How to create a freelance graphic designer resume that lands you gigs + samples

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April 12, 2021
5 minute read

Six seconds. That’s how long the average hiring manager spends looking at each resume. If your freelance graphic designer resume doesn’t catch their attention in those few moments, you won’t get the job.

To improve your chances of having your resume make the right pile, keep reading. You’ll find an in-depth look at how to create a freelance graphic designer resume, as well as plenty of tips and graphic design examples to help you stand out from the competition.

What is a freelance graphic designer resume?

Most of us are familiar with what a resume is—a professional application document designed to showcase your skills, education, and experience to let the hiring manager see why you’d be a great fit.

This means if you’re trying to land some freelance work as a graphic designer, don’t dedicate a ton of space to your accomplishments outside of this field. You want everything to be relevant, so the hiring manager can clearly see how you’re qualified.

No matter the industry, most resumes are short, typically a single page, although some candidates with 10+ years of experience can use two or more pages. With such a small amount of space to share your accomplishments, you may need to cull some of the details and really focus on the highlights of your past.

But if you’re just starting as a freelance graphic designer, filling a single page can be challenging. If that’s where you are, don’t worry. Later in the article, you’ll find plenty of ideas for getting your one-page resume ready for sharing.

What’s the difference between a resume and a CV?

When you’re applying for jobs, some companies ask for a CV instead of a resume. And while these are both types of professional job documents that serve the same purpose, there are some crucial differences.

CV stands for Curriculum Vitae—Latin for “course of life,” and it’s meant to show a chronological overview of what you’ve completed and your accomplishments along the way. Unlike a resume, CVs tend to be longer, often two or three pages.

While it’s common for a freelance graphic designer resume to be chronological, it can also be skills-based. This functional graphic designer resume spotlights your skills, qualifications, expertise, and experience first and foremost, and uses a smaller section to list the companies you’ve worked with. Formatting your freelance graphic designer resume this way deemphasizes your work history while accentuating your transferable skills.

Do you need to create a resume as a graphic designer?

Asking for a resume is still the standard operating procedure in many companies. And if you apply for a design opportunity with one, human resources or hiring managers will likely request a resume for review.

But when you’re applying for work as a freelance graphic designer, you may not need one. Many people believe the resume is dying and won’t be used in the future.

So, do you need to create a designer resume?

It depends on which companies you decide to work with. It’s possible that you can land work without ever creating one. Instead, you’d use your graphic design portfolio and other evidence of your work, such as an optimized LinkedIn profile. These can show your skills in a different way.

Still, some companies request your resume in addition to your graphic designer portfolio. If you want to get a job with those firms, you’ll need to take the time to make one.

The bottom line?

Creating a resume for yourself as a freelance graphic designer can open up additional opportunities for you. It’s a step that can only help your job search.

What do clients look for in a freelance graphic designer resume?

You want a designer resume that stands out from your competition and increases your chances of landing the gig. To help you succeed, keep the job posting close at hand while you work. It provides clues about what the client is looking for.

As an example, here’s a snippet of a freelance UI/UX product designer position on We Work Remotely:

If you were to apply to the first job, you’d want to emphasize your prior experience with product design.

Then, you’d also want to highlight the skills that are important to this company. For instance, if you have previous experience with “mobile-first web design using grid systems,” put that on your resume. This could go in the employment section or get listed along with your other skills.

Here’s a freelance graphic designer posting on Indeed:



This listing is a gold mine of keywords and experiences you can cite on your freelance graphic designer resume to match its requirements—everything from specific software and hardware knowledge to soft skills like interpersonal communication to prior experiences with front-end web design.

Each company listing is rich with details on exactly what skills and experience it wants to see in a graphic designer. Your job is to read through the entire post and weave some of this wording into your application materials.

Don’t worry if you don’t meet every single requirement specified. If you know how to do at least 50% to 75% of what the company asks for, go ahead and apply. The rest may be just bonus requirements the company is looking for responsibilities or duties that aren’t integral to the job they have for you.

Customize your design resume for each client

Every company is going to want slightly different things. A one-size-fits-all resume cannot make you stand out with each hiring manager. Instead, your generic document is more likely to get tossed into the “no” pile.

To avoid this, refresh your resume for each job. This shows hiring managers that you did some research before applying for this position.

While this sounds tedious, it doesn’t have to be. The secret is to keep a “kitchen sink” resume.

As you tailor your graphic designer resume for different job postings, you’ll create new bullets based on the skills and requirements the company is looking for. Save all your bullets in your kitchen sink resume after you’ve proofread them. The next time you come across a listing, you can simply copy and paste relevant bullets from your kitchen sink resume to quickly build one tailored to the company you’re applying for.

Once you’ve updated your freelance graphic designer resume to reflect what the prospect wants to see, you’re ready to submit it along with your other application documents.

What should you include in your graphic design resume?

Below are six elements that most freelance graphic designers should include in their resumes. Remember, your resume is a quick way for potential clients to learn more about you. As you create a resume, always keep that purpose in mind.

1. Your contact information

Make it simple for your interested clients to connect with you. Always include your first and last name and multiple ways to reach you on your freelance graphic designer resume.

Good options include a professional email address, website, and portfolio. Feel free to have your LinkedIn profile or social media handles if they showcase your skills. However, if those are unprofessional or aren’t optimized for you as a graphic designer, leave your social media links off of your resume.

Due to safety and privacy concerns, never include your social security number or complete address on your resume; only the city, state, and zip if you choose to.

Also leave off your marital status, age, or date of birth. Not only can scammers use it to steal your identity, but it can also open yourself up to discrimination. It’s illegal for employers to use this information against you, but chances are, you’ll never know if they did if you have it on there.

For that same reason, don’t include a photograph on your freelance graphic designer resume—unless you’re looking for overseas clients where photos on CVs are the norm. In that situation, hiring managers may expect you to also include your age and marital status.

Another item to omit on your resume is your cell number. While it’s not a bad idea to include a way to reach you by phone, you don’t necessarily want your cell number circulating on the internet. A great workaround is to get a number that forwards to your cell but can easily be changed if ever needed. Google Voice offers this service for free.

2. Position and summary of qualifications

You’ll want the position you’re applying for to be prominently listed on your resume. A company may be looking for contractors or employees in various fields, in addition to the freelance graphic designer role you’re applying for. Your resume could easily get separated from your application, such as when printed, so always write the position’s name on the resume.

In days past, you’d have on your resume an objective statement, a summary explaining who you are, and why you want the job. Typically, this was a one- or two-sentence statement at the top. It may have looked something like this:

Seeking a part-time web design position where I can utilize my color theory, UX, and design knowledge to create beautiful websites for customers.

or

Innovative freelance graphic designer with 7+ years of experience in marketing and print design looking for a freelance position with a digital media company.

But today, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do on your freelance graphic designer resume.

Why? Simply put, the job isn’t about what you want out of it, but rather how you fit what the hiring manager needs and wants.

It’s still essential to have a part at the top showcasing your relevant experience, abilities, and core competencies. You’ll use three to five sentences to highlight your experience, soft and hard skills, and other specifics that are relevant or interesting. You can title it, “Summary of Qualifications,” or simply “Summary.” Other possibilities are “Professional Summary” or no title at all.

We can work with the example objective statement above to write a powerful paragraph that catches your prospect’s attention. Bolding text as we go along makes it quicker for busy hiring managers to digest essential information.

Innovative freelance graphic designer with 7+ years of experience in marketing and print design using graphic design principles and best practices. Highly skilled in all areas of the design process, from ideation to delivery. Demonstrated ability to collaborate well with all departments, including senior management, copywriters, and digital marketers, to deliver a finished product. Bilingual in English and Spanish.

3. Your hard skills

You’ll further highlight your most important hard and soft skills as a freelance graphic designer by listing them in the same or different section. Further below we dive into soft skills, so here we’ll focus on some of the top hard skills to use as graphic designer resume examples.

  • Visual design & storytelling
  • Bilingual (Lang. 1/Lang. 2)
  • Dynamic visual design
  • Typography
  • Corporate design
  • UI/UX design
  • App design
  • Web design
  • Graphic design strategy
  • Business branding
  • Sales page design
  • Pinterest/Flat designs
  • Social media images
  • Photo enhancement
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • DreamWeaver
  • Print design
  • HTML expert
  • CSS knowledge
  • Photography
  • Ad design
  • Infographics design
  • Production design packaging
  • Ideation

As you consider which skills to add to your freelance graphic designer resume, there’s one important principle to keep in mind. Always be honest. If you don’t actually have great skills with something, it’s better to leave it off.

4. Your soft skills

While hard skills demonstrate that you have what it takes to do the job you’re applying for, soft skills are equally important. They show that you’re an employee who interacts well with others and can grow within the company.

Here are a few graphic designer resume examples of soft skill bullet points:

  • Conceptual thinking
  • Excellent communication
  • Detail-oriented
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-starter
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Active listening
  • Collaboration
  • Creative thinking
  • Flexibility
  • On-time delivery

And while there are loads more skills to pick and choose from, you don’t just want to include a massive list of skills on your resume. Aim for 6 to 15 hard and soft skills combined. You can present these as bullets, or you could have a scale showing your skill level.

For instance, if you’re using circles to visualize your top-notch communication skills, you could fill in all five dots to show you’re a proficient communicator. And if you’re competent at Adobe Photoshop but not quite an expert, you could fill in four dots.

Here’s what this could look like:

No matter how you decide to present your communication skills or other abilities, your goal is to show the hiring managers that you have what it takes to get the job done.

5. Your work history

How has your past work prepared you for this new opportunity? Use this space to focus on work at previous employers or clients that could be relevant to the graphic design position you’re applying for. Even if the job or contract wasn’t in the graphic design industry, were there any design projects you worked on? Or did you use software that you’ll be using for the new gig?

Start by listing the company name, city and state (if it was an in-person job, or write “Remote” if it wasn’t), your position, and the dates you worked with the company.

Follow up with bullets that highlight:

  • Elements that are similar to the work you’ll be doing.
  • Your design work’s return on investment, such as concrete figures for increased conversion rates or sales bumps.
  • A specific pain point you solved for the company.
  • How your services saved the company time or money.

You’re looking to woo prospects by not only showing your value, but that your services bring the results they crave or pay for themselves. Don’t be afraid of writing chunkier bullets here to fully capture your graphic design work’s impact if that’s what you need.

Creating enticing bullets is easy if you follow this formula:

[What you did] to [impact/results].

Some graphic designer resume examples of bullet points include:

  • Revamped website graphic design to boost conversion rates from 3% to 10% in three months.
  • Created infographic design for 100 blog posts to improve website traffic by 12% and strengthen Pinterest presence by tripling Pinterest clicks.
  • Designed the company’s visual identity to promote brand consistency, build trust and loyalty with consumers, and further brand awareness and differentiation.

Not every prospect has the time to read your freelance graphic designer resume in full, so it’s essential to make your bullets scannable by highlighting the most impressive points.

The more tangible and detailed your impact or results, the more effective they are. To get these figures, follow up with clients a few months after delivering your designs to see their effects. If you can’t include concrete numbers, still be as specific as you can.

Aim to include only the most relevant jobs. But if omitting certain positions leaves large gaps on your resume, it may be better to keep them. Prospects may see gaps as red flags, so you want your employment history to be as complete as possible.

6. Your certifications and education

Whether you hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a high-school diploma, you should have a spot on your freelance graphic designer resume dedicated to your educational background. You’ll want to put in your actual or expected graduation dates and the type of degree you received, such as “B.A. in Graphic Design.”

If your GPA is above a 3.0, go ahead and list it. Otherwise, you can leave it off. You can also include any awards you received and extracurricular activities related to design.

What if you don’t have any experience to list on your freelance graphic designer resume?

Everyone starts somewhere. Your initial resume may seem slim if you’re freshly graduated or making a career shift into graphic design.

The good news? You can still make a professional freelance graphic designer resume without a lot of experience. Then, as your career continues to grow, you can update your resume.

As you create your first freelance graphic designer resume, focus on relevant experiences from your life. To help you brainstorm, here are a few types of experiences you can list:

  • Volunteer work
  • School projects
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Self-studies
  • Awards
  • Academic honors

However, you don’t want to randomly include everything you’ve ever done. Instead, really think about how the experience you’re listing prepared to do freelance graphic design. You want to focus on transferable skills. These are skills that you learned and practiced in one setting that you can apply to another.

Soft skills are a great example. For instance, if you’re a great communicator and are comfortable working on a team, you can use those abilities in a different position and still do well.

And if you’re just out of design school, be sure to list any internships you participated in as part of your work history. You can also create a section for related coursework that shows you’ve learned the skills needed for the job. These can be many of the hard skills required that your clients are looking for.

Some graphic designer resume examples of coursework are:

  • Graphic design principles and best practices
  • Visual identity and logos
  • Typography
  • 2D and 3D design
  • Photography
  • Package design
  • Prototyping
  • Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Book design
  • Web graphics

By including these skills on your resume, you can position yourself as a competent candidate, even without any direct experience as a graphic designer.

Career shifters and graduates should also consider rearranging their resumes so that their certifications and education section and the related coursework section show before their work history. This draws attention to your stronger areas first while deemphasizing your professional experience.

You can also skip the traditional chronological resume where the focus is what you did at each job. Opt for a functional resume that displays your skills and related experiences as the central part of the resume, and simply lists the companies you worked for toward the bottom.

How do you create a freelance graphic design resume?

Many different tools help you put a resume together. To help you make the best decision for your situation, here are the four most common resume preparation methods graphic designers can use:

  1. Employ a premade template.
  2. Design it yourself.
  3. Try a resume builder.
  4. Hire someone to create a resume for you.

Let’s look at each one a bit more closely to help you decide which one is right for you at this time.

1. Employ a premade template

With a quick Google search, you can find loads of premade resume templates. Some free ones you can check out are:

You can also pay a fee and access premium graphic designer resume templates on many sites.

When you use a template, you’ll be able to update your resume quickly. Often, it’s just a matter of replacing the template information with your details. Since there’s a limited amount of space for each section, using a template can help you condense your experience and focus on the highlights.

However, a resume template isn’t for everyone. Some templates are pretty generic-looking. You could wind up with other candidates having a resume that’s nearly identical in design. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it won’t help you stand out.

Also, you won’t have as much control over the elements in a template. This means you might not be able to update bullet points, lines, and other stylistic items. If you’re trying to make a change and can’t, you might get frustrated and feel like starting over from scratch.

2. Design your own graphic designer resume

As a freelance graphic designer, you have a massive advantage over other industries when making your own resume; you know how to create eye-catching designs. By viewing your resume as a graphic design project, you can create something that’s completely unique.

There are a few benefits to designing your own resume:

  • It’ll stand out. You won’t have to worry about any other candidate having the same resume design.
  • It’ll save you money. Instead of paying for a resume design service or builder, you can keep the cash.
  • You’ll own the file. so you can update it whenever you’d like. This makes it easier to customize for each client, since you won’t have to ask anyone else to do it for you.

But there are a couple of downsides too. First, you may feel like you’re reinventing the wheel. Since so much of a resume is standardized, it can be hard to move beyond that, and you may worry that you’re doing it wrong.

Additionally, it takes time to make your resume. When you’re busy searching for a job, that can be a challenge. Also, not everyone is confident picking out what abilities to include on a resume. If you’re struggling with this, paying a resume expert can help you cut through all of the non-relevant parts of your background.

For inspiration, you can look at other premade templates or search “creative graphic design resumes” on Google, and look at the search results and images section.

3. Use a resume builder

Resume builders are another alternative. As you enter your information into these interactive templates, you can see on the screen how it’s going to look. Often, you can change templates to see what would look better.

Using a resume builder is a fast way to build a resume. It also gives you a good amount of control over what the final product looks like. Some programs even allow you to drag and drop different elements to really make it your own.

Here’s a screenshot from inside of JobHero’s resume builder. This company has pre-written bullet points for jobs that you can edit to make them both professional and personalized.

But, resume builders aren’t always free. With most options, you can create a single free resume. Then, to make changes or start over, you’d need to pay a fee. You may also need to create an account to save your design.

If you want to try a resume builder, here are a few popular options to try. Make sure you understand their pricing structure before you begin, so you aren’t caught by surprise.

Zety

Cake Resume

Resume Genius

Jobscan

Novoresume

JobHero

Once you’ve finished creating your freelance graphic designer resume, you can usually download it as a PDF file and save it to your computer.

4. Hire an expert to create a freelance design resume for you

If you have some money to spend on job hunting, you can try hiring a professional resume writing service. While this process takes the actual creation out of your hands, you’re very involved in the process. Typically, the company asks you to fill out extensive paperwork or complete an interview to make sure it captures the important details.

If you aren’t sure how to showcase your abilities compellingly, your resume writer can help. This person can look over your background to pick out the most relevant elements. Moreover, if you don’t have confidence in your resume writing abilities, hiring someone else to do it can relieve a lot of stress.

Before you hire a company to write your resume, keep in mind that there are two significant downsides. First, it costs money. Expect to spend between $100 to $400 for a high-quality resume.

Of course, this is a business expense you can write it off if you’re a freelancer. Just make sure to save your receipt for tax season.

The second downside is that while resume writers can help you with content, you may be stuck with visually boring resumes that work best for traditional corporate environments but not necessarily the creative field you’re in.

Before signing on with a resume expert, look for a company that has worked with graphic designers before. Also, check their portfolio or ask them for samples with more creative design choices. Graphic design is a unique industry, and you want a resume writer with experience in this career.

7 resume tips for a freelance graphic designer

Before you start working on your resume, here are seven more resume tips to help you get hired as a graphic designer.

  1. Make it colorful (usually). Most resumes are black and white. But, with your color theory knowledge, you can create a stunning one that stands out. Just make sure you don’t go over the top here. A little bit of color, nicely done, goes a long way.

The exception is if you’re sending your resume to a business with a traditional corporate environment and think a creative design might actually hurt your chances. In that case, send a standard resume.

  1. Include a link to your portfolio. Your portfolio shows people what you can do instead of just telling them. Use a link shortener to create an easy-to-type link to your graphic design portfolio.
  2. Pay attention to the typography. You want your resume to be easy to read, so be selective in the fonts you use. Stick to one or two fonts instead of going wild with them.
  3. Use bullet points and boldface. Since art directors are only going to spend a few seconds going over your resume, make it scannable. This way, they can get as much information as possible in a short amount of time.
  4. Make readability a priority. You want to make your resume easy to read. Don’t shrink down your font size and margins in an attempt to squeeze more onto one page. Instead, cut information or decide to go with a two-page option. This way no one has to squint to see what yours says.
  5. Show someone else first. After working so hard on your resume, you might be too close to it to see any problems. Before you submit it, always ask someone else to review it for you. Spelling and grammatical errors aren’t cool when it comes to resumes.
  6. Don’t be afraid to experiment. No rule says you have to keep using the same resume format once you begin. Feel free to keep experimenting until you find a style and design that you like. Your resume is never truly done, so keep making changes to see what works.

With these tips, you’ll have a resume you can be proud of as a graphic designer. It’ll clearly showcase why you’re the best candidate for the job.

3 graphic designer resume examples

To give you inspiration for your own resume as a graphic designer, here are some great graphic designer resume examples for you to check out, all done using Canva templates.

Freelance graphic designer resume example #1:

This graphic design candidate selected a Canva template with ample spaces to help separate the different sections. It isn’t cluttered, and is easy to read.

Freelance graphic designer resume example #2

This freelance graphic designer finishing up his undergrad chose a Canva template with a nice pop of color and graphics to help his resume stand out from the competition. Everything is easy to read and scan, so the hiring manager can quickly take everything in.

Freelance graphic designer resume example #3

This Canva template keeps a simple design but uses a few visual elements to call attention. The freelancer’s resume is easily scannable and draws the eyes toward key information.

How to get your graphic designer resume to potential clients

When a client requests your resume, what’s the best way to submit it? Most people opt to send a digital file. If you do this, make sure you’re sending PDF files. This way, you have more control over how the finished product looks.

If you don’t use a PDF, your resume could change slightly if opened in an older or newer version of a program. You also risk sending it in a program the hiring company doesn’t have access to. If the manager can’t open your resume, you aren’t going to get the job.

Another option is to send a hard copy of your resume. If you go this route, it’s worth paying a little extra for high-quality paper to keep it looking professional. While some may scoff at the idea, consider that while everyone else is sending a digital resume, you’ll be one of the few (if at all) who send it via snail mail.

Given that people receive much less postal mail nowadays, your resume has a high likelihood of being seen and read. This tactic works exceptionally well if you send it directly to the person in charge of making the hiring decision, such as the creative director. As a backup, you can also apply online.

Grow your graphic design business with a resume

A solid graphic designer resume can help you land new clients. It takes some time to prepare yours, but the tips and tricks above can help you create a resume that will help you grow.

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