Some of my time in school was also spent working on a website which led to various freelance projects, earned me jobs and speaker opportunities at conferences, built up a portfolio, published a book, and yes, made some money. It also covers some time I spent in-between degrees, which is why I started listing it on my resume (to avoid getting questions about any "gaps", and besides, LinkedIn doesn't seem to like people only having a few jobs to start).

I'd been advised in the past that listing this time on my resume -- specifically, listing myself as the "Owner" -- was a no-no because it made me look less agreeable and employable because I'd never "worked under" anyone at this point, not to mention it made me look like a "flight risk".

This advice was given to me a few years ago, so I've been listing this time as work as an "Illustrator / Writer" instead... although I'm starting to wonder the wisdom of this, especially as it was just one lady saying it, even if the lady saying so was an "expert" brought in as a guest speaker for the class one time. Plus, I now have time I spent at a company working with other people at this point, so some of her concerns are less valid than they used to be.

Is it really so bad to dub myself an Owner, and if so, what SHOULD I call my position and/or emphasize about the work I did (and still doing)?

  • 8
    So, there was no "company" per se, just you doing freelance projects? No legal entity (LLC, Inc, etc) or anything? Just a lot of work that you happened to do that allowed you to support yourself to some extent?
    – jcmeloni
    Nov 28, 2012 at 4:43
  • Essentially. (It started as an art project, so...) Nov 28, 2012 at 5:08
  • 3
    @jcmeloni You are making a good point. 'owner' is inappropriate if there was no legal entity. Nov 28, 2012 at 7:46

2 Answers 2


If you did not actually own a company (a legal entity and all that it entails) and were for all intents and purposes self-employed as a freelancer, then I agree wholeheartedly that the advice you were once given that listing "owner" is inappropriate.

As a hiring manager, if I see "owner" I expect to be interviewing someone with at least moderate skills in business, resource, and personnel management -- and not just your own books and your own time. Listing "owner" when you can't particularly show those skills would be a no-no to me -- if you couldn't walk in the door to a small business and run it, don't make it look like you could (and that's what "owner" or "president" or whatever says to me).

Now, if I see "freelance writer/illustrator" on a resume, it's very clear to me what you did -- especially if you bullet-point the things you said, e.g.:

Freelance writer/illustrator, date start to date end (or "present")
 - description of types of jobs you completed 
 - list your published work
 - other important qualities or skills performed

then that is far more beneficial and true to me than "owner" would be.

As to how to "avoid getting questions about any gaps", if your freelance work spanned several years, even if it was off and on, just put the whole range. The nature of freelance work is that it can be off and on; that's expected. For example, on my own resume (here's what it looks like on LinkedIn, if that helps), I have a period of time from 1995 to 1998 where I was freelancing and working whatever contracts I wanted to pick up, for whatever length of time. I've always just listed it like the example above. Sometimes I point out what company I worked for, if it was more impressive than not, but over time that matters less.

Basically, just be honest. If you didn't "own" something, don't say you did. If you did a variety of good work over a period of time, say so. Use the cover letter or phone screen or interview to put the pieces together if someone finds it particularly unclear.

  • Thank you! That sounds like a much more reasoned response than the rationale I heard before. Nov 28, 2012 at 14:00

I think that the way you describe this part of your professional experience highly depends on the type of job opportunity your are pursuing.

You should always craft your résumé carefully with the reader in mind. These days you also need to consider automated résumé parsers.

In other words, if you think that the hiring manager will look more favorably on the 'owner' keyword vs. the 'illustrator' keyword, then I would use 'owner'.

For example, if the potential hiring manager is looking after entrepreneur-type people I would use 'owner' and if the hiring manager is more inclined to look for creative-type people I would use illustrator.

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