The 2011 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey was conducted from December 2011 through January 2012. The respondents can be categorized as follows:
The majority of responders were full-time, self-employed résumé writers (65%), with another 23% classifying themselves as part-time entrepreneurs. While most worked from home (71%), another 16% also met their clients elsewhere, such as coffee shops or libraries. Only 11% chose to maintain a separate outside office.
January was a busy month for 42% of résumé writers, followed by February (15%) and March (11%). It tapered off from there with spikes in May (8%) and August (9%), with very little activity during July or December.
On average, the vast majority of writers (80%) produced fewer than five résumés a week. Seventeen percent wrote more than that, but only 3% wrote more than 10 résumés a week.
Perhaps the hardest part of writing any résumé is simply getting the client to give you enough material. Some writers reported using questionnaires, either all the time or occasionally, in an effort to extract information (19%), but 25% never did. A slight majority preferred to use both a questionnaire and talk to their client in person or over the phone (51%).
The trend towards working virtually continues to grow. While 30% of writers still met with clients personally, 28% also used phone, fax, or Internet, and 10% conducted all their business online.
For many clients, a résumé itself isn't enough. While 32% of writers were only tasked to prepare the résumé itself, another 24% also provided a cover letter, and a further 11% added references and other supporting documents. Ten percent were required to present their résumés in alternate formats (ASCII, PDF, etc.). Unexpectedly, interest in brand and social media development has declined a couple of percentage points since the last survey, although at least one respondent included a LinkedIn profile as part of the standard résumé package.
To avoid later difficulties collecting their fees, most respondents required full payment up front (61%), but a minority 19% contracted for an initial deposit, then the balance upon delivery. A very small number completed the project first, and then received payment (6%).
Estimates of hourly wages varied considerably, with 43% listing $50-99 as their average wage, 32% listed $100-199, 20% made less than $50/hr, and 5% claimed to make $200-300/hr.
Time spent per week writing résumés also varied greatly:
- < 10 hrs: 19%
- 10-19 hrs: 18%
- 20-29 hrs: 18%
- 30-39 hrs: 26%
- 40-50 hrs: 16%
- > 50 hrs: 3%
As in 2010, referrals (18%) and personal websites (14%) continued to be the most important source of new clients. The next most likely source came from directories on professional association websites (8%). Alliances, recruiters, and social media (split almost equally) accounted for another 17% of new projects.
Certification & Training
Most writers recognize having credentials is important when establishing credibility with a client. A majority (67%) of survey participants held résumé writer certifications, with 28% also being certified career coaches. A notably large number, however, held no certification at all (29%), an increase of 8% over the previous year.
Résumé writers received training or chose to belong to a variety of organizations, with no single association predominating. Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC) and Career Directors International (CDI) accounted for most affiliations (16% each), with the National Résumé Writers' Association (NRWA) (12%) and BeAResumeWriter.com (10%) coming next. Career Thought Leaders and the Resume Writing Academy also had small followings.
Many respondents advanced their careers in 2011 by attending professional seminars, webinars, or conferences (36%), purchasing career-related books (10%), exploring strategic alliances (7%), or making new connections with a recruiter (6%). Others promoted themselves by working social media (9%), overhauling their website (7%), giving a presentation (7%), writing an article (6%), or being interviewed in the media (5%).
The Bad & The Ugly
Complaints from the 2010 survey were mirrored in this one, as problems with client management continued to top the list as the least favorite parts of being a résumé writer. Common complaints: Clients don't understand the value a professional brings to writing their résumé; they fail to provide enough information; they don't follow up with revisions or make timely payments; and they don't understand a good résumé doesn't just appear overnight.
The marketing and sales aspect of being an independent contractor also weighed heavily upon some respondents. The work wasn't steady...so neither were the paychecks. Deadlines and scheduling conflicts were constant issues, as was working evenings and weekends. Keeping up with changing technologies was difficult for some writers; others had trouble with bookkeeping.
Not surprisingly, these difficulties were reiterated by respondents when asked what their greatest challenges were. The business aspect continued to be a prime concern, particularly finding clients and getting them to participate in the process; business development and marketing; and keeping up with current technology and social media trends. Respondents repeatedly commented how difficult it was to manage the ebb and flow of this business and how they needed to improve their time management skills.
As the economy slowly picked up, so did the effort job seekers put into their search. The majority of résumé writers (65%) reported increased volume and/or profits in 2011, while a smaller segment did worse (22%). Thirteen percent reported no significant change.
The 2012 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry survey will be conducted early in 2013. Be sure to participate!