Whether you work for yourself or fit in freelance work around your full-time job, self-employment is something that should be seen as a real asset to your CV.
Many people are under the misconception that employers will dismiss this type of experience, but in fact, it can make you stand out from the crowd and put you in a great position when looking for that next opportunity.
Whether you’re using your CV to try and win a new contract or to get back into regular employment, here are our top tips on how to get started.
1. Shout about what you’ve done
Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to listing self-employment on your CV is to make sure it’s on there in the first place!
There’s a good chance that being self-employed means you’ve had a more varied career than many of your counterparts, and this experience comes with new skills that others may not have. Even if you think some of your work isn’t directly relevant in terms of your next steps, many of the skills you’ve gained will be transferable so consider putting them down.
Similarly, if you’ve worked on a specific project, whether it that lasted two weeks or two years, it can be a great chance to highlight your achievements and skills such as teamwork and project management – even if you worked for free.
2. Show off your skills
While someone who works in a full-time, permanent role may have the advantage of no gaps in their CV, being self-employed also has many benefits which you can now show off.
As mentioned above, make sure you highlight how working for yourself has helped you develop skills which can be transferred elsewhere, whether it be finding clients, building relationships, creating your own website, or even handling your own financial affairs.
The responsibility of working for yourself and relying on your own entrepreneurial spirit to make money is experience that not everyone has and it’s certainly worth shouting about.
3. Provide the proof
Being self-employed, especially if you’ve done it for a long time, can sometimes mean that you don’t have up-to-date or relevant references. It’s therefore even more important to make sure you provide hard evidence of what you have done and the tangible impact of your work.
If you’re a freelance writer for example, then including links to articles, blogs or other content is a must, while if you offer a service, you should link to your own website or good reviews you have received.
4. Keep it professional
Just because you might have a different work history to other people, it doesn’t mean your CV needs to take a completely different format – in fact, not much needs to change at all.
If you worked as a web developer on behalf of a company, don’t just say you were self-employed. Give yourself a proper title – whether it be contractor or freelancer – and then list the client you worked for and the time period, as you would for any other job. Go on to summarise the work you did there, the projects you worked on and the successes you had.
If you have a long list of clients and projects, you don’t necessarily need to include them all – but don’t just mention the most recent. It’s far better to highlight those that are relevant to the line of work you are seeking to go into and the skills that will be transferable, rather than something that doesn’t relate in any way.
5. Don’t lie
Listing self-employment on your CV means you might be tempted to exaggerate what you’ve done as it’s generally more difficult for employers to ascertain that what you have said is true. However, if you are lucky enough to get that interview, it will no doubt be the first thing they ask you to elaborate on, so it’s just not worth the risk. The benefits of being self-employed and the qualities it brings should be enough for you to stand out without having to make things up.
Many people worry that self-employment will be looked down upon, especially if you’re looking to make the move into working for someone else in a regular job. However, by making the most of your CV to highlight your strengths and showing how your experience can be of real benefit to future employers, it won’t be long before you reach the next step in your career.
Andrew Arkley, founder of PurpleCV has over 15 years’ experience in careers advice and HR.