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How To Write A Resume If You've Been Self Employed

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

So you’ve owned your own successful business for many years but now, for whatever reason, you’re going back into corporate to work for an employer. The first question you should ask yourself is, “how do I write a proper and effective resume if I’ve owned my own business?”.

Just as it takes a lot of courage to step outside the cubicle and into the rocky sea of private business, so does it take a lot of courage (and perspective) to realize if maybe you’re better off within a company. The point is – there’s nothing wrong with going back from employer to employee.

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The problem, however, with going back is – how do you present your previous job experience to the new boss? What should a resume for self-employed professionals look like? A lot of business owners seem to be getting this one wrong, and it’s hurting their careers.

The Problem With Resumes For Self-Employed Professionals

The biggest problem with self-employed business owners looking to get back into the job market is in the title of their resumes. They tend to write the job title as “Sole Proprietor”, “Owner” or “Owner/Operator”, instead of the job title they’re applying for, or the position they’d love to fill within their new company.

They do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Business owners believe hiring managers will think more highly of them if they see the candidates’ venture into the private management world.

  2. Business owners believe they will position themselves closer (on both personal and professional level) to the hiring managers.

  3. Business owners think that the hiring manager will be impressed that they ran their own company for many years.

This, unfortunately, is a completely wrong move and could destroy any chances the self-employed business owner had of getting that job. Why? Because that title tells hiring managers absolutely nothing, and they might perceive the entire resume as a waste of time. Think about the way you choose news articles you’d like to read. By the title, right? If the title is no good, you’re probably not going to open it. The same is with resume titles.

Why Hiring Managers Reject Resumes From Self-Employed Business Owners

The second a Hiring Mangers looks at a resume and sees the word(s) “Self-Employed” or “Business Owner” or “Owner/Operator” or “Sole Proprietor”, they are throwing that resume in the trash. Why? They are worried that you fluffed up your resume with information that they cannot verify.

They also worry that the self-employed business owner does not fully understand the corporate environment. Think about it this way, how many “successful” self-employed business owners have sold Avalon, It Works, or any other one of those cheesy and unfruitful ponzi scheme business’s? The Hiring Manager assumes you are just another one of “those” people.

The Hiring Managers View Of The Problem

When building custom-made resumes for self-employed business owners, or pretty much any other group for that matter, we always keep a simple idea in mind: The hiring manager of a company has a problem, and he/she is looking for an employee to solve it. That’s it. That’s a simple mantra which works every time. If the title of the resume says nothing about the candidate’s problem-solving capabilities, why read in the first place? Forget about being on par with your new boss, he/she is not interested. The only thing they’re interested in is solving that issue they’re having, and the only thing you should be concerned with is showing them you’re the ideal person for the job.

How To Fix Your Resume When You've Been A Business Owner

Going with “Sole Proprietor” does nothing. Going with “Marketing Director”, on the other hand, tells a completely different story. Same goes with “Owner”. Instead, try going with “Marketing Manager”, or whatever it is you’ll be doing in the new company. Every professional resume writer that helps self-employed business owners will tell you the same thing: Be concise. Be direct. Be concrete in your actions, and your resumes. “Owner” tells the hiring managers nothing of the skills you have, the experience you’ve accumulated over the years, and the education required to get there. “Chief Executive Officer” tells a LOT.

Final thoughts

You don’t have a lot of time to impress the hiring managers – you only get a couple of seconds to do so. You don’t have the time or the luxury to beat around the bush. Everything you write on your resume needs to scream: “I’m the best person for this job!”, or else you won’t get hired. Just as every good journalist will tell you that a news piece is defined by its title, so will every professional resume writing service in Phoenix AZ for self-employed business owners tell you that an amazing resume starts with an amazing title.

The title needs to tell a story, and that story needs to be about the candidate being amazing at the job he/she is applying for. Everything else is a waste of time and will be treated as such. Self-employed business owners should never write on their resume "Owner/Operator" or "Sole Proprietor".

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