Freelance Technical Writers: Do Old-School Resumes Still Matter, or is a LinkedIn Profile All We Need

This blog investigates why a traditional, old-school resume is still an essential tool for freelance technical writers in today’s job market.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Picture this: You're a freelance technical writer with top-notch skills and a killer track record and you always need to think about finding your next project and the one after that.   Or you are a new technical writer just breaking into the business and trying to learn the ropes of the trade while finding that first big (or little) break.  Veteran and newbie writers alike ask the same question: "Do old-school resumes hold any value in today’s world or has LinkedIn become the ultimate gateway to professional success?"

As someone who manages the documentation department at ExperTeam, a respected Israeli outsourcing company specializing in technical knowledge solutions, it’s time to open the resume vs. LinkedIn profile debate.  Given my active engagement on social media channels, I've encountered a surprising truth: the traditional resume remains an indispensable tool for freelancers in today's competitive landscape.

First impressions still count.

In a world where first impressions matter more than ever, let's explore why the information that truly matters can't always be encapsulated in a LinkedIn profile. From real-world experiences to the nuances of skillsets, let’s uncover the vital insights that a resume provides and how it sets freelancers up for success.

In recent years, increasing numbers of freelance technical writers have sent me links to their LinkedIn profiles in lieu of a traditional resume. Upon visiting these profiles, I often find myself requesting a resume, only to receive responses like "Everything you need to know about me is on my profile page". However, this assertion is rarely accurate. Experience has shown that in every instance, I invariably need to ask twice as many clarification questions compared to when I review a traditional resume.

Let's delve into why freelance technical writers must prioritize a comprehensive resume and why LinkedIn, despite its efforts to showcase its platform capabilities, falls short in providing the necessary depth of information.

What freelancers need to succeed and the LinkedIn advantage.

To begin with, as a freelancer you need to promote your name and skill sets to the widest possible audience to make a living.  While companies need to stay informed about you and to tap into your expertise when needed. LinkedIn offers both sides valuable benefits.

Secondly, as a freelancer you must continually enhance your skills and stay up to date with the latest industry trends and buzzwords. LinkedIn serves as a trusted resource for staying informed about job opportunities, required skill sets, industry fluctuations, and emerging technologies. Regularly exploring job listings on LinkedIn provides significant insights into industry demands, safeguarding your hireability and career longevity.

In addition, LinkedIn's Skills list, featured in your profile, offers a further opportunity to display your value. However, this list has a cap of 50 skills, constrained by LinkedIn's predefined terminology. While 50 skills may initially seem quite generous, you might encounter situations where you need to incorporate new skills or an entirely new set of skills and if you’ve reached the 50-skill limit, you’ll need to cull old skills to make room for new ones. This is not always an easy task, especially when targeting multiple job opportunities.

The LinkedIn disadvantage – Limitations for freelancers' profiles.

As a freelancer, you face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining an accurate and compelling online presence, and LinkedIn's Experience section often falls short in addressing these challenges. Here's why this limitation can be detrimental to you and all freelancers:

Diverse Work Experience: You often work on multiple projects for various companies simultaneously, making it challenging to present your experience chronologically as LinkedIn's design suggests.

Varied Work Durations: Freelance work can span hours, days, months, or even involve sporadic engagements over multiple years. The dynamic nature of freelance work can inadvertently portray your employment history as unstable, potentially limiting future opportunities.

Visibility of Freelance Status: While some freelancers include terms like 'freelance' or 'contractor' in their job descriptions, these details can easily go unnoticed during a quick scan of the Experience section.

Avoiding Consolidation: Combining all freelance or contract work into a single Experience entry per time-period is not advisable. This approach overlooks important factors such as varying job titles, the relevance of expertise within different company contexts, and the prestige associated with well-known companies and/or startups and/or emerging fields.

Lost Project Nuances: The intricacies and complexities of freelance work often get overshadowed when reduced to a simple scan of the Experience section.

Resume vs. LinkedIn: The Memory Challenge

Let's face it, most of us don't dedicate the necessary time and effort to comprehensively document our job history on LinkedIn. Conversely, continuously updating and refining your resume is a much more manageable task and offers an accurate representation of your hireability for future roles.

In addition, the ability to recall your job history holds significant importance, particularly for experienced freelancers, as every project you've undertaken can be a valuable resource for future endeavors. For instance, if you worked on RFPs for a dental tech company three years ago, you could repurpose RFP writing skills for a different industry or repackage your experience in the dental tech area to serve as valuable background for writing a user manual project in that field.

Leveraging LinkedIn and Resumes for Success

I believe in leveraging every available tool to succeed!  And that means that LinkedIn should be exploited to the hilt. Keep your profile, skills, work, and education details current, and actively seek endorsements. Have you explored LinkedIn’s Profile Level Meter? Discover yours here

Next, let recruiters know you are looking for work with a #OPENTOWORK ICON. Click here to learn how:

What I look for in a freelancer’s resume

When engaging with freelance technical writers for the first time, obtaining specific details becomes crucial, particularly in the absence of a comprehensive resume. Here are my key initial inquiries:

Industry Expertise: Which industries have you documented? Answers should typically include Cybersecurity, Fintech, Agritech, IT, Pharmatech, and more.

Authoring Tools and Platforms: What authoring tools and platforms are you proficient in? Answers should typically include Flare, Paligo, Doc 360, and others.

Document Types: What types of documents and information/knowledge systems have you created and/or maintained? Answers should typically include user manuals, user guides, installation guides, troubleshooting guides, APIs, knowledge bases, online help, articles, and more.

Hardware and Software Experience: Do you possess experience in hardware documentation, software documentation, or both? If both, do you have a preference?

Graphic Design Tools: Have you worked with graphic design tools, and if you have, which specific tools are you proficient in?

Work Environment: Have you mostly worked on your own as a lone writer or have you collaborated as part of a team?

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): What types of SMEs have you collaborated with? Answers should typically include product managers, IT professionals, support staff, and more.

Documentation Process: Tell me about the documentation process at a company where you've worked.

While some of the above information might theoretically be found on a LinkedIn profile, it often remains less apparent or inaccessible. Moreover, potential clients typically spend very little time reviewing LinkedIn profiles. If your profile lacks the specific keywords/skillset they're searching for, it may not grab their attention. A resume, on the other hand, provides a better chance of including the searchable keywords and long-tail phrases that are crucial for securing your next project.

The multiple resume advantage.

Through the years, I've encountered individuals, both freelancers and salaried employees, who possess expertise in two diverse fields; for instance, someone that excels in both music and documentation. Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn't accommodate multipotentiality profiles for one person, as per their Professional Community Policies and User Agreement.

However, it's common knowledge that maintaining multiple versions of one's resume is standard practice. These multiple resumes can either represent entirely distinct and unrelated skill sets or each resume displays and highlights a different subset of the same skills. Multiple resumes are a stunning advantage in today’s world of keywords and buzzwords and LinkedIn is simply not up to the challenge.

Bottom Line

Bottom line: don’t confuse your LinkedIn profile with your professional resume.  Your LI profile is your social media footprint, it’s a great start, and can give interested parties a taste of what you do and did; but when they will need to do a deep dive to find out if you are right for the job at hand, they and we need more information. It’s time to upload and update your resume!

About the author: Yochi Eisner is Manager of ExperTeam's Technical Documentation department and has over twenty years of proven experience in the technical documentation and communication fields and has written and lectured extensively on business-related communication issues.  Click here  to learn more about how ExperTeam’s technical documentation services can help you company:

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