An Innovative, Easy Way to Get Started in The Writer's Life

Will Newman

You can enjoy the writer's life writing direct-marketing promotions, emails, B2B copy, web copy. The possibilities are almost limitless.

But today, we’re going to visit a copywriter who’s made a highly successful, long-term career in a very specialized niche — a niche many copywriters don’t know or haven’t considered.

His name: Donald Burns.

And he is now happily spending his “retirement” writing resumes.

Here’s Donald’s story as told in an interview with our team:

How did your diverse career background progress to resume writing?
As I approached 40, I hated my sales-management job at Motorola. But the more I hated that job, the faster the bonuses rolled in.

Just two years earlier, I’d been promoted into my dream job, an important step up the ladder. I’d invested much time and energy pursuing it. But within a year, I hated my dream job.

Things looked great on the surface, so bailing out seemed impossible. I had to support a family, including my two young kids.

My family exploded when I told them my plan to jump ship. My “friends” fled like New York City cockroaches — fearful of catching my “mid-life disease.”

I procrastinated for about two years. Then I went into tech journalism and, later, B2B copywriting.

What kinds of writing do you do now?
My current work focuses 80% on writing resumes, bios, personal branding, video scripting, and anything related — including copywriting for tech start-ups (a natural extension of resume writing).

You can imagine how my own “jumping into the abyss” story resonates with my resume clients. Many of them wrestle with the same fears I faced years ago.

They’re ambitious and motivated — sometimes extremely successful — but hate working for a boss other than themselves. They pay me to repeat my story and hear me say, “You’re NOT crazy!”

What drew you into resume writing and career coaching?
I accidentally stumbled into resume writing in 2008, when Wall Street crashed.

In late 2008, an investment banker from Lehman Brothers surprised me with a request for writing his resume. My client had worked at Lehman for 20 years. Then Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy 2008.

Neither he nor I had used a resume in 20 years. He loved my work and referred me to all his peers. That jump-started me into high-end resumes. After five years, I built a national reputation in the resume writing niche — now it’s 80% of what I do, the perfect “retirement gig.”

You do a lot of video marketing for your business. How does it fit into your marketing mix?
Video is my #1 marketing tool. I send my “A-list” a substantive video on some topic related to careers. They’re my #1 referral source.

I also use video to introduce myself to prospects. People find my website or my LinkedIn page and — and after a few videos and a phone call — they send me an electronic payment for, say, $1,500. And I use video for tutorial purposes — instead of explaining the same thing ad infinitum, I send prospects a link to one of my videos.

What big successes have you enjoyed so far?
Many of my clients are quoted in the business press — or I’ve seen a few on CNBC when I’m running on the treadmill in the gym. My most famous client was the head of BP. About six months after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, he left BP, and I did a package for him.

What’s your advice to newcomers?
Join resume-writing groups. When I got serious with resumes, I was surprised to discover this parallel universe of resume-writing associations. You’ll learn useful shortcuts and accelerate your business.

Second, enter a resume-writing competition and win awards for resume writing. Sounds crazy? There is an association and a competition for everything. If you win a bona fide contest, your phone will ring.

Resume writing is a niche you don't hear much about. But as you can see from Donald's story, it can be extremely lucrative. It's easy to learn. And easy to get started in.

AWAI has a thorough resume writing program that teaches you everything from how to write a variety of resume formats to how to land clients for your new business. You might want to check it out.

Tomorrow we visit with Master Copywriter Clayton Makepeace who begins his series on “Four Steps to Breakthrough Bliss.”

We hope to see you then. But right now, let us know what you think of Donald’s story … and how it inspires your quest for the writer's life. Comment below.

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Published: September 22, 2016

4 Responses to “An Innovative, Easy Way to Get Started in The Writer's Life”

  1. Yikes! You are soooo good ... Just looked up Donald Burns, saw his video on writing a LinkedIn summary. This is going to be very useful.

    John Chambers OregonSeptember 22, 2016 at 2:42 pm

  2. Great story! Inspiring, encouraging and informative all at once! Thanks!

    Guest (Jan D)September 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

  3. A very interesting article. I helped work colleagues write their resumes when I managed The Learning Resource Centre at my workplace. Another colleague and I held Resume writing workshops, as jobs were being cut and most of the workforce hadn't written one since they'd left school. It never occurred to me that I could earn good money doing this.

    BerylSeptember 23, 2016 at 11:20 am

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