Friday, July 26, 2013

Asking Good Questions ... And Listening To the Answers

Last week, I did a teleseminar for the National Resume Writers' Association on "Ask Better Questions; Write Better Resumes." (If you missed it, you can still catch it here.)

One critical component I didn't cover on the call -- but that needs mentioning -- is the importance of listening (REALLY listening) to the answers you get. And it's not just about listening when you're gathering information to write the resume. But that's important too.

How, And Why, To Listen To Your Customers 
Do you listen to your customers? Do you listen to prospective customers? If you know how to listen, you can learn the secrets to building a strong and powerful resume writing business – the kind of business that has the capacity to make real change in the world. Most people know that listening is a powerful skill, yet they don’t take the steps required to become a better listener.

When you listen it means you have to give 100% of your attention. And let’s face it, there are a lot of people, thoughts, and things battling for your attention. It’s hard to listen. The following tips, steps, and ideas will help you become a better listener.

  1. Stop Multitasking. When you’re talking with someone on the phone, via email, on social media or face-to-face, simply stop everything else you’re doing. This is the first step to eliminating distractions and allowing you to hear what the person is trying to communicate. For example, it’s often difficult to understand a client email completely when the television is on.
  2. Stop Thinking – Learn to Focus. It’s difficult, admittedly, to shut out the other thoughts running through your mind and simply hear the person that’s talking to you. However, when you can accomplish it, you gain valuable insight. When you listen, you’ll be able to ask insightful questions that will help you writer a better resume.
  3. Ask Questions. The only way someone knows if you’re listening is if you ask questions. The more relevant and thoughtful the question, the more you’ll learn. The same is true for any type of communication; email, phone calls, face-to-face, it doesn’t matter. Asking follow-up questions shows the person that you’re hearing what they have to say.




Why Listen? 
We like people who listen to us -- and guess what? We buy from people we like. We also respect people who listen and respond thoughtfully, as if they actually heard what we had to say. Finally, listen to learn. Listening to others not only helps you learn about your customers and their needs and goals, it also helps you learn more about you and the business you want to build. When you listen, you quiet your mind and that’s when real learning happens.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Easiest Way to Start A Resume Writing Business Blog


Blogging is gaining new popularity as a way to attract new resume writing clients -- but many resume writers are intimidated by how to get started with blogging. While WordPress is popular as a blog platform (and website builder), Blogger is probably the easiest way to get started with a resume writing business blog. (It's the platform that I use for this blog, so I'm a bit biased.)

Yesterday, I wrote about predicting which blog posts you write will be most popular. But I haven't talked about the "how tos" of blogging.

It is very easy to set up a Blogger blog. Simply go to www.blogger.com and enter in some basic information. Blogger has quite a few different themes to choose from, and you can further customize your blog by choosing the colors and fonts.

Blogger makes it very simple to add page elements to your site, such as Google Adsense (to make money from ads on your blog) and other items.

If you want to further customize your blog, Blogger allows you to change your template by editing the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) of your blog. But beware: This is not for the faint of heart! You need to have some technical knowledge to do this without screwing up your blog template.

You can host your blog for free by using Blogger. Your blog's URL will have "blogspot" in it, for example, my blog URL is http://rwdigest.blogspot.com/

You can host your blog on your own web host by changing the ftp settings in your blog. This will allow you to customize your domain, such as www.yourdomain.com/blog.

Another option is to switch to a custom domain. If you have registered a URL, you can go to the "publishing" section of your blog's settings and enter the domain. When someone goes to that domain, they will be directed to your blog.

Blogger will also allow you to write your posts in advance and set them up as drafts. When you are ready to publish them, you simply press a button and your post is on the web.

Inserting pictures and links in your blog posts is also very simple using Blogger's editor. Blogger's comment section allows you to control who can post comments and whether or not they can add links to your blog.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Can Predict Which Blog Posts You'll Want To Read


As a blogger, sometimes it's a surprise to you which of your content becomes the most popular. By popular you mean the most shared via social media methods, the most talked about on other blogs or forums, and the most read and commented on. (One of the things I like about using Blogger as my blog platform is that I can see my post analytics — how many people viewed a particular post, and which of my posts are most popular.)

But wouldn't it be nice to have some knowledge beforehand as to what makes content popular so you can write future blog posts with the goal of getting lots of interaction and shares?

It's possible! Here are some of the blog posts that will get you the most engagement!

  • Anything with a number in the title draws readers like moths to a flame. People like to be given privileged information, insights into mistakes they might be making, and actionable steps, which is what numbers in the title signify. 
  • "List posts" such as a "top 10 list" are still going strong. Information in list form or bullet form is easier to digest and easier for many to take action on, thus making it attractive to readers.
  • Sharing financial information. Who doesn't want to know what other people make? Sharing information about how jobseekers can make more money is ALWAYS going to get read.
  • Giving away something valuable almost instantly qualifies that content to become a favorite. Readers appreciate that you can relate to their problems and offer you free tools or solutions.
  • Share your favorite tools. Why? Because it's valuable information your readers can take and use immediately. Plus, your readers will give feedback on their own favorite tools, thus making the content even better.
  • Give insight into your personal results. Reveal what others most want to know. Here you let the reader in on your business goals, case studies, and actual client results of their job search.
  • Before-and-after case studies. Speaking of case studies, careers industry clients want to see before-and-after examples of resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, etc.
  • Resource lists are another type of content that readers like, especially if you are an expert in your field or considered successful in what you do. Readers respond favorably to hearing about the resources you've used to help you become successful.

When you can deliver industry-breaking news (like the recent decision by The Ladders to discontinue their resume writing services -- and why this is GOOD NEWS for jobseekers) your content will see more traffic and get shared quite a bit. Obviously the trick is to be quick on breaking news, and if you're not one of the first to report it, at least add a unique angle to what you offer it up.

While you don't have to write your content to win a popularity contest, why wouldn't you want to gear it towards what your readers like? It's not about winning a contest, but connecting with your readers, growing trust, and mutually beneficial relationships, and gathering new readers into your fold.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don't Make These Four Mistakes With Your Careers Content


Writing good content does not have to be hard, but it does require a little bit of thinking it through before you post. Some resume writers make mistakes with their careers content when they're first getting started with content marketing to grow their resume writing business.

Here are some of the most common mistakes you can make with your careers industry content:

Mistake #1
Posting low quality content in order to just post something. Consistency is important, but not more important than quality. Yes, more content might mean more traffic and new visitors -- but if your content is crap, will the visitors stick around? Will they find you credible? Will they visit again? Will they buy from you?

Mistake #2
Making it hard to read the material on your website. Consider your font type, font size, contrast between the words and the background (black words on white background is easiest on the eyes), use of white space and graphics, and keep your paragraphs short. This is a fairly easy fix.

Mistake #3
The content is not relevant to your career clients. It seems obvious that an article about food is not what your visitors want to see when they come to your resume writing blog, but this type of thing happens often. Define your site and stick to the topic or a complimentary subject. The only time the readers should see something about food on your resume writing blog is if you're working it into an analogy post or as an example of something jobseekers can learn from.

Mistake #4
Writing for the search engines and stuffing keywords. While "chief technology executive salary negotiation" might be an excellent keyword phrase according to searches, there is a reason why there are not very many exact matches. When this phrase is in your title and seven more times in the article, it makes for a pretty awful reading experience for your viewers. You are writing for search engines and stuffing keywords -- which can get you in trouble with Google.

Again, writing good content does not have to be hard. Put yourself in your prospective resume client's shoes and write what you would want to read yourself. Ultimately, your site needs to serve your readers first in order to ultimately serve you.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Avoid These 7 Mistakes When Starting a Home-Based Resume Writing Business

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Most folks getting started in the resume writing industry these days are starting a home-based resume writing business. When I started my resume writing business 17 years ago, my husband and I rented an office to work out of, but we moved it into our home 9 years ago, and haven't looked back.

I always laugh at the ads in the home-based business magazines. "Starting a home-based business can be an exciting venture. Get started cheap, and make big money overnight."

Starting a home-based resume writing business can be exciting, and you can get your start for under $1000. But it takes hard work to make big money, and you want to avoid some of the most common mistakes in order to see your home-based resume writing business succeed.

Here are some of the top mistakes:

Failing to do your homework. What's that old saying, "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail"? (One good resource is my "Ready, Set, Goal: Business Planning and Goal Setting For Resume Writers" special report.)  It's also important to research the industry. Here's the link to the results of the 2011 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey, which outlines typical hourly rates and average package prices for resumes/cover letters.

Failing to choose a niche. Yes, you can be a "general" resume writer, but you'll be more successful in standing out from the crowd if you ALSO pick a niche. Your niche is what is going to help you determine who your target audience is (and market to your ideal client), and what kind of career services they need. Without choosing a well-defined niche, you'll find it harder to attract clients. (Especially online!)

Failing to legitimize your business. Many people start a business without getting the proper credentials and licensing. Check into what your city, county, and state require in terms of business permits and licenses. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is your federal tax identification number for your small business.

Failing to know the law. This is especially important if you are planning on offering career coaching in addition to resume services. Some states require you to be licensed to offer career advice. You need to know if that's a requirement in your state. Also, some cities have zoning restrictions on home-based businesses. Research the law in your area so you don't get shut down!

Failing to get involved in the industry. One of the easiest shortcuts to success in the resume writing industry is to learn from your colleagues! This is truly a business that sees other resume writers as colleagues, not competitors. Join one of the professional associations in the resume writing industry, and get involved in the e-lists. Consider attending a conference! (Jon and I will be at the National Resume Writer's Association conference in Chicago in September. I'd love to see you there!)

Failing to market the business. Without a marketing plan you cannot have a successful home-based resume writing business. You might get away with that a little bit with a brick-and-mortar business in a busy mall, but you cannot get away without marketing if you're home-based. If you don't market, prospective resume clients won't know you exist. (Use the search box in the upper-left hand side of this blog -- type in "Marketing" and check out the blog posts that relate to marketing your home-based resume writing business.)

Failing to persevere. A home-based resume writing business can take time to build, and you'll need to actively work on your business each day in order to make it happen. Many resume writers -- including me! -- started by working part-time in their resume writing business before making the leap to full-time.

By avoiding these mistakes often made by home-based resume business start-ups, you're more likely have a profitable business that you can be truly proud to call your own!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pros and Cons of a Home-Based Resume Writing Business

Starting a home-based resume writing business can be an exciting and profitable venture. It can also be a good lifestyle choice -- for example, if you're thinking of starting a family, a home-based business allows you to be home with your children. It's also a good choice for military spouses (resume writing businesses can literally be run from anywhere in the world), and those who are thinking about semi-retirement. But a home-based resume writing business isn't just for moms, trailing spouses, or those who eventually want to be self-employed.

But it's not for everyone. Having worked from home for the past 9 years, I want to share some of the pros and cons of a home-based resume writing business, from the perspective of someone who can "tell it like it is!"

Pros of a Home-Based Resume Writing Business
  • You can get started building a home-based resume writing business in your spare time. Many resume writers get their start this way. Work a full-time job, and write resumes at night and on the weekends. This allows you to develop your skills, build a client base, and get experience without needing the resume writing business to provide all of your income (and benefits).
  • Low start-up costs. If you already have a computer and word processing software (Word is the industry standard), you've got almost all the tools you'll need. With free and inexpensive website design/hosting software, you can quickly establish an online presence. Once you start generating income, you can join a professional association in the resume writing industry, and pursue certification.
  • Low operating costs. You already pay a mortgage or rent and you already have utilities (and probably, Internet access), so your operating costs really won't change at first just because you have a home-based resume writing business. You may at some point invest in some extras, but you can keep them lean and mean by only purchasing what you must have.
  • No commute. Wake up, walk 10 feet and you're at work. No need to drive to work and spending money on cars, gas and work clothing. Because I live in Nebraska (hello, snow!), I love working from home for this reason.
  • No childcare. Technically you can work on your business while your kids are playing, napping, or with their other parent. This advantage varies depending on the age of your children and the willingness of your spouse to assist. (I can't speak to this one personally, as I borrow "my" children from their real parents, and then return them when they are all sugared up and I'm worn out.)
  • Flexible working hours. This is probably the biggest reason why I am self-employed. Being a home-based resume writer has allowed me to take care of ill family members (including helping my Mom take care of my Dad before he died last year), be there for my niece's and nephew's school events, and follow my favorite college hockey team on the road, while still getting my work done.
  • Professional satisfaction. Running a successful home-based resume business can give you the same professional satisfaction you had at a job, only better, because it's all yours. And most resume clients don't care where you work from -- you'll be working with them via phone, Skype, email, Google+ Hangout, etc.

Cons of a Home Business
  • You're always "at work." When your work is at home it can be hard to separate yourself from it. You can never really "leave" the office, even if you stop working for the day. This is probably the biggest misconception I hear about working from home. People say to me, "I'd never be able to work from home because I'd just end up in front of the TV all day." For me, the opposite is true. I'll "check my email real quick before I go to bed" at 10:30 p.m, and the next thing I know, it's 1 a.m.
  • Family and friends may not understand you're working. Once you're not working a job anymore, your friends and family may often start relying on you to do all kinds of things for them now that you "don't work." It may be difficult to explain to them that you do indeed work. My former sister-in-law was famous for this. My mom came over to watch my youngest niece while my brother worked (from home) and his then-wife taught preschool in the morning. She was supposed to be home by noon, but would frequently call and say she was running late and to just leave my infant niece with my brother to take care of … even though he was on deadline. You have to set your boundaries…and enforce them.
  • Undefined working hours. Sometimes when you work from home and switch hours around to accommodate the needs of the family, it can feel like you never get off work, that you're always at work, and it can get quite frustrating. See Cons #1 and #2.
  • Lack of benefits. You will not have health insurance, paid vacations, and other benefits that you get at a job. If you want them, you'll have to pay for them -- and that means charging enough to make a decent living…including benefits! You can build in your own paid days off as you generate more profit.
  • Loss of social contacts. You'll spend an enormous amount of time alone working from home. You may start to feel isolated. Here again is where your network of other professional resume writers can help!
  • Your motivation must come from you. There will not be anyone to force you to do the work and no threat of being fired if you don't. If you're not the type of person who is intrinsically motivated, self-employment may not be for you.

Regardless of the pros and cons of having a home-based resume writing business, the decision is up to you. Any of the cons can be turned into pros with just a little forethought and planning.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July, Resume Writers!

Today, we celebrate our freedom ... which includes the right to choose where we work! 
Happy Independence Day to my colleagues in the careers industry!

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