How to List Freelance Work on Your Resume

How to List Freelance Work on Your Resume
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I’ve worked as a freelancer for more than 5 years. In that time, I’ve had a lot of clients come and go. I’ve also freelanced in various fields, including writing, photography, editing, and graphic design. I wondered, how can I make this amalgamation of work experience look professional and coherent on my resume?

If you’ve got similar questions, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll share what I learned from local construction subcontractors. We’ll also discuss the benefits of acquiring a business license.

Check out this post for more expert tips on creating your freelancer resume.

Condensing Many Experiences into One

If you’re a freelancer in the gig economy, you may get paid by many different entities. For example, in a recent year, I reported income from TextbrokerOcusShutterstock, smaller companies, and individuals. I wondered, should I include all these short-term and overlapping engagements as separate work experience entries on my resume?

The simple answer to that question is no. Hiring managers expect to see no more than three work experience entries on your resume during the past ten years. Listing many short-term gigs may raise red flags, making it appear that you cannot keep a job for any length of time. It can also make your resume look crowded and messy.

Another reason is that in most cases, freelancers are not actually considered employees of the companies they work with. They don’t receive benefits and they are not handled as W2 employees on the company’s taxes.

In fact, freelancers operate more like subcontractors. To find out more, I talked to one. Here’s how subcontracting works within the construction industry.

Take a Lesson from Subcontractors

Subcontracting prevails in the construction industry. A subcontractor is “a person or business firm contracted to do part of another’s work.”

Subcontractors typically own their own businesses. They obtain whatever licenses and insurance they need to do their job, be it plumbing, painting, or something else.

When a larger company “hires” the subcontractor, the subcontractor does not become an employee. 

This is good for the subcontractor’s resume. Rather than listing many short-term employments (for example, building projects lasting only a few months each), they list the experience under their own business name. Their job title might be something like “Owner/Carpenter” or “Owner/Painter.” Then, they can describe all the different skills they use and their accomplishments in the bulleted descriptions. 

Do I Need a Business License?

In order to operate as described above, you may need to register your business. 

Laws regarding the need for a business license vary from place to place. Where I live, for example, a license is not needed if your entrepreneurial pursuits produce less than $3,000 per year in income. At that point, you can apply for a “Minimal Activity License.” Businesses that gross $10,000 or more per year need full-fledged licensure. Additionally, where I live I must register my business with the city, county, and state governments.

You should always check with local authorities to ensure your compliance with local laws.

Maybe you’re afraid of registering your freelance work as a business because of the technicalities and expenses – yearly license renewal fees, business taxes, paperwork, etc. Do the benefits outweigh the hassle?

Yes, they do. When your business is registered, you no longer have to write “Self-Employed” on your resume – a turn-off to some employers. Now, you can list your business name as the company in your work experience list. You can be creative with your position title, adjusting it to best fit the job you are applying to. For example, if you’ll be in management, you might want the title of Owner/Operator. Or you may want to highlight other aspects of business ownership, such as your role as Marketing Specialist, Bookkeeper, Photographer, Social Media Marketer, Logistics Coordinator, Acquisitions Specialist, Computer Technician, etc.

Your freelancer job description can follow this format:

Owner/Content Creator

Star Media | New York, NY

2019 to 2023

● Performed tasks vital to business operations, including budgeting, bookkeeping, marketing, web design, and SEO optimization.

● Created written and graphic blog, social media, and print content for 12 to 20 clients ranging from small businesses to multi-million dollar hotel chains.

● Kept pace with marketing trends in order to provide the best returns on advertising investments. For example, one cosmetic startup sold $1.3 million in products following a $1,500 Facebook ad campaign.

In short, listing your business in this way can be a great avenue for displaying transferable skills, including time management, organization, leadership, customer service, etc.

Key Takeaways

● Freelancers may be tempted to cite each gig separately, but this can result in a messy resume.

● Freelancers can follow the example of subcontractors by listing all gig experiences under their own business.

● Business owners should register and license their businesses in accordance with local laws.

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