Can I include companies I was subcontracted to in my portfolio?
August 22, 2009 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Freelancers, if you're subcontracted by company A to work for a big client, company B, do you include both company A and company B in your portfolio? Does this change if you're actually employeed by company A, but still want to maintain a freelance portfolio?

I've often seen people do this and I've read 'how to break into the business' type articles that instruct people to do this, but something about it seems a bit dishonest.

Sure I worked on projects for company B, but I was an employee of company A. I'm I being overly cautious?
posted by miniape to Work & Money (12 answers total)
Suppose you work in a big company, full-time, where there is much bureaucracy, and your boss has a boss, who has a boss, all the way up until you get to the CEO and president. When you leave this company and create a portfolio for yourself, who do you say you did work for? Your particular boss or the company itself?

That's how I view it. I've been contracted through one company for another, and I don't really view it as doing work for them, since they aren't the ones who will have the final say or approval. They're just middlemen who will pay me and relay information.

This is just my take on it, though. Others would probably disagree with me.
posted by metalheart at 4:39 PM on August 22, 2009

Does the larger company ever make payments directly to you? Do you ever work directly with employees of the larger company? As a crude example, if you paint walls and you're contracted out through a property management company that no one has heard of, but you paint walls for, say CitiGroup, but you take all your directions from the property management company, it would be wrong to say your client is CitiGroup. If you're contracted out by the same property management company but CitiGroup steps in and CitiGroup management tells you where to paint the walls and you take directions from them on what walls to paint, it would not be dishonest to say your client is CitiGroup.

It really depends on the nature of the work and your industry standards.
posted by geoff. at 4:43 PM on August 22, 2009

Warning: this is the experience of an european graphic designer, so it's a specific industry and a different market.

It all boils down to whether the contract you have with A explicitly says that the intellectual property rights are yours or A's. Usually -but YMMV- you keep those rights (including the right to publish and reference that work, and to claim it's yours) as a freelancer, or sign them away to A if A is your employer (meaning: A is paying you a salary).

If you made work for B, you can't claim you were employed by B, of course. You can say "this work was made for B, during a collaboration with A", where B=big company, A=the agency you were freelancing for.
posted by _dario at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2009

I agree with geoff. that this is very often industry dependent, but don't think it has a lot to do with where the intellectual property rights end up (you could cede all rights to Company B, but that doesn't change the nature of the work you did or who you were doing it for, just the legal structure of the deal and ownership of the end product).

If you're not comfortable directly attributing the work to Company B, why not list both? You could say something like: "Project Wombat - Really Big Corp-Nick's Crispy Websites." That way you list both the end user and the contractor you worked through. You get the big name on your resume and you fully disclose the nature of the relationship. I'm not convinced that such disclosure is always necessary, depending on the industry and context, but it is rarely "wrong" to do so.
posted by zachlipton at 5:31 PM on August 22, 2009

I spent my entire career as a contractor and list the experience on my resume as Client Company/Contracting Company. When you end up spending 20+ years hopping from job to job with the same contractor it will help to list your experience as being continuously with the contractor and not serially with the companies with which you were contracted. It also helps when the client companies are highly recognizable (mine were Coca-Cola & Kimberly-Clark) and the contractor company isn't.
posted by torquemaniac at 6:04 PM on August 22, 2009

You can either list both separately (torquemaniac's model) or list them in explanatory combination like zachlipton.

"Company A: 2002-2009; Subcontracted to Company B for Project X, 2003-2007"

I have seen hundreds (thousands?) of resumes like this: yours would be seen as very normal.

In general, the best "spin" is usually to describe Company B as the "project" or actual work you are doing. But the company that pays you (presumably A) is the correct one to list as employer.
posted by rokusan at 6:22 PM on August 22, 2009

Oh, and most of my experience is with graphic designers, filmmakers and software developers, if that helps.
posted by rokusan at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2009

When I do it I say something like "built in partnership with"
posted by Mick at 7:26 PM on August 22, 2009

I've been an employee and I've been an independent consultant. Since I'm more likely to work in teams with other creatives as an employee, and since agencies claim "Agency of Record" for big clients, I list both in my portfolio. No big deal; it usually just looks like this:

Client: Company B
Agency: Company A

As someone who hires creatives, I wouldn't really care what's written in the portfolio, but I might ask for clarification in the interview if I'm trying to figure out what part of the work was yours and what part others may have done.
posted by nadise at 8:01 PM on August 22, 2009

Unless you've made an agreement not to, you can generally list both agencies and clients in your portfolio. I've seen many portfolios that do this.
posted by lsemel at 9:17 PM on August 22, 2009

I'm not a freelancer, but I was talking to one once and he mentioned something along these lines. His take was that he never listed a company in his portfolio/resume unless he had a name and contact details for someone at that company who a potential client could call, and who would know and be able to speak to his work. Makes sense to me.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the input everyone.
posted by miniape at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2009

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