Writing Professionally: Resume Redo

A while back I applied for a writing gig I really, really wanted. I did not get it. However, I had a pretty solid contact in the decision team and was able to ask why I wasn’t made a member of the team. 

I was told my resume didn’t make it clear what I do, and what I’ve done. Fans and followers know I’ve done approximately 2.3 metric shitloads of writing work over the past decade…but apparently my resume either didn’t make that clear, or forced the reader to dig through a shitload of varied work to figure out what I’ve done that’s most relevant for them. 

Thus…time to retool my resume. I figured I’d use that opportunity to do this in public, and maybe help some of y’all in the process. Sound good?

Begin With the End In Mind

Good old uncle Steve taught us this in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and it remains gospel truth for doing a job right. Before doing any work on a project, know what “done” looks like. 

In this case, based on the feedback from that recent rejection and some examples of better resumes (more on that in a bit), I have two main goals in this resume revision:

  • Number One: Tune the resume for a specific kind of writing
  • Number Two: Make it more visually appealing and modern

Let’s take a look at what I have now, and the specific opportunities it provides for accomplishing both of those goals. 

Starting Resume

Here’s an image of the resume format I’ve been using for about 8 years now. I’ve updated it every six months or so, but otherwise it’s been unchanged. 

(It’s a little small here, but you can zoom in if you want). 

Good things

It definitely shows I’m a bad ass at this writing thing: many years of direct experience, with a wide variety of assignments. Major name-brand clients. Evidence of success across a number of fields. Also, it’s pretty easy to read. 

Bad things

It doesn’t draw the eye as much as I would like. It’s…well, boring. And it suggests I’m a bit unmoored and directionless. It’s a good resume for a journeyman, but as I attempt to enter more master-level assignments, it doesn’t put my foot forward ahead of people who can demonstrate specialized expertise. 

So, like I mentioned above, this resume needs:

  • Better specialization
  • A more attractive and appealing look overall

Good-Looking Resumes I Found

A web search found me thousands of freelance writing resumes. Many of these were at least as bad as mine (and some were in articles about how to make a good freelance writing resume). But I found two I really liked.

This one here I found on Pinterest, of all things. 

This one I found on enhancv.com


My Mission (and I Choose to Accept It)

Based on the commonalities between these two resumes, I should make the following changes

  • Add a headline banner including a headshot
  • Move to the two-column format for the body
  • Identify specific clients to call out under my experience
  • Retool text to focus the specialization

In addition to that, I’m making two choices based on my goals and my reality

  • I’m going to underemphasize my education. It’s not very impressive. Instead, I’ll focus on my teaching and speaking experience
  • I’ll aim this resume at the tabletop role-playing game specialization, which is one of the three I’ll spend the most time on in my current five-year plan

Okay. Let’s get to work.

There were six bullet points in the section above, but the last ones in both lists dovetail together, so I need to accomplish five things in retooling my freelance writer resume. Let’s deal with them one by one. 

Add a Headline Banner

Here’s what the headline looks like right now

Yep. Super-duper boring. What I’m going to to is use the resources over at Canva.com and make a banner top that’s a lot like a letterhead. It will include my:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • A “job title” that describes what I do
  • My headshot

After about 20 minutes of horsing around, here’s what I’ve got.

It gets the attention well, I think. Makes things stand out. I’ll test it on a few people with and without the words background. It includes the pieces and parts that I need, and gives a better sense of my personality. 

Shift to a Two-Column Layout For the Body

The original version was a boring, centered, one-column spread that looked old-school and didn’t draw the eye as well as it could have. The good news is two-column spreads are easy in any number of word processing and desktop publishing programs. I’m gonna use Word ‘cos it’s handy. 

I’ll start with some placeholder text to get the visuals right, including some categorization.

Okay. That’s more like it. More information, more attractively presented, and a bit of color to keep the interest level up. 

Identify Name Clients for My Specialization

A little mission drift here, with this step really becoming filling in all of my information to make the resume’s substance shine. This took a couple hours of fine-tuning and tweaking, but here’s the left-hand column with these priorities put into place, and wound up completing both the final tasks in one fell swoop.

Time to Tweak, Proofread, and Perfect

Reach out to me and I’ll send you the final version!

I hope this small tutorial was at least a little helpful. Please reach out if you have any questions. 

As I mention in my upcoming book Freelance Writing Survival Guide, there’s a lot to be said for specialization. This resume is for my tabletop role-playing game writing, and I will be making similar ones for my other writing specialties, and one for public speaking. 

What might you do with your resume, to make yourself shine not just as a freelance writer, but as a freelance writer who’s particularly good at a specific kind of freelance writing? 

I’d love to hear any feedback or success stories about your experience with this, so please find me on Facebook or drop me a line with accounts of your adventures!

While you’re at it, consider subscribing to my newsletter for writers. It arrives every Monday, bearing news, humor, and advice for freelance writers just like us. 



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