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Whether working as a sole proprietor was a lifelong dream or because of downsizing, describing the experience on a resume can be a challenge. Use the creative skills honed during freelancing, consulting or self-employment to accurately describe the work, why it is relevant to the job you are seekin, and how it distinguishes you from the pile of other applicants.
Choose the right title. A sole proprietor’s title should reflect the level of responsibility of the position without inflating its importance. Entrepreneurs may refer to themselves as “founders” or “owners” of a business, or they may use a title like “director” that implies a managerial level of seniority within an established organization. Titles vary by industry, so a familiarity with a sole proprietor’s own industry norms is key. Survey relevant job listings or peers’ profiles on a professional social networking site to refine a title that may be too vague or too embellished.
Name the business. Even though a sole proprietor has not formed a corporation or an LLC, the business may still operate under a unique name. Sole proprietor business names may include the individual's initials, such as "ABC Consulting," or the name may cleverly refer to the services provided, such as "Count's Accounting." Regardless, investigate the regulations on named businesses, which vary by state. Some states place restrictions on the use of certain words (like "finance" in New York) while others limit the use of plurals to describe a sole proprietorship. Register names under which a sole proprietor conducts business as required by each jurisdiction.
Focus on duties and accomplishments. As with any resume, listing specific, quantifiable accomplishments distinguishes one resume from the pack. Listing specific duties and accomplishments is even more important for a sole proprietor who must detail lessons learned and success stories in part as a defense against the perception that sole proprietors spend more time goofing off than actually working.
Be prepared to answer questions from potential employers about freelancing work and to offer references. A future employer may wonder if time spent as a sole proprietor was an actual business venture or a polite way to cover a gap in employment on a resume. The potential employer also may be concerned that ongoing consulting work may distract from or conflict with an employee's contributions. Think through the ramifications of accepting a traditional job and potential concerns from the employer’s point of view. Be honest and solicit recommendations from satisfied clients to allay a future employer’s hesitations.
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Elaine Grogan Luttrull is a Certified Public Accountant who began writing in 2007. Her work has appeared in "SMITH Magazine" and GuideStar's newsletter. Additionally, she provides financial services and support to artists and arts organizations through her consulting firm. She holds a Master of Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in accounting and a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Missouri.