Whether you worked for one company as a full-time designer or worked with several companies on solving various design problems, both offer important skills and experiences for you to add to your resume. But how do you add freelance design work to your resume? We’ll cover exactly how but first let’s discuss how freelance design jobs benefit you and your future career as a designer.
Design is a huge industry. You can choose to specialize in web design and create amazing websites for clients. Maybe you want to design email campaigns or digital ads for social channels. Or maybe you want to work on graphic and print design or create logos for companies. There are so many specialties in design and the fastest way to discover what you enjoy designing most is to try them.
With freelancing, no two jobs are the same. You can try out various types of projects to help you narrow down what type of design you want to specialize in. On the other hand, if you don’t want to specialize, freelancing is also a great opportunity to add variety to the design projects you work on. You can also experiment with working with different clients from various industries. You may not realize it but even within web design, there are so many types of websites you can design. Check out this post on 12 popular website types and how to design for them.
You hear it all the time, if you want to get hired as a designer you need to have an amazing portfolio website. But what you may not hear as often is how important the resume or CV also is. If you want to be hired by a company as a full-time designer, contract designer, or freelance designer, you will need to have a resume that shares your skills and experience as a designer.
Believe it or not, most companies won’t even look at your portfolio until they’ve skimmed your resume and pushed you through the next round of interviews. For this reason, it’s important to make the best first impression and increase your chances of working with more clients.
Check out this video where Ran reviews a designer's CV for some tips on what to include and what to leave out on your resume:
Here are some of the most important sections to include in your resume.
The first thing on your resume is a header that includes your full name, email address, and a link to your portfolio website. This is the information someone needs if they want to reach out, learn more, and move forward with working with you. If you want, you can also include your city location. Sometimes it’s helpful for a company to know but this may not be as important especially if you’re looking for remote work.
While not required, sometimes it’s helpful to add a 2–3 sentence summary of where you are in your career and what you’re looking for in your next role. In this summary, you may want to mention years of experience, design skills you specialize in, and any impressive accomplishment you want to immediately share. Here’s an example of a summary:
Designer with 6+ years of experience in UX/UI design and branding. Redesigned the website experience for Client #1, Client #2, and Client #3. Looking for my next eCommerce client to work with.
This is simply an example. You can change it however it suits you best but be specific and make it match what you’re looking for.
The most important part and what will take up the bulk of your resume is the experience section. Here you will list out any full-time, part-time, and of course freelance design projects. Each position or project should be its own subsection including your role title, the company or client name, dates you worked with them, followed by a couple of bullet points with key touchpoints on what you accomplished. Try to quantify these results with numbers like conversion rates, these numbers stand out to potential clients.
Try to keep your bullet points as just that, bullet points and not paragraphs. You want to make your resume scannable. If you go into too much detail, adding unnecessary filler words, the person reviewing your resume will have no idea what you actually do. Take your time to rewrite this section over and over until you have your accomplishments down to a few succinct sentences.
In this section, list any higher education. For example, if you attended college and earned a Bachelor’s degree, even if it’s not in design. Even smaller certifications like completing a UX design bootcamp, add them in this section.
Should you create your own custom design for your resume or use a template? There’s no right or wrong answer, do whatever you’re most comfortable with. If you’re quick with designing a simple 1-page text document then it’s helpful to create your own custom design so you have full control over every detail. But it also doesn’t hurt your chances of landing a freelance job if you decide to go with a template. Your portfolio is where your creativity should shine as a designer. The resume should be simple, straight to the point, and inspire them to reach out to you.
I created my own resume in Adobe InDesign and set up grids and guidelines on a master page. What’s great about using a program like InDesign is the ability to use master pages and create paragraph and character styles to format your design. Once created, it’s super easy to update with new roles and project experiences and send out a new version.
But if you don’t want to design your own template and just want to use a premade document that you can copy and paste your experience into to, consider purchasing a resume template from a site like Creative Market. Even if you don’t end up buying a template, it’s a great way to gather inspiration for designing your own. Take a look at the various layouts, how they organize the sections of information, and see which ones stand out to you most.
Be sure to take note of what size the document is and file compatibility. You want to make sure you have the right program to edit and customize the template in. While I prefer an INDD (InDesign file), there are also options for other design software. Here are a few examples of resume templates available on Creative Market.
A simple resume and cover letter template in PSD and Docx file formats by UX-group.
A word and cover letter template created in Word by DemeDesign.
A resume, reference, and cover letter template with Word, Photoshop, and InDesign files options created by CV house.
A general rule of thumb is 1 page per 10 years of experience. So if you haven’t professionally worked that long as a designer, keep your resume concise and down to 1 page.
When you’re a new designer and you don’t have much work experience, it’s tempting to want to add more than you need in hopes of increasing your chances of getting hired. But it’s best to be honest with your true skills and abilities. The last thing you want is to be hired for a job you can’t actually produce and disappoint the client. Your reputation as a designer is vital. You don’t want word to get around that you are a designer that doesn’t deliver on their promises, you might not get hired again.
Many years ago it was a trend to create pretty infographic-like resumes where you rate your skills in Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software with a graph. Avoid doing this as it actually confuses whoever is viewing your resume rather than encourage them to want to work with you. They might begin to question your abilities rather than focus on your strengths.
When it comes to the design of your resume, keep the aesthetic as simple and minimal as possible. This is not where you show off your design skills, that’s what your portfolio is for. Instead, your resume is meant to pique the interest of a potential employer or client just enough to want to reach out and contact you to work together.
When you’re trying to fit all this information on one page, it’s important to think about how best to organize it with a grid. The best option is to use a 2-column layout on a 3-column grid. Take a look at this example of how you can organize the information on your resume.
Set up a 3-column grid within your document. Keep your most important information like your header and experience section within the larger column. Use the smaller column for secondary information like the education and skills section.
This might depend on where you’re from but in general, especially in the United States, you’ll want to keep any profile photos off of your resume. For one, it might lead to bias but it’s also distracting. You want to keep a potential client focused on the work you’ve done, accomplishments, and skills.
Make sure the font is set at a good size. A typical Word document defaults to 12 pt font size. This is way too large for your resume, especially if you need to include a lot of information. But you also don’t want to scale down your text to try to fit everything onto one page and as a result, it’s too small for anyone to read. A good recommendation is to keep your body text sizes between 8–10pt. But feel free to add larger headers throughout as a way to divide each of your sections and create hierarchy.
Hierarchy is key in designing this 1-page document. For more tips on how to create hierarchy in your design check out this post, Understanding Hierarchy in Design.
Aside from the content on your resume, the second most important thing is that your resume is legible and easy to read. Avoid light colors completely. In fact, it’s encouraged to keep your resume in black and white only. You can include one accent color if you like but keep the majority of your text in black or at least 80–90% gray or black.
You can choose to use one typeface family only with various sizes, use bold for headings, and regular for the body text. Or you can use an accent typeface for headers and a clearly legible sans serif or serif typeface for body copy. For more tips on typography, check out this post on What is Typography?
Now that you know exactly how to add freelance design to your resume, best practices, how to format your design, and tips for making a great first impression, what’s next in building a successful freelance design business and landing more clients?
Check out part 1 of our Intro to Freelancing series on the Flux YouTube channel:
If you’re ready to dive deeper into freelancing, want to set yourself up for success, and move at a faster pace learning from others who’ve done it, check out our course The 6 Figure Freelance Designer.
In this course, we share the step-by-step business-building roadmap. You’ll learn how to set up a proven marketing system to consistently bring in clients, refine your niche and how you describe the value of your services, improve your sales and negotiation skills to close higher-paying projects, and run your business smoothly and set yourself up for steady growth. Through weekly mentorship calls and done for you business templates and resources, you’ll have everything you need to build a profitable freelance design business.
Start growing your business today with Ran’s High-Value Web Designer Secrets email course that teaches you the three most significant things he’s learned as a freelancer.