Writing a CV can be difficult for a contractor or freelancer. While conventional employees can simply provide details of their previous employment, with each position explaining why it qualifies them for the new role, freelancers and contractors must focus more on skills and qualifications.
Generally speaking, potential clients are less interested in where a contractor or freelancer worked and more interested in the work they did and the skills they have. But, while the particulars of your previous contracts might not be important, it is still vital that you explain why you are suited for the job you are applying for, and how your past experience will help you to complete the work.
So what are the key elements that you should include on your CV as a contractor or freelancer?
Your personal statement should form the first part of your CV. This is your opportunity to sell yourself to potential clients; it helps to create a personal connection before you go on to outline your relevant skills and experience.
You should avoid waffling through your personal statement. Make sure that it is well written, and accurately represents your character, while avoiding meaningless clichés. Consider ‘front-loading’ this section to ensure that the most enticing or important pieces of information are as close to the top of the document as possible.
Finally, you should probably avoid calling it a personal statement on the CV itself. It need not have a heading at all; it can simply be a couple of paragraphs below your basic contact details.
Key roles and experience
This is arguably the most important element of your CV. While employees might choose to provide a reverse chronological CV showing each of their previous positions, contractors and freelancers are better of using a skills-based template. This means listing the key skills that qualify you for the contract, and providing details of previous positions in which you have demonstrated or developed those skills.
If you have worked for particularly impressive or well-known clients in the past, make sure that these are properly highlighted. They will help to paint you as a serious player in the client’s eyes.
What you include here will depend on the type of work you do. For example, an IT contractor may find it better to list relevant qualifications alongside skills and before listing previous clients. A freelance designer may wish to list key projects and clients before listing skills.
The client will be interested in results above all else. They will want to know that you can complete the work required in a comprehensive and efficient manner. As well as detailing your previous engagements, you should therefore demonstrate how you provided results for clients. If you produced work that was over and above the brief given by the client, all the better.
Again, the presentation of your results will depend on your type of work. If you are a freelance marketing consultant you might consider providing case studies here, but make sure that they are relevant to the job for which you are applying. A writer or designer should include at least one example of work with their CV as an appendix.
You may also think about providing testimonials from previous clients, particularly if you do not intend to include references later on.
Technical qualifications are very important for contractors and freelancers so if you have them, make sure that you give details. If you are starting out at a young age then list your school and university qualifications if you have them but experienced contractors should place emphasis on professional qualifications.
In general, potential clients are unlikely to be interested in how many A Levels you have, but they certainly will want to know if you have a professional or technical qualification. Similarly, if you have membership of a trade group or are accredited by a professional body you should give details.
Beware that some professional qualifications can actually make you appear less attractive to clients. Listing only the most basic qualifications in your field, or qualifications that are widely seen to be easy to achieve, may actually hurt your chances if you are going for an advanced role. Always try to match your qualifications to those required by the client for the job.
Contractors and freelancers should have business insurance tailored to their trade. If you do have this, it may be a good idea to add your insurer name, the cover type and cover level to your CV as some clients may require this.
Other skills - but not hobbies
You may wish to provide details of any other skills that are relevant to the position which you have developed outside your professional life. For example, if the role requires people management skills and you have leadership experience from a non-work pursuit, you might wish to give details.
Beware, though, of listing hobbies. Potential clients do not care if you go fishing at the weekend, and telling them that you do will devalue your application. Your CV should only contain information that is strictly relevant to the role for which you are applying.