Millions of people have entered the freelance market within the last few years, some supplementing their full-time income with side gigs and others replacing their W-2 employment entirely. This raises an important question that can influence your future career prospects: does freelance work belong on a resume? And if so, how should it be listed?
Whether you work on freelance projects occasionally or you’re fully self-employed as a freelancer, showcasing these accomplishments on your resume can help you position yourself as a specialist and show prospective employers how you can add value.
Should you put freelance work on a resume?
In a word, yes! You should absolutely put freelance work on your resume, provided that it’s relevant to the type of employment you’re seeking now or plan to seek in the future.
Your freelance work experience can demonstrate useful skills that a client or employer may be looking for. Freelance employment also requires a certain degree of self-sufficiency, so putting it on your resume can call attention to these valued qualities.
Why you should include freelance work on your resume
Showcase relevant skills
Freelance work is just as valuable as W-2 employment for building your skill set, if not more so. Giving it dedicated placement on your resume can demonstrate your proficiency and help a hiring manager understand the breadth of your experience.
Demonstrate your enthusiasm
There’s no question that striking out as a freelancer takes gumption. By including your freelance experience on your resume, you’ll highlight this passion to prospective employers. This can be especially helpful if you’re switching careers and want to show that you’ve already taken steps to make entry into your desired field.
Convey desirable traits
Being a successful freelancer requires motivation, discipline and the ability to work independently. It also forces you to hone your time management and communication skills. All of these are desirable traits employers look for when assessing candidates, so it pays to include them on your resume.
Close employment gaps
If you have gaps in your work history, noting side hustles like freelance work can show employers how you remained active and kept your skills sharp while you were job searching or taking a break from full-time employment.
How to add freelance work on a resume
1. Put it in the proper place
First, decide where your freelance work will be positioned within your resume.
This is easy if you’re using a chronological (also called reverse-chronological) resume layout in which experience is listed in order starting with the most recent and working backward. Simply insert your freelance projects according to their date.
If you freelanced at the same time you were working another job, list the position with the more recent start date first.
If you’re using a different resume format, like a functional resume, insert your freelance experience in the section it’s most closely related to, like technical experience or project management.
2. Give yourself a job title
You may not be an employee, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job title. Your title should be reflective of the work you performed to help employers quickly get a handle on your specialty, like ‘social media marketing manager’ or ‘bookkeeper.’
3. List the dates of your work
If you worked on a single freelance project, list the assignment’s start and end dates. If you’ve been completing various freelance work for a long time, begin with the date you started and use ‘Present’ for the end date.
4. Provide client names
Including the names of the clients you’ve worked for can help build your credibility, especially if you have a track record with some high-profile firms. Just make sure your contract with them doesn’t include any stipulations that you have to keep your relationship confidential.
We’ll talk more about how to cite freelance clients in the Examples section below.
5. Detail key responsibilities
6. Highlight noteworthy achievements
Encapsulate how your work made a measurable impact for your clients. To build upon the website development responsibilities we drafted a moment ago, you might add achievements like ‘contributed to 50% year-over-year growth in website traffic’ or ‘implemented UX improvements that reduced bounce rate by 26%.’
Including freelance work on a resume – examples
There are a few different ways to list freelance work on your resume.
The first way works well if you’re freelancing for a single company. List your position, noting that it’s a freelance job, and list the client where you’d typically put the employer’s name, like this:
Graphic designer (freelance) – Westchester Publishing Company, June 2020 to July 2023
- Created a wide range of design materials to support book launches, including but not limited to fliers, promotional posters, signage, social media graphics, website elements, and more
- Supported the in-house design team on urgent projects by turning around last-minute requests in a timely manner
- Developed the winning cover art concept for A Time For Justice, which was the client’s top-selling release of 2022
The second way to list freelance work on your resume works best if you freelance for multiple clients. List ‘freelance’ or ‘self-employed’ in place of an employer name. If you wish to showcase some of your noteworthy clients, these can be included in your bullet points. See below:
Public relations specialist – Freelance, August 2019 to present
- Strategize and execute public relations campaigns for clients in the hospitality industry, including Best Western and Royal Caribbean Cruises
- Secure media placements for clients in outlets including The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and Conde Nast Traveler
- Ensure a timely and coordinated response to interview requests
- Develop talking points and assist in media coaching for company executives
Additional tips for adding freelance work to a resume
Consider your career goals
It’s always a best practice to customize your resume for the job you want, and it’s no different when adding freelance work to your resume. For example, are you looking for full-time employment or more freelance gigs? Do you want to take on more responsibility on the same kinds of projects you’ve been working on, or shift into a different type of work? Consider these goals when choosing what achievements to showcase and what skills to zero in on.
Add clients to references
Your resume is a great starting point to win the attention of a hiring manager, but a satisfied customer can make an even more compelling case. So, when you successfully complete a freelance project, be sure to ask the client if you can use them as a reference when applying for future jobs.
Whether you want to use your freelance work as a jumping-off point for a new career or you dream of building your own freelance empire, a strong resume can help you get there. To learn more about getting started as a freelancer, check out these posts: