What should my freelance writer resume look like if I'm actually an engineer?
August 21, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to change my engineering resume into one more appropriate for a freelance writer?

I'm an engineer and have a wonderful job doing engineeringy things. On the side, though, I've started doing freelance writing for blogs and magazines -- mostly in technology, related to my day job, but I have some opportunities to branch out.

But now rather than word-of-mouth references, I have to actually submit a resume as a writer. How do I make a good one? On an engineering resume I'd list my relevant skills (engineering design software, machine tools, etc) but I'm not sure what the analog is for writing.

My biggest concern right now is that the list of stuff I *do* have (education, info on the writing I already do) is too short -- I'm used to a good resume filling a page. Advice please!
posted by olinerd to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My first suggestion is to immediately bulk up your writing samples/appearances. Get a blog if you don't already have one, and start submitting articles/writing for sites like examiner.com. The more writing samples/exercises you can add to your resume, the more it will tip the scale from engineering to writing.

Oh, another way to tune it to writing is spin any engineering type "writing" (i.e. editing manuals, writing training, etc.) and focus on that as your engineering writing experience.
posted by banannafish at 1:36 PM on August 21, 2009

I’m a freelance medical writer, so some of the info I am going to put below may be overkill for your niche area. However, for me, this resume format works and I get a lot of replies/responses with my writing resume/CV.

First, I changed my resume/CV into a functional resume. So rather than list all of my jobs (they really don’t care), I only list things that are relevant to freelance writing.
This is the format that I use:
• Writing – I have an overview section with a few specialty bullets, a media and formats section (eg, executive summaries, literature reviews, slide decks – you could but blogs here), and a full blown list of disease and therapeutic areas that I have written about – for me, it is disease states, for you it may be “robots, electronics”, etc.
• Writing experience, any jobs that primarily included a writing component
• Relevant field experience/expertise (because I do science/medical writing and they assume or want you to know the science very well, I have a brief summary of my own field research and university teaching experience – do not do a ridiculous explanation of prior projects but summary field research in a sentence or 2 max – however, if you are writing about rockets but also designed and built rockets for NASA, list it)
• Education (I write for PhDs/MDs, so the graduate school info is a little bit relevant – I list it)

This actually fills up 2 pages for me – but if I send out a batch of email letters saying “I’m Wolfster a freelance med writer here is my CV”, I do get replies and offers for projects, so it works for me. I do target a small area, though (companies that write medical education material, journal articles, etc - so YMMV).

One more thing – I would use linkedin. Be very specific and list a lot of former jobs. I’ve gotten freelance projects this way – link it to a freelance writing web page if you can (and on my freelance writing webpage, I have links to samples and a list of recently published stuff - I don't even have this on my writing CV).

Memail me if you want to see my sample writing resume, with identifying info removed

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 1:42 PM on August 21, 2009

An editor's best predictor of success is past success. So, I'd list publications and sites where you've performed well, whose editors will reap praise and recommend you, mention and highlight those areas where you have a credible, demonstrable knowledge and expertise. Depending on the market you're trying to serve, an engineering background could be valuable. Wolfster's advice is excellent. As an editor, I will tell you the resume is not as important as the clips and portfolio you submit. Next most important are references. The resume, at best, will get me to ask for more.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 3:44 PM on August 21, 2009

Yeah, as a former editor I'm going to want to see

1). that you've been published in other places.

My personal style as an editor looking for writers would then be to skip everything else and go immediately to the writing samples. But since it sounds like you do technical writing, I'd list areas of expertise after the publication list. Again from my own experience: I don't care what jobs you've had unless it has direct bearing on the writing.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:53 PM on August 21, 2009

I do a good deal of freelance writing in a somewhat specialized field (library stuff). I find that basically the important parts are

- having clips, i.e. things that editors can read that show what I can do
- having been published in print in places people have heard of, this doesn't have to mean the New York Times but something that is a little more known than your own blog. If you want to work on this you can offer to write something for a local paper, local magazine, local newsletter or whatever.
- having a history of decent writing that can be looked into, this could be a blog or stuff you've done in the recent past
- having recognition of things that could be writing related [I keep my "best blog" awards from newspapers on my resume even though it's a little goofy because it shows that someone besides my Mom likes my blog]

I mix my paid and unpaid writing and arrange it more or less by topic. I add volunteer works if I did, say, the editing on the ABC Library Newsletter and I'm trying to make my resume fuller and I did the job for eight months I'd include it. I'm no longer looking for work, but if you'd like to check out what th writing section of my resume looks like, please feel free.
posted by jessamyn at 8:55 PM on August 21, 2009

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