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The Best Ways to Represent Contract Work on a Resume

by Ellie Williams

If you’re a freelance or independent professional, listing every client you’ve worked for can clutter your resume and confuse employers. This is especially true if you’ve held several short-term contract jobs with overlapping dates. Instead of listing every job in chronological order, present your experience in a way that showcases your skills, achievements and career progression.

Relevance

Rather than listing every contract job you’ve held, include only those closely related to the kind of position you’re applying for. If you’re a freelance writer applying for a newspaper reporting job, for example, omit experience in copywriting or technical writing. Instead, build your resume around your previous journalism experience and freelance reporting assignments. If you’re applying for a public relations position with a nonprofit organization, list only past work in the nonprofit sector and leave off corporate work.

Timeframe

Most employers give more weight to your most recent experience, so highlight contact work completed within the last five years, for example, instead of going all the way back to the beginning of your career. Either omit work that dates back farther than that or create a section titled “Previous Experience.” List only minimal information for jobs in this section, reserving the bulk of your resume for describing more current work in depth.

Importance

You don’t need to list your complete work history, especially if you’re a veteran professional with dozens of contract assignments. Instead, choose only your most notable or high-profile projects. For example, if you worked for Fortune 500 companies, you won’t gain anything by including work you completed for the mom-and-pop store around the corner. In fact, listing too many minor assignments can detract from your more significant accomplishments. Focus on experience that enhances your professional reputation, either because the client is a household name or because the project was a major undertaking.

Similarity

If you’ve held contract jobs in several fields or several aspects of a field, separate them into categories. For example, if you’re an interior designer, builder or architect, you might classify your work under the headings “Commercial” and “Residential.” Or, you might group them under styles such as “Contemporary,” “Eclectic,” “Victorian” or “Asian.” Categorizing your diverse work history emphasizes your versatility and enables employers to assess your major skills and specialties at a glance. It also creates a more unified appearance for your resume, bringing together even seemingly unrelated jobs.

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