Start Up & Growth Secrets from Successfully Self-Employed Resume Writers & Career Coaches: Guest Sandra Allison

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My guest, Sandra Allison, has some great start up and growth secrets to share as a self-employed resume writer and career coach from her journey from ‘retired and unemployable’ to ‘successful business owner at 70’.

She says she’s redefining the vision of grandma in business as she helps Board and C-Suite candidates in 22 countries meet their resume writing and career coaching needs in the industries of tech, finance, and pharma.

As her fifth business, started after retirement, there’s a wealth of knowledge coming your way about business and about challenging resume projects and clients.

Keep reading for the interview replay, tips (that differ from those in the replay), and supporting resources to start up, build, and grow your business!

In the interview Sandra answers:

  1. When did you start your business?
  2. Tell us a little about your business.
  3. What did you do before you started your business?
  4. What made you decide to start your business?
  5. At what point in your business did you find CDI?
  6. What role has CDI played in the success you’ve achieved and what has been most valuable about it? What has your membership made possible? Did CDI provide a pivotal turning point for you?
  7. What has having your own business made possible for you in your life?
  8. What’s one thing you wished you had known when you first started your business, or, If you were starting your business today, what’s one thing you would have done differently? 
  9. For those who are considering a career in this field, or who are struggling in their businesses right now, what are a few key pieces of advice you’d share with them?
  10. Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know in terms of encouragement, lessons learned, or final thoughts around being a successful career industry professional?

Sandra AllisonAbout Sandra: 

Since growing up in the sixties, Sandra has had a passion to motivate positive societal change. She majored in Journalism in college with hopes of becoming a news writer, but the 1973-1975 recession sidetracked those goals. She landed in nonprofit management and continued to work for social justice from a different path.

After retiring at 58, Sandra discovered ageism in hiring. A self-professed computer geek, she wanted to understand the role technology plays in modern hiring practices. She joined a top firm to become a professional resume writer and learned how to avoid the practices of unintentional and intentional bias, the rules of ATS, how hiring managers read resumes, and the “tells” that candidates fall into that reveal information about themselves that can’t be legally asked.

In 2016, Sandra founded SA Resume Services. She has written resume packages for clients spanning 31 states and 22 countries over six continents. After four years, she found her niche in Board Candidate and C-suite Executive writing. She is still working for societal change, now from the top down.

What I love is that she says she is “sharing her journey from ‘retired and unemployable’ to ‘successful resume business owner at 70’ to redefine the vision of grandma in business.” And, what better place to do that then as an entrepreneur? In fact, this is Sandra’s fifth business and she says her marketing savvy and business know-how has allowed her to take advantage of low and no cost ways to promote her business and be seen as the best in her field.

Sandra’s 6 Start Up & Growth Secrets (with my added commentary)

Protect Your Reputation.

Whenever I want to hire an expert, I always Google the person/org first.

I’m not looking to be swayed by one ridiculous bad review, but I’m looking for patterns to guide my buying decision:

  • Are they consistently awesome at what they do?
  • Do they follow through on what is promised?
  • Is there proof of results?

If the positive reviews are there, I can feel confident in purchasing.

In today’s online business world, you can BET you’re being Googled and that more often than not a client will be inspired to write about a negative experience before a positive one.

But it’s completely under your control what 99% of your reviews sound like.

So, I fully agree when Sandra says:

“Protect your reputation. Google yourself (and your clients before you sign on with them.)

Learn to gracefully ‘fire’ clients who were bad choices. It’s better to walk away than to produce a product you can’t get behind, be pressured into making revisions that weaken your product, or complete a project for a client who is not understanding of your process and product and is unhappy.”

Steps to take:

  • Learn to deliver exceptional service.
  • ASK for referrals (vs assuming).
  • Trust your gut when a less-than-perfect prospect wants to hire you.
  • Set up a Google alert to be notified when you are mentioned online.
  • Get CDI’s member’s only video lesson on how to decline a client gracefully. (Link in resources below).

Focus on a Niche for Higher ROI.

As a resume writer and/or career coach, ask yourself Sandra’s questions:

“Do you want to work in volume and earn a little per project against tens-of-thousands of competitors (and now AI) for minimum return?

Or, do you want to choose a specialty and learn to be the best at it so you can be recognized for this exclusive service?

Be sure to do the competitive pricing analysis to decide.”

She emphasizes “Choose a niche then be ready to pivot. In many cases, your niche will end up choosing you.”

I’d agree that this approach is not uncommon.

Most of us began as generalists and that worked for many of us for a very long time.

But as Sandra states, the competition today is huge.

I came up with 1.5M resume writers on LinkedIn in a search last month!

While you may still generalize, having a few specific audiences you speak to and become known for can make all the difference.

I keep saying it, but when you try to speak to everyone you often end up being heard by no one.

So, decide who your favorite clients are and begin speaking to them, specializing in them, and building demand with them.

When you’re the expert on a subject and most everyone else is a generalist, prospects will line up for you.

Write a Mission Statement & Business Plan.

Sandra says: “One of the best pieces of business advice I ever got was, ‘Just because you like steak doesn’t mean you should open a steakhouse.’ Being a good resume writer does not make you a good businessperson.

It’s important to write a mission statement and a business plan (or hire someone to help you).

Otherwise, unless you can afford to hire an administrative assistant, a large part of your time will be spent in marketing, tax filing, invoicing, payments, recordkeeping, meetings, networking, and outreach.

Do you have the bandwidth and knowledge?”

Unless you’ve got a business background, then you probably lack this.

It’s sadly something I see almost every day running CDI.

I literally think many of the career industry businesses today are run by someone who woke up, decided to start a business, and was up and running that day.

In the old days they would have said that was putting the cart before the horse.

Most of us don’t have time and resources with which to try and fail without a plan!

CDI members have access to amazing planning resources and both members/non-members can follow a system with our Resume Business Roadmap program. Dm me if you’d like a link for information.

You CAN build a successful practice, but you need process first (or at least before you give up).

Provide a Timely Customer Response.

When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s very easy to get bogged down in email.

Sandra suggests you, “Turn around all client emails within 24 hours as a very simple way to make a good impression.”

While I agree, I also know it can cause anxiety because you’re wearing MANY hats already and can easily spend an entire day responding to emails.

So, here are some good strategies:

  • Make email response policies clear, reiterate them regularly, and post them everywhere.

If you have a 1-day or 3-day response time, an educated client is a calm client.

Just don’t overpromise and underdeliver as that’s disastrous to a small business.

  • Prioritize what you answer when.

Yes, you’ve got to answer most emails (not spam or trolls) but every time you open your email you won’t have time for everything.

Sales requests should get immediate attention.

Client follow-ups should be answered within promised parameters.

Irrational complaints should be left to marinate for 24 hours (often stressed job seekers realize it’s them not you if given time to cool off). When you do reply, consider putting your answer through AI to make sure it’s professional and positive.

  • Finally, have templates for common questions/emails to save time. (CDI members have access to a great best practice tip sheet of these. I’ll provide a link for members to this in the resource section below.

Become Known as an Authority in Your Field.

Yes, it really can be as easy as Sandra says, to build a resume writing and/or coaching business:

“Become known as an authority in your field.”

Her advice rings true as to what I’ve been sharing across my 3-decade journey in the industry that has inspired and helped so many to stand out.

She adds:

“Take courses and workshops to stay relevant with resume and coaching trends, like CDI’s awesome Resume Business Roadmap course.

Network with other CDI members and hold your own small group discussions.

Stay abreast of your field by reading what’s being published in national forums and magazines.

Post and comment often on LinkedIn.

Be VISIBLE.”

I’d add, make time to enter competitions like CDI’s 2024 TORI resume writing awards, which are open now.

Also, submit your work to books, Q&A opportunities, and whatever exists to give you a chance to stand out.

Be willing to say “YES” to opportunities that build your authority, even if you feel intimidated.

Do Not Offer Guarantees.

“Do not offer guarantees (for resume writing).”

This tip from Sandra was also my policy in my resume writing business.

She adds:

“Resume writing is only 1/3 of the process.

You have no control over the other 2/3 – the interview and submission processes.

I only guarantee my clients that I will give them my best product and support.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a guarantee but it CAN come back to bite you.

Like the job seeker whose employer gets wind they’re searching and gives them a promotion.

Or the job seeker who gets side-tracked by life and doesn’t need it currently.

You shouldn’t have to refund because they didn’t physically use it.

They have it for the future. It was a catalyst for change and for confidence, and for seeing their skillset in a new light.

As Sandra says, you’re not responsible for what they do.

The first time I was asked about a guarantee I requested clarification and was told:

Other resume writers had a, “will rewrite for free if you don’t have success” guarantee.

Oh boy.

If you have one like that, know that there are writers prepared to respond with:

“As I’ve shown you with my numerous metrics-driven client success stories, what I do is proven to work the first time. I’m not hunting around in the dark with fingers crossed hoping I don’t have to blindly give it a second try if you come back.

Over the years, of the five clients who thought it was their resume, it turned out to be their job search they’d opted not to learn with me initially. Once set straight each went on to be a success. Certainly, if you were to have an issue, I would want you to come back so I can assist you….”

There’s no right or wrong, just knowing how to make your choice work for you!

CDI and Sandra

Sandra just joined CDI at the start of 2023.  Some of her favorite resources are:

  • Certifications: “There is a lot of debate online about certifications not meaning anything. Another untruth! My certification was the jump off point for my business’s rapid growth.” She is currently pursuing a Certified Master Resume Writer and a Certified Resume Specialist credential.
  • Networking: “Never, ever underestimate the power of building a network.” CDI has tons of live events that are included in membership and have networking components.
  • Opportunity: “To advance resume and career coaching standards. Having my voice heard and influencing positive change.”
  • Staying Relevant: “Keeping up with what’s new and what’s next. I can pivot quickly to stay ahead of the curve and make my clients documents stand out. A value+ standard in CDI.”

Replay & Next Livestream

If you’re ready for your own start-up or growth success strategies, then be sure to join us next week.

Toast of the Resume Industry™ (TORI) Resume Writing CompetitionWednesday, 4/10/2024 at 3:45 PM Eastern I’ll be talking about How to Grow Your Resume Writing Business with the Power of a 2024 TORI Award. 

For all you resume writers out there, we’re kicking off the 2024 Toast of the Resume Industry award competition opening with a session on growing Your Resume Writing Business with the Power of a TORI Award.

Look, there’s a reason why TORI winners and nominees are some of the most in demand and highest-paid resume writers in the world.

Each year the TORI award competition draws winners, nominees, and first timers from across the globe year in pursuit of this coveted accolade.

Why? The TORIs are recognized as the #1 lowest price, highest ROI way to grow your business. Winners and nominees have shared in their many testimonials that they were able to:

  • Double and triple their prices.
  • Work only with their ideal clients.
  • Experience unprecedented business growth.

I’ll be sharing how it works, what judges look for, and offering strategies to improve your resume writing and increase your chances of being nominated and winning, and talking about how resume writing awards let me grow my business easily and exponentially with 4-figure sales way back in the 90s. So be sure to mark your calendars and tune in next Wed at 3:45 PM Eastern.

I hope you’ll join me!

We’ve streaming on CDI’s LinkedIn page, YouTube channel, and in our Facebook group every Wednesday at 3:45 PM Eastern. And, don’t forget to like, follow, and subscribe so you stay in the know!

Watch the Livestream Recording

What’s Next?

Join the Livestream on LinkedInYouTube, or in our Facebook group every Wednesday at 3:45 PM Eastern!

Want to be my guest? ​If you are a CDI member who has already filled out the questionnaire, we will be contacting you shortly. If you are interested, send an email to info@nullcareerdirectors.com.

Everyone/Non-Members:

Join the Membership Waitlist >> 

Quiz – #1 Thing Blocking You From a 6-Figure Income >>

Everything a Resume Writer or Career Coach Needs for a 6-Figure-Plus Year >>

Disaster-Proof Your Small Business (Core Lesson) >>

Should You Niche Your Resume Writing or Career Coaching Business? (Video tip) >>

Grow Your Solopreneur Business Faster Through Niche Marketing (Replay) >>

Your Brain is Blocking You from Joy – How to Hit Big Goals (Video Tip) >>

5 Strategies to Bust Barriers and Bash Imposter Syndrome to Reach Goals (Replay) >>

SWOT Analyze Yourself to Close Career & Resume Sales (Video Tip) >>

Easily Get Testimonials That Close Sales on Your Website (Video Tip) >>

Master’s Video Course for Resume Writers & Career Coaches Who Want to Close 4-Figure Sales >>

Livestream Replays >> (Visit for top three marketing strategies and more)

Join CDI’s Facebook Community >>

CDI Free Stuff >>

AI Prompts & Posts >>

Six Steps To Your Successful Second Act As A Professional Resume Writer >> (Forbes Coaches Council article)

Resume Business Roadmap Program >> (Fee)

Members Only: 

TORI Resume Writing Awards >> (Fee)

Get Targeted Testimonials to Easily Close Sales & Boost Your Business (Core Lesson) >>

How to Gracefully Decline a Client + Scripts & Tips to Ideal Clients (Video Masterclass) >>

Business Owner or Entrepreneur? Part 1: How to Stop BOBbing and Start Weaving (Core Lesson) >> (Scroll to bottom of lesson for 2 & 3)

10 Steps to a Competitive Edge in Your Life and Career >>

What’s On Your Tombstone? Powerful Future Visioning Exercise >>

Client Follow Up Strategies (Best Practice Tip Sheet) >>

Client Agreements (Best Practice Tip Sheet) >>

Identify Difficult Clients and Avoid Them (Best Practice Tip Sheet) >>

Email Templates to Enhance Communications & Save Time (Best Practice Tip Sheet) >>

Guarantees for Resume Writers and Career Coaches (Best Practice Tips) >>

Business Forms and Client Contracts – Master List >>

Upcoming 2024 Live (Included) Networking & Educational Events >>

Member Dashboard >>

6-Figure Sales Resources >>

Marketing Resources >>

Join the Career Industry Accelerator Club Waitlist >>

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