The Freelancer’s Guide to Success, Part 1: Resume and Cover Letter Strategies


Mar 4, 2024 | Cover Letters, Resumes

Embarking on a freelance career can be as exhilarating as it is daunting. With the freedom to choose projects that align with your passions comes the challenge of distinguishing yourself in a sea of talent. This blog is the first installment in a 2-part series designed to help you navigate the turbulent waters of freelance work. In part 1, we’ll delve into the art of crafting a compelling resume and cover letter, the twin beacons that will guide potential clients to your shore. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to revitalize your freelance career, these insights will equip you with the tools you need to make a memorable first impression and secure the projects you deserve.

Understanding the freelance job search

When you’re a freelancer, you don’t exactly follow the “standard” job application process where in certain phases of your career, you’re on a job hunt, and in others, you’re not. Instead, you’re constantly pitching yourself to potential clients and trying to secure new projects. It’s the nature of the job – to always be keeping your pipeline full!

However, because freelancing is so dynamic in that it allows you to take on a variety of projects and clients at once, you may find yourself unable to keep up with updating your freelance resume (who can remember all the projects they’ve worked on?) It’s also easy to overlook the importance of a cover letter – doesn’t the portfolio speak for itself?

Well, yes and no. While your portfolio is a visual representation of your work, your resume and cover letter provide important written context to your skills and experience. And there’s a way to keep your resume updated without it running over multiple pages!

Not sure whether you’re structuring your freelance resume in the best way possible? Request a free resume review from one of our expert writers. 

That’s why we’re about to give you the bottom line, no-fluff guide to strategies that can make the process of updating your materials a lot easier for you while making clients take notice.

man on computer looking out window

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

Highlighting freelance skills

What’s more important than actually sitting down to write your resume or cover letter is knowing what message they need to deliver.

A big part of that is understanding that clients look for a very specific set of qualities in freelancers – ones that are quite different from what employers look for in full-time employees. As such, you want your toolkit to communicate that you have these qualities.

Some of the key skills that you should be highlighting include:

  • Reliability: Clients need to know that they can count on you to deliver quality work when you say you will. The last thing they want is to chase after you for missed deadlines or sloppy work.
  • Flexibility: Sure, you’re a freelancer who sets their own terms, but clients also want to know that you can adapt to their needs, whether it’s working within a tight deadline or adjusting your approach to fit their project.
  • Independence: When you’re hired as a freelancer, you’re expected to work independently and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. You’re considered an expert in your field, so clients want to see that you can handle the work without constant hand-holding.
  • Expertise: This one’s a given – clients want to work with freelancers who have the expertise and skills necessary to complete their projects successfully.
  • Remote Work Skills: Because most freelance work is done remotely, clients want to know that you have the necessary tools and skills to effectively communicate and collaborate from a distance.

If you keep these skills front and center as you draft your resume and cover letter, you’ll be sure to position yourself as the ideal freelancer for any project.

Personal branding

We’re not at the writing phase just yet!

Next is identifying your personal brand; what makes you unique in the world of freelancing? This is what’s called your unique value proposition, and it’s what sets you apart from other freelancers in your field. While this is important for everyone, it’s particularly crucial for freelancers who are competing for work in a crowded market.

Your unique value proposition could be anything from specialized skills or experience to a unique perspective or approach to your work. Think of elements like:

  • Your niche
  • Your approach
  • Your style of communication
  • Your track record of success
  • Your values

Then, your goal should be to communicate your unique value proposition consistently and clearly throughout all of your branding materials – including your cover letter and resume.

For instance, you could include a clear one-liner at the very top of your resume under the heading/contact information and elaborate further in your cover letter.

Similarly, both your resume and cover letter should include keywords and phrases that highlight your unique value proposition, making it easy for potential clients to see why you’re the perfect fit for their project.

For instance, if you’re a graphic designer who specializes in minimalist logos, you could include keywords like “clean and modern design” or “minimalist aesthetic” to showcase your unique value proposition. Similarly, if you’re a video editor specializing in reels, you could include keywords like “short-form content” or “reel production” to highlight your unique value proposition.

Structuring a freelance resume

With the clarity that comes from identifying your skills and your value proposition, you can now tackle the task of structuring a resume that best reflects your personal brand and expertise.

While you can definitely use our resume outline as a general guide, you’ll still need to make some adjustments to “make it work” for you as a freelancer.

The challenge that most freelancers face when it comes to writing their resumes is the question of how to list varied work experiences, projects, and clients. In one month alone, you could have worked on multiple projects for different clients in completely different industries, so where does all of that go?

In this scenario, it’s not exactly practical to go for the standard chronological format by employer where you list your job title and the company you worked for, followed by a rundown of your responsibilities and achievements.

Instead, what you could do is write just one entry for your freelancing business (this could be either your business name or your job title) and list all of your clients and projects under it. Here’s an example of how that could look like:

Freelance Editor                               June 2022 – Present

Edited projects for clients such as x, y, and z.

  • Client name: Project description w/ results
  • Client name: Project description w/ results
  • Client name: Project description w/ results

This keeps your resume neat and concise while still showcasing your diverse experience. You can also include specific skills that you utilized for each project, such as editing software or writing styles.

P.S. If you’re unsure whether you’re structuring your resume in the best way possible, how does a free resume review sound? Let a real, live expert give you personalized feedback and help you put your freelancing experience in the best light possible.

Photo by Good Faces on Unsplash

Tips for customizing your application for different projects

Next comes the role of the expert freelancer- tailoring your application for each specific project. For this to be done right, your core focus should be to research and understand each client’s unique business, brand, and needs. Once you have a clear idea of what they’re looking for, use your application to highlight how you can meet those needs and add value to their project.

Here are some tips to help you customize your application (both resume and cover letter):

  • Add unique portfolio items or samples that are relevant to the project in your cover letter. And for the resume, in the contact information section, you could curate a dedicated portfolio for each project you apply for to ensure that you’re showcasing the most relevant work.
  • Take note of the skills and keywords (including industry-specific jargon) mentioned in the job description and make sure to include them in your application. This not only gets you past ATS but also shows that you have a good understanding of their field and can speak their language.
  • Tailor the “Summary” section of your resume to highlight 2-3 hard skills that align with the job requirements while emphasizing your unique value proposition.
  • In your cover letter, highlight relevant experience and projects from your freelancing portfolio that showcase your skills and expertise in the specific field or industry the client operates in.
  • Apply the same point mentioned above in your resume, while using achievement-oriented bullet points to showcase your impact and results in previous projects.
  • Pay close attention to the company culture and values and reflect that in your cover letter. For instance, if they’re big on creativity, don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personal flair – just keep it professional!
  • Personalize your cover letter. Show the client that you’re not just blasting out applications by mentioning something specific about the company or project that excites you.


As a freelancer, you hop from project to project and client to client quite often, and you don’t want your resume and cover letters to underplay your skills and experience.

By taking the time to update and tailor your application materials right after you’ve completed a project, you’ll minimize the time spent updating them later. Not to mention, you’ll guarantee nothing falls through the cracks and you present yourself as a truly qualified candidate for each job you apply to.

And don’t forget, taking that extra step in customizing your application materials can make all the difference in landing your next project or client. Don’t skip it! Keep hustling.

Ready for more job search help?

Sign up for a free Senior Writer Resume Critique to see what’s holding you back from landing interviews. One of our top professional resume writers will give you personalized feedback on the top 3 items you can improve based on our expert practices!


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