel retailer), Los Angeles, California
Copywriter (contractor), 2010-2012
Wieden+Kennedy (advertising agency), Portland, Oregon
If you’re a full-time freelancer (or one of those overachievers with a salaried job AND a freelance business), you can do something like this:
Creative Director/Principal, 2006-present
Peggy Olson Creative, New York, New York
Use bullet points thereafter to specify the client and the work you did for them. Something along these lines, from a designer’s resume:
· CONTINUITY: Designed a sufficiently geeky yet broadly accessible corporate identity for a big-data startup funded by Andreessen Horowitz/Battery Ventures.
· UVA MOBILE: Recruited a developer and built a responsive-website prototype in 2 weeks for a new mobile carrier.
· JAMES BRADY: Created identity and website (with swipe gestures for mobile devices) for top architectural photographer; maintained original aspect ratio of photos presented in user-initiated carousel.
If you’ve done a lot of work for a single client, you can insert a heading with the client’s name, then follow with your bullet points. If you’ve done a lot of work for a single client on a single project, you could do something like this:
WILCO – the client
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (gold-certified, Top 20 album) – the project
· Worked closely with singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy, leader of the Grammy-winning rock band Wilco (3.3 million albums sold) on advertising, merchandising and packaging design.
· For the album cover (included in the book “The Greatest Album Covers of All Time),” Jeff and I generated numerous rounds of concept exploration, with me providing options for a visual expression of Wilco’s status as part of Chicago yet standing apart from other Chicago bands.
· A.V. Club said about the cover: “[Tweedy and his art director] wanted something that connected the band to its hometown, so they combed through hundreds of photos … Nothing was working until they saw a picture of Marina City. [The AD] removed the neighboring buildings from the image to keep focus on the towers … Years after the album’s release, Marina City is still called ‘the Wilco towers’ by fans.”
Or invent a completely different format – so long as it’s reader-friendly and you use it consistently.
Even if your resume is ALL freelance work (and I’ve seen some great ones that are), write it up like you would if you’d done it under the auspices of a salaried position. When the work is as smokin’-hot as yours, the business arrangement is WAY beside the point.
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