I’m part of a great writing group on Facebook. I love helping out with questions and sharing some of my experiences there. A while ago, someone asked if there were any tips on polishing a writer’s resumé.
I offered to share mine via e-mail, and a few people chimed in that they’d be interested in seeing it also. Well, if that’s not inspiration for a blog post, I don’t know what is 🙂
Firstly, let’s talk about whether you need a writing resumé at all. If you’re a freelance writer pitching publications or clients, chances are you’ll rarely, if ever, need a resumé. Usually a pitch or query, accompanied by links to your published articles (or clips of articles for print publications) is more than enough. However, there are occasions when you’ll need a writer’s resumé – for example, if you are applying for a remote position with a company, or if a private client specifically requests it. This latter example is rare, but it does happen from time to time.
If you do need a writer’s resumé, the first thing to know is that it looks pretty different from your run-of-the-mill resumé. Here are some quick tips:
- If you’re working as online entrepreneur, DO NOT list your physical address at the top. I recommend not listing your phone number either, but this is a matter of personal preference.
- Highlight your writing and editing experience at the top, including mentions of where you have been published in the past.
- List your work experience, highlighting anything you’ve done in those positions that apply to writing (e.g. wrote a training manual, distributed newsletters, etc).
- Put any education and training at the bottom – NOT the top. People are interested in whether you can write well – most employers now weigh your experience much more heavily than your education, particularly when it comes to the arts.
I thought I’d share my resumé with you and show you how I’ve written it. This is a standard format for a writing resumé in North America. There is more than one way to do it, of course, but here’s how I’ve done mine. Let’s look at it section by section.
The first area of your resumé will be your header. Here’s mine:
You’ll notice I simply list my name, email address, and website. I deliberately do not include my physical home/mailing address or phone number, unless I’m applying for a local position. If you’re applying for an online/virtual/off-site position, there is no need to include a physical address.
The next area of your resumé will include highlights of your skills as a writer. Here’s mine:
Writing and Editorial Background
- Writing: Experience with email copywriting, writing e-newsletters, blog posts, landing pages, and training manuals. Published author on The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Familyshare.com, The Talko, and more. Blogger at www.marianamcdougall.com.
- Editing: Experience proofreading and editing magazine articles, blog posts, essays, theses, emails, e-newsletters, novels, cookbooks, and training manuals.
- Business and Corporate Writing: Experience writing business plans and training manuals.
- Internet & Desktop Publishing: Webmaster for marianamcdougall.com, dreamsintogoalswriting.com, www.fletchersbicycles.ca, and www.ontariocha.wordpress.com. Former webmaster for www.noguiltmama.com and www.achieverfitness.com. Fluent in use of WordPress, Microsoft Office Suite; typing 80 words per minute.
- Speaker: Speaking engagements for small business owners, homeschooling associations, and community groups. Over eighteen years of experience as a teacher and instructor, speaking in front of audiences of various sizes.
You’ll notice that I’ve mentioned the places in which I have been published right in this section, and that I have not added links to my articles/pieces. I choose to send those as separate “clips” for print publications or in the body of my cover letter for online pieces.
The next section of my writer’s resume is my employment history. Many writers fret about their employment history not having anything to do with writing; however, I guarantee that if you think long and hard about your previous employment, you’ll find that you did some kind of writing. Use these experiences to fit the resumé you’re currently writing. Here’s my example:
Freelance Writer and Editor – December 2012 to present
Writing and editing blog posts, magazine articles, essays, Ebooks, e-newsletters, and e-mail copywriting. Editing novels, children’s books, and cookbooks.
Active Living Facilitator – September 2008 to February 2016, various contracts
North Kingston Community Health Centre
Wrote an unprecedented curriculum and facilitated physical activity classes for adults with chronic illnesses or disabilities; researched and purchased equipment for program; organized transportation and childcare benefits for clients. Wrote an extensive train-the-trainer program for a stroke prevention project. Wrote a training manual for future Active Living Facilitators. Wrote recommendations for a future Active Living through the Lifespan Program as well as a Staff Wellness Plan.
Owner – December 2012 to September 2014
Responsible for all aspects of the company, including writing and updating the business plan, maintaining the website, writing blog posts, creating and delivering personal training programs to clients, bookkeeping and accounting, and maintaining client records. Provided consulting services for the seniors’ fitness program of a major health center.
Occasional Teacher – September 2008 to December 2010
Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board
Taught a variety of grades and subjects at several schools in the board. Wrote lesson plans on short notice.
Resource Management Support Clerk – December 2001 to September 2008
Royal Canadian Naval Reserves, Department of National Defence
Effectively managed resources for military members.
Adult Swim Lessons Instructor, Lifeguard, Shift Coordinator – September 1999 to December 2000
Pav YMCA in Berwyn
Berwyn, IL, USA
Independently taught ages ranging from 16 to 60; wrote lesson plans, tailored lessons to individual students, gave individual instruction within the group, and evaluated student swimming skills. Increased program enrolment by 329% in less than 3 months. Provided friendly and efficient first aid services to members; amicably enforced pool rules. Scheduled lifeguard and instructor shifts.
You’ll noticed that for each of the positions listed, I’ve highlighted the writing involved whenever possible. Of course there was a lot more involved in each of these positions, but that stuff doesn’t matter for a writing resumé. Concentrate on the writing you’ve done, and add other skills in as you see fit.
If you’ve worked as a health professional, writing detailed patient’s charts would fall under writing experience. If you’re a mechanic, writing detailed diagnostic test results would fall under writing experience, and so forth. Just like for a regular resumé, remember to use action verbs and to highlight your successes in each position. So if you increased enrollment, mention that; if you have metrics for increases in leads or sales, add that, and so forth.
The next section in your writing resumé will be your publications. Here, list books you’ve had published, or academic journal articles if applicable. I would not add magazine articles/blog posts here, as that will crowd your resumé. Like I said before, offer one or two clips or links in your cover letter or as an attachment to a snail mail letter instead. Here is my publications section:
- Northcott, A., Bruner, B., Lévesque, L., Abeid-McDougall, M., Bell,C. (June 2011). Bridging the Gap: An academic-community health centre partnership to enhance physical activity in community-dwelling adults with chronic health conditions. Canadian Public Health Association 2011 Conference- Public Health in Canada: Innovative Partnerships for Action Montreal, QC.
- Master’s Thesis publication of a study on an exercise class developed by M. Abeid-McDougall
- Levesque, L., Bell, C., Abeid-McDougall, M., Hall, J. Chart your course: Development of a Community Physical Activity Framework. Healthy Eating & Active Living conference, Toronto, ON. 2006.
- Framework used by Kingston Community Health Centres to guide active living initiatives
Last but not least, add your education history:
Bachelor of Education, University of Ottawa, 2008 – English and Physical and Health Education
Bachelor of Arts (Minor Health Studies), Queen’s University, 2006
Bachelor of Physical and Health Education, Queen’s University, 2006
Although my Physical and Health Education was my main subject for my post-graduate education degree, I strategically place “English” at the front, since this is a writing resumé, and therefore, English is more relevant.
That’s how I’ve organized my writing resumé. It’s a pretty standard format, although others may format theirs slightly differently. My main advice for polishing your writer’s resumé is:
- Highlight your experience and strengths for writing in general
- Find and bring out any writing experience accrued in any employment
- Use action words to show your accomplishments
- Keep your resumé to two pages or fewer
- As with any other resumé, tailor it to fit the needs of the prospective employer or client. For example, when I apply for editorial positions, I move my editorial experience to the top, and I emphasize any editorial experience when describing my previous employment. It’s important to note that you should be doing this even more so for cover letters.
- Edit, re-edit, and then have someone else have a look at your resumé to ensure that there are no typos or grammar errors.
- You can certainly add an “objective” or “highlights” section to your resumé. I choose not to do so because I don’t have enough space, and I’d prefer to highlight my academic publications. Furthermore, I use my cover letter to grab the attention of a potential employer or client, and I feel that anything I would say in the “highlights” section has already been said in the cover letter.
If you’d like to see the resumé in its entirety, you can download a copy here. I ask that you use it as guide, but of course please write your own resumé that reflects your own experience (e.g. don’t send my resumé out as if you had written it yourself).
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