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Tips for Listing Self-Employment on Your Resume
June 2nd, 2010 by Juliana Weiss-Roessler  Posted in Most Popular, Resume Writing
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istock_000001353732xsmall“Self-employed” can raise red flags for a potential employer if you are not careful about how you list your work. They may be suspicious that you are covering up a gap in your work, a firing, or even prison time! That’s why it’s so important to take special care when listing self-employment on your resume.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your resume from heading to the trash can:

Treat it like any other job description. This is a good first step for listing self-employment. Think about it like any other position you’ve held. Give a brief description of the work you did, the tasks you performed on a daily basis, and any special achievements you made. Sure, your job title could be “owner,” but if you were just an employee at a company doing the work, what would it be? Depending on the job you are applying for, this title may better market your qualifications, drawing attention away from the fact that you were self-employed and instead focusing it on the relevant experience you have.

Be specific. Instead of simply writing “self-employed,” include the name of your business if there is one. List the city and state where you operated. When listing the date range for your self-employment, include the month and year you began and ended the work. Consider including the names of clients, if it makes sense to do so. Don’t go overboard, or it may seem like you are trying to overcompensate for something. Provide just enough information to ensure your potential employer that the work you did was legit. 

Offer references. This way, an employer can ensure that you were actually self-employed… and not covering up something. Check with any references before you list them to make sure they are ready and willing to give you a glowing review and confirm your self-employment.

Consider a new format. If you were self-employed for a long period of time and worked with many clients in different capacities, it may make sense to create a functional resume rather than a chronological one. Sometimes this is a better way to highlight your skills, talents, and achievements.  Also read: Chronological Vs. Functional Resumes: What’s Best for You?

Tell the truth. It can be tempting to stretch the truth or outright lie on your resume, but the more honest the information on your resume is, the easier it will be to support if you are asked to provide verification. And it will make the interview go smoother, too. Remember, while self-employment may make some employers nervous, it also shows that you are self-motivated, passionate, and resourceful. These are all highly marketable skills! 

Once you land an interview, be prepared for questions about the time you spent self-employed. If you’re going to keep some of your clients as freelance work on the side, be honest if the question comes up – or you could find yourself facing trouble later on. Just be clear about your interest in working with the company long-term and being a team player. The employer may be concerned that you will take a job to develop your skill set and then head back out to start your own business again, wasting the time and money they spent training you to work at their company.
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Tags: unemployment, resume, resume-tips, self-employment
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  • Thanks for the article! I forwarded it to a friend going through your scenario, and was unclear how to handle it on her resume.

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