If you’ve ever been self-employed as a business owner, freelancer, or contractor, then you know how exciting it can be to take your future into your own hands. However, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Maybe your business didn’t work out, or maybe you’re tired of business management and the costs of being self-employed. Either way, some entrepreneurs eventually wish to return to full-time employment.
No matter your reason for returning to the workforce as an employee, one thing is for certain: Being an owner and working on business development can be a lot messier to translate into a resume template than traditional experience. But fear not: We’ll get your resume job-search ready in no time.
How to write a business owner resume
Although it can be frightening to make the leap from freelance to in-house employment, you can boost your odds of getting hired by building a strong resume that reflects your experiences as a self-employed individual. Instead of being flustered by your business owner experience and freelance jobs, use a proper business owner resume to showcase your experience in a way that allows potential employers to see your skills and know you’re up to the task.
Here are a few best practices for listing self-employment and contract work on your resume.
1. Take pains with title selection
When it comes to catching a hiring manager’s eye, selecting the right title for your self-employment position can make all the difference. Instead of listing your job title as “freelancer,” create a label that explains your role more clearly. For example, you can call yourself a writer, graphic designer, website developer, or consultant.
Additionally, you should let managers know that you ran your own company. By labeling your employment status “Company Owner” instead of just “Self-Employed,” you show potential employers that you possess leadership and management skills that other candidates might not. The ability to manage other employees or build relationships with clients and vendors can go a long way toward landing you that full-time position.
2. Detail accomplishments
One of the difficulties of listing self-employment on a resume is that employers may struggle to understand exactly what your old job entailed. To provide the most complete picture, former freelancers should list all of their most significant achievements, such as improving a client’s SEO position, increasing web conversions, or growing social media campaigns.
Whenever possible, be sure to provide specific data and percentages to drive your point home. Because many self-employed individuals have more than one client, it can be easy to lose track of what you accomplished on each job. A good rule of thumb is to write out a brief description of the project and its outcome as soon as you finish. After all, you don’t want to forget anything that might help you land that new gig.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to include details regarding other responsibilities you held. It’s not uncommon for freelancers to have a variety of skills, so let employers know if you handled the company’s human resources and accounting needs along with your other tasks.
3. Include references
As a self-employed person, you’re likely working with multiple clients at a single time. As a result, you have the advantage of being able to handpick those customers or collaborators most likely to give you a great review.
Before listing references on your resume, check that they’re not just willing but also eager to refer your services. Although most clients won’t speak negatively about someone who asked for a reference, a savvy hiring manager can detect a lack of enthusiasm in someone’s responses.
You should also pre-discuss questions an employer is likely to ask and make sure you both remember your work experience in the same way. The last thing you want is a discrepancy between what you say on your resume and what your reference reveals on the phone.
4. Properly list out your skills
As a business owner, you’ve accrued a number of skills and accomplished a lot. It’s easy for you to think of what you did as “simply running the business” or your daily duties. In reality, you’ve likely filled a lot of shoes and worn a lot of hats. (Are these clothing analogies helping you?)
Rather than sell yourself short, think about your day-to-day activities, as well as the steps that led to the launch of your business. You have valuable professional experience from running your own business, and you should proudly display it. As a former business owner, you can likely list a lot of the following as skills on your resume:
- Project management: Virtually every type of business or self-employment involves project management, whether it’s moving client work from one stage to the next or managing others as they tackle projects. Project management is a valuable skill set that can help you get any number of jobs, or even lead to a project manager position if you’re passionate about it.
- Business planning: Your business didn’t come out of thin air. You likely drafted up a business plan to make it happen. Even if you didn’t create one yourself, you were still involved on some level, so think carefully on this and spell it out on your resume. That kind of strategic planning can lead to a great management or project-based position.
- Problem solving: Recruiters love seeing problem solving as a highlighted skill. Why? Because most businesses have problems that need solving. Think about any difficult clients you had to accommodate, any hurdles you overcame, or any new business issues you had to work through. These can all be great examples of problem solving, and they not only shine as resume examples, they’re also great to bring up during interviews.
- E-commerce: If your company happened to be involved in any kind of online sales, you can absolutely lean into the e-commerce angle. There are a number of business opportunities tied to e-commerce. Whether you’re wanting to help manage another e-commerce site, do marketing for one, or work with one as a service rep, prior e-commerce experience with your own company will help you stand out in a big way.
- Various technical skills: Being on the ground floor of any start-up results in the accrual of a number of technical skills. During the resume writing process, think back on your work history as someone self-employed and consider any technical skills you learned or used regularly. Was there a software-related fiasco you solved early on? Did you have to master Excel in a weekend? There’s a good chance you picked up some valuable skills during self-employment, so look over the job descriptions for positions you’re interested in and check out the skills they’re looking for. Then think back on your work history and see if you can translate your experience into those skill sets.
5. Avoid apologies
It’s only natural to be upset when a self-employment opportunity doesn’t work out the way you intended. However, almost everyone experiences employment setbacks during the course of their career, and you should never apologize for time spent as a freelancer.
Instead, use your resume’s objective statement to highlight your passion and ambition, and be sure to explain how these qualities will translate into your new role. The fact that you ran a business should make you more desirable — not less — in the eyes of hiring managers.
Because most employers will want to know why you’re making the switch from freelance to in-house, it’s a good idea to address this question head-on in your resume or cover letter. Instead of saying you started your own company to escape a bad work situation or to be your own boss, stress the fact that you wanted to experience new challenges and improve client services.
Since supervisors may worry that you’ll strike out on your own again, strive to reassure them that you’re ready to build a long and lasting career with their company. Employers want to feel confident that they’re your first choice, so let them know you’re ready to leave freelancing behind and join the corporate world once again.
Loving what you do
Even if it doesn’t work out in the long term, self-employment can provide you with a wide array of skills that will serve both you and your future employers. Instead of downplaying your days of freelance work or business ownership, embrace your experience and proudly show it on your resume. Explain to employers how the creativity and ambition that made you strike out on your own will be a boon to their company if they choose to hire you. (They should be impressed. We are!)
You’ve done what so many only ever dream of doing: run a business. Getting back into employment doesn’t change your old company name, nor does it erase the interesting and exciting times from when you were self-employed. You have experience unlike anyone else, so be proud of that and run with it. It won’t be long before you’re finding success with a new company, all thanks to your one-of-a-kind employment history.