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Many resume writers ask for colleagues who are interested in a referral on the professional association E-Lists. The usual response is a series of email responses along the lines of "I'll take the client."
Having been on the "asking" end of soliciting a referral writer, I can tell you that doesn't make it easy to choose a writer to send to prospective clients. That's why you'll sometimes see resume writers ask for prospective writers to contact them off-list, or they'll say something like, "The first three writers to respond will be forwarded to the prospect."
But there's a better way to handle referrals. Here are a couple of ground rules:
- Only respond to referral requests that you are qualified to serve. In some cases, resume writers are overbooked and can't accept a client due to time constraints. But in most cases, referrals are made when a client needs a specialist. If you're not a specialist, don't use this opportunity to pick up a new client. This is not your chance to get some practice with an unfamiliar field. You're not serving your new client -- and you're not helping your colleague. You might be a great resume writer, but the referring resume writer wants to look good too.
- Distinguish yourself. The resume writer I spoke to was surprised when his request for referrals was answered with resume writers who either didn't establish their credentials for being qualified to write the client's resume -- or, worse, they sent samples, but they weren't for the type of project being referred. (If you want a referral for a Bioscience project, send a science-related sample!)
- Establish your expertise and secure referrals without competition. If you're a specialist in a particular field -- information technology, federal resumes, military transition, engineering ... whatever -- you can cultivate referrals by establishing your expertise. Instead of responding to general requests, you can elicit direct referrals by participating on E-Lists as a subject matter expert, and the next time someone is looking to refer a client within your specialty, they will likely contact you directly.
- Prepare yourself for referrals. If one of your client acquisition strategies is to solicit referrals from colleagues, prepare for for the referral request. Create a one-page sheet demonstrating your credentials. This should include your specialty area, credentials (especially any industry-specific certifications or training), scope of work you perform (resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc.), related books you've been published in, and any testimonials received from clients in this field/industry.
- Outline your referral rate. Many resume writers are happy to make a referral to a qualified colleague simply to serve a client -- but offering a referral fee can help make it worth the referring resume writer's effort to find a writer for the prospect. The "standard" fee for referrals is 15%, although it can range from nothing to 30% or more. By outlining the referral fee in your response to the requesting resume writer, you might get the nod over another writer who doesn't offer a referral fee.
If you're on the asking -- or receiving -- end of referrals (or want to be!), check out the "Maximizing Your Cash Flow: Subcontracting and Referral Relationships" special report.