How to Build a Skills-Based Resume to Win Digital Media Projects

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“The future of work won’t be about degrees.”
— Stephane Kasriel, CEO, Upwork

Earning a college degree used to be the ticket towards professional success.

Times have changed.

The progressive advancement in technology has disrupted the traditional education path. Ninety-three percent of college-educated freelancers say skill training is useful in their work today, compared to seventy-nine percent that said college training is useful.

Often times a four-year degree will give you a leg up. However, earning a degree is not the defining factor for starting and growing your career.

I graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in mass communications. Even though the U.S. economy had just collapsed, I was confident I’d find a job because I trusted the system and earned a degree with honors.

I was wrong.

It took me close to nine months to land a position in a promising field I was interested in pursuing—inbound marketing. I didn’t get the job because of my degree, I got the job because I learned several new skills, started freelancing, and built a portfolio of work.

Nowadays, this is what carries the most value: mastering skills with a proven track record and a willingness to learn.

In this article, we’re going to review how to build a skills-based resume and win highly competitive projects in the growing field of digital media.

How to build a skills-based resume in 7 steps:

  1. Adopt a skills-based learning approach
  2. Earn credentials to boost your credibility
  3. Become a freelancer
  4. Build a portfolio of work
  5. Become a guest blogger
  6. Manage your online reputation
  7. Increase your credibility with testimonials

1. Adopt a skills-based learning approach

If you want to stand out and increase your chances of getting a specific project, then focus your time and energy on developing the skills needed to meet and exceed the project requirements with examples of work to supplement your experience.

You can do this by adopting a skills-based approach.

A skills-based approach focuses on a learning path that’s defined by the collection of tasks needed to reach the skill level you’re aiming for. For example, if you aspire to be a front-end web developer, then HTML, CSS, and JavaScript would be ideal pre-requisite skills to learn and master to land a web design project.

2. Earn credentials to boost your credibility

When a prospective client considers your proposal for a project, they’re not just going to evaluate what you’ve done, but what you can do for them and how quickly you can get up-to-speed.

An effective way to show employers you have a certain skillset is to earn a related credential.

If you’re looking for a place to start, below is a list of credentials I recommend getting (oh, and they’re all free):

  • HubSpot Academy’s Content Marketing Certification
    HubSpot Academy is on a mission to transform the way people and companies grow, offering free online trainings to help you start and grow your career. They have a list of valuable courses that can help take your business to the next level.This introductory certification course will teach you how to build scalable, repeatable processes for creating and promoting content that converts website visitors into leads and new customers. Plus, there’s a supplemental workbook for you to apply what you’re learning.
  • Google Analytics Certification
    More often than not, businesses use Google Analytics to track and measure the performance of their website. Google Analytics Academy helps you learn about Google’s measurement tools so that you can grow your business through intelligent data collection and analysis.By completing the various analytics courses that Google Analytics Academy offers, you’ll be preparing yourself to earn your Google Analytics Certification.
  • Google AdWords Certification
    The Google Ads certification is a professional accreditation that Google offers to individuals who demonstrate proficiency in basic and advanced aspects of Google Ads. A Google Ads certification allows individuals to demonstrate that Google recognizes them as an expert in online advertising.

If you’re looking for more free courses to take to polish your marketing skillset, check out this list from HubSpot. For a broader look at trending skills, this list of courses from Upwork has you covered.

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Once you’ve learned a new skill set, the best way to continue learning in the most practical way is to put it to practice. You can do this by becoming a freelancer.

A freelancer is someone who offers their services for a fee. This can either be project-based work or ongoing services. The beauty of this approach is you can do this work remotely from anywhere on a schedule that’s defined by you.

When getting started, look to your current network for opportunities. Completing a few projects will give you confidence, expand your body of work, and bring even more credibility to your skillset.

Early on in my career, I struggled to find a full-time position. Becoming a freelancer gave me the hands-on experience of the new skills I was learning.

Learn more on how to become a freelancing professional on Upwork.

4. Build a portfolio of work

At the end of the day, businesses care about results. Anyone can talk the talk, but having a portfolio of work is one of the strongest assets you can have to show prospective employers you also walk the walk.

When building a portfolio of work, make sure to:

  • Determine your audience and customize your portfolio of work accordingly.
  • Document the impact of your results, whether that be quantitative or qualitative.
  • Document what you’ve learned. This can be as simple as jotting down a few bullet points for each project you work on.

Your portfolio is the proof behind your pitch.

Creating a portfolio of work and being able to communicate learnings for each project I worked on is what helped me land my first full-time job.

If you want to learn more about how to build a portfolio that’ll help win over prospective clients, check out this resource.

5. Become a guest blogger

As you begin developing subject matter expertise, you’ll want to start building online authority. Guest blogging is an effective way to network with potential clients while further expanding your credibility as an industry professional.

Another advantage of becoming a guest blogger is it strengthens your online reputation. Most companies you guest blog for will create an author profile which can show up when someone does a search on your name.

There’s a lot that goes into becoming a successful guest blogger. The first step is becoming an email outreach expert. If you want to learn more on how to become a successful guest blogger, check out this lesson I created with HubSpot Academy.

6. Manage your online reputation

Do a Google search on yourself. What’s shows up on the first page?

It’s important you manage your online reputation. This way you can control your narrative when people research you (which clients will most likely do).

Here’s a list of tips to owning your brand and claiming the first page of Google:

  • Create an identity on every social channel. This doesn’t mean you need to be active on each channel, just fill out the profile and make one post that directs people to your primary social channels. I recommend making LinkedIn and Twitter your primary public social channels.
  • Join sites like Medium and become an active contributor.
  • Create a portfolio website that tells people who you are, how to contact you, and where to engage with you.

To learn more about how to own your online reputation, check out this resource.

7. Increase your credibility with testimonials

We live in an age of recommendations. If you’re looking for a place to go to dinner, you’d probably choose the place that has the most raving reviews. The same can be said about you. Don’t expect prospective clients to take your word at face value. It’s much stronger to have those you’ve worked with to speak on your behalf.

If you have a positive experience with someone you’ve worked with, ask them for a testimonial. One effective way to go about this is by asking someone to recommend you on LinkedIn. This way your testimonials can be easily surfaced when people find your LinkedIn page.

Editor’s note: If you already have an Upwork profile, feedback from previous projects can help future clients gauge your portfolio and expertise.

And that’s it! Seven steps to building a skills-based resume. If you want to create a resume that ties all of the above steps together in one document, then check out this resource.

One last piece of advice: Give yourself credit with each milestone you accomplish. It can take time to get to where you want to be. Be patient, trust yourself, and get the most out of each opportunity that comes your way.

This article was submitted by Justin Champion and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.

Upwork is a freelancing website where businesses of all sizes can find talented independent professionals across multiple disciplines and categories. Ready to let freelance experts help you get more done? Start today!


by @justinrchampion

Justin Champion is the author of Inbound Content, principal content professor for HubSpot, adjunct lecturer for the University of Florida, and one half of Wild… more