Thursday, July 20, 2023

Do You Struggle With Pricing Your Resume Services?

In my most recent pricing survey of resume writers, 100% of respondents said YES, they have struggled with pricing their career services.

Eighty-five percent said they would like to learn more about pricing their services.

Accurate (and adequate) pricing is one of the biggest predictors of success in your resume writing business. 

Why Resume Writers Don’t Stay In Business

I recently read an article about the top 11 reasons small businesses fail. 

Number three was: Failure to price your product or service correctly. 

Number one was inadequate cash reserves, and number four was the failure to adequately anticipate cash flow. Both of those also relate to pricing, in a way. The author went on to say, “You can be the cheapest, or you can be the best, but if you try to do both, you’ll fail.”  

Pricing is one of the biggest challenges in succeeding as a freelance resume writer. Charge too much, and you may have trouble attracting clients. 


Charge too little, and you’ll have a hard time succeeding. At a minimum, you’ll work harder than you need to, or you won’t be able to give clients enough of your time or energy to truly help them. The worst case scenario is that you can’t afford to stay in business if you don’t charge enough. So pricing is a critical component for your success.


Let me start by saying that pricing your services is a very individual, personal decision.

Before you set your pricing, think about two things: 1) Who are you serving? Who is your target client? 2) What problem are you solving for them? What benefit or benefits do they get from working with you?


No matter what you end up charging, if you are crystal clear about who you serve and what you can do for them, it will help you attract great clients, and it makes your pricing less of a factor in choosing you.


Once you know who you want to target, you can start figuring out your pricing. 

Pricing Models

Let’s talk about pricing models for services.

  The first is a straight hourly rate, based on the time the project requires (clients don’t like this model because of the uncertainty for them, so it can be harder to get them to commit. If they don’t know up front if their resume project will be $500 or $5000, they’re not likely to work with oyu.)


  Flat fee, based on the number of hours it’s estimated the project will take. Clients like this because they know what they’ll pay, but the risk is that you have to estimate the time required accurately. You can either provide set “packages” for your services, or quote projects individually, once you’ve determined what your client needs.


  Value-based. This is not a common pricing strategy for resume writers, but it ties your pricing to the outcome the client will get. For example, if your client gets the job, you get a percentage of their first-year salary. (This is more common for recruiters.) 

But how do you come up with the hourly rate, or the rate that you’re basing your flat fee packages on? That’s where the formula for pricing your services comes in. Danielle has a worksheet in your Google Drive that you can use to calculate this.


A Formula for Pricing Your Services

The formula for pricing your services consists of three steps. 


The first is to estimate your expenses and income. Remember, as a resume writer, you’ll now have some expenses that you didn’t as an employee — marketing costs, supplies, equipment, and extra taxes. 

(In my course for resume writers, Pricing Right: Price Your Career Services with Confidence, there is a worksheet with expenses to consider.)


Add those up. Then, determine what you want to be making. Those two numbers, added together, are your income target. For example, let’s say you want to make $80,000 and your annual expenses are $15,000. Your income target would be $95,000.

Step two is to determine your billable hours and schedule. Even if you’re not billing by the hour, you still need to figure out how many hours a week you’re available to work each week — and use that to determine your billable hours. 


You’ll have billable hours and non billable hours each week. 


Billable hours are the hours you’re working on client projects; non billable hours is the time you spend on marketing, client acquisition, and all the fun paperwork that comes with being a freelancer. Let’s say you think you can generate 20 hours of billable time each week. And let’s say you want to include two weeks of vacation each year. For example, if you multiply 20 hours by 50 weeks, you get 1,000 billable hours each year.


The third step is to use the income target and your total annual billable hours to calculate your hourly rate. Divide your income target (step one) by the total number of billable hours per year (step two). For example, $95,000 divided by 1,000 billable hours gives you an hourly rate of $95/hour.

Adjusting Your Rates

But you don’t have to stick exactly to the $95/hour rate. You want to consider some other factors that can influence your pricing. 

• the type of clients you work with and the results you’re able to get for them

  what you were used to making

  your experience/certifications

  level of personalization

  what other resume writers are charging


Once you figure out your pricing, you have to figure out how you’re going to communicate it. Are you going to list your pricing on your website? Will you only discuss pricing on the phone or once you’ve met with a prospective client? 


Also, consider HOW you’re going to get paid. Deposit up front? Payment in full to start? A common tactic in consulting is progress payments — a deposit and then payment at agreed-upon intervals. 

Most resume writers get paid 100% up front because of the custom nature of work. But if you’re hesitant about that to begin with, at least collect a deposit (25% or 50%) up front and the balance when you deliver the draft (or before you deliver the draft).

Want more insight into pricing your resume services? Check out “Pricing Right: Price Your Career Services With Confidence.”


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

6 Steps to Starting a Resume Writing Business as a Side Hustle

I was asked a question today about starting a business as a side hustle (in addition to a 9-to-5 job). I'd estimate about 75% of resume writers get started in business this way. I know I did, more than 20 years ago.

I put together this list of advice for getting started. If you’re thinking of starting a resume writing business as a side hustle and you have questions, leave me a comment below or contact me!

Step One: Avoid Conflicts
First step is checking your current contract (if you have one) to make sure there is nothing that prohibits side work. Most important, if you’re doing work that relates to your 9-to-5 job, you want to make sure that you wouldn’t unintentionally be giving your current employer the rights to your side hustle work (or clients). That can really happen.

You also want to make sure that you’re not using company resources for your side hustle. So you wouldn't want to use your work computer for your business, for example. Or, if you have a company-provided cell phone, get a separate one for your business. (That’s smart anyway, so you can answer calls with your business name. “All About Resumes, This is Jan!” Or have your voicemail reflect your business: “Thank you for calling All About Resumes. If you want more information about how we can help you meet your career goals, visit our website,, or leave us a message and we’ll get back to you.)

Step Two: Identify Yourself
Step two is coming up with a business name. You do NOT need to incorporate as an LLC at this point. It’s not necessary and is a lot of paperwork and expense that isn’t required.

This article explains why:

As a small services business (under $100K in revenue to start), your legal liability risk is low. If you want to shield yourself, an E&O policy (errors and omissions) would be sufficient (and probably overkill). If you do choose to pursue E&O insurance, check out Hiscox or your homeowner’s insurance. (If you’re seeing clients in person at your home or an office, also ask your homeowner’s agent about a business liability policy.)

Get an EIN from the IRS:

Here’s how to get one (it’s free):

Step Three: Establish Your Business
The next step is opening a business checking account. All your income and expenses should be run through this account. It can be as simple as “Your Name dba as ___” (dba = "doing business as"). My first sole proprietorship was “YD Creations” (my maiden name is pronounced “Why Dee” — like the letters Y and D). So my bank account was “Bridget Weide dba YD Creations.”

Start as a sole proprietor. Your income and expenses will be reported on your personal tax forms. 

Register your business with the state. Google “start a business in ___” (your state). 
For example, I live in Nebraska:

You also want to check into whether you will need to collect sales tax on your sales.

Your state’s department of revenue can help you identify the specific services that are taxable.
Again, here’s my state’s guidelines:

This is especially important if you are providing taxable services. In some jurisdictions, resume services are taxable. In others, they aren’t. Sometimes they are taxable if it leads to the creation of a physical product (resume printouts) but not digital files. It’s important to get this right from the beginning, so don’t skip this step.

You may also need to register your business with your local city or municipality. Check to be sure.

Step Four: What Will You Sell?
Next is figuring out what services you are going to offer and your pricing for each. Will you provide resume development only, or also provide interview coaching? How about salary negotiation services? Career coaching?

Will you bill by the hour, by the project, on retainer, by results generated, or other?

Step Five: Getting Paid
The next step is figuring out how you will accept payment. You may want to set up a Square account (or similar third party service). Your bank may use Zelle but your customers would need to also. You probably don’t need a credit card (merchant account) at this point. Keep your expenses low to start.

Step Six: Now It’s Time to Make Yourself Known
The final step is all about marketing. Register your business domain ( Set up an email (and website, probably). Register your social channels if you’re going to use them. Put the word out to your network and contacts that you’re “open for business.” Reach out to anyone who had inquired about you doing work for them in the past.

Starting a business can be daunting, but starting as a side hustle can give you the security of your regular paycheck with the ability to start growing your business on the side. These six steps will help ensure you get off on the right foot.

And someday, when you’re ready, you can make the leap to being a full-time career services professional (if you choose to!).

Thursday, April 6, 2023

10 Questions With Kara Varner

Get to know other resume writers in our community with our “10 Questions” series! 

Today’s profile is Kara Varner, MAOM, CARW, CPRW, CRS-MTC, CEIC, of A Platinum Resume LLC. Kara has been a resume writer for 10 years and is based in Colorado. She has a 20-year career background in federal government, civilian, and corporate positions. 

Kara has a diversified background that assists her clients with navigating the application processes for civilian, corporate, contract, and federal government employment. 

1. Why did you decide to become a professional resume writer?
At first, I became a professional resume writer to focus on helping transitioning military service members, federal employees, and military spouses. 

2. How did you get into the career industry? What did you do before?
I became interested in the profession when a neighbor asked me to review his resume. Prior to becoming a resume writer, I was an Employee Assistance Program Manager in the Federal Government. 

3. What do you typically wear when you’re working? 

4. What is your best habit, and what is your worst? 
Best Habit: Replying to emails, writing out my to-do list every night. 
Worst Habit: Procrastination. 

5. What is your favorite object in your office? Why? 
Artwork by my daughters, gifts from friends, and two signs that say: You Got This and Do What Makes You Happy. 

6. What is your “go to” technique or secret when you get stuck when you are writing a resume? How do you get unstuck? 
I write out any thoughts I have and step away. I try to focus on something else (project, TV show, kids) and my brain thinks it through in my subconscious. Then I am able to come back “fresh.”

7. What is the best career advice you ever got? 
Be yourself. Be authentic. 

8. How do you unplug? 
I enjoy family time or time with my daughters doing something girlie. I watch “Real Housewives,” “Jack Ryan,” “Reign,” “The Home Edit,” and “The Young and the Restless.” 

9. What ONE thing would you change about your business or the career industry if you could? 
The Career Industry: Educate and improve the perception of the industry and the true value of the services. I continually work to help clients and friends understand the value of a professional resume and the amount of work that goes into crafting resumes. 

10. What are your favorite social medial accounts to follow? 

Connect with Kara on LinkedIn: 

Find her company on Facebook: 

Follow Kara on Twitter: 

Visit the website for A Platinum Resume:

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Riches are in the Niches: Finding the Perfect Niche Using Keywords

While many resume writers are generalists, some of the most successful career industry professionals specialize in working with a specific niche of jobseekers: Women returning to the workplace, for example. Executives. IT professionals. New college graduates. Mid-level sales managers.

Not sure what you want to specialize in?

One way to find the right business niche is to conduct keyword research. Keywords are terms people enter into search engines to find information they need — which helps them solve their problems. Search engines like Google track this information and make it public. You can use this data to refund your niche ideas and discover which niches people are actively searching for.

Start With Your Passions and Interests
Start by brainstorming. What kinds of jobseekers do you like working with? What areas do you have experience in? (Some resume writers specialize in the field they came from — for example, Wendi Weiner works with attorneys.)

Once you have some ideas, you can use keyword research to narrow down and refine your niche.

Keep in mind — even if you specialize in a niche, you can still work with jobseekers from all backgrounds and levels of experience. (But having a niche will make it easier for you to be found by prospective clients.)

How to Find Keywords
There are many premium SEO software programs available, but most people find that Google’s free Keyword Planner tool is enough. The purpose of this tool is to help you assess keywords for Google ads, but we can use it for basic keyword research. There are also free alternatives available, like SEO Book and WordStream.

Enter into the tool some keywords related to what you do. You could use a simple phrase like “resumes for executives” or “IT resumes” and you’ll get a list of similar keywords that are related. Skim this list and look for other areas that might be interesting. For example, under “IT resumes,” you might niche even further to “IT project manager resumes.”

How to Assess Keywords
Look for a high volume of monthly searches. A good guideline is over 1,000 searches. This tells you that people are actively looking for this information.

The next step is to check out the competition. You’re looking for keywords that have high search volume and low competition. To assess competition, go off the tool and perform a simple Google search. Put the keyword in quotation marks so you can get the exact phrases. You’ll then see how many sites are targeting the same keyword.

Since you’re not doing actual SEO planning, you don’t need an exact assessment of these keywords. Lookout the sites that come up on the first few pages of the search results, and you can see whether other businesses are covering these niches.

Your niche doesn’t need to be completely uncharted territory – there are only about 4,000-5,000 professional resume writers worldwide, so if there are 15 resume writers who specialize in teacher resumes, there is PLENTY of work for everyone! But by looking at the competition, you may get ideas on how to set yourself apart.

When choosing the right niche for your career services business, you should consider objective data as much as possible to assess whether your niche is popular and profitable. Keyword research is one effective way to do this.