Does it damage my resume if I have a few years of self-employment on there?

Let’s say I quit my job to go create and run a website full-time for myself and not be employed by anyone else.

If and when I decide to reenter the workforce, will potential employers look at that time and think “I bet the website is just a coverup for a time of laziness.” Will I have to go through some annoying process of proving the website was serious, etc.?

Also, how long must I be at the current job before I quit to make sure it doesn’t look bad in the future? a year? a year and a half? I really hate the job and I want to quit and work for myself as soon as possible (I’m sick of having bosses), but I only started a couple months ago and I don’t want to destroy my life’s momentum.

  • Jack

Well not to be a buzzkill, but in a recent round of hiring we set aside a resume for a self employed computer tech who we knew of. He was still working at it when he applied. I don’t want someone who is going to be a serious possibility for customer poaching and or give them access to my customer DB. If its not a related feild, I probably would not care.

I’d imagine it depends on what you are doing. If you are screwing round writing reviews of pens or something, then it probably will look bad. If you can say you have created a web based business with X amount of customers, Y percent rise in revenues, etc. then it will probably look good.

If you have a portfolio to show for it afterward and make sure any future employers now that you aren’t going to compete with them directly, it could work in your favor, if only to raise your salary later on.

I was a freelance writer for a two years and more than doubled my salary when I was hired full-time by an employer. My portfolio came in really, really handy. I also had a business license, which helped for references. And when I say references, I’m not talking about glowing professional references, but proof of employment.

Being self-employed at some point during your career is certainly not a bad thing, but yeah, you want to make it clear that you were really running a business and not just goofing off.

Likewise, having one or two short jobs on your resume is not a career killer – sometimes things just don’t work out and it isn’t necessarily anybody’s fault. But when I see someone who has been on the job market for more than five years and has never held down a job for more than a year, I start worrying: a) did this person really leave of their own accord each time, and b) even if the candidate turns out to be good, will he stay in my employ for long enough to make it worth my while? Such resumes tend to get sorted to the bottom of the pile.

On the other hand, keep in mind that the function of a resume is not to get you hired – it’s to get you into a live interview. Once you have made it that far, the hire/no-hire decision will be based on the interview and your resume doesn’t matter anymore.

(I’m in Europe. Your mileage may vary.)

When I first started filling in the role of project manager here, I had to do some hiring. The only time a self-employed person’s resume got thrown out was because it was a long list of what appeared to be failed and utterly unrelated enterprises. Like John Smith ran “John Smith Web Publishing” last year, and the year before that, it was “John Smith Catering Co.” and the year before that, it was “John Smith Pet Food Delivery Service” and so on.

If the guy had been able to run John Smith Web Publishing for three or four years, that would have come across as a much more legitimate business venture.

I know a freelancer whose resume included his home based consultancy business, but all the accomplishments were spelled out and the resume included links to details about some of the projects so you could find out exactly how the person was involved. It was basically a sort paragraph about the business.

I am assuming that your goal in running your own website is to actually make a living doing it. Otherwise, unless your a trustfund baby, or live in your mother’s basement, you wouldn’t quit your job and start a website for grins and giggles.

Starting your own business is called being an entrepreneur and even if it doesn’t work out, should be a proud accomplishment on your resume.

I interview numerous external candidates and people with a number of years running their own business normally have tons to discuss and how the experience will be valuable to them in the corporate environment.

Now this all assumes your business is not going to be a smashing success, which if it is, there will be no need to discuss with future employers.

WRT to timing…you should quit and pursue your dream when you have the funding to make it a go for at least 6 months without any income. I wouldn’t wait for a requisite amount of time at your current job.

Holes in your resume are bad. But starting your own business (which is what being self-employed is all about) is a fine thing. Depending on the sort of work you are applying for and the size of the company at which you are applying, the impact of a period of self-employment will vary.

If you’ve only been at a job a couple of months, you can simply omit it from your resume. It’s okay to have a gap of a month or two - that doesn’t alarm me, especially in the economic climate of the last year or so.

As Wilbo523 notes, you need resources before you can strike out on your own, so tread carefully.

overlyverbose, can you expand on the business license helping references a bit? i can’t quite get it.


I think people vastly overestimate the number of “perfect” resumes out there.

Sure. When I was working on my own, I worked under my own company’s name. I disclosed fully that I owned it, but had to prove that I did and was my own employer. So, when I was hired full time by a large company and they were going through the usual background checks and proof of employment (calling former employers to verify that you worked there the dates you said you did), I was asked for a copy of my business license.

I don’t think it would’ve been a huge issue had I not had a business license, but it prevented me from having to give out a list of clients or a tax return or some other proof that I’d been working during the period I owned my business.