The following is part of a colleague spotlight series. A new colleague spotlight will be published each Monday. To read all colleague spotlights that have been published thus far, simply visit the colleague spotlight category.
1. What led you to writing resumes? Do you have a background that made you an ideal fit for the industry?
I have six years of experience on the hiring side of companies, ranging from a nonprofit to a city government office to a demanding corporate environment. I’ve reviewed hundreds of resumes and spent years thinking like and making the decisions of a hiring manager. My work experience, combined with the fact that I had been writing resumes and cover letters for friends and family members for years for free, made resume writing a perfect fit for me.
2. Now that you’ve been in the industry for a while, would you recommend it to others? Why?
I have been writing resumes for five and a half years and I truly do love it, but the ramp-up period was long and it has only been the past six months that I have not done other work outside of the industry to support myself and my resume writing business. It takes stamina and an immense amount of work to grow a profitable business in this industry. When I began I was fortunate enough to have been able to downsize my living situation and downgrade from a fairly new Mini Cooper to a ten-year-old VW Jetta. I cut every expense I could to make up for the inconsistency in income when first writing resumes. All of my cost-cutting and building-a-business-on-the-cheap efforts have finally started to pay off and it’s taken only five years.
In 2011 I raised my prices substantially and not only did I not lose business, for three of the past six months I have been booked out solid for two weeks or more. That had never happened to me before. When I compared my numbers for the first half of 2011 to last year’s results for the same six-month period it was astonishing to me that my increase in fees helped me to earn just under double what I had earned in the first half of 2010. So just under double the income and I only served four additional clients compared to the first half of 2010. Even still, I take home less than half of what I did as a HR and Marketing Coordinator after the tax man has at me, but I love my lifestyle and truly love building a client’s confidence by providing them with resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles that they are proud and downright excited to share.
Succeeding within this industry requires that you not only write exceptionally, but that you have superior customer service and time management skills. You have to have solid marketing and advertising skills and be able to manage and plan for times of inconsistent work while you’re just getting started. Unless outsourcing segments of your business to others, if you don’t love all of the above then I don’t expect that you’ll be in the resume writing business for too long.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
For Building Client Relations: I answer my phone. I respond to emails right away, whenever possible. These items sound so simple, but I hear time and time again how appreciated those efforts are. I also meet with my clients in person, when not working with referrals or past clients who have moved out of state, so these in-person meetings allow me to form strong connections with my clients. These strong connections lead to future business with those clients and referrals to their friends, colleagues and family members.
For Building Business: I actually feel that I owe my businesses growth first and foremost to craigslist.org, where I advertised for free for my first four years as my sole source of advertising other than some business cards left at local coffee shops and on community bulletin boards (which, for the small cost of the cards, is well worth it as I nab about seven to eight new clients each year from business cards alone).
As for making my craigslist.org presence most effective, I wrote my ad to speak to potential clients directly, answering the questions most asked of me when answering calls, this way I wouldn’t be inundated by time-wasting calls and emails. I used the same technique when designing, developing and writing the content of my web site to proactively answer the questions and concerns of many potential clients. This helps sell my services before a client even makes contact with me and has proved well worth my time and effort.
In addition, when I am not meeting with clients or writing resumes, I still work more than full time by keeping up with industry news, reviewing and revamping my marketing and submitting to publication opportunities, whenever possible.
For Improving Efficiency: Templates for email responses, such as appointment confirmations and frequently asked questions, really helped increase my efficiency. Of course I customize each response so that it doesn’t read as a template, but still contains all of the information the client needs.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
Not every potential client is a client you want to work with. One bad client can greatly affect your energy and attitude towards other current and potential clients. If a potential customer pushes back on your policies, doesn’t want to pay for your services up front or doesn’t provide you with the documents you need to properly prepare for their scheduled meeting, then you need not be afraid to allow that client to find another writer to work with/torture.
The more exact I have gotten in my policies the more respect I have earned from my clients. I don’t get stood up for appointments anymore because I require all documents to be to me by 24-hours prior to the appointment, otherwise I reschedule. I don’t go chasing payments after a client has received their completed resume anymore, in fact, now I don’t type a word until I have received the client’s payment in full. My response to whether I offer discounted rates, whatever the circumstance, is, I never compromise on the quality of a client’s documents, therefore I do not negotiate on pricing. I used to rearrange my personal life completely to accommodate client appointments on weekends and during evening hours and now I only schedule appointments during normal business hours. To maintain my sanity and my personal life I also only respond to emails and phone calls during normal business hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not often working outside of business hours, but I need to maintain those boundaries so that I can get all that I need to get done done and still maintain the balance in my life that I need to be the best asset possible for my clients. Boundaries and policies, once I established them and stuck with them, helped me to create this work life that I absolutely thrive within.
Taxes are a hard lesson to learn for any business owner, so I can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning about business expenses and taxes. Even if you have an amazing accountant, read a book or two about tax strategies for small businesses and home-based businesses, as these resources will help you to establish business practices that will allow you to maximize your expenses and business-related travel. Seriously. Get educated on taxes ASAP.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
Looking back, I would have earned certifications and joined professional organizations sooner, as resume writing work prior to those efforts was often sporadic and I was charging much less because my calendar was not always full. In 2011 my calendar has been booked for up to three weeks out and I am charging clients double and sometimes more what I charged in 2010.
I spent a tremendous amount of time developing the design and content for my rather simple web site, http://www.resumereliefonline.com/, and that is something that has really paid off for me. The most frequent response I get from clients regarding my web site is that the simplicity and clear content was what prompted them to contact me.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. As you begin working with clients you’ll inevitably discover what works best for you and what/who makes your work life more frustrating. Listen to your instincts. Every frustration you encounter takes away from what you have to offer other clients and your own personal life. Set boundaries and stick to them. Establish your marketing and advertising to clearly outline your processes and procedures and provide samples of your work on your web site so that people have an idea of your style and know what to expect when working with you. Don’t try to appeal to everyone, but put in the effort to appeal to the people who you want to be working for. Clients who respect you and energize you make you want to write the best darn resume every time.
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?
In order to survive and stay current on our ever-evolving industry, get involved in industry-related professional associations like The National Resume Writers Association (NRWA), the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC) and Career Directors International (CDI). Don’t just receive the group discussion emails or eNewsletters, read them, as they are filled with a wealth of information and ideas you never thought of to grow your business or work more effectively with your clients. Also, share your insights with others within the profession to make connections and contribute the resume writing community.