How To Start and Operate a Resume Writing Service
by Mary Anne Hahn
"Do you still do resumes?"
Although it's been years since I have actively promoted this service,
receive requests-and some nice extra pin money-to create or update resumes.
If you are looking for a writing business that you can start part-time
a shoestring budget, setting up a resume writing service of your own might
just the ticket for financing more creative or lucrative freelance pursuits.
Who Needs a Resume Writer?
Why, with all of the online and off-line guides to writing resumes, and
availability of templates on nearly all word processing programs, do people
still look for someone to put together their resumes for them? Reasons
but the most common include:
- An inability to promote themselves well in writing. When putting together
a summary of their work experience, many people make the mistake of
listing the accountabilities of each position they've held, rather than
highlighting their strongest skills and biggest accomplishments. For
example, someone with a customer service background would certainly
experience answering telephones and dealing with people, but did he
ever win an award for outstanding service, or make a recommendation
saved a previous employer thousands of dollars? Well-written resumes
than provide a work history; they separate outstanding applicants from
- Lack of time. Between holding down jobs and raising families, many
have little time to react or respond when new employment opportunities
sudden job terminations occur. The ability to tap a reliable writer
notice to develop or revise a resume eases at least some of the stress
accompanies the job hunt, and is viewed by a lot of people as a very
- Lack of equipment and/or word processing skills. For those who can't
afford a personal computer, or haven't a clue what a template is (much
how to use one), the equipment and skills you take for granted as a
can be an invaluable service.
Regardless of their reason(s), the fact remains that people use resume
writers. This is true whether a booming economy presents them with new
opportunities, or a sagging economy finds them suddenly jobless.
What You Need to Start Your Service
If you already own a computer and printer, the start up costs for a resume
service are quite minimal. About the only other supplies you will need
stock of high-quality paper (white and ivory are the two most commonly
accepted colors for resume submissions) and printer ink.
All other expenses related to your business will depend on how you promote
it. At the very least, I recommend that you order a supply of business
cards. To develop a local clientele, you might also consider running a
regular classified ad and posting fliers on community bulletin boards.
If you take your business to the World Wide Web, you'll need a home page,
preferably a well-developed, professional Web site.
What to Charge
Doing a little "market research" here wouldn't hurt; try calling
services in your area for prices, or check out what other online services
charge, so that you can price your services competitively without setting
your fees too low. Also, structure your prices depending on what services
you offer-a basic resume-only package, or deluxe resume/cover letter
packages, and so on. You can offer to include a floppy disk so that your
customer can print off her own copies as needed, and again factor this
benefit into your overall price.
You Have Your First Customer-Now What?
If you've never put together a resume for anyone but yourself or someone
know very well, you will need to acquire information regarding the person,
the position(s) she's held previously, and the type(s) of jobs she would
to pursue, if you want to provide your clients with a well-written,
I always begin by asking my customers if they can provide me with a copy
their last resume. If they can't, I set up time to do a full-fledged
interview with them; if they can, I review the old resume first, and fashion
my questions accordingly.
What sorts of questions do you ask when interviewing someone for a resume?
Here are some examples:
- Are you applying for a specific position, or type of position? You
this information if you plan to include a Career Objective section.
client seems unsure, or has several career options in mind, you can
the Career Objective section and move on to the next area.
- What skills/qualifications do you have that would be of interest to
prospective employers? Probe a little here if your customer provides
with little to go on. Do they have technical skills related that can
highlighted? Proven decision-making and/or problem-solving skills? A
terrific track record for punctuality and attendance? These can be general
statements of ability, which you would highlight in a Skills/Qualifications
bullet list at the top of the resume.
- Describe your accountabilities in each past position held. This can
most challenging-and interesting-part of putting together a resume for
someone who has worked in fields with which you are totally unfamiliar.
have developed resumes for an accountant, a speech therapist, a loan
supervisors, salespeople and a host of other professions; in order to
justice, I have had to clarify jargon used in various industries, while
the same time look for specific examples of when they have demonstrated
skills identified above.
- What sort of education or training have you had? Also find out whether
your client has received any pertinent awards, or has belonged to volunteer
or industry-related organizations that should be included on the resume.
Finally, make sure you have the person's most current address, telephone
number and email address, if available. At this point, you should be pretty
well equipped to put together their resume for them. Be sure to clarify
date by which the resume is needed, and how many copies you will include
While developing resumes hardly qualifies as the most creative or exciting
type of writing, it is certainly a service that is sought after and
appreciated by others. You also get the opportunity to meet a wide range
people involved in interesting work, hone your interviewing skills, learn
meet deadlines, practice the art of self-promotion, and maybe even get
for articles, books or fictional characters. And you make money doing
Not a bad little business, all in all.
Mary Anne Hahn is editor/publisher of "WriteSuccess," a free
of ideas, information and inspiration for writers who want to land successful
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