Q&A: Should I say on my resume and LinkedIn page that I am a consultant or freelancer?

Posted by Ellen Mehling

Q: I am an experienced information professional and have been job hunting for many months. I’m concerned about how much time has passed since my last job ended and how this looks to potential employers. A friend suggested that I put on my resume and LinkedIn page that I am freelancing or consulting now, so it looks like I have some work experience that is current, is this a good idea?

A: Well, if you are freelancing or consulting, then you do have current work experience and you should include that information on your resume/LI page, describing the kind of work you’re doing and listing (at least some of) your clients and projects.

If you’re not consulting or freelancing though, putting those things on your LI profile and resume is dishonest. If you don’t list any projects or clients, a hiring manager or recruiter will read that as “probably unemployed and trying to hide it”. If you get an interview and have no answer when asked about your recent consulting or freelancing work, that will be the end of the conversation. And what would you do if an interviewer asked for the name of a satisfied client as a reference?

“Available for freelancing” or “interested in consulting” or a similar phrase are not likely to be effective either, in impressing readers or getting you interviews and/or job offers. They’re too passive, and even a bit desperate if you are otherwise not working. Potential employers are interested in what you have done and are doing, not what you wish you were doing.

Some people go so far as to create a business name and even a website to make it appear they are the founder/president/whatever of a company or nonprofit, and that they are working when they are not. An online portfolio showcasing your work and achievements is one thing, a fake business or organization that you’re the “founder” of is another. An interviewer with any skill will discover with a question or two and a quick look at your website that the company or organization is just for show.

Regarding your work history, something is better than nothing, but a gap is better than fictional work experience. Better ways to avoid or fill a gap include part-time work, work in another field (ideally something related to information work), volunteering, and service in professional organizations. You can also create a project or event, perhaps with others. With just a few hours of effort a week you can have something real for a potential employer to see, rather than a gap in your work experience or a lie on your resume.

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