If you’re new to the freelance life, perhaps the last thing you want to do is think about the virtues of the corporate world. You might be shaking your head and muttering, “Um, Abbi, I want to be a writer and leave the corporate world behind. Why the heck do I need a resume?”
I hear you. The thing is, though, the corporate world pays freelancers realllllllly well, and one of the things that can help you land some of those lucrative jobs is a writing resume, so you need to know how to write the right kind of resume.
Fortunately, this very post will teach you exactly how to write the kind of resume you can use to land high-paying freelance writing jobs from businesses. Yes, you can create a writing resume, even if you don’t think you have any experience.
As you might have guessed, a writing resume is different from a typical resume — although if you happen to have a regular resume lying around, you can use it as a starting point.
And I’ll tell you that this resume will, first and foremost, give you insight into your own abilities. It will help you identify your strengths, and those strengths will shine through when you communicate with editors, businesses, and other people who could potentially pay you money to write.
So let’s get started.
In order to make it super easy for you to put together your resume, I created several worksheets that you can download right now for free. These worksheets will save you a lot of time — and you’ll even get a template you can use to make your own writing resume with pretty formatting and everything! Enter your name and email address to get your copy now!
Step One: What Do You Want to Write?
Now, before you write down anything, I want you to spend a few minutes thinking about things you enjoy. See? That’s not hard. Now, you may love coffee — I certainly do, don't get me wrong — but I'm specifically asking you about things you enjoy reading about. Or doing. Or things you've written about in the past and would like to focus on more.
I'll give you an example. I'm obsessed with high tech toys. iPhones and anything Apple sells, the Internet of Things, the rear-view camera in my car — these things excite me. I'm also really into kids. Primarily my own, but in general, if there's a parenting trend sweeping the nation or my neighborhood, I'm interested. So I write a lot about technology and I write a lot about parenting. (If they start selling Remote-Controlled Robotic Babysitters, I AM SO IN.) I write about other things, too, but those two broad categories accounted for about 70 percent of my paying assignments for many years.
What subjects are you passionate about? What magazines do you subscribe to because you enjoy reading them? Do you enjoy reading sales brochures? Don't laugh — think about it. My husband, for example, can spend hours — hours — reading car brochures. Someone's getting paid to write the darn things, and from the looks of those glossy pages, someone's getting paid pretty well.
Do you read the package inserts in the vitamins you take? Do you read the junk they stuff into your gas bill? Working Mother? Popular Science? What do you read? (If you never read anything, this is probably a sign that writing may not be the best career choice for you.)
Maybe you know that there is no way you can write articles for magazines. Or you absolutely cannot fathom creating press releases. That’s okay. Think about the things you DO want to write — and DO NOT WORRY if you have no idea how to write these pieces. You'll get there. For now, if you think writing brochures for massage therapists sounds like fun, go with that.
After you’ve given yourself a few moments to think, open up the Writer’s Resume Preparation Worksheet (if you haven’t downloaded the worksheets for this post yet, grab them now) and list 10 specific things you want to write. Now, of course, there are no wrong answers, but it’s important to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying “blog posts,” say, “I want to write blog posts about growing hydroponic tomatoes in a small-space urban greenhouse.”
You’ll probably come up with three or four ideas without thinking. But I want you to really push yourself and get to 10 items on your list. You’ll have to dig a bit deeper, and I want you to get used to making that kind of effort.
By the way, in those downloads, you'll also find a sample, filled-in sheet that I created for a fictional college student named Sarah who wants to be a writer, as an example for you, in case you need inspiration.
Step Two: List Your Experience
Once you’ve finished your list of things you want to write, I want you to list any writing-related tasks you took on at previous jobs, including volunteer work and other experience from your personal life.
Everything counts! If you took notes at team meetings, write that down. Did you contribute articles to the PTA newsletter? Do you send a family email each month? All of it counts as experience, so write it all down.
A few other things to keep in mind as you fill in the worksheet:
- Your interests count as experience. If you have never written about shoes or sold shoes, but you buy 17 pairs of shoes a month, you can write about shoes. Write, “I have purchased over 2,000 pairs of shoes in the last 4 years. I can tell a Christian Louboutin from a Jimmy Choo with my eyes closed.” You get the picture.
- Leverage your industry experience. If you can stomach writing about what you've done professionally, you can break in, get some clips under your belt, and then move on to your dream writing job.
- If you have any sales experience and you want to write for businesses, make your sales experience work for you. You know what customers respond to. Use that knowledge.
- Toot your own horn. Now is not the time to be modest. Did you gravitate towards writing tasks in past jobs, even if they weren't part of your official duties? Write it down.
- Easy on the adjectives. Don’t bother writing an objective statement that says you’re “dependable and hard-working.” Why should anyone believe you just because you said so? In general, adjectives weaken your writing. Instead, look for ways you can demonstrate your strengths by showing tangible accomplishments.
- Be specific. Clients want concrete proof of results: higher sales numbers, lower support call rates, or more positive press. Wherever possible, use numbers to back up what you’re saying. For example, specify that your sales material pulled a 7 percent response rate, or that your Web site copy put a site on the first page of Google results for that keyword.
Step Three: Features and Benefits
A writer’s resume should showcase creativity and talent — but not scare away stuffy corporate types with deep pockets. The most important secret to successful resume writing — for everyone, not just writers — is that it’s crucial to concentrate on benefits, not features.
What's the difference between features and benefits? A feature is merely a description — a fact — about a product or service. For example, “Head Copywriter for Widgets, Inc.” is a feature. A benefit is what the user of the product or service gets from the feature. “Extensive knowledge of what sells widgets and how to reach the widget-buying market” is a benefit — the buyer is essentially paying for my expertise.
A benefit answers the client’s question, “What’s in it for me?”
Never assume that the reader will make the leap from feature to benefit alone. It’s your job to spell out the benefit explicitly. If you don’t, your resume — as well as everything you ever write — will be ineffective.
Unfortunately — or, perhaps, fortunately, for you and me — a lot of people misunderstand features and benefits. They provide a list of features and think their work is done. But you won’t make that mistake. You’ll look at each feature critically and ask yourself, “So what? ‘What’s in it for the client?’ Why should anyone care?” And when you can answer that question, you’ll know you have your benefit.
Grab the free worksheets that go along with post for super-detailed instructions and plenty of examples to show you exactly how to turn your features into benefits!
If you take a look at the Features and Benefits worksheet in the downloads for this post, you’ll see that I used a two-step process: First, I identified the features in the sample, filled-in resume worksheet, and Second, I asked “What’s in it for me?” from the client’s point of view, and used the answer to that question to tease out the benefit.
This video from Rachel Parker, CEO of ResonanceContent.com, gives a great explanation of the difference between features and benefits in under 3 minutes. Rachel’s example will probably give you a great AHA! Moment. And if you still have questions, seriously, look at the worksheet in the downloads.
Step Four: Offer Value to Clients
Once you have a handy-dandy list of features and benefits, it’s time to focus on the benefits that will offer the most value to potential clients.
Take a look at that sample worksheet again, the one that’s filled out with Sarah’s information. For this exercise, we’ll focus on just two of the benefits identified:
- Can write documentation that explains complex processes. Eliminates downtime, streamlines processes.
- Can recognize client needs and upsell appropriately, boosting bottom line with 80% more sales.
How can we refine these two points and turn them into targeted benefits? Well, take a look at what a simple tweak to the first bullet point can do:
- Sarah Jones can take complex processes and break them down into manageable parts. Her streamlined documentation makes it easy for your staff — and your clients — to hit the ground running with virtually no downtime.
Not bad! Rephrasing the information certainly makes Sarah sound more effective. It’s really important to understand what we are and are not doing here.
WE ARE NOT LYING. WE ARE NOT STRETCHING THE TRUTH.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot stand skeevy people who lie. I just don’t think it’s okay.
We are taking exactly what Sarah said she could do and focusing on what the client gets from Sarah’s abilities. And guess what? We’re not done yet. We can highlight even more of what Sarah can do for clients. And we can do it without lying at all.
Go back and look at that sample worksheet: Sarah said her guidelines had new employees working in 1-2 days, whereas employees at other stores often went through a week of training. That means that Sarah’s guidelines reduced downtime by 60-80%! If we rephrase our bullet point to reflect that information, we get:
- Sarah Jones can break down complex processes into manageable parts. Her streamlined documentation reduces downtime — for you and your clients — by 60-80%.
The benefit is clearly stated, and the numbers back up the information. We can also create a shorter version, if necessary:
- Create streamlined documentation that reduces downtime by 60-80%.
Statistics are a great way to make clients take notice, so quantify your results whenever possible.
Now let’s take a look at that second bullet point:
- Can recognize client needs and upsell appropriately, boosting bottom line with 80% more sales.
It’s in pretty good shape already, but a slight rephrasing makes the client benefit a little more obvious. Take a look at this:
- Sarah creates targeted upselling techniques based on careful assessment of client needs, boosting sales by 80%.
Step Five: Build Out Your Benefits in Your Writing Resume
And now, you’re going to work on your own benefits. Go back to your features and benefits worksheet, work on building out your own benefits, and plug them into the sample resume template included in the downloads for this post.
Of course this isn’t the only template you can use for your writing resume, but I wanted you to get a look at something outside of the traditional resume box and spark some creative thinking. The sample information here can also help you structure your own bullet points, and it’s a helpful reminder to include statistics and to frame the information you present in a way that showcases the value you bring to potential clients.
Once you’ve completed your writing resume, you might be wondering what, exactly, you’re supposed to DO with it. Well, you can use this information when you pitch yourself to corporate clients. You can send it as is when you apply for various freelancing jobs you see online. You can update your LinkedIn profile with this information to showcase your abilities.
If you want feedback on your writing resume, feel free to save a version of it as a Google doc that anyone can edit, and share the link in the comments on this post!