Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Resumes: Do Freelancers Need Them?

I came across a post on Words On the Page about resumes. Namely: do freelancers need them? Lori expands the definition of "resume" to include websites, brochures, and other documents about your business and writing background--but I'm going to stick with the traditional definition of a resume here. And I'm going to take a middle-of-the-road tack on this. My answer is, pretty much, no. Usually not. Until someone asks for one.

I got through most of my freelance writing career without an official resume. I had an unofficial list of clients, which I would send people whenever they asked who I'd worked for. And I had a work-related resume that talked about my experience before freelance writing. I sometimes sent that along with the client list. This seemed to work fairly well, especially since I was hardly ever asked for these things. Most people were content to see the samples on my website.

If you're applying to jobs online or working with a creative temp agency rather than sending out postcards and marketing yourself in other ways, then yes, you will be asked for a resume--although not always. Some people still just want to see samples. But I think that when it comes to job postings, most people who don't have a lot of experience hiring freelancers just ask for the resume because that's what they're used to doing for all positions.

The thing is, a resume might be useful in showing a prospect what your history is, but it doesn't show him what he really wants to know--can you write? Does he like your style? Do you have experience really satisfying clients? You can show that much more effectively on your website with samples and testimonials.

The bottom line, though, is that when you're marketing yourself proactively, you generally choose what to show prospects--you may get a few who ask to see a resume, but if they see the samples on your site and your testimonials, that usually provides them with the information they really want when they ask for a resume. If the prospect is the person controlling the terms of what they see (as in job posts), you'll get asked for a resume more often--usually because that's what the person hiring is used to asking for.

I do think you should have a resume on hand for when people want one. But you'll probably not be asked for one often, and it's more important to put time and energy into your website.


Mike Chen said...

I'm always at a loss when potential clients ask for a resume. I explain that as a freelancer, I hardly ever update mine and my portfolio/references work much better.

I actually did this a few weeks ago. She asked for my resume anyway because they have an HR department. I agreed with the disclaimer that it was VERY old. How old? I hadn't updated it since 2008!

Nice to see this blog is up and running again. :)

Unknown said...

Jen, I actually changed my tune thanks to another freelancer. It's probably no more difficult to explain than this - If you need a resume, you need a resume.

Clear as mud, huh? :)

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Thanks, Mike! It's good to be back. Yeah, it's worth it to take the time to update it if you have people asking for it, I think. I update mine maybe...once a year?

@Lori: Eh, it doesn't take long to write one. True, you won't need it much--but it doesn't hurt to have one on hand when you do need it.

freelance boy said...

When working for a freelance site like Elance or oDesk, you never need a resume. Your profile on these sites can contain all the information. And it certainly has a better impact. I do have a resume that i use when i apply to jobs. And frankly, i don't know when was the last time i checked what was in it! It mostly contains my social profiles, freelance profiles and a few sample articles. I still send the same resume to clients when applying to jobs.