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There are many career paths available to take in the creative field. Your goals, values, and circumstances dictate how your work will unfold. As long as you're fulfilled and happy, there is no wrong way.
If you are a creative professional, wearing many hats is not new to you. This career path in any discipline comes with challenges, but it is possible to survive or even thrive in the art world.
You can aim for a full-time gig in your discipline, create and sell your art, work a series of freelance jobs, or seek a paying gig outside of the field to fund the passion. Most people end up doing some combination of all of these throughout their career.
Being ready and hireable is one of the biggest tips I give to people who want to freelance or work for themselves. This means having documents ready to send to possible employers.
When it comes to resumes, here is a list of tips for staying booked.
PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR, REGULARLY
It is natural to gravitate towards the fun parts of being creative and procrastinate the less sexy aspects. Resumes and other admin tasks can be not fun at best and frustrating to complete at worst.
Schedule time once a quarter (or more often if you need) to sit down and update your hiring materials. Keeping up with these tasks regularly can save hours of time down the road crafting new documents or polishing a resume you haven’t touched in a while.
If you hear about an opportunity or suddenly need to find a new gig, you are ready. The documents might need a tweak or two, but it’s much better than starting from scratch.
CREATE AND MAINTAIN A ‘MASTER RESUME’
This document isn’t meant to be employer ready. It is a record of every job you have done with corresponding info (when you worked, supervisor, role, etc), as well as a running list of all your ‘special skills’. Add to it as you learn new skills or complete special trainings.
Resumes sent out should be one page only, but your ‘master resume’ will include everything, so it can be multiple pages. No gig, company, or skill is too small. When it comes to booking work, you would be surprised what skills or companies stand out to a hiring manager.
Keeping this list is great for your records and will help you recall your career timeline. We think details are easy to remember, but years and experiences become fuzzy over time.
DO THE RESEARCH
Doing a quick search for "resume template" will bring up many resources, but often aren't applicable for the creative freelancer. The nature of our industry can make blanket career advice inapplicable for our needs.
How do you find the balance of being professional yet interesting enough to show your creativity in a memorable way? My favorite job packet with the templates I use is from Tori Dunlap of HerFirst100k.
The packet includes 'The Job Interview Overview', Resume Template, and Cover Letter Template. It is thorough and adaptable for the creative industry. You can find it at THIS LINK or purchase the templates separately.
Research people in the industry you admire or are a few steps ahead of you. A lot of creatives have public versions of their resumes available to view on their website. Take notes on the information they have provided, special skills, and formatting style. Don’t plagiarise, but use what you learned to craft your own.
HAVE MULTIPLE POLISHED RESUMES
This is where you pull out the master resume from step 1, use the template or research notes, and craft the polished document. If you are freelancing and constantly working different gigs, having multiple polished resumes is a great tool for staying booked.
At any time, I am working as a professional scenic artist, studio technician, and artist assistant. In addition, I work for myself as an accountability coach, blogger, and dip in and out of the service industry. All of these jobs are different on paper, even if the skills for each are similar. Keeping a resume for each general field keeps me ready to apply for any opportunity and be competitive.
When I want to apply for a position, gig, or new job, I find the resume closest to the position I’m going for, make a copy, then adjust from there. This shouldn’t take long (everything should be up to date because that happens quarterly), but I’ll tweak any special skills or info to align with the position.
CONTACT YOUR REFERENCES
This is a courtesy for those you are in regular contact with, but especially important if references have not been contacted on your behalf in a while.
When doing quarterly updates, send an email to your references. Let them know you are updating your hiring documents and ask if it is still okay to have them listed with the info you have. This ensures their contact details haven't changed and they're cool with being a reference.
It’s also a good habit to contact your references if you plan on sending out a big round of applications or are applying for an important opportunity. This eliminates any surprise for your reference if an unrecognized email or phone number is trying to contact them.
ATTACH THE (CORRECT) RESUME TO THE APPLICATION
Once you are ready to send the application email, make sure the correct document is attached before submitting it. If a job doesn’t tell you specifically how to label your materials, I suggest 'LAST NAME FIRST NAME, RESUME.’
Resumes are common in most industries and are especially important for freelancers and gig workers. Having them updated, neat, and ready to go is an excellent way to stay on top of finding work or landing a permanent gig when the opportunity arises.