Monday, January 23, 2017

What is a "Fair" Referral Fee for Resume Writers?

I got a couple of questions from a resume writing colleague today about referral fees, and I wanted to share my answers in today's blog post.

Securing Referrals Special Report
* Can you please advise what is the prescribed fee amount/percentage range that one should offer another career professional for a referral (career service) that would be fair? (Is there any minimum and maximum offered?)

Referral fees are negotiable. 15% is the most common referral fee, but I've seen anywhere from 10-25%. 

One thing to consider when you're deciding what percentage to pay as a referral commission for being sent prospects from a colleague is: What is the QUALITY of the referral? If someone sends a client to you who is pre-qualified and pre-sold (meaning they're a good fit for you and they're ready to buy from you based on what the referring person said), that's worth it.

There's a mathematical way to figure this out, for the most part. You can add up what you're spending (in money and time) each month, and divide it by the number of clients you secure yourself. For example, you might spend 1 hour/week on marketing and $100 on your marketing (website, paid ads, etc.). Let's say you value your time at $75/hour. So that's $75 x 4 = $300/month (time) + $100/month (hard costs) = $400. Let's say you secure 6 new clients/month. So divide $400/6 = $66 (cost to acquire one client).

Let's say that referral partner sends you a client that pays $500/project. Your 20% referral fee would be $100. But remember, unlike your own marketing costs, you only incur this "marketing expense" if you secure the client. With your other marketing costs, you spend $400/month and might get 0 clients out of it. (Or, things might go really well, and you get 10 clients out of it!). But the advantage with referral commissions is you only pay them when you're making money (the other 80%). 

* Are referral fees always required or mandatory? For instance, I offered a referral to a resume writer once for a client that I was not able to take due to other deadlines. However, I did not charge a referral fee upon the client retaining her service. 

No, referral fees are not always required or mandatory. As the referring person, you can always request a referral fee, but it's not mandatory. HOWEVER, thinking of that resume writer, wouldn't you be MORE likely to send clients their way if they HAD sent you a 15% referral commission (even if you hadn't asked for it?) Or even some kind of thank you?

* Are referral fees based on certain factors, or more on the negotiation or agreement between two career professionals what is suitable?

Just like with subcontractor fees, I believe that the more "work" one party does, the higher the compensation should be. For example, subcontract writers who have direct client contact (including conducting intake interviews) should make more than subcontract writers without client contact (and who work from questionnaires). However, because there is no standard in the industry, this isn't always equivalent.

In an "ideal" world, I think it would be:
10% referral fee -- pass along the name of a colleague
15% referral fee -- "normal" amount of selling -- give name/contact info and some information about the resume writer to convince the client they're a good fit
20% referral fee -- going above and beyond -- information about why this resume writer would be a good fit plus introduction of client directly to resume writer

The reason why I generally think referral fees should be 20% and under is that now you're getting into the "subcontract" rates territory. When you'd pay 20% to another writer to create the actual content for the client (again, subcontract fees are generally 20-35%), I think that's the top level. But I have seen some writers who offer 25% referral fees.

In the affiliate marketing world, referral commissions can be up to 75%, but usually these are for set programs (webinars, courses, group programs), not custom services.

If you're looking for more information about eliciting referrals from colleagues, check out this special report:

If you're interested in learning more about subcontracting as a resume writer, check out:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tools for Offering Free Webinars for Marketing Your Resume Writing Business

I got this question today from a Bronze member:
I’ve decided to go back to hosting webinars as part of my marketing tool box and have been researching various companies. I found one -- Zoom -- that seems to fit my needs for about $55 a month which is about ½ of what I paid for Go To Webinar. 

However, I’ve spoken to the folks at a couple of times and would like to work with them because of price and just because they are so nice. My problem is that, as you know, they don’t offer registration.

I offer both free and paid webinars using I analyzed a lot of different webinar platforms because I'm pretty picky. I wanted something easy for attendees to use (without requiring a download) and no Javascript. has affordable pricing and good technical support. I like that attendees can use a variety of platforms (desktop/laptop, tablets or phones) to access the calls. I also like that recordings take just one click and they can be directly uploaded to YouTube.


  • There is no built-in registration. I use a third-party registration option to handle that (EventBrite is a great option).
  • No built-in toll-free number options (most attendees don't care about this, but if you did want a toll-free call-in option, you can use a third-party service)
  • It doesn't track who attended versus who didn't, so you can't do follow-up marketing based on who actually was on the call or not.

So how do you let people know about your webinars? I use EventBrite -- here's my affiliate link:

I like EventBrite because it's free if you don't charge for your webinar. If you're using your webinar for marketing, you're probably not charging for it, and EventBrite is great for this.

EventBrite gives you a landing page to provide all your event information, full-service registration (including automated reminder emails) and event promotion (you can integrate your EventBrite event with your Facebook page and EventBrite will also promote the event on their "master list" of events). For paid programs, EventBrite also has a built-in affiliate program so you can reward referrals. (It also allows you to do special discount codes for referral source tracking too.)

If you offer a paid program, EventBrite is still a great, affordable option. You can use EventBrite's built-in payment processor or your own PayPal or payment processing. The EventBrite cost for paid events is 2.5% of the ticket cost plus $.99 (up to $19.95/ticket) if you use your own payment processing.

Add 3% if you use EventBrite's payment processing. I find it's about 5-10% effectively. (That is, if you sell a webinar for $59, your takehome would be between $54.76 (EventBrite: 2.5% is $1.48 plus $.99 = $2.47 plus 3% EventBrite fee = $1.77 = $4.24) and $56.63 (EventBrite: 2.5% is $1.48 plus $.99 = $2.47, plus separate PayPal or fees).  With the example given, that's between 4-7% net.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Do You Catastrophize?

I love the word "catastrophize." It's hard to spell and it's hard to say ... but it's a perfect word to describe what happens when you let problems eat away at you.

When something goes wrong in your business, do you spend hours worrying and fretting over it? Do you re-play the problem and imagine all the ways that it could get worse? Do you slip into self-pity and find yourself asking why this is happening?

You may not know that's what it's called: catastrophizing. Catastrophizing makes a small problem look much worse than it actually is. If you let it, catastrophizing can completely drain your energy and time.

An example of catastrophizing would be your computer has a minor hiccup. Maybe a document crashes and you discover the file is corrupted. Immediately, you think something horrible has happened to your word processing software and all your Word files will be unreadable. That client draft that you're in the middle of finishing? Gone. All the resumes you wrote over the past 3 years? Done for. Well, that's it for your business. Wish I had backed it up.

While it’s understandable to get upset when you face a business setback or new problem, this type of thinking isn’t productive. That’s because you’re focused on the problem and not the solution.

Imagine the above scenario does in fact happen to you. You can open another file and discover that it was just that one file. And, in fact, while that file was corrupted, Word saved a temporary version that you're able to work from. It doesn't have your latest changes, and the formatting is off, but at least you don't have to start from scratch. And, now that you can breathe again, you go ahead and backup your computer so you don't have to worry about losing ALL your work.

You can fret over it all day or you can say to yourself, “Whew, that was a close one. I'm going to make sure I stick to a backup schedule from now on!"

The first response makes you feel like a powerless victim. But the second one allows you to look at what you can do. It keeps you productive and focused. With that focus, you recognize that you can handle this problem without losing a lot of time and money.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"How much does a resume cost?"

As a resume writer for more than 20 years now, this is a question I'm asked quite often. Back in the days when most resume inquiries originated from a phone call in response to my Yellow Pages ad, "How much does it cost for a resume?" was often the first question I was asked!

Now, with many resume writing colleagues posting pricing information on their websites (I'd estimate about 30% of resume writing businesses provide pricing data online), the question has evolved somewhat into:
“How much should I spend to get a resume written?”

The main reason for that question is because jobseekers will find rates anywhere from $5 (on to more than $5,000+ (from some of my excellent colleagues) for resume writing services. Friends who know I'm a resume writer ask me, "What's the difference?" and "How do I choose?"

I like to use a "car analogy" to explain the disparity in pricing. You can buy a car from anywhere from $200 (on Craigslist) to $2 million+. Pretty much all of them over $500 will get you from Point A to Point B. (If you're closer to the $500 price range, I hope that's within about 200 miles!) 

In some cases, it's not about transportation at all, but about status. HOW you get there (rich Corinthian leather seats, or cloth?) and the status of the vehicle (Mercedes Benz or Miata) that can explain the pricing difference with car prices, for the most part. But even then, the exact same model, with the exact same features and mileage, can vary by several hundred dollars, depending on whether you're buying via private sale or through a dealer. (So sometimes the sales channel has an impact too.)

Because the vast majority of resume writers are self-employed, we set our own prices. There's no requirement for certification as a resume writer (and, in fact, there are dozens of certifications offered within the resume writing industry), and no specific training or qualifications to hang out a shingle as a resume writing professional. I get questions from resume writing colleagues about pricing all the time -- they wonder how much they should be charging too!

According to my research -- in the Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey -- the "average" cost for a resume and cover letter is right around $500.

So why are some resume writing "mills" only charging $149 for a resume and cover letter -- and why do some top industry pros charge $5,000?

Here's some possible reasons for pricing differences:
  • Customization/personal service. It's not always the case, but generally, the more personal service and customization with the resume services, the higher the price. Resume mills can make money off a $149 resume by standardizing the client intake process (generally, a questionnaire form that doesn't change) and fitting the client into one of a set number of design templates. (There's nothing WRONG with this approach per se, but it's the difference between buying a package of Chips Ahoy off the shelf versus ordering a dozen personalized cookies from a bakery.)
  • How information is gathered. Relating to the level of customization, individuals and firms at the lower end of the pricing scale are likely to use worksheets, forms, and questionnaires for information gathering versus a phone intake interview. (I personally use questionnaires instead of phone consultations and there is nothing wrong with a written approach versus a verbal approach UNLESS the jobseeker prefers talking through their history. In that case, it's a matter of personal preference for the client.) But how information is collected can impact pricing -- in general, resume writers who use phone intakes charge anywhere from 20-50% more than those who work from questionnaires. (Although there are some VERY high end firms who use questionnaires exclusively, so it's not always true that you'll pay less when providing information in writing.)
  • Volume. Aligning with the level of personal service is the volume of clients that an individual resume writer can work with. If you're conducting in-depth personal consultations or lengthy personalized questionnaires and spending 10+ hours on the writing of the resume, you BETTER be charging more than $500 for your services. Otherwise, you'd be better off getting a job at McDonalds because you're probably making close to minimum wage anyway!
  • Experience/credentials. Although no certification or experience is required, resume writers who have one -- or both -- generally charge more. Many of the larger resume writing firms (mills) have a minimum requirement for their writers -- an "easy" certification like the CPRW (which requires a single test and no ongoing continuing education) is often the bar for application. In contrast, the cost to obtain an ACRW (Academy Certified Resume Writer) certification is $1895, plus five weeks of training and portfolio development. Choosing a resume writer who invests in her OWN career development is a good idea -- and is likely going to be at a higher price point.
  • Resume only versus a one-stop shop. Resume writing professionals who provide a "single source" approach for jobseekers tend to charge more than individuals who only write resumes. Some career industry colleagues provide career assessments/testing, personal brand development, the full spectrum of writing services (not just resumes and cover letters, but bios, CVs, thank you letters, networking letters, etc.) plus LinkedIn profile development, and into coaching services -- interview coaching, salary negotiation coaching, career change strategy development, and more. Because they tend to have a deeper well of knowledge, information, and resources, they tend to charge more even just for the resume writing piece of it, if that's all you need.

With so many possible resume writers to choose from (my research indicates there are about 4,000 professional resume writers worldwide), how does a jobseeker choose? That's a topic for another blog post. But in general, look at these factors:
  • What do you need? Do you need JUST the resume and cover letter, or are you looking for someone who can help you navigate the job search process?
  • How do you prefer to work? Do you want to have a high level of hand-holding, or are you comfortable working with your resume writer virtually (email/questionnaires)?
  • How complex is your career? Someone just coming out of college is an easy project for most resume writers -- mid-level professionals and early executives need someone with more experience -- and I'd ONLY recommend someone who works with federal resumes if you're looking for a government job.
  • How much are you willing to spend?

That final question is important. The other question jobseekers need to ask themselves is: "How much do I want to invest in my career?" Going back to that car analogy, what do you need? What do you want?

There is a general guideline that jobseekers can use:
In  general, you should spend 1-3% of your annual salary on your career development. 

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in America (across all jobs) was $51,939 (as of September 2014*). Using the 1 to 3% figure, that would mean spending between $519 and $1557 on career development annually. Now, that could include more than just a resume/cover letter -- that can include continuing education/training, career-related clothing and personal items, and even something like a subscription to LinkedIn Premium membership. But if that $52,000 was a single jobseeker (let's say a single parent), the $519 amount is right in line with that "average" fee for a resume and cover letter that I mentioned before.

The advantages of a professionally written resume are numerous -- many jobseekers find it hard to know what to write about themselves (much less design a resume that meets modern job search standards and Applicant Tracking System-friendly formats). Professionally written resumes are more likely to generate interview requests than do-it-yourself documents, meaning a potentially shorter job search. (You can calculate how much it costs every week you are unemployed -- for example, if you're making that hypothetical $52,000 a year, that's almost $1,000 a week.)

Back to the car analogy, your income is your greatest wealth-building tool. (The average person makes over $1.4 million in income throughout their lifetime.**) 

The average monthly new vehicle lease payment in the U.S. in 2015 was $412/month***. You'd spend $400 each MONTH to drive something that gets you where you want to go -- why not spend a couple hundred dollars more for a document that can drive your CAREER where you want it to go?

So instead of asking "How much does a resume cost?" jobseekers should probably instead be asking themselves, "How much do I want to make?" and what is the cost of NOT investing in their job search, and their career path.