Dear WordCount is a weekly advice column answering your questions about writing, blogging and running a freelance business. What do you want to know? Ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a former print reporter who quit full-time work when I had my first child. I worked successfully as a freelance writer until my twins came along and our family moved to a new city. Now that our fourth baby is approaching 4, I’m looking to pick up consistent, meaningful part-time work and I’ve just started pulling my resume together. Obviously, the work before freelance is easy to feature on the resume but I’m stumped with how to present the occasional freelance pieces I’ve worked on over the past seven years. Thanks! — D. D.
Welcome back to the world of regular writing work. Juggling freelancing and family is hard, but doable. I know: I’ve done it since 1995, and I have yet to leave a kid standing in the after-school pick up line or stranded after day camp, though I have occasionally forgotten to pack a lunch or throw the cleats in the car for the baseball game.
But I digress.
You’ve done yourself a favor by continuing to do the odd freelance piece while you’ve been tending to your family. That helps. On a resume, you can legitimately claim that you’ve been freelancing since the date of the first piece you had published during your SAHM era.
Here’s what else I’d recommend doing to make your resume look good as you jump back into part-time freelance writing:
1. Use Your Cover Letter to Explain
If you feel the need to explain a big gaps between clips, save it for the cover letter or letter of introduction you send with a resume. Rather than write about it as a negative — “I realize I haven’t filed many stories recently” — show it off as a sign of your resourcefulness and love of what you do. You could write something like this: “Although I took time off to raise my family, I continued to follow XYZ issues and filed as many stories about it as possible; here are several clips of my most recent work.” Who wouldn’t appreciate that person’s diligence or passion?
2. Focus on Accomplishments, Not a Time Line
Career experts I interviewed while working on BlogHer’s Reinvent Yourself series earlier this year suggest creating a resume that focuses on your skills and accomplishments, not the dates of your previous employment or freelance business.
Also, it’s OK to include experiences you gained as a volunteer while you were off work, especially if they’re relevant to the type of work you want to do. If you published the school auction catalog, submitted articles for the Little League weekly newsletter, served as communications chair for a nonprofit, took minutes as the school PTA secretary or sent out the weekly football team email blast, include it on your resume. I did all of those jobs and others during my own seven-year break, and I included the work on my LinkedIn profile once I went back to work. It show that you were still working even though you weren’t earning a paycheck. And who knows, another organization might see something you did and hire you to do the same thing for them.
3. Join a Professional Group
Organizations such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists or subscription freelance groups like Freelance Success are great for networking, and many offer local or online training for free or at reduced rates, so if you feel like you have gaps in in-demand skills you can get them without too much trouble.
Check out my Greatest Hits page for more ideas of how to get back into part-time writing work.
Good luck with the re-entry!