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Freelance Resume: What Is It?
Or how to make yourself visible to clients on websites with freelance projects
If you have read my previous freelance related hub, you'd know I am working primarily on oDesk - so no surprise my advice is based on that website functionality alone. However, the key principles I talk about are valid for any other platform, so read on…
What a freelance resume is.
Truth is, successful freelancers rarely apply for jobs - they are most often being invited to interviews regardless their availability. So their resume isn't the piece of personal and professional info you send out neatly arranged and formatted, hoping to get noticed and if you’re lucky - hired. Your strength is in the good profile on the freelance websites. It's crucial to build a good profile, especially if you are just starting. Why? Well, you are nobody - no one has heard of you, no one knows you exist, no one will ever ask for you... Tough, I know - been there! But your profile is the only thing your potential clients will see and you better make it count!
Start with the profile picture.
It's common sense but let me say it - your profile picture should be professional. Depending on your profession, different "rules" may apply - e.g. for an artist it's ok to have a black-and-white picture in front of a graphite wall, but for a marketing manager it's better if you have somewhat serious headshot pic. In any case, some valid-for-all notes would be no prom pictures, no beach bikini photos, no i-love-my-dog shots, keep it professional - headshot, hint of a smile, cheerful picture would be great.
Think your byline through.
How would you like it if you're looking for a freelancer to hire and all you see is "David - I love to work", "Michael - hire me, you won't regret it", "Elane T. - new to oDesk, give me a chance", and so on. What is the single common thing between these? They are absolutely useless. Your byline is what makes the first impression to your future clients and speaks to them; it is what they make their mind upon if they should click "Read more" or just dismiss you. Keep it short and sweet, but include as much info as possible. E.g.
"David - freelance creative writer, technical background, business executive experience";
"Michael - graphic designer, 3 years logo design experience, website creation, team player";
"Elane T. - bilingual translator -Spanish and English, technical writing, creative writing, blogging, SEO writing"
And so on - you get the idea ;)
Remember that keywords do matter - when clients search for contractors, they usually search with key skills they need.
Complete your profile objective.
This is your initial presentation. Besides the cover letters you will be sending for each particular job post, your profile objective speaks for yourself - what kind of person you are, what professional values and ethics you have, what objectives you have for freelancing your skills, and so on. It is very important that you write this specifically for you and not just copy-paste someone else's objective. I am saying this because I have been a "victim of plagiarism many many times and I know for a fact that oDesk (and other sites, too) take seriously this issue and in case of complaints, the contractors who have copy-pasted other people's materials are being warned and some even shut down for plagiarism.
Don't tell the story of your life but do give enough details about yourself, about your working habits, about the reasons why you got into freelancing, what kind of work you are good at and what you are looking for in your clients. It counts. If you present yourself professionally through your profile objective, the clients are more likely to further contact you and explore opportunities for working with you.
Include at least one item in your portfolio section.
In oDesk there is a special place for you to upload materials and samples of your work - whether it is design, or coding, or writing materials, or whatever you are doing. It lends credibility to your persona and gives the potential clients to fall in love with your work and style despite the lack of reviews in the specific freelance website.
Trivial but needed - professional experience and education sections.
There are people who insist on hiring only people who have certain kind of education and/or experience in a certain niche. So remember to complete this section, too. No need to say what kind of secondary school you went to (unless it is some kind of special talent school, of course) but do include high school, university, specialty courses, etc. Include also your professional experience in different fields - freelancing or not. It is important that you don’t just list N schools and M jobs you have done but also share details about the subjects you have taken in school, tasks and responsibilities you have had during previous employments. If possible, you can hint specific skills you've acquired as direct result of a job - e.g. as a travel guide of large groups of people, you have developed excellent time managements and organizational skills.
Add some practical skills, too.
oDesk have recently introduced a "centralized" system of skills - e.g. you start typing "writing" and it will suggest you include different types of writing - creative, technical, blog, etc. This allows all contractors to be reviewed based on defined skills and not be mislead by interpretations. Also, you have a limit of 10 skills you can include so choose wisely - decide what you really want to do and include only the most relevant skills on your profile.
Do relevant skill tests, and a lot of them!
If there is such thing as a freelance resume, maybe these skills tests are the most important part of it. Being a newbie with no reviews and no track record on oDesk (or any other website), the test results are the only thing that shows the potential clients that you know your stuff (at least in theory). I promise you the tests are good - maybe too theoretical at times, but if you’re not a specialist - it will show in your result. And if you are a professional in your field - it will show, too. Don't do all kind of tests though - for instance, if you are a graphic designer, there's no need for you to take the English Sentence Structure Test (for obvious reasons, I think). One or two English related tests are enough to somewhat show you know English since most probably this will be the language you will communicate in with your clients (English vocabulary, English spelling test, and similar) but the more important tests are those which relate to your niche and expertise.
Last but not least - your profile rate.
Many people fall into the trap of underestimating their labor and put too low rate on their profiles. First, remember that the profile rate is what the clients will invite you at and you can always adjust your rate when applying to job posts depending on the difficulty or length of jobs. Second, your profile rate will help you position yourself as a freelancer who values his skills and work and wants to work with clients who feel the same way. Never let the price be your leading strength because I promise you - there will always be someone out there that is willing to work for less. Let the added value and the quality of work is what clients choose you for. Do your research on oDesk (or the specific site you are building your freelance resume at), see what work is offered at what rate, look around for successful freelancers at your niche and see how they do it. Learn from other people's success and you will succeed to. And remember that copy-paste is not the way to learn and definitely - not the way to success.
If you are ready, register at oDesk now and start building your freelance resume!
And remember to tell me in the comments if you managed to reach 100% completeness of your profile ;)