I have been writing professionally since I graduated from college…speeches, articles, and so on. I think people often (mistakenly) assume that if someone can write, that person can construct a resume. Obviously, one skill does not beget the other. However, in my circle of friends, I was always the one to come to about problems: I listened, I suggested realistic solutions, and I was a truth-teller. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in dreams, following dreams, and such, but the reality is that dreams take work to achieve. I’ve always been practical enough to figure out the work that needs to be done in order to achieve what I wanted to achieve. This is how I tended to help other people. Before I knew it, I was helping them write bios, cover letters and resumes to help them re-position themselves to get there!
2. How long have you been in the industry? Would you recommend it to others? Why?
I just received my renewal documents this week! I have been officially certified as a resume writer since 2004 and as a career coach since 2005. I have been in the industry of human resources, though, since the mid-90’s as a trainer. The recommendation question is an interesting one. I always recommend everyone to explore their entrepreneurial side. For some, it is the best move they could ever make and they are successful; for others, they get it out of their system and return to the corporate world to figure out how to utilize their skill set. Yes, it is a great career to be in to help others crystallize and articulate their next step in their career journey. However, it is not an easy way to make a living. As a business owner, doing what you love is actually just a fraction of owning the business. Marketing and building a client base is a significant component of any business and if you don’t like doing those things, it will be a challenge for you.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
I never understood this when I went through my resume certification training, I vaguely grasped the importance of it when I went through my marketing training, but after owning my own business(es) for a decade, I now totally understand it: BUILD SYSTEMS AND OPERATE YOUR BUSINESS BY THOSE SYSTEMS. When you can succinctly and with confidence operate your business, produce your product or deliver your service, your life is so much more peaceful and your business is so much more manageable. When your business is structured in a manner that flows logically, you can market it, discuss it, and sell it easier and with more confidence. One question I am asked by nearly every client during the consultation phase of the sales process is, “What is your process for writing a resume?” It makes me sound so much more competent and it makes the prospective client feel more confident, when I can walk them through a step-by-step process of what to expect. Notice I also said the “sales process.” You should promote your business and funnel those prospects through your business in a very organized system, as well.
As for building my clients, I tried paid advertising, mailing, having tables at events, etc., but the two best ways I built my business were: “feet on the street” networking (Go out and be visible!) and speaking engagements about a topic related to career transition (in my case, I have built a very solid reputation as a LinkedIn speaker). When you are networking, don’t sell, sell, sell. Instead, listen, listen, listen. Actually offer suggestions and solutions. You may feel like you’re giving away free advice (and you learn to balance what is just enough versus too much), but in reality, you’re connecting with prospective clients and getting them hooked. I have learned that people THINK they will do things themselves, and they may even try, but once they start on something, like writing a resume, they end up recognizing that it’s worth having someone else do it. And, on my FB page, I share resume and career tips, job leads, etc. That also keeps my clients connected.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
Early on, I was so desperate to get going that when someone asked me about my prices, I would state them, but then follow up quickly with, “but we can work out something…” or some such thing. Remember, just as a job helps them pay their bills, getting paid for a resume helps you pay yours. You have to remember that being a resume writer is your job and you deserve to be rewarded competitively for a job well done. State your prices, state your value proposition and then BE QUIET. When you are confident in what you offer, others will be confident that they are getting a good product and good price. If they go elsewhere, you have to be okay with that.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
I would not have spent my money on sponsoring tables, doing advertisements, etc. It is just not effective. I would have developed my systems and processes faster and stuck to them.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Define your ideal customer. Actually write the characteristics of that person on paper (Professional level? College grads? Retirees returning to the workforce? Freed convicts? Very specific education or income level? Only engineers?) and then define WHY this profile is your target. Next, write down what you offer (how you validate yourself to this target). For example, you may have 25 years in retail, so your target customer is retail management professionals. Great! Your 25 years demonstrates that you “get” the retail person, can speak their lingo, and will develop a resume that will appeal to someone who hires the retail professional. It may seem like you’re limiting your opportunities, but you are actually setting yourself up as an expert and in a position to exploit a niche. You have limited bandwidth as a solo-preneur. By going narrow, you build stronger relationships and more referral opportunities than if you try to stay broad and never develop an expertise or expert status. By the way, referrals are your GOLD.
7. How do you see our industry transforming over the next 12 months? 5 years? What do think resume writers need to know in order to survive?
Because HR and hiring is going mobile, resume writers need to figure out where they fit in with helping candidates be mobile. Resume writers need to also help people define the THEMES of their careers, not just the functions of their jobs.