I am an English teacher by vocation and a freelance writer by avocation, so I suppose in many ways my eventual entry into the resume writing field is a logical one. After our first child (11 years ago) my wife and I were looking for a way to make some extra money to allow her to stay home, and resume writing seemed the perfect work-from-home opportunity.
Looking back at that initial first foray into the business I was incredibly naive about how easy it would be. I had the distinct impression that since I could write well, then certainly I could cobble together a one to two page document to sell someone to an employer. Suffice to say I had a lot to learn; after a decade of practice, countless books and articles read, I can now say – I probably still have more to learn. That is one of the things I love about this business. It is constantly evolving.
2. How long have you been in the industry? Would you recommend it to others? Why?
It has been just about 11 years since I wrote my first resume professionally. As for recommending it to others, that would depend on a lot of factors. Do you enjoy the craft of real wordsmithing? The act of writing and rewriting a single branding statement until it truly encapsulates your client? Can you ask the right questions of clients to get them to reveal their true skills and abilities? Can you do this kind of work on a regular basis without burning out?
Being successful in this business is about more than just having solid writing skills. Ultimately what you need is the ability to remember that even if this is the thousandth sales manager resume you have written that it is the first and most important one for your client.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
The best way I have found to build clients is to build an email list and keep it active. You do not want to badger people, but you need to keep your name in front of them, that way when a friend of a friend needs a new resume, one of your former clients can recommend you.
The tools you use are very dependent on the style of worker you are. My website is hosted through Blogger and my researched is saved in Google Docs because I use Google apps for much of my business. Keeping things under one systemic roof makes my life easier. Another ancillary benefit of using web based tools is that you can, of course, work from anywhere. The one caveat to this is that final drafts of resumes must be written in MS Word. Google Docs do not have the formatting chops to compete with Microsoft (yet?).
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
One I should not have needed to learn: the customer is always right. I grew up in a small family retail business and I knew this maxim to be true, but had to relearn it for myself anyway. It is especially true for an internet business where word of mouth is so vital, and often permanent. There are times when a client really wants something included in his resume and we as professionals know that it is not to his best advantage. I always explain why I think the client may be wrong about something, but if they are insistent I do not fight with them over it. At the end of the day it is his resume and he needs to feel comfortable with it. There of course some things no professional should do, i.e. lie on the resume or misrepresent the client. I am speaking more about things like extra curriculars being listed, hobbies, sports, past times and the like.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
Things I would have done differently: I definitely would have started building an email list earlier. I did not realize the full potential of referrals. I also would have joined a few professional organizations from the start. Being able to network with colleagues really is invaluable. Being a sole proprietorship doesn’t mean you have to “go it alone”. Things I would have done the same: Started small and slow. There is a natural learning curve in this business and allowing yourself to grow with it is invaluable.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Stay on top of trends. Our industry is changing and part of our duty to our clients is to know what current best practices are.
Be prepared for the ups and downs. Just because you have had a bad month doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong. Conversely, just because you broke the bank in another month doesn’t mean you are a genius and can put the down payment on the summer home just yet. This business is volatile.
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?
The next 12 months should see a pretty steady increase in the number of clients looking for resumes as the economy continues to improve. Over the long term I think we as professionals need to stay abreast of how technology is changing the marketplace. We have seen a lot over the past few years that may amount to nothing more than a fad (PowerPoint resumes, Website resumes) while other things seem here to stay (automated resume screening software, social media resumes). It is our duty to know the difference and advise our clients accordingly.
I can foresee the traditional resume changing significantly over the next 15 years, but the need for a well written document, be that digital or codex will always be present.