The Freelance Artist Resume: Pitfalls & Pizzazz
Of all professions, the career of the freelance artist may be the most challenging to market tightly in resume form. While traditional employees typically work in ~12 roles within a lifetime, freelancers accumulate, on average, 27 clients per six-month period, making it difficult to capture their full work experience succinctly.
The freelancer’s tall pile of overlapping gigs can give the false appearance that the artist bounces from job to job without an overarching purpose. Worse, a series of short-term gigs could alarm some HR managers who might think the freelancer is not reliable enough to hold down steady work.
To sidestep these potential landmines, there are several ways to package your freelance artist resume to communicate your skills and accomplishments in a cogent, impressive, and tidy manner.
The five freelance artist resume strategies this article covers are as follows:
- Use your summary to shape the narrative.
- Segment freelance work under a section header.
- Foreground your business in job headings.
- List business development and collaborative skills in your bullets and Expertise section.
- Quantify your creative outputs in your bullets.
Hmm, where to start? Ah, yes:
Use Your Summary to Shape the Narrative
The summary section of a resume is the perfect place to explain that you are a freelancer and not a devoted job hopper. In this section, begin with a value proposition statement to list the combination of your years of experience, soft skills, industry knowledge, and education that differentiate you from other applicants. Here’s how that might look:
Versatile freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing and 9 years of experience working in remote environments both independently and in collaboration with external teams. Published novelist and award-winning poet with expert-level knowledge of grammar, mechanics, and style. Cross-channel social media maven, responsible for driving year-over-year subscriber growth across platforms through data-driven and inventive digital marketing strategies.
A summary like the one above will immediately frame the job experiences that follow as freelance gigs or contracts rather than short-term employment roles.
Segment Freelance Work Under a Section Header
After the Summary section, another tricky section for freelancers is Experience. For freelancers, the Experience section can appear as a tangled mess since a moonlighting artist might have concurrent professional and freelance experience.
To overcome this hurdle and further highlight your experience as a freelancer, you can separate these experiences into a “Freelance Experience” or “Consulting Experience” section. Then, list your freelance roles in reverse chronological order.
Place your professional experiences under a separate resume category called, you guessed it, “Professional Experience.”
Foreground Your Business in Job Headings
Now, it’s time to organize the content under the “Freelance Experience” section. The most obvious way to list your contracts would be to post each client as a separate job heading, as in:
Freelance Contributing Writer, The Reach, New York, NY (2018 – Present)
- Wrote 3 articles per week for print publication with a reach of 150,000 subscribers.
- Researched expert articles to inform coverage of health and wellness beat.
- Consulted with in-house editor to pitch, draft, and schedule coverage.
Freelance Editor, The Muse, Chicago, IL (2017 – Present)
- Edited 20 articles per month for online publication in the pop culture category.
- Served as a liaison between managing editor and 25 freelance writers.
Editorial Consultant, Ashland University Press, New York, NY (2016 – 2020)
- Edited academic manuscripts in consultation with in-house editorial staff.
- Researched photo permissions for 5 reference books per year.
As you start to accumulate numerous overlapping clients, it may become unwieldy to list each contract separately. Instead of presenting all of your creative roles—such as films, articles, editing gigs, or paintings sold—as distinct job headlines, another option is to subsume all of these gigs under your business title.
If you are a freelancer, you may not realize that you are also a business owner. You are the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer, or executive video producer of your LLC, consulting company, or sole proprietorship, depending on how to prepare your taxes.
Here’s how one such job headline could read:
Founder/Editor-in-Chief, The En Dash Editorial Services, New York, NY (2018 – Present)
If you lack a business name, you could use a similar format but highlight your sole proprietor status. Following the headline, write a quick italicized summary of the services that the business offers and your overarching role within your company. As an example:
Sole Proprietor/Freelance Writer, New York, NY (2018 – Present)
Founded sole proprietorship focused on delivering pre-publication manuscript reviews to amplify writers of color. Specializing in sensitivity reviews, line editing, developmental editing, and ghostwriting services to novice writers. Developed business from conception, driving growth from zero to 500+ clients in five years through cross-channel social media marketing.
This summary allows you to shape the narrative about your freelance work into a coherent and unified account of your full-range services.
Now, instead of listing separate freelance work as individual job headlines within the resume, you can write bullets under this job heading that name your primary clients and shape the reader’s understanding of your big-picture accomplishments as a freelancer.
- List business development and collaborative skills in addition to creative ones in your bullets and Expertise section.
The main bullets to include in a freelance artist’s resume are your creative tasks. But is that the end of the story? If each gig involves writing and editing, delimiting all these tasks can become monotonous, but it can also sideline the administrative and collaborative skills that complete your professional profile.
Sidebar: Here’s how I know this to be true: I am a freelancer. The bullets on my prior freelance resume looked something like this:
- Composed and pitched family-focused articles for publication in Gambit – New Orleans.
- Wrote 15 newsletters per week to 1,500 school teachers in New York for the NYC Department of Education.
- Edited 700 scholarly articles, proposals, and dissertations for international clientele through Academic Editor.
Wrote, edited, composed, drafted, authored, penned, crafted, revised; okay we get it, you work with words. The synonyms could go on and on, but the task is essentially the same.
One HR manager who saw this resume asked me, “I see that you have lots of copywriting experience, but what experience do you have collaborating on a team?”
Dumbstruck, I stammered something like, “collaboration??” But when I thought about each one of my experiences again later, I realized that I did have experience with teamwork, I just needed to reframe my bullets to highlight this experience, as in:
- Consulted collaboratively with clients via email, phone, and comments in Word to plan and revise texts.
A bullet like the one above ties creative outputs to the administrative and people-oriented tasks involved in any job you are seeking. You can review job descriptions to discover what tasks and skills are most relevant to include on your resume.
To beat the Applicant Tracking Systems that scan resumes, it’s actually essential to match keywords from job descriptions on your resume. Chances are, a writing job is looking for the keywords “write” and “edit” but also “Microsoft Word,” “Google Drive,” “Collaboration,” “Communications Strategy,” “Project Management,” and other business-focused functions like “track,” “organize,” “coordinate,” etc.
Add 6–8 customized keywords to an “Expertise” section to ensure that your resume matches the skills the employer-to-be is seeking. Include a mix of business, technical, and creative skills to demonstrate your all-around aptitude. Here’s an example of an expertise section for a freelance artist resume:
- Communications Strategy
- Project Management
- Content Development
- Line Editing
- Blog Writing
- Digital Marketing
- Creative Collaboration
- Google Workspace
Repackaging a company’s job description and mirroring keywords can help you beat the ATS algorithms and land on the desk of an HR manager. Now under the scrutiny of a human, you can differentiate yourself from the applicant pile by quantifying your achievements.
Quantify Your Creative Outputs in Your Bullets.
A salesperson can easily splice quantified achievements from their annual reviews onto their resume and call resume writing quits:
- Sold diabetes medication ELINXHR within West Texas territory at 125% to plan.
Well done, and congratulations. Here’s the new sales job you wanted on a platter.
For the creative types, numbers can be a bit trickier. Your achievements as a freelance artist may have an ethereal quality that transcends percent growth in revenue or year-over-year targets.
However, you can quantify your creative outputs to demonstrate the scope and scale of your prolific contributions to the arts. Here’s how that would look:
- Developed and published 56 cartoons in the Gambit New Orleans within two years.
If you are offering editorial services online, you can also highlight your customer service accomplishments by listing your average reviews.
- Returned 100% of 156 Upwork editorial projects on schedule, earning all 5-star reviews for timeliness.
Quantifying your online reach is another way to highlight your impact:
- Developed and posted 34 original banners on Pexels that attracted up to 56K downloads.
If your artistic contributions generate income, include the revenue you’ve helped to cull:
- Wrote and submitted 27 grant proposals per year, receiving $250,000 in awards for a nonprofit in 2022.
Those are just a few ways you can add figures to your freelance artist resume to communicate a cohesive story about your impact on the job.
Carefully crafted, the Summary, Experience, and Expertise sections each provide opportunities for the freelance artist to frame the hiring manger’s understanding of their career.
Need More Assistance with Your Freelance Artist Resume?
If you’re still not sure how to tie all these points together to create an impressive resume as a freelance artist, the Certified Professional Resume Writers at Red Pen Wench will collaborate with you to create a customized and well-quantified resume that accurately captures your value, versatility, and impact–all in a gorgeous package.
-Dena Marks, PhD, CPRW, Resume Writer at Red Pen Wench