Highlighting Education and Experience - Your Online Resume
I’ve mentioned many times that clients care less about what you’ve done for others in the past than what you can do for them in the future. That doesn’t mean, however, that they do not care at all about your professional history. The oft-repeated advice not to bore clients with your education and experience in project proposals should certainly be heeded, but you should still provide that information in the appropriate parts of your online profile, for those who want to read it.
Entering your profile’s education and experience isn’t really rocket science: go into your profile and fill out the fields provided with your relevant education and job experience. But note that key word: relevant. Even though this part of your profile is analogous to a resume, it isn’t a resume. Clients don’t want to read your entire life history, they just want to see some evidence that you can do what you say you can. Thus, you should only enter details from your past that are applicable to the type of work you are planning to do. Don’t bog this section down with distractions that might keep the client from seeing what you want him or her to see.
The main exception to this is if you have a degree or past work experience that clients are likely to be impressed by, or to consider as prima facie evidence that you are smart, dedicated or accomplished. Maybe you’re working as an engineer despite having a B.A. from a top liberal arts school. Or perhaps you’re a designer but worked for several years at a prestigious law firm. Doesn’t matter if it’s not directly relevant: put it in there. Clients like to see that stuff, as it is generally indicative of a quality individual. (Be sure to read the next section about credential verification, however.)
Note that even though the convention is to list all work experience chronologically, this isn’t an absolute requirement. Put the most relevant experience at the top (if possible—on some sites you can’t control this).
Some freelancers start without a great deal of past experience, nor degrees that would help to establish their expertise. This is not ideal, but not the end of the world.
If you have lemons, make lemonade: do the best you can to make the experience and education section help yourself look good to clients. Highlight the positive, and avoid the negative. Don’t be dishonest, but do your best to make yourself look good.
Again, remember that this is like a resume, but isn’t a resume. Clients may look the material over, and make decisions based on what they see, but it’s not like a traditional job interview where the HR guy is going to pull out your file and interrogate you about what you did for that year in 2003 when you don’t have any work experience listed.
Of course, you can go too far with this: if you load up your experience and education section with really old or—frankly—lame accomplishments, it will only serve to highlight the lack of substance in your profile. Nobody really cares about what you did in high school or what summer jobs you did, unless they involved truly remarkable achievements. If you can’t find anything to put in your profile that is relevant, reasonably recent, and doesn’t make you sound like a teenager, this could be a sign that you’re not really ready yet to strike out as an independent freelancer.
Many people fill out their profiles once when they start freelancing and then never update the material, even years later. (Been there, done that.) Try to remember to update your education and experience section as you expand your career, and especially if you are actively taking courses or continuing to gain experience in a “real world” job while you freelance.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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