How to Become a Successful Resume Writer

AWAI’s resume writing pros have put together an archive of articles that includes industry tips and insights to help you improve your skills and reach your goal of becoming a professional resume writer in the fastest time possible. You’ll quickly learn strategies for running your successful resume writing business, tips you can use to boost your profits, and ideas for putting technology to work for you.


Strategies for Resume Writing Success

Each of the following articles contains a strategy tested by professional resume writer and AWAI Advisory Board Member, Julien Sharp. Simply follow this proven blueprint for resume writing success!

In just 6 hours and 35 minutes, you can be in business earning $60 – $150 an hour writing simple resumes. That’s how long it takes to “create” what is without question the world’s easiest spare-time business. Learn how!


Tips You Can Use for Boosting Profit

Boost your resume writing profits by following these easy-to-implement strategies.

Profit Booster #1:
Use Critiques to Land Hard-to-Reach Clients

As a professional resume writer, your primary target market is those folks who know and understand the value of your service. These are the people who are willing to pay the fair market price for your expertise.

There is another huge segment of the market that needs your services … but is unwilling to pay the price for a quality resume. They already have a resume that they believe is “pretty good,” and they don’t want to pay the full amount for your services.

One way to turn these folks into paying clients is to meet them halfway. Offer a service to “Critique an Existing Resume.” For this critique and a minimum number of corrections, charge half of what you would normally charge for a full resume.

The bottom line is: If you don’t offer this group something that they are interested in, you won’t have them as clients at all. More importantly, many times clients like these will see the value in your critique and purchase a full revision from you.

At a minimum, he or she will accept your critique and leave as a satisfied customer. End of story. And you will have boosted your revenue by landing a client that normally wouldn’t have come to you.

More good news: You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of people in this “revisions-only” pool who will be drawn back by your expertise. And these satisfied clients will be an excellent source of referrals for you as well.

Profit Booster #2:
Position Yourself to Target the HOTTEST Job Markets

The best way to grow your business is to make sure that you are targeting the most lucrative markets in the resume writing industry. Some job areas are larger than others. By understanding where the most opportunity lies, you can position yourself to capitalize on those fields.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its list of the 10 hottest jobs, along with their projected growth rates over the next 8 years:

1.Network systems and data communications analyst54.6% growth
2.Physician’s assistant49.6% growth
3.Computer software engineer (apptdcations)48.4% growth
4.Computer software engineer (systems software)43.0% growth
5.Network and computer systems administrator38.4% growth
6.Database administrator38.2% growth
7.Physical therapist36.7% growth
8.Medical scientist34.1% growth
9.Occupational therapist33.6% growth
10.College instructor32.2% growth

Here’s how you can capitalize on that information …

First – do the research to make yourself an expert in the high-growth fields that you’d like to focus on. Get a thorough understanding of the keywords used in those industries, and know the best resume formats for each.

Second – and most important – use this knowledge to focus your marketing efforts on those sectors. With proven success in your “specialty” areas, not only will you land more clients … you can also charge more.

Profit Booster #3:
Use Referral Fees in the College Market
to Jumpstart Your Business

Local colleges and universities represent a great opportunity for boosting your income – because they provide you with such a vast potential clientele.

From summer jobs to internships to their first post-graduation job, college students are regularly (and frequently) in need of resumes.

Here are a few tips for landing their business and using it to grow yours:

  1. Meet with the career placement staff at schools near you. All schools offer some sort of assistance to their students – although some are more developed than others. The smaller schools may not even have a full-time staff, but that can work in your favor as their students will need your help even more than those at larger institutions.
  2. Remember that there are lots of other education providers besides “traditional” colleges and universities. Make a list of the trade schools in your area – secretarial schools, dental assistant and medical assistant training facilities – even bartending schools.
  3. Make yourself a useful resource for the career placement offices. As a professional resume writer, the schools are not likely to directly promote your services to students. But remember that all schools have a vested interest in getting their students jobs. Offer to give free lectures on resumes, interviewing skills, etc. While this may not produce any direct revenue for you – it is a great way to gain credibility with both the schools and the students. And when you give your talk, don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards and/or flyers. Leave them on the tables/desks, or pass them out to each participant.

Once you land your first clients from a school, you can really make your business take off by offering a bonus referral fee. Let each of your new clients know that you will give them a $20-$25 “finder’s fee” for each new client they recommend.

Most students are cash poor, so $25 can be a huge incentive for them. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your bottom line will grow once you tap into this inexhaustible market.

Profit Booster #4:
Use a Simple Business Plan … and Follow It to Faster Profits

You don’t need a long, annotated business plan – complete with spreadsheets and growth curves – to chart your path to success as you build your resume writing business.

But you should have a plan. And that plan should include some specific monetary goals and timeframes.

The truth is: Your business – your revenues – will grow at the rate you envision them growing. If you lack that vision, your business will lag.

Now, professional resume writing is a relatively straightforward enterprise. But don’t let that simplicity lull you into thinking that you don’t need a solid plan.

When you tear out of bed in the morning, you need to have a clear understanding of where you are heading.

Your first step should be to set some very concrete goals – both long-term objectives as well as the short-term tasks you’ll need to do to move toward them. Set specific time frames along with monetary goals.

If your goal is to take your resume writing business from an “idea” to a part-time venture – and then, finally, to a full-time enterprise – you should be able to say to yourself:

  1. In 60 days, I want to be writing 5 resumes per week, at an average of $350 per resume. That translates into $1,700 a week.
  2. In 6 months, I want to be writing 18 resumes per week, at an average of $400 per resume. And I want at least half of my orders to include a cover letter or other related service at an average add-on fee of at least $100. That translates into $8,100 a week.

Write those goals down. In a simple table, show the timeframe you’re looking at and your projected (1) number of resumes, (2) average $$ per resume, and (3) total revenue – per month, quarter, and finally per year.

Guess what? That simple table is the beginning of your business plan! Seeing the numbers on paper is one of the most powerful ways to move your business forward.

Of course, you can hire a professional consultant to help you create a business plan, but that can be cost-prohibitive. However, there are lots of excellent – and good-value – resources out there, among them:

  • The United States Small Business Administration provides excellent information on preparing business plans. (www.sba.gov)
  • The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a non-profit resource dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth, and success of small businesses. Working and retired executives and business owners donate their time and expertise as volunteer counselors, and provide confidential counseling and mentoring free of charge. (www.score.org).
  • Some great software packages are available as well. Business Plan Pro is a good one, sold by Palo Alto Software (www.paloalto.com). The Standard Edition costs $99.95 – and is very easy to learn. (The software has several “wizards” and tutorials, as well as comprehensive online resources and knowledge banks.)

Profit Booster #5:
Use a Blog to Boost Your Credibility,
Exposure, and Bottom Line

Web logs (a.k.a. “blogs”) started out as simple online personal journals. But these days, all sorts of folks are using them as a tool to increase their credibility and get information “out there” fast.

Even The New York Times makes use of blogs, which often include material and opinions not in their regular, published articles.

As a resume writer, a blog can help you increase your own credibility and exposure. Here’s how:

Let’s say somebody finds your website. But all you have on it is your name and contact info, a bio, maybe a testimonial or two. Well, that’s not a lot to go on for somebody hunting around for the right resume writer to hire.

But let’s say you also post weekly or monthly blog entries on your site – useful tips for somebody looking for a job. All of a sudden, you look more like a pro – like an expert who knows what he or she is talking about. And that credibility can help you land that new client.

Keep these simple rules in mind:

  1. Keep your writing clear and direct. Remember, your purpose is to use your blog entries to increase your credibility with customers.
  2. Make sure everything you write is of benefit to your clients (or potential clients).
  3. Include an interesting mix of current-events info along with your general advice and thoughts on job searches.

Savvy entrepreneurs and businesses are discovering that running a blog can help generate traffic to your site. All search engines (like Google) use programs that troll through websites and categorize the info. These search engines love content – especially with related keywords. The more frequently you update your Web pages, the more frequently search engines visit.

What’s more, once you have this content created, you can then offer your blog entries elsewhere for free – to career and job-search sites, for example. At the bottom of your piece, you plug your blog. By doing so, you’re increasing your credibility, giving yourself strong “outside exposure,” and positioning yourself as an expert.

And, at the some time, you’re driving traffic to your site. Once somebody is there, of course, you sell them your services.

Here are a couple of blog resources to help you get started:

Profit Booster #6:
Highly Effective Low-Cost (and No-Cost) Marketing

Moonlighting with your resume business while you get it off the ground? Don’t have a huge budget to spend on marketing your services? You can, in fact, get lots of exposure – and clients – for virtually nothing. You need only look to some everyday contacts you may not have thought of before.

(In fact, even if you’ve been writing resumes for years, you’re losing out if you’re not tapping into these potentially lucrative resources.)

Consider the following opportunities that some of our most successful resume writers have taken advantage of. As it turns out, several of them use these outlets as their primary means of marketing their resume-writing businesses:

  1. Join service clubs (a Rotary or Kiwanis Club, for instance). Members often speak or make presentations. You could give a speech to your fellow members about current job-market trends that young people and recent grads face. Or develop a program geared to older members who wish to earn money and be productive past the usual “retirement age.”
  2. Get involved in church groups and activities. Offer to do resumes for a high school youth group (for summer or after-school jobs) and watch what happens when their parents and relatives see what you can do.
  3. Become an active member of the Parent-Teacher Association at your child’s school. In this arena, you will meet lots of moms – and perhaps some dads – who left the work force while their children were young … and now want to work part-time or full-time. This is a group of people who definitely need the skills of a great resume writer to help them position that “gap” time and also bring them up to speed on how the resume business works these days. You could invite them to a short presentation about the changing job-search world, give 10 pointers about writing good resumes … and see how many clients this leads to.
  4. Volunteer. A great way to get your name out there as a professional resume writer is to donate a number of resumes to residents of shelters or similar facilities.

Many resume writers do all of their business through this savvy type of marketing – and what they save in terms of the cost of “traditional” marketing makes a big difference on the bottom line!

Plus, you should never underestimate the value of the satisfaction you get by being able to “give back” while you’re doing a job you enjoy.

Profit Booster #7:
Two Easy “Spin Offs” to Bump Up
Your Income With Little (Or No) Added Effort

Here are two easy – and fast – services you should consider offering. Both can add hundreds to the bill you send any client. Instead of simply preparing a resume, provide these natural add-ons, too:

  1. Convert any resume you create into the proper formats for both online and email submission. This service can add another $75-$100 dollars to your bill, depending on the size of the resume or CV. In addition, you could even offer to provide 10 or 20 paper copies printed out on top-quality paper and with matching envelopes as well. Again, you can charge an additional fee for this.
  2. Go one step further. Don’t simply prepare a busy client’s resume, but actually do the submissions for him or her. You can easily take in another $150-$250 for this service – particularly if you position yourself as “in the know” in terms of the best places to post a resume and the best ways to do it. This saves your clients hassle and time, and it gives them the comfort of knowing the job is being done right. Keep a record, of course, of the places you’ve posted any given resume – send this to your client and keep a copy for yourself so you have it to refer to later.

Putting Technology to Work for You

Use these technology tips to make your resume writing business run more effectively and efficiently.

Technology Tip #1:
Time-Saving Shortcuts

Templates in MS Word

Microsoft Word has some really helpful – and time-saving – online resources. One of the best is the “Templates” feature, which can provide you with professional, pre-formatted documents that can shave minutes and even hours off your workday and allow you to focus your efforts on generating revenue.

There are a wide variety of templates – from sales letters to invoices to accounting spreadsheets for your home-based business. In fact, there are even sample resume templates.

To get a feel for what’s available, launch Word while your computer is connected to the Internet. Then click the “File” menu, and then “New.” A “New Document” box will open on the far right side of the screen.

Halfway down this box is a “Templates” section. Enter the relevant term in the search engine text box. For example: Entering “college graduate resume” brings up a variety of templates pertinent to a recent college grad.

A second option is to click the hot-link labeled “Templates on Office Online.” This will take you directly to the Microsoft website, where you can browse through all the available templates.

Technology Tip #2:
Three Easy Ways to Back Up Your Files

Backup is so crucial – and yet so often overlooked. So much so, in fact, that, according to TECHWR-L Magazine, “Geek” culture has a law: The chances of losing your data are directly proportional to the length of time since your last backup.

Here are three easy methods for making sure your documents are protected. If these don’t work for you, you can choose from the many other options out there. Just make sure you do something!

  1. Second Hard Drive. The Maxtor One-Touch hard drive (www.maxtor.com) easily connects to your computer via USB. You can schedule regular backups, and can tell the unit what files to include at a touch of a button. You may want to back up your entire “C” drive. The initial backup takes some time, depending on the number of files you have, but each subsequent backup will only add the files not already there.
  2. IBackup.com. IBackup is a secure, online storage/ backup, remote access and sharing solution for consumers and businesses, with a unique combination of backup and storage functions. In this system, you literally “upload” your files to a secure online storage. The downside is that you have to continue to pay, on a subscription basis, for the storage, and this can be quite expensive if you have a lot of files. (The service lets you choose from a wide range of plans that best fit your requirements.) Those with slower Internet speeds will find it cumbersome as well. The real upside is that you can literally access your files from anywhere in the world – as long as you have a computer and an Internet connection.
  3. Flash Drives. You may have seen a 1-Gigabyte flash drive – it can be carried on a keychain, or even around your neck (a fashion statement considered de rigueur for any budding techie). While they are not efficient for backing up all of your files, it is amazing how many Word documents you can get on a 1-GB unit. You might want to use this if you don’t have time to do a full backup of your computer. Every day – or several times a day, depending on the volume you have produced – you should save any new work on the flash drive, which you can keep plugged into your laptop. It’s a great way to “take your work” without having to take your laptop or lug around a bunch of (now nearly obsolete) CD-Roms.

Technology Tip #3:
If You Aren’t Already Using PDFs, You Should Be

A PDF is a file saved in “Portable Document Format.” You probably read them all the time using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

And, more than likely, you save your clients’ resumes in that format so they have a version of their document that any potential employer can read. If you don’t already provide your clients with PDFs, you should … starting now.

A PDF is important because you can never be sure that what you see on your screen is what your intended recipient is seeing on his or hers. You might be sending something from a PC to a Mac, for instance, and across platforms, formatting and graphics are often lost.

But when you send a PDF file, you can be sure that the recipient is getting a clean, printable file that looks exactly the way you intend it to.

Now, keep in mind that you cannot modify PDF files with the same free software that everybody uses to read them (the Adobe Acrobat Reader). So you will want to make all corrections in your word-processing software before you convert your final product to a PDF.

There are a number of ways to make that conversion. The most straightforward way is to purchase the full Acrobat software. You can learn more here: http://www.adobe.com/

But there are also various websites that will do the conversion for you for FREE. One that is often used – though by no means is it your only option – is: http://www.gohtm.com/

Technology Tip #4:
Two Ways to Profit With an eResume

An eResume is a resume that is delivered electronically (i.e. sent in an email or “posted” in a job search service on the Internet). In a word, it’s paperless.

eResumes can come in many formats.

The most basic is a text resume. Unformatted, and very plain to the eye, it is nonetheless useful to have for the “cut and paste” resume submission systems that many companies have on their websites.

Also, a plain text format is free of viruses when pasted directly into an email (not sent as an attachment) … something that many smaller businesses prefer.

Offer your clients two formats – one formatted (with bullets, font variations, borders, etc.) and one in plain text. This gives them more flexibility in submitting their resume to various employers and job search engines.

And it’s something you can charge a premium for. It’s a valuable service!

Technology Tip #5:
Save Time and Ease Communication With a vCard

To save time and ease your communication with new and prospective clients, create for yourself a “vCard.”

This handy electronic “business card” allows you to quickly and accurately send your contact information to your online contacts. It’s the electronic equivalent of paper clipping a business card to a letter.

Most email programs – including Outlook and Outlook Express – support this internet standard. It’s something you can set up to attach automatically to all your correspondence or – better – merely attach manually to an email in which you’re introducing yourself to a new or potential client.

The recipient will be able to automatically store your information in his address book. And, in turn, when you receive a vCard from somebody, you can do the same.

This saves everybody the time it takes to manually enter name, address, phone, etc. into an address book and also eliminates the risk of data-entry error.

If you are an Outlook user, you can read Microsoft’s tutorial on vCards here:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011127311033.aspx. If you use a different email program – search the Help function for “vCard.”

In addition, you’ll find many varieties of “business card scanners” on the market, and these machines will convert a regular business card to a vCard in a matter of seconds.

Technology Tip #6:
Converting Word Files to HTML

While you may want to do a beautiful, elegantly formatted resume for your clients to print and distribute through regular mail or in person, the fact is that most resumes now get to the hiring decision-maker via electronic means. However, technology is changing literally every day, and even some of the popular options for sending a resume electronically are becoming obsolete.

For example, most large companies and national recruiting firms will no longer accept resumes as “email attachments.” The risk of downloading a virus is too great, so many of them have forbidden employees to open any attachments.

One of the ways job seekers are combating this constraint is by sending potential employers a link to a webpage on which their resume is posted. Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) offer small amounts of Web space to their customers, and this is an excellent way for a job seeker to post a resume. Then, via email, prospective employers can receive a link to view and print the resume, without fear of a virus-laden attachment.

You can help your clients by providing them with copies of their resumes in both “Word” and “HTML” files. The HTML file can then be uploaded to a website.

Converting a Word file to HTML is simple: Once the resume is complete and saved in Word, open the document again. Click on FILE, and then click SAVE AS WEB PAGE. (This is in Office 2003 and later. In earlier versions of Word, you will find SAVE AS HTML in the FILE menu.) When the dialog box opens, the default format will be “single file Web page.” This is what you should choose. You can keep the name of the file the same, or change it. (Suggestion: Add the word “Web” to the filename – e.g., change “A Smith Resume” to “A Smith Resume – Web.”)

Then you can send both file formats to your client. You can also charge a premium for providing resumes in both print and Web-based formats!

Technology Tip #7:
Make it EASY for your clients to contact you via your website

You want your website to be clear and informative – and, by far, the most important piece of information to get across is how a potential client can contact you.

A dedicated “contact me” page, hot-linked from every page on your site, is the best way to go. Obviously, you will list your phone number and mailing address there – but, most often, people will want to contact you by email.

There are two primary ways to set up your site to make it easy for a potential client to email you, each with pros and cons.

The first option – the quickest and least-expensive one – is to create an “email me” link that will automatically open up a new email in the client’s email program (Outlook, Outlook Express, etc).

The downside to this method is that these links often don’t work if the client uses a Web-based email program like Yahoo or Hotmail. And it can cause real problems if the potential client is not at his or her own computer, but is, instead, at an Internet café, a school computer, or even at work. Keep in mind that many people looking to switch jobs don’t want to have a “request for resume” query show up at their company’s email address!

If you do go this route, remember to display your email address in your contact info. Don’t just bury it behind a link. That way, clients who don’t want to send you an email from the computer they’re sitting at can write down your email address and contact you later.

The second option is to create a separate “form” on your site that has text fields for the client to type in their contact information as well as any questions or requests. The client info is captured to a database and a summary email is sent to you.

This option eliminates the difficulties that potential clients might have in sending you an email from a particular computer. It also shields your email address from view if you are concerned about spammers getting hold of your address.

The biggest downside to this option is cost. It is expensive to design and maintain the form to capture the data. But if you already have a website set up, check with your Web host. They may have a pre-formatted template that you can layer into your site.

In just 6 hours and 35 minutes, you can be in business earning $60 – $150 an hour writing simple resumes. That’s how long it takes to “create” what is without question the world’s easiest spare-time business. Learn how!


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