How to Show Self-Employment on Your Resume

Jacob Meade Headshot

Jacob Meade

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, ACRW)

Jacob Meade is a resume writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience. His writing method centers on understanding and then expressing each person’s unique work history and strengths toward their career goal. Jacob has enjoyed working with jobseekers of all ages and career levels, finding that a clear and focused resume can help people from any walk of life. He is an Academy Certified Resume Writer (ACRW) with the Resume Writing Academy, and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.

If you’ve worked for yourself, you may think you should use the phrase “self-employed” in your resume job description. But this phrase doesn’t belong on a standard (non-federal) resume. It describes an employment condition and therefore falls outside the scope of detail you should give about yourself, similar to your salary, benefits, or reason for leaving a job. There is just one main purpose of a resume: To show the relevant things you have learned and done in your career thus far.

For this reason, you should leave “self-employed” off your resume. However, omitting this phrase can cause another problem. If you make no other changes to your job description, hiring managers may wonder who you worked for or incorrectly assume you worked at a larger company.

To prevent confusion, you’ll need to somehow indicate your self-employment (without stating it outright) in one or more of the four main job description areas. This task might sound tricky, but as long as you have a clear sense of your goals, you can quickly find the right way to frame your experience. Read on for examples of each area you can edit for self-employment and tips on when some options work better than others.

Job Title

You may have been told you can show self-employment by putting “freelance” or “contract” in parentheses after your job title, as in “Marketing Consultant (freelance).” However, these terms are too vague because they don’t indicate your commitment level – on reading them, the hiring manager won’t know the work was full time. As an option, you can give yourself extra titles such as “Founder,” “Owner,” or “Entrepreneur” to reveal the full scope and nature of your role in developing a business.

Example:

Marketing Consultant / Founder / Owner

Caveats:

— Only use this option if you also provide a company name (see below). Otherwise, exactly what you’ve founded or owned won’t be apparent.
— Don’t use senior-level job titles like “CEO,” “Business Manager,” or “Director” for this purpose. These titles may accurately reflect the work you’ve done for your venture, but they can mislead the hiring manager to think you hold a leadership position.

Company Name

If your business goes by an exact name (for instance, just your first/last name and the services you offer), you can rely on that name to help frame the experience as self-employment.

Example:

Marketing Consultant / Founder / Owner, Raymond Ortiz Marketing Services

Caveat:

Naturally, you won’t have this option if your business already uses a less descriptive name or acronym. But if you never got around to formally branding or naming your business (maybe it’s just grown organically from client referrals), now is an excellent time to give it a clear, simple name, at least for your resume.

Company Description

To further indicate self-employment, you can add a description of your business in brackets right below or next to your other standard job details. Use words like “consulting,” “private,” or “independent” to help hiring managers to understand you’ve worked solo.

Example:

Marketing Consultant / Founder / Owner, Raymond Ortiz Marketing Services | July 2019 to Present

[Independent consulting business serving local inns and restaurants.]

Caveat:

This won’t be your best option if the business you operate has little in common with your target employers or their industry. For instance, in the example above, Raymond should leave out this company description if he wants to move to a large company outside hospitality.

Job Description

Finally, you can use the first line of your job description text to frame the work as something you manage and coordinate on your own.

Example:

Marketing Consultant / Founder / Owner, Raymond Ortiz Marketing Services | July 2019 to Present

[Independent consulting business serving local inns and restaurants.]

– Established and run all aspects of this personal venture to help client businesses set powerful new market strategies.

Caveat:

In the example above, this option portrays you as someone who can thrive in a versatile startup role. Don’t use it if you’re targeting jobs at larger companies and wish to focus on your transferable skills and experience.

—–

Ultimately, you should only feature your self-employed status to the extent it aligns with your job search goals. If your goal is to work for an organization, use just one or two of the above options, so the job description is accurate but doesn’t distract from your relevant work experience. On the other end of the spectrum, if your goal is to stay self-employed (perhaps using your resume to attract new clients or partners), make all four of the above edits to your job description. Doing so will impress readers with your overall experience and reliability in running your own show.