How to Write and Proofread Resumes for Copyeditors, Freelancers, and Self-Employed Pros

 In Freelance Editors & Writers

Self-employed careers are usually comprised of a variety of contracts and services. How do you consolidate them in a two-page resume that can be easily updated for future applications while telling a coherent story of your work? Let’s review some key points to help you draft your resume.

What resume format should I use for a self-employed writer and/or copy editor resume?

An editorial resume should make use of white space for readability and clarity that are the hallmark of your services. Copy editor resumes usually involve a longer list of short-term or part-time contracts that you can merge under your primary career entry. Use the name of your company or simply put “self-employed” and list all your roles: copy editor, writer, academic editor, etc. I do not recommend using titles like Founder, CEO, or President for a one-person editorial practice.

In the top part of your resume, add a list of your writing/editing skills, areas of expertise, technologies, and style guides used. These can be easily updated for future target roles. Draft your career summary with a focus on your target role and key strengths or specializations.

In the rest of the resume, avoid long bulleted lists and create a balance of text, headers, sub-headings, and white space. Include one to three links to significant projects.

Should I list all my self-employment work on the resume?

Self-employed resumes can be flexible. You do not need to go into detail about every contract you had. Instead, merge similar experiences into a shorter entry, name key clients, and add some specifics about the deadlines, scope of work, and the size of teams, where applicable.

Be specific whenever possible: your specializations, genres, types of clients, types of documents you edit, style manuals, software, and specialist knowledge of topics or industries. Add numbers to quantify your achievements and scope of work, where possible.

Should I update my resume for every target role?

Edit your resume in your favor, highlighting the information that is most relevant to the target job. The core of your resume should stay more or less the same, for ease of use. The top part is where you can easily make changes for target roles.

To do this, analyze each job description and mark the essential requirements and keywords. Note every requirement that is currently not listed on your resume. Would the hiring team see a clear match and want to interview you? Update the top sections of your resume (target role title, career summary, areas of expertise, and technical skills) based on the requirements of the target role.

Should I put freelance work on the resume?

If you are applying for more traditional, in-house roles and want to focus on your other full-time roles, adding your freelance work is an option, if it supports your value proposition and adds a positive aspect to your application. Depending on the significance of your freelance practice, you can create a separate career entry for it or list it at the end of your resume under “Other Roles.”

If your freelance practice is not in line with the target role or may raise questions about your availability to do your primary work, you may want to remove it from your resume. Remember that this may be application-specific.

How do I put freelance work on the resume?

I favor the terms “self-employed” or “consultant” over “freelance” because “freelancer” means different things to different people. Usually, the implication is that freelance work is occasional and project-based, without a more long-term commitment. If you work a series of contracts (6+ months, sometimes several contracts simultaneously), coordinate with clients’ teams, and keep regular business hours, you are a full-time, self-employed writer or editor (or any other role you hold). On your resume, highlight your key clients and projects and focus on the value you delivered. You can add links to online examples of your work and client testimonials to verify your experience.

What about the mechanics of resume writing?

The months in your employment dates are not significant; you can safely omit months on your resume and only list the years.

In your education section, list all minors or double majors as well as association memberships and recent certificates. Spell out the names of education degrees in full. Per Merriam-Webster, “cum laude” is not capitalized, only italicized.

Remove periods in phone numbers (use hyphens instead) for ATS and ease of dialing or copying numbers.

Remove the street address for privacy and/or to avoid bias. Only use the city, state, and zip code.

Remove, edit, or spell out company-specific jargon and/or acronyms. Spell out acronyms the first time they are used.

How do I list my editing skills on the resume?

In your resume, skip the general, self-evident duties and go straight to the specifics: details about specializations, genres, types of clients, types of documents you edit, style manuals and software, and specialist knowledge of certain topics or industries. Be clear about the scope: indicate a one-time project, an ongoing part-time contract, or a full-time engagement. Add numbers to quantify your achievements and scope of work.

How many pages should my resume be?

Your self-employed resume should be 2 full pages, occasionally 3. Avoid half-pages as they do not look professional. If you want to list conference presentations and publications, start a new page and mark it “Addendum.”

How can I improve my approach to job hunting?

As an experienced writer/editor, you probably already have a list of your preferred job boards and a list of companies where you would like to work. You may be receiving email alerts you subscribed to on Indeed or other platforms and you follow notifications in professional Facebook groups for editors and writers.

Here are more ideas to help you find work:

✔ Define your specializations – current or desired.

✔ Based on this list, identify industries and companies to research.

✔ Look up their employees on LinkedIn (managing editor, director of communications, marketing director, copy editor, creative director, executive director of communications, owner/founder/CEO, etc.) and connect with them.

✔ Introduce yourself with a short message listing your top three differentiators.

✔ Ask the colleagues you trust if they know anything about the company you are targeting or anyone who works there. Discussion listserves like Copyediting-L or EAE Facebook groups offer objective reviews of some editing companies and agencies that hire freelancers. You can also use Better Business Bureau, Glassdoor, and other online resources to look up company data. Do not spend time applying unless you research the company fully using the tools available online or through your network. If it looks like the organization is a good fit and most reviewers have positive comments about it, take the time to update your career documents and apply.

✔ Check your associations’ job boards.

✔ Consider keeping a list of job boards and apps specializing in remote jobs and subscribe to email alerts from some of them.

What should I do after I send my job application?

Identify decision-makers for each particular application on LinkedIn and connect with them. Personalize your invitation to connect and let them know that you have applied for a specific role. Network before and after applying to collect quality information and build relationships.

Follow up within five business days. Create a list of ideas for following up. This can include providing references, offering to take tests, or commenting insightfully on something specific about the company or the target role, while letting these contacts know that you are still available and interested.

How can I best negotiate a job offer?

Editors often have multiple specializations and a background in specific subject areas. Here are some examples of such skill sets: an instructional designer, editor, former teacher, and assessment writer; a scientist with a degree in physics and editor; a non-profit communications coordinator with an in-depth knowledge of the clean energy sector, marketing professional, content writer, and writing coach.

If you wear several hats, think about how many resources the company would need to hire if they were not getting all of these in one employee – you. Based on this, know your value and estimate your desired salary or hourly rate. When negotiating the compensation, remind the employer of the value you bring and use a collaborative tone. To quote Thea Kelley, an interview coach, you could say: “I have [XYZ] range in mind. How can we work together to agree on the package that is a good fit for both of us?”

Self-employment involves juggling many roles and frequently looking for new clients. From researching potential employers to negotiating salaries, you are in control of your job search strategy. You may want to draft or review your Career Development Plan to help you guide and schedule your next steps. Your network of colleagues and professional associations are valuable resources of information.

Resources for freelancers:

Editors Canada blog: https://blog.editors.ca/?tag=tanya-mykhaylychenko

Job Search and Application Strategy for Freelancers (ACES blog): https://aceseditors.org/news/2020/job-search-and-application-strategy-for-freelancers

Ideas and resources for building a stable workload (ACES blog): https://aceseditors.org/news/2020/building-a-stable-workload-as-an-editorial-freelancer

Resources for freelancers (conferences, associations, networking, etc.): https://tm-editorial.com/category/resources-for-freelancers/

If you are in the early stages of self-employment, make sure you know what to charge and be firm about your rates. Learn more about the concept of an effective hourly rate.

About the author:

Tanya Mykhaylychenko is the owner and operator of www.tm-editorial.com providing resume writing and copy editing services to job seekers, academic professionals, and businesses.

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