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    Start Up & Growth Secrets for Resume Writers & Career Coaches from Guest Cliff Flamer

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

    My guest, Cliff Flamer of BrightSide Resumes, truly offered some fantastic start up and growth tips and secrets for career industry pros, stating he hasn’t had to sell his resume writing and career coaching services for over a decade.

    A former recruiter who’s judged and won TORI resume writing awards and the coveted World’s Best Resume Writer competition, he also ranks CDI a 10 out of 10 for how much member resources and support have played in his success.

    Below you’ll find written tips from Cliff, including some he didn’t share in the interview, the replay, valuable free and member’s only topic-specific resources, and information on the resume writing mentorship bonus with TORI award registration during April only. 

    In the interview Cliff 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?


    • What added advice would you provide around entering the TORI resume writing awards?
    • Can you tell us a little bit more about how you’ve not had to sell your services for over a decade?

    About Cliff: 

    Cliff Flamer is the CEO of BrightSide Résumés, a full-service resume-writing and career coaching company based out of San Francisco. He is nationally certified as a professional resume writer and career counselor, and has a master’s degree in Career & College Counseling with a bachelor’s in English.

    Prior to leading BrightSide, he worked as a senior recruiter in Silicon Valley where he engaged hundreds of Bay Area employers and elevated the careers of job-seekers at all levels. The author of “It’s Not You, It’s Your Job Search,” Cliff has appeared on NPR’s California Report and earned placement in numerous career books, including Laura DeCarlo’s iconic series: Resumes for Dummies. He writes a Monday Morning Blog, aptly titled SincerelyCliff, where he speaks his heart about work, hidden joy, the kindness of strangers, and being a dad.

    Cliff’s 7 Start Up & Growth Secrets (with my added commentary)

    Links to CDI resources can be found in the additional resources section at the bottom of the page. 

    Start Offering Your Services at a Higher Price.

    One thing Cliff says he wishes he knew just starting out was to offer services at a higher price point.

    He says, “My very first resume service was $95. I think I ended up making about 8 cents an hour.

    What’s strange about pricing is the lower you go, the harder you work.

    At a lower price point, customers tend to be less serious about the project.

    They show up late, miss appointments, and put in less effort.

    They’re less invested, quite literally.

    Also, there’s that hidden psychology that the less you charge the less valuable your service.”

    I too experienced this phenomenon early in my business!

    I can remember when I FINALLY had so many prospects saying yes to my services that I got brave enough to raise my rates over $300 for a resume.

    It was amazing how it shifted from them telling me what to do, like some glorified keyboardist, to their trusting me as the expert.

    $300 today is low and falls into the DIY PIA customer boat. Plus, like Cliff’s story, tends to take you so long to craft a quality, branded resume that you end up making way too little per hour.
    It’s OK if raising prices seems scary!

    Get CDI’s proven non-salesy script and process, that’s known for its 90%+ close rate, and start inching those prices up!

    With this proven process you’ll be hearing YES a lot, and it will be time to raise rates again.

    Supporting yourself while making a difference isn’t sleezy; it’s a mandatory way to win-wins.

    Win an Industry Award to Close Clients.

    Want to make it easier to get resume writing and career coaching clients to yes, even with top prices?

    “Win an (industry) award”.

    That’s fabulous advice from Cliff on how to move your business forward, especially if you’re starting out, struggling, or stuck.

    He adds:

    “External validation will take you far. Getting my World’s Best Award from CDI allows me to shortcut my answer as to why customers should work with me.

    Saying you’re certified, an award-winner, or a published author immediately makes you an expert.”

    Cliff found such ROI in the World’s Best competition from CDI that he’s also won and judged the TORI resume writing awards, which are open now for the 24th consecutive year!

    You know I couldn’t agree more!

    I’m always signing the TORI award praises because, like Cliff, I leveraged early resume writing award wins to easily attract and close clients (4-figure packages to all client levels way back to the 90s from my 1st award).

    With so few entering worldwide, TORI Competition is slim and opportunities are HUGE with 10 categories, 50 nominees, and 35 winners.

    Plus, if you register for all 10 categories in April, you’ll get a bonus ticket to my private Resume Master Mentor event to get direct insight on your resume from me. A $450 value and a service that has proven to help resume writers land TORI wins. That makes the $250 rate for all 10 categories a no-brainer!

    If It Doesn’t Work, Do Something Else.

    Cliff points out that, “In the career industry, I believe we truly live the mantra, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow.

    I’ve reinvented myself several times over; that’s the beauty of working for yourself: you and you alone are in charge of your role and earnings.

    If something is not working, ditch it and build something else.

    The core skill of career coaching and storytelling can be reshaped into any number of services.

    People always need help understanding who they’ve become, what they need to overcome, and which new things they have to offer.”

    This has always been what I’ve loved about self-employment and the role I transitioned to in empowering resume writers and career coaches to further their success!

    The relief I see on the faces of my private clients when they learn they don’t have to offer services they don’t enjoy or use the same pricing or turnaround times that they see colleagues offering, is always inspiring.

    This is YOUR business and as long as the services you do offer make you happy and fulfilled while allowing your clients to be successful, you’ve got a win.

    The minute they don’t, it’s time to stop offering something, raise your prices, or pivot your angle!

    So, take account of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

    If you don’t like it, change it!

    If you don’t know how, consider working with me 1-1 in my Career Business Profit Rocket program. Starting Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing a month of guests on my live show who’ve all experienced increased business growth and greater happiness by working with me.

    Outsource and Automate.

    If you’re looking to stop struggling and start growing in your resume writing and/or career coaching practice, then Cliff has great advice:

    “Outsource and Automate.

    My life changed once I listed all the things I do and then crossed off the stuff I didn’t want to do anymore.

    I hired staff, implemented technology, and eliminated service offerings that bored or irritated me.

    For me, I still do mostly all the writing; it’s the administrative stuff, I no longer have to bother with.”

    I saw the flip side of this recently when I was working 1-1 with a new industry business owner who was trying to rapidly jump through all the hoops to become an expert resume writer, career coach, and operator.

    However, resume writing can have a steep learning curve, especially when you want to position as an expert and charge living wages for it!

    This individual had a lightbulb ah-ha moment when I brought up the idea of hiring subcontractors for resume writing.

    They rapidly realized this fit best in their zone of expertise and once I pointed to a TORI winner who I thought would be a great match there’s been no turning back!

    You, like Cliff, might prefer the resume writing, and then a VA is probably you’re best angle.

    I’ve linked to our VA resources and subcontracting directory at the bottom of this page.

    Speak to Refill Your Pipeline.

    When you’re just starting out or hit a valley in your business, your best bet is to get seen.

    But everyone’s using social media now, so it’s become harder and harder to stand out.

    Cut through all that noise with Cliff’s advice to:

    “Get out and Speak!

    When things got slow for me, I’d volunteer to talk for an organization.

    There are an endless amount of associations who are always looking for free advice.

    Go talk for an hour, give away your expertise, and it’s likely you’ll pick up some leads.

    Then, you can do a humble brag on social media, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    More than that, if you get out there, you’ll feel much better about yourself and your business.”


    Whether in person at local chapters or online offering webinars, this can be a great way to get your name out there for referrals and new business.

    CRTITICAL: Even if resume writing is your core service and what you want to sell, don’t talk about it!

    It just further entrenches the belief that it must be DIY. Otherwise, why would you be sharing how to?

    Instead, use CDI’s script that can be scaled for 15 minute job fair mini presentations up to hour long training programs. (It’s free to members).

    We focus on a specific niche of interviewing that helps job seekers see they CAN prepare and helps them to understand the uneven competition and playing field they enter in a job search.
    Every time I’ve used it, I’ve completely filled my resume writing consultation schedule, even speaking to a room of technical writers!

    I’ll link to it and a great tip video for everyone on local business strategy in resource section at the bottom of the page.

    Set Up Referral Channels for Leads.

    Professional referrals and customer referrals ranked in the top three ways that resume writers and career coaches grew their businesses in 2023.

    So, it’s no surprise that “Setting up referral channels” is one of Cliff’s, top tips for starting or growing your practice.

    He says:

    “There are plenty of us out there with too much work or types of projects we don’t want to take on.

    I have a network of recruiters, therapists, podcasters, and resume writers who send clients my way.

    The thing about referrals: they’re usually high-quality leads that don’t need to be sold on your services.”

    With referral relationships and educated clients, as Cliff said, most referrals are pre-sold and excited to work with you.

    This can reduce the effort and stress you expend on marketing and allow your relationships to work for you.

    A typical professional referral is a 15% referral fee, which is often well worth it.

    Satisfied clients will often refer for free, but it pays off to:

    • Always ask for referrals.
    • Always say thank you for referrals, even if the prospect didn’t buy.
    • Consider offering a perk to the referrer, such as a service discount for a future update, when their referrals do buy.

    We’ve got two best practice tip sheets on professional and client referrals for members and replays of my shows for everyone that I’ll link to in the resource section at the bottom of the page.

    Stop Waiting to Join CDI.

    One thing Cliff says is:

    “I wish I’d reached out to CDI sooner.

    There are a lot of career associations out there and it’s hard to know which one to choose.

    Many of them are just email newsletters and conferences.

    CDI is much more than that; it has been the most helpful to me and my business by far.”

    This is why Cliff ranks CDI membership a 10 out of 10 for helping to grow and build the business he has today. It’s also why, despite his success, he is still a member of our inner circle coaching program, Career Industry Accelerator Club.

    CDI and Cliff

    Cliff joined CDI in 2009 and he joined the Career Industry Accelerator Club in 2018. Some of his favorite resources are:

    • Awards: World’s Best Resume Writer Competition (currently closed; check out the TORI awards).
    • Business Coaching: Being a member of the Career Industry Accelerator Club for business coaching/consulting and support.
    • Laura: To support him pointing to me, he previously wrote, ““Heed the wise words of our superhero goddess, Laura. She suggested I bundle my services to boost deal size in an Accelerator Club call. It has totally worked. Actually, I haven’t bundled yet, but I added a recommendation engine to the checkout process and I’m surprised to see just how many clients (80%) are ordering Cover Letters, LinkedIn Profiles, and Resume Distribution. I guess the whole ‘you want fries with that?’ thing works.”

    Replay & Next Livestream

    Next week I hope you’ll join me again on Wed at 3:45 PM Eastern as we slightly shift gears to learn Start Up & Growth Secrets from Successfully Self-Employed Resume Writers & Career Coaches who were also my former or current private clients in the Career Business Profit Rocket Program!

    My first guest in this mini series is Brenda Bernstein of The Essay Expert.

    A former public interest lawyer, Brenda has had her business for 15+ years and says she now attracts the best writers in the industry to subcontract for her. She now sells packages that include senior-level executive resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and bios for $5K. She is also the best-selling author of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, a go-to book for job seekers and resume writers alike.

    I’ll also add that she says she doesn’t know where she’d be without CDI and like Cliff and my prior guest Deborah, she’s also been a TORI winner.

    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!


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