I have been writing resumes for more than 20 years but I have only been doing it as a full time job for the past 4 years. The past 4 years as a business owner have been a huge learning experience for me. I think that working for big companies gives you a completely different view of the world, particularly if the companies are powerful and prestigious like most of my previous employers have been.
Here are a few things (good and bad) that I have learned from having my own service business:
1. If you care deeply about customer satisfaction your customers will take care of you.
I am very passionate about what I do. Nothing makes me happier than hearing a client say that he/she is excited about the job search because a resume I have written or a strategy I have helped create has made my client believe that he/she can achieve anything. I think most of my clients are excited about the outcome of our work together and, as a result, at least 75% of my business comes from client referrals. I take good care of my clients and they take care of me by generating new business for me.
2. If your clients believe you care about them and are working hard for them they will often be very flexible and forgiving.
We all make mistakes, over commit our time, or screw up in some way. If you demonstrate your passion to your clients they will be much more forgiving than if they think that what you do is "just a job" to you.
3. Some people will try to cheat you out of money or behave badly.
As a business owner I have been shocked and amazed at the way some people behave. I never thought that people could be so nasty, dishonest, and insulting before I started my own business. As an entrepreneur you see this much more clearly than if you work for a big company because individuals who have a tendency to throw their weight around or bully don't try those tricks with big companies. Or if they do, their temper tantrum has a minimal impact. If a client or business contact acts like a big jerk I almost always find out that I am not the only person they have treated that way. People are pretty consistent in their behavior.
4. I am more patient with others in service industries.
Knowing how much I hate being treated badly, "nickel-and-dimed" to death, or insulted I now go out of my way to show patience and kindness to others in services industries whether it's our lawn crew, my hairdresser, flight attendants, or waiters. I also tip waiters and waitresses better than I ever have before.
5. I am very careful about accepting new clients and sometimes I say no to potential clients.
See point #3. I have a 15-20 minute conversation with all potential clients before accepting them because I want to make sure that we can work together and that I actually will be passionate about their resume and job search. If a potential client and I do not connect well then a working relationship could be difficult and counterproductive.
6. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
If a recruiter repeatedly refers me clients who are jerks then I don't accept referrals from that recruiter anymore. Some of my recruiter friends/partners are careful to refer me resume clients who are talented professionals. A few recruiters have used me as a "dumping ground" for any job seeker that they just didn't want to talk to anymore. I have learned to sever relations with those recruiters and not accept their referrals.
7. A deal isn't a deal until its in writing.
When I first started my business I accepted verbal agreements from clients. No more - I have gotten burned a couple of times. Now every client has to agree to terms, pricing, and timing in writing. I have found that clients actually seem to appreciate having the deal in writing rather than an informal verbal agreement so it's a win-win.
8. Get your payment upfront if possible.
I don't think that very many people have ever tried to cheat me out of payment for services rendered but I do believe in "out of sight out of mind". Once the resume is done, if a client hasn't paid, it can take some time to collect. I think there are a couple of reasons for this (a) a lot of people pay bills on a set schedule - I once had a client ask me to wait for payment for a month so he could just write a check to me when he paid his electric bill, and (b) once a client has his/her new resume in hand, the job search can become all consuming and payment for the document is something forgotten. Now I ask for payment in advance and it has worked out very well.
9. Pricing transparency can lead to haggling.
I have tried to be very straightforward about my pricing but sometimes this has backfired and led to clients haggling with me about price. Generally, the more experience you have the longer it takes me to write your resume. Also, the more senior your role in an organization the more times you will come back for edits and revisions - really, you will.
So, I charge more for senior level executives and for individuals with a lot of work experience. I spend a lot of time with each client so if you pay me $400, $500, or $650 believe me when I say you are getting your money's worth. When someone tries to haggle me down $100 or $200 I find it kind of insulting because they clearly don't understand what I do. I now tell clients that if they want to pay a lower price to find another resume writer.
My website is currently being completely redone and instead of including an exact pricing/years of experience grid like I have on my current website I am going to just list a general range and I will give each client an individualized quote.
I have had a couple of clients lie to me about their years of experience just to pay a lower fee. When I found out later I was angry because, of course, these clients wound up taking a lot more of my time than they should have at the lower price range.
10. Ask for written testimonials from satisfied clients.
Written testimonials whether on your business website, Linked In, Yelp, or some other site are a great way for entrepreneurs to develop an online presence and also a great reputation. Written confirmation that you are reputable, honest, and good at your job make it easy for potential clients to validate your expertise.