Learn the secrets to highlighting self employment on your resume.

Chances are that you already realize the importance of including relevant work experience in your resume. Employers always want to see that you have the experience they're looking for, after all. 

  • But what if your relevant experience includes freelance work or other forms of self-employment? 

  • Can you include self-employment in your resume? 

  • More importantly, how can you include that information in a way that entices employers to offer you an interview?

In this post, we will explore when and why you should include this type of experience and provide some tips and examples you can use to effectively highlight self-employment in your resume.

What is self-employment and why does it matter?

When most people think of self-employment, they envision a small business owner running a shop offering products and services to their community. While that is one type of self employment, it's important to recognize that people engage in this type of work in a variety of different ways. Self employment can include:

  • Independent contractors like construction workers, business consultants, and other service providers

  • Freelancers like writers, graphic artists, and others who engage multiple clients on a per-project basis

  • Entrepreneurs who own and operate formal business enterprises

Any type of work that you've done that didn't involve working as a formal employee of another company can be properly considered a form of self employment. In other words, if you're the boss and you define your duties, schedule, and project terms, chances are that you're self-employed.

Should you always include self employment in your resume?

Of course, it's important to recognize when you should include self employment on your resume. In most instances, this work experience can be an invaluable addition to any resume. When you work for yourself, you employ a wide range of skills that employers might be looking for in their new hires. It's also likely that your experience included many relevant achievements that you'll want to share with those employers.

Moreover, if you spent any serious time being self-employed, omitting that experience could leave a significant gap in your work history – a gap that you'll probably need to explain during an interview. To avoid that issue, it's wise to include self employment in your resume. Just make sure that you focus on relevant skills and achievements when you're detailing those jobs.

On the other hand, if you've done a little freelancing as a side gig throughout your career – and that work has no relevance for your current career goals, then you may want to leave that information off your resume. As a rule, irrelevant information is always a distraction. You'll need to decide whether your self-employment experience enhances your resume.

Tips to include self employment in your resume

It's important to ensure that you include this information in the most effective way possible. While you should add self employment to your work experience section, you may need to adjust your details to properly convey your qualifications. The following tips can help to guide you through that process.

1. Give yourself a job title that reflects the nature of your freelance work

Treat this work experience as other independent contractors and freelancers would on their resumes — give yourself a title that reflects the type of work you did during your time of self employment, and add the word "Contract," "Consultant," or "Freelancer" to that title.

You should also try to avoid using titles like Chief Executive Officer or other upper-echelon positions – unless you're applying for a higher-level management position. Use a title that accurately describes your work, but that also aligns as much as possible with the role you're seeking.

2. Consider adding a company name for consistency on your resume

Some people like to provide a company name so that the format looks like their other work, but that's entirely up to you. If you operate under a company name, then use it. If not, you can just describe the type of work you've done and reference the job title you've assigned to yourself.

3. Provide a summary of the services you offer

Below your job title and dates of employment, write a blurb that explains the type of work you performed as a freelancer. If you worked for multiple employers, you could mention how you did X, Y, and Z types of work for several clients in A, B, and C industries.

4. Use bullet points to highlight noteworthy projects or clients

If there are any specific projects you worked on that demonstrate your marketable skills and achievements, use bullet points to call attention to this relevant work. Try to focus on measurable achievements that highlight the type of value that you provided to each client.

Related post: 47 Accomplishment Examples for Your Resume: Expert Picks

Self employment on resume: example

To help you better understand how one of these self-employment listings might look in your resume, we've included an example below. This example doesn't include any mention of specific clients, but you could add a brief mention of notable customers if you think that it might help to reinforce your qualifications.

Communications & PR Consultant (Contract), San Diego, CA | 2022 to Present

Offer communications and public relations support for clients in the pharmaceutical sector. Address clients' needs, from message development and media outreach to materials creation and planning. Manage media relations, medical meeting support, competitive intelligence, and materials development for OTC health and pharmaceutical clients. Key projects include:

  • Increased consumer awareness for cervical cancer by developing campaign materials, including banner ads, print collateral, and copy for the microsite, resulting in a documented 45% increase in consumer outreach.

  • Doubled coverage and blog backlinks for a client with an OTC treatment for acid reflux by developing a new blogger sweepstakes.

  • Researched, hired, and media trained new spokesperson to represent biotechnology company's new treatment for exercise-induced asthma.

Self employment on resume: skills

Of course, your work experience section is not the only place where your self-employment history can be highlighted. As you were working independently, you developed and used certain skills that are likely to be relevant to your career goals. Those skills should be highlighted within your skills section too. Below are some tips to help you emphasize those marketable skills to employers.

Include relevant hard skills

Your hard skills will include all the relevant abilities that you'll need to possess to qualify for your desired position. Before you create your skills section, review the job posting to identify any skills that the employer has listed as required qualifications for the job. Create a list that includes those exact terms. Now add to that list any additional technical abilities or job-related knowledge that you've acquired and used while self-employed.

Pro tip: Using the exact terms you find in the job posting can be critical for making sure that your resume contains the keywords that applicant tracking systems are looking for during any automated screening process. Check out our post, How to Make an ATS-Friendly Resume – Tips for ATS 2024 for more details!

Don't forget your interpersonal abilities and other soft skills

In addition to those hard skills, you'll also want to include soft skills and interpersonal abilities. In fact, you could put yourself at a huge disadvantage if you fail to highlight your people skills. Many employers who see self employment on a resume may wrongly assume that the candidate lacks key interpersonal skills. Chances are that you've done most of your self-employed work on your own, so you'll need to highlight skills that demonstrate your ability to work with others.

To counter any concerns about your ability to be a team player, you can include bullet point achievements that describe your collaborative efforts with clients, vendors, or other contractors. These achievements can include things like:

  • Communicating regularly with clients, project liaisons, and other members of a team

  • Consistent use of communication platforms like Zoom, including an estimate of your time spent using those tools

  • Descriptions of how you used active listening, negotiation, and customer advocacy skills

Related post: 11 Best Communication Skills for Your Resume (With Examples)

The goal, of course, is to highlight the many ways in which your self employment has involved regular collaboration and interaction with other people. The fact is that independent contractors and freelancers usually work as part of a team – even if they're just acting on instructions provided by their project contact. Your job is to translate that experience into a compelling story that proves you're a team player.

Other important soft skills that you may want to add to your resume can include:

  • Time management

  • Attention to detail

  • Flexibility

  • Problem-solving

For an explanation of these and other skills, and a more in-depth guide to soft skills and their importance, check out our post, Soft Skills Explained - and the Top 7 for Your Resume.

Self-employed resume summary example

In addition to your work experience and skills sections, self employment can also be mentioned in your resume summary. This section should be no more than three to five sentences in length and should include a concise summary of your experience, skills, and major quantifiable achievements. If you were a salesperson, this part of your resume would function as your elevator pitch – a brief but punchy statement designed to capture the reader's attention and inspire them to read the rest of the document.

For example:

Results-focused digital artist with five years of experience building and leading creative art agency from the ground up. Skilled at concept development, theme organization, and full-process campaign creation and implementation designed to increase target audience engagement. Serve as Consulting Lead on ABC Corp. design, development, and execution of mobile applications used by 2 million customers.

Self-employed resume template

Sometimes, it's easier to start with a basic template that you can use to guide you as you create your own resume. We've included a simple template below that you can use by simply inserting your own career details – including self-employment history – into the brackets for each section. Once you've completed that process, you can adjust this basic resume to tailor it to your individual career needs and the job you're seeking.

[Your Full name]

[Address] | [Phone number] | [Email address] | [Website] | [LinkedIn URL]]

[Resume headline] This should be a one-line headline that includes your desired job and some descriptive language that differentiates you from your competitors.

[Resume summary paragraph]


[List of relevant hard and soft skills] Use bullet points for each skill and format the entire section into two or three columns to optimize resume space and improve readability.

Professional Experience

[Company name, dates of employment]

[Job title]

  • [Bullet point achievement #1, including real numbers to show value]
  • [Bullet point achievement #2, including real numbers to show value]
  • [Bullet point achievement #3, including real numbers to show value]
  • [Bullet point achievement #4, including real numbers to show value]

Use this same template format to list as many jobs as you need to cover the last ten years of employment – including any self employment.


[Degree | Major, Name of college, Date you graduated]

You can also list coursework if you believe that it will enhance your qualifications or help the employer understand your area of competency.


[List all relevant certifications, licenses, etc.]

For more advice about organizing your resume sections, read Seven Key Resume Sections and How to Organize Them.

Including self-employment on a resume can boost your chances of landing an interview!

Whether you've spent your career working for yourself or have had a combination of traditional and self-employed positions, including self-employment on your resume can be vital for job search success. That relevant work experience can help you highlight your skills and notable achievements that demonstrate your unique value proposition to employers. Good luck with your job search!

Want to make sure that the self-employment on your resume is truly highlighting your qualifications? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!

This article was originally written by Amanda Augustine and has been updated by Ken Chase.

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