How To Start and Operate a Resume Writing Service

How To Start and Operate a Resume Writing Service

Resume writing is an in-demand service that you can do part-time with minimal start-up costs.

“Do you still do resumes?” Although it’s been years since I have actively promoted this resume service, I still receive requests-and some nice extra pin money-to create or update resumes.

If you are looking for a writing business that you can start part-time and on a shoestring budget, setting up a resume writing service of your own might be just the ticket for financing more creative or lucrative freelance pursuits.

Who Needs a Resume Writer?

Why, with all of the online and off-line guides to writing resumes, and the availability of templates on nearly all word processing programs, do people still look for someone to put together a resume for them? Reasons vary, but the most common include:

• An inability to promote themselves well in writing. When putting together a summary of their work experience, many people make the mistake of simply listing the accountabilities of each position they’ve held, rather than highlighting their strongest skills and biggest accomplishments.

For example, someone with a customer service background would certainly have experience answering telephones and dealing with people, but did he or she ever win an award for outstanding service, or make a recommendation that saved a previous employer thousands of dollars? Well-written resumes do more than provide a work history; they separate outstanding applicants from average ones.

• Lack of time. Between holding down jobs and raising families, many people have little time to react or respond when new employment opportunities or sudden job terminations occur. The ability to tap a reliable writer on short notice to develop or revise a resume eases at least some of the stress that accompanies the job hunt, and is viewed by a lot of people as a very worthwhile expenditure.

• Lack of equipment and/or word processing skills. For those who can’t afford a personal computer, or haven’t a clue what a template is (much less how to use one), the equipment and skills you take for granted as a writer can be an invaluable service.

Regardless of their reason(s), the fact remains that people use resume writers. This is true whether a booming economy presents them with new opportunities, or a sagging economy finds them suddenly jobless.

What You Need to Start Your Service

If you already own a computer and printer, the start up costs for a resume service are quite minimal. About the only other supplies you will need are a stock of high-quality paper (white and ivory are the two most commonly accepted colors for resume submissions) and printer ink.

All other expenses related to your business will depend on how you promote it. At the very least, I recommend that you order a supply of business cards. To develop a local clientele, you might also consider running a regular classified ad and posting fliers on community bulletin boards. If you take your business online, you’ll need a home page, or preferably a well-developed, professional web site.

What to Charge

Doing a little “market research” here wouldn’t hurt; try calling other resume services in your area for prices, or check out what other online services charge, so that you can price your services competitively without setting your fees too low. Also, structure your prices depending on what services you offer — a basic resume-only package, or deluxe resume/cover letter packages, and so on.

You Have Your First Customer – Now What?

If you’ve never put together a resume for anyone but yourself or someone you know very well, you will need to acquire information regarding the person, the position(s) she’s held previously, and the type(s) of jobs she would like to pursue, if you want to provide your clients with a well-written, customized product.

I always begin by asking my customers if they can provide me with a copy of their last resume. If they can’t, I set up time to do a full-fledged interview with them; if they can, I review the old resume first, and fashion my questions accordingly.

What sorts of questions do you ask when interviewing someone for a resume? Here are some examples:

  • What skills/qualifications do you have that would be of interest to prospective employers? Probe a little here if your customer provides you with little to go on. Do they have technical skills related that can be highlighted? Proven decision-making and/or problem-solving skills? A terrific track record for punctuality and attendance? These can be general statements of ability, which you would highlight in a Skills/Qualifications bullet list at the top of the resume.
  • Are you applying for a specific position, or type of position? You need this information if you plan to include a Career Objective section. If your client seems unsure, or has several career options in mind, you can leave out the Career Objective section and move on to the next area.
  • Describe your accountabilities in each past position held. This can be the most challenging-and interesting-part of putting together a resume for someone who has worked in fields with which you are totally unfamiliar. I have developed resumes for an accountant, a speech therapist, a loan officer, supervisors, salespeople and a host of other professions; in order to do them justice, I have had to clarify jargon used in various industries, while at the same time look for specific examples of when they have demonstrated the skills identified above.
  • What sort of education or training have you had? Also find out whether your client has received any pertinent awards, or has belonged to volunteer or industry-related organizations that should be included on the resume.

Finally, make sure you have the person’s most current address, telephone number and email address, if available. At this point, you should be pretty well equipped to put together their resume for them. Be sure to clarify the date by which the resume is needed, and how many copies you will include in your price.

While developing resumes hardly qualifies as the most creative or exciting type of writing, it is certainly a service that is sought after and appreciated by others. You also get the opportunity to meet a wide range of people involved in interesting work, hone your interviewing skills, learn to meet deadlines, practice the art of self-promotion, and maybe even get ideas for articles, books or fictional characters. And you make money doing it, to boot.

Not a bad little business, all in all.

Mary Anne Hahn is the publisher and editor of Write Success, a free publication providing ideas, information and inspiration for writers who want to land successful freelance careers.

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