Resumes & Testimonials in the Digital Age

Contributed by freelance writer Bruce Shutan

Is it necessary to even have a resume in today’s digital age when virtually anyone can stake out a spot in cyberspace and pen an unlimited narrative about their career, skills or accomplishments without worrying about confining the highlights to a single page?

Of course, it depends on each person’s situation. But for the most part, I believe that it’s much more effective for freelance writers with at least some sort of a track record and online presence to spring for their own Web site that features a bio, as well as a client list and writing samples if they’re far enough along in their career. Finishing touches should include a photo and contact information.

One element that I would avoid like the plague involves testimonials from editors or colleagues, which I think are unnecessary and even could be construed as presumptuous, sycophantic or arrogant unless someone is just starting out and could use a jump start. Why not simply let one’s work speak for itself?

For those of us who have a full-time gig with a newspaper, magazine, Web site, TV or radio station and want to test the waters of freelance writing there has to be some sort of starting point. A LinkedIn profile with bulleted points is probably the best sort of compromise for entry-level freelance scribes whose career is an empty canvas. If there’s enough material that can be strung together in complete sentences, then I think it’s a cleaner and more professional presentation. That’s just my humble opinion. Some folks may beg to differ.

Moira Allen, editor of, has suggested that freelancers whose job history may bear little resemblance to their writing ability draft a “skills” resume rather than a traditional one that lists work experience in chronological order. The focus would be on skills and qualifications that are relevant to the job these individuals are seeking, with the information listed in a separate section as opposed to a work history subset.

I think that freelance writers who have written for a few media outlets and have a handful of clips, even if they’re not archived online or available to the public, must invest in their own Web site, which can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. There’s no excuse not to in this highly competitive business climate. And as the Internet becomes increasingly sophisticated, I believe that the traditional resume, with its cringe-worthy description of one’s job objective, eventually will go the way of the dinosaur.

Bruce Shutan is a Los Angeles freelance writer who has written for about 75 publications or corporate entities. His extensive reporting on the American workplace dates back to 1985, with a showbiz sideline developed in 2000 when he began contributing to Variety, a must-read for entertainment industry insiders for more than a century. He can be reached at

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