One hundred six resume writers contributed to the survey data. They spent an average of 11 minutes answering 21 questions in the survey.*
The results were compiled into the "Profile of Professional Resume Writers: Who We Are, What We Charge, How We Work" report. Career industry professionals interested in receiving a complimentary copy of the report can opt-in to receive it here.
Who Are Survey Respondents?
More than fifty percent of survey respondents are full-time, self-employed resume writers, including subcontract work. Twenty-two percent are self-employed part-time. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of those working part-time have full-time jobs in university career offices, as a recruiter, or working in human resources.
Ninety-one percent of those who took the survey are located in the United States.
The survey respondents are not "newbies." Only six percent of survey respondents have been in business for fewer than two years.
The pricing data reflects the "veteran" nature of survey respondents. Generally, resume writers who have been in business charge the most. (Those who don't charge enough to support themselves in their resume writing business generally leave the industry.)
Where We Work
Seventy-five percent of survey respondents report they work from a home office, with another 14 percent having both a home office and a business office. Only eight percent work from a business office (not located in a home), which is a stark contrast from the early years of the Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey, when a home-based resume writer was the rarity.
The number of resume writers who work with clients virtually has steadily increased over the past few years. In this year's survey, 31 percent of resume writers say they only work with clients virtually. Forty-five percent say they work with clients in person and/or virtually, with another 13 percent who say they meet with clients in person, either at the resume writer's home or office.
The number of resume writers who use a combination of a phone consultation and questionnaire to gather information from clients has risen slightly from the previous survey. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents report using this combination (up from 33% in 2012), while 21 percent only use questionnaires (up from 16 percent in 2012).
The survey revealed that participants write an average of three resumes a week -- a number that has been fairly consistent over the past few years in the survey. Writers reported spending an average of 24 hours a week on resume development (including client consultations, research, writing, and finalization) -- the same number as in the previous survey.
The busiest month, according to the survey, is January, followed by September. In the previous survey, February was the second-busiest, with February, March, and April tied for third.
Let's Talk Pricing
The most common hourly rate cited was $150 in this year's survey, double the number in the previous year's survey ($75 in 2012 data, compared to $50 in 2010 and 2011). The hourly average this year is $105.64, a 14 percent increase from $90.87 reported in 2012, and up from $83 an hour average in 2011.
The average reported price for a resume and cover letter in 2015's survey is $603.82, which is up almost 20 percent over 2012's figure ($478 in 2012, which was down slightly from 2011's figure of $11). The most frequently-cited amount charged for a resume and cover letter was $350, which was up from $300 in 2012's survey data.
LinkedIn profile development services are becoming a bigger part of the "average" resume writer's typical sale, followed by preparing additional resume formats (ASCII and PDF), creating references pages and other supporting documents (thank you letters), and brand development services. Social media profile development (outside of LinkedIn) has declined since the 2012 survey.
How Resume Writers Attract Clients
Marketing is often listed as one of the top challenges of resume writers, so it can be useful to learn how other resume writers secure their clients:
- Referrals – 17% (18% in 2012)
- Website – 13% (16% in 2012)
- Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) – 13% (7% in 2012)
- Directory of Professional Resume Writers on Professional Association Websites – 7% (same as 2012)
- Networking – 7%
- Organic Search (not paid ads) – 6%
- Community Outreach/Unpaid Speaking Gigs – 3%
- Strategic Alliances – 3% (5% in 2012)
- Recruiters – 3% (5% in 2012)
- Public Relations/Being Interviewed – 2%
- Blog – 2% (4% in 2012)
- Yellow Pages – 2% (5% in 2012)
The percentage of resume writers reporting they get new clients via their website is down three percent from the previous survey, while LinkedIn (and other social media) is up six percent. Yellow Pages advertising, not unexpectedly, has declined from five percent to two percent. Strategic alliances are down from five percent to three percent. Recruiter referrals also dropped three percent from 2012's figures. Blog traffic as a source of new clients also dropped from four percent to two percent.
Networking -- not surprisingly -- is a good source of business, generating seven percent of business. Unpaid speaking engagements and community outreach account for three percent of new clients, and public relations/publicity generated another two percent.
Certification and Training
Most resume writers surveyed are a member of at least one professional association. Memberships included:
- The National Resume Writer's Association – 14% (15% in 2012)
- Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches – 13% (14% in 2012)
- BeAResumeWriter.com – 13% (same as 2012)
- Career Thought Leaders – 13% (8% in 2012)
- Career Directors International – 9% (11% in 2012)
- Resume Writing Academy – 8% (6% in 2012)
- The Academies – 5% (4% in 2012)
- National Career Development Association – 4%
- JibberJobber.com – 3% (4% in 2012)
Membership figures have stayed pretty consistent from the 2012 survey. (We consider the "traditional professional associations" to include the NRWA, PARW/CC and CDI, while the other organizations listed provide training and other membership benefits, but are not traditional professional associations.)
Forty-four percent of survey respondents report they are certified as resume writers, with another 10 percent saying they have a coaching certification. Twenty-five percent report they are dually certified in resume writing and career coaching, while 20 percent are not certified.
Resume writers: Like the information you've read so far? Opt-in to receive the full report here.
The full report also includes a "Profile of the 'Average' Resume Writer" and additional resources for career services professionals.
* Note: The survey is a voluntary report from participating resume writers and is not considered statistically valid.
Read these blog posts about previous Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey results:
- 2012 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey (published 2014)
- 2011 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey
- First Look: 2010 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey
- 2008 Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey Results
- Resume Writers' Digest 2007 Industry Survey
- Industry Survey 2004
- 2003 Industry Survey Results
- Profile of Professional Resume Writers - 2001-2002