Turning a long, boring, and unappealing document into an effective marketing tool is no easy task. Also, selling your skills whilst keeping a no-boasting voice can be tricky.
Additionally, most freelancers tend to go back on their resume only when they have to, i.e. when they get a request from a B2B customer searching for contacts to grow their providers' base. This usually forces you to make quick last-minute changes to update the core information, often causing "collateral damage" such as formatting inconsistencies, redundancies, and inaccuracies at large.
Truth is, if you're on a race against time you can't focus on getting your resume right.
So what to do about it?
The first step to improving your resume would be planning a 1-hour makeover session to get rid of typical resume mistakes which usually trigger the amateur hour effect. However, there's so much more you can do to fuel your resume with some extra energy ... and good news is, you don't need to make all the changes at once.
Got a small break in between projects? Pick one of the following hacks, and work on it for 20-30 minutes.
Once you're done (and happy with it), choose another one and schedule the next makeover.
#1 Create a letterhead
Selling your professional services starts with a good first impression.
Creating a letterhead for your resume makes it look more professional; also, letterheads are great for showcasing your logo, and to highlight all of your contact information at a glance.
Moreover, using a professional letterhead makes it easier to style your resume according to your other marketing tools (brochures, websites, invoice & quotation templates), thus creating a professional image for your freelance business.
Need some inspiration? Check out over 200 free letterhead templates on Freelettertemplates.net.
#2 Increase font size
This is not just about increasing the overall readability of your document.
Increasing font size also triggers conciseness, as it forces you to get your writing juices flowing to make sure your resume still stays in 1 or 2 pages.
On this note, one of the most useful tricks I use when working on a resume makeover for a customer is assessing whether I'll use a 1- or 2-page format beforehand. A good rule of thumb for this is figuring out a "blank limit" - i.e. no more than 30% blank space on page two. If the copy on page two is too short to reach the blank limit, consider crafting a 1-page document.
#3 Craft an eye-catching introduction
I often get collaboration offers from freelance translators, which usually come along with their resumes.
A common pitfall I found scanning those is that they tend to follow an old school CV format, i.e. section titles followed by bullet points. And that's another trigger for the amateur hour effect.
If you're reaching out to B2B customers (e.g. translation agencies, web design studios, PR agencies) to expand your customers' base, you're can't promote yourself as if you were looking for an in-house position.
Hence, your resumes should be the opening line of a conversation between you and the prospect.
A good way to achieve this is crafting an introductory section, which could be named along the lines of About me or Profile - and yes, you can be creative here! Use this section to highlight relevant information, such as your core services and skills, key achievements, roles in professional associations etc.
#4 Cut 10% off your resume copy
This is a trick I use in my copywriting practice, which has proven to be very effective in achieving conciseness and clarity in all kinds of documents.
Even though cutting 100 words off a 1,000 document might not sound as a "big deal", it usually is. Reducing the length of copy helps you focusing on what matters the most, and is a smart way to get rid of redundancy and typical "fillers" that diminish the overall value of your resume.
Don't know where to start from? Read about 5 ways to trim the fat from your writing on PR Daily.
Yet another trick from my copywriter's toolbox.
Revising your resume one section at a time forces you to look at your chosen "target" out of its original context, and focus on it as a stand-alone item.
This helps you squeezing out all the important info from the section, and putting it to good use - i.e. trimming out the fat plus adding value with meaningful copy.
#6 Tweak the layout
A common pitfall in resume layouts is flat formatting. On a quick look, all documents look more or less the same - with this usually including never-ending bullet points.
Have fun exploring layout options. Think about changing a list to a couple paragraphs to boost the conversational effect, and to add some grace. Remember, however, that your resume should still look like a professional document afterwards.
If you're into colours, make sure that the section titles match the letterhead palette; also, do not forget to highlight key terms or ideas - but avoid lame all-bold complete sentences.
#7 Use numbers and real-life examples
Unsurprisingly, your resume serves as a tool for showcasing your skills and professional experience.
Numbers are a great way to do it. Not only they stand out from the sea of words; they also support claims with quantifiable (and verifiable) results.
Need some examples?
- project coordinator: 100+ projects, including XXX)
- ... specialised in medical translation (over 650,000 words)
- ... web design team leader for 50+ projects, including ...
Have you ever struggled with your freelance resume? What did you do then?
Also, feel free to share your own tips!