Improve your freelancer's CV
There are differences between freelancer’s CVs and the normal bog-standard variety you were told about at school. Here are some tips and answers to commonly asked questions about how to improve your freelancer CV.
Focus on skills, not chronology
Those standard CV writing lessons always tell you to put the most recent job first, but as a freelancer it’s more important to outline your skills and relevant experience – especially as you’ll probably have several projects on at one go. You can do this by listing each skill with a project as evidence, or listing the most relevant projects with the skills you developed. Be prepared to change things around depending on the client - this will help you stand out from the crowd.
Keep it down to one page, two at most
When you’re starting out, it’s common to worry your CV looks empty and over-compensate by adding lots of information that’s not strictly relevant, or just using loads of words as padding. Have faith that a one-page CV that shows of your skills and experience succinctly is going to appeal to employers more than a long ramble about winning the art prize in year 9.
Quantify your achievements
If you contributed to adding sales, reducing costs, improving traffic then whenever possible, use figures to prove your achievements – for example, ‘drove up traffic by 40%’, ‘reduced wastage by 10%’. If you worked on a large scale project, prove it – eg ‘I migrated a website used by 45m people’.
Use the right language
- The type of language you use on your CV will dictate how others perceive you – and that’s all important, because CVs are the ultimate first impression.
- Use active statements - ‘I made’ ‘I wrote’ ‘I directed’ and avoid the passive tense (‘this film was directed by me’.)
- It might feel like playing business-jargon Bingo, but (correctly!) using some of the words below will help you professionalise your CV:
- Verbs: to drive forward, to develop, to create, to inform, to resolve, to solve, to initiate, to innovate, to expand, to be responsible for
- Adjectives: creative, compelling, innovative, driven, strategic, tenacious, flexible, responsive, engaging, collaborative, professional, incisive, results-focused.
And here’s one useful word you might not have come across: ‘Demonstrable’, as in, ‘I have demonstrable experience of working with others/building websites/producing music.’ A good CV is all about showing evidence of your skills and experience and proving your abilities, but it gets repetitive if you just use ‘show’ all the time (as in, ‘I can show evidence of working across multiple communications channels).
Though the types of projects you’ve worked on are more important than anything else, a close second is who you’ve worked for. Focus on getting any big names as close to the top of your CV as you can so they catch the eye. Some common CV questions:
Should I add testimonials from clients?
This is unusual, partly because you want to keep your CV as short as possible. The best place for testimonials is on your website/portfolio.
What about an ‘about me’ bit at the beginning?
If you work in an industry where who you are and your personality type is important (for example, acting, or events management) then it makes sense to add a couple of lines about you at the top of your CV. But for other jobs, like web development, who you are is less important than your skillset, so that should come first.
Should I add a picture to my CV?
Photos on CVs are a no-no in the UK (unless you’re an actor). This is because it’s so hard to get them right, even if you’re a selfie-expert, and because legally they can’t be taken into account when making a decision about whether the hire you.
Is there any point in uploading my CV to job sites?
It can be useful to upload your CV to specific networking sites for your industry – and there are some industries where you actually HAVE to do this – but you’re most likely to get better results by proactively approaching a client and a tailoring your CV just for them.
Should I add my professional accreditation, if I have it?
In some industries, you have to be accredited to work – for example, being an accountant – and you should certainly put your accreditation on your CV. In others, professional accreditation is only useful if it’s recognised. For example, if you’re a copy editor with a National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) you’ll have to explain to anyone except other journalists what that really means. You should still add it to your CV though.