200 Grams of Resume Thanks!

Weigh words - resumes - BP 28 4 11_

                                                Must I weigh my words?


In The Agony of Price, we saw that charging for what we sell can be a tricky affair.

I’d now like to explore the conflict between discrete and continuous goods (or services).


Half a Kitten

Discrete goods come in whole units – like cars, kittens, football tickets and DVDs.

Continuous goods come in measured doses – like petrol (litres), carpet (square metres) and copywriting (hours).

You can buy half a litre, but not half a kitten. (At least not in my suburb.)


Fewer Carpet

When describing discrete goods, we use ‘fewer’. When describing continuous goods, we use ‘less’. Thus, we say ‘less carpet’ and ‘fewer tickets’.

Unfortunately for me, the division between discrete and continuous goods fails when it comes to resumes.

I see resume optimisation as a continuous service, because I charge by the hour.

Depending on source material quality, a resume can take me 1.0  to 4.5 hours (i.e. $120 to $540 + GST.)

By contrast, my clients see their resume as a discrete good. They have only one.

I consider $540 a fair price for half a day of my expert attention and 30 years experience.

Yet some resume providers charge as little as $50.

How could I possibly be eleven times better than these ‘competitors’?


93.33% Proof

Of the last 15 resumes I did, 14 of their owners went on to secure their dream job. (The 15th would’ve too, had he listened to my interview advice.)

I can turn a box of torn notes into a two-page marvel that will get you a top job at Microsoft.

I always warn clients that I’m much more expensive (and effective) than local-rag traders.

Some see my fee as a worthy investment in a much brighter future.

Others go to jelly at the thought of my ticking clock.

I appreciate where they’re coming from; taxi meters on freeways have a similar effect on me.

That’s why I offer a free option.


What’s Mine is Yours

During my ten-year human resources career, I handled thousands of resumes for hundreds of jobs.

Each time a resume won its owner a job, I compared it to my resume. If it was better, I improved mine.

The result was a distillation of every successful resume I ever saw.

So, if a client is quavering about price, I send them my resume.

I say that all they need do is fold their source materials into this template.

By doing so, they don’t spend a cent.

The trouble is, they can’t.


Not So Easy

Their source materials are too many, too few or too poor.

They don’t know what to put in or take out.

Some have a go, but the result is a hodgepodge.

That’s when I explain that it takes expert eyes and hands to sort gems from spoil and weave them tight.

They see this, but the $50 option still haunts them.

And so they try for a middle path, hiring me for half the necessary time to ‘break the back’ of their resume.

This defeats the purpose:

  1. Dream jobs demand perfect resumes.
  2. Perfect resumes demand time.


Up Front

I could solve this problem by turning my continuous service into a discrete good.

I could simply say all optimised resumes cost $600, no matter what.

The timid would vanish and the true believers would cough up.

But I don’t do this, because I only charge for time actually worked.

This policy, though well-intentioned, clashes with my clients’ desires.

So, should I get with their program?


Good on You

Are your goods (or services) continuous or discrete?

Do any fall between the cracks?

What charging dramas have you had and how did you resolve them?

In for a penny, in for a pound!



Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire


  • Brilliant post Paul,

    The bottom line is quality costs and for something as important as a top notch resume that gives you a massive advantage surely $500 is a small price to pay, a fraction of the increased salary one will receive with such a gem?

    I see many resumes for all sorts of positions and the absolute rubbish that I see is amazing – even for senior positions. You can tell the ‘cheap format so-called professional’ ones a mile away (I guess H&R Block ex teachers have to do something when it’s not tax time) and they are all rubbish.

    All filler no killer – pages of stuff that matters not and very little on real skills and achievements. I love the fact that you send them the template for free and they still can’t do it!

    Fixed price $500 is the way to go. Hourly rates can put people off. If you want a great resume it costs $500. Go for it.

  • Thanks so much for your big vote of confidence, Malcolm. It’s always beaut to hear a resonant voice from the star chamber. Buoyed by your words, I shall proceed with confidence! Best regards, P. :)

  • G’Day Paul,
    The issue is value, not price. And value can only be effectively judged by the client. So it’s a question of how you represent value to the client.

    In my offline consulting days, if a client wanted me to ‘submit a proposal’, I would explain that it would take me, say, two days to prepare the proposal. My fee would be half my normal fee to prepare the proposal. If they gave me the assignment, I’d rebate the fee they’d paid for the proposal against the fee for the assignment. If that wasn’t acceptable to them, I went no further.

    I’d also sit down with the client and get agreement on two crucial issues.
    *what we were trying to achieve
    *how we’d measure success.

    One final thing: you get what you pay for. On a number of occasions I’ve been called in to sort out a mess left by another consultant who charged only half my fee.

    Hope this helps

    Best Wishes

  • As usual, Leon, you help a lot! Sounds to me like you really know what’s what. :)

    I like your proposal fee very much. How I’d love to recover the lost hours I poured into failed bids over the years!

    Many thanks for your contribution. :)

  • Love this post Paul. Pricing can be such a drama.

    I had the same dilemma with my services. If someone comes to me for a Marketing Strategy or you for a Resume it is because they don’t know how to do one themselves – Therefore, telling them an hourly rate to complete a task that they don’t know how to do (and therefore don’t know how to evaluate or estimate) scares folks. They feel like they are committing to that long piece of string….How long is it?

    I found that as soon as I started putting my set price on my website that 100% of enquiries were converted to clients.

    For businesses who target small and micro businesses with a service or consultancy, establishing a set rate up-front takes the fear out of going forward for the potential client.

    The problem of course is whether you charge a flat fee or an hourly rate how do you educate clients to recognise and put value on paying for more than just your time working on a job?

    I might spend 30 minutes actively in front of a screen coming up with the creative for an ad campaign – but those 30 minutes are based on 30 years of experience, and about 2 weeks of ‘thinking time’, pondering, researching, throwing around ideas in my head, and light bulb moments at 3am

    And – as with most elements of your marketing position – your pricing conveys a perception as to the quality of the work. Too cheap and you attract the wrong sort of clients. Too expensive (in their mind) and you don’t generate cash flow.

    At the moment I charge a flat fee of $550 (inc gst) to prepare a Marketing Strategy for a small business – it is realistic in that I want my small business clients to keep most of their marketing budget for actually doing marketing. BUT it sometimes attracts customers who just don’t have a marketing budget….

    I have been thinking about addressing my Rate Card and your post has got me thinking more. (Any suggestions out there folks? Please give me your feedback!)

    One thing I am sure of – discounting, lowering rates, or agreeing to do a lesser service for a smaller fee – is unhealthy for both the supplier and the customer. That includes those of us who do a big discount to ‘get the client’. When you tell someone that your product or service is worth 50% of what you normally charge – they will believe you. And that is all they will want to pay in the future.

    Don’t drop your prices Paul. Just up the effort you put into showing them the value you deliver.

  • I have a similar experience with gift hampers – you see, there is a fixed cost in the basket, the stuffing, the packaging and delivery, so if the client is seeking a ridiculous discount or offer, there is not much room for movement, except, of course, to reduce the contents of the gift hamper.
    Then, the hamper meets the clients price point, but is curiously less full of product, and the implied message to the recipient is “low spend/low care factor”.
    The interplay between clients getting what they perceive to be a good deal and the recipients being impressed by what is delivered does take some gentle education on our sales part, without startling the buyer into walk away.
    I try and post regular informative articles and tips on what differentiates a “quality” hamper and that of the Officeworks kind.

  • As usual – great post Paul.

    Wow would I love to market a service like yours! Seems like a no-brainer to me:

    – charge a flat rate of $600. Why? a) by giving the cheaper option you’re positioning yourself along side the $50 mob, which clearly isn’t where you should be. b)if you give people the choice they’re going to fret and try and find a way to make it cheaper, make it simple: do you want an ‘ok’ resume that will put you on equal footing with 20 other ‘ok’ applicants, or a rad one that puts you at the top of the pile?
    – Put your strike rate beside a cost benefit ratio, i.e. 14 out of 15 people land dream jobs (include testimonials if avail) due to my service – is your dream job that makes you happy every day and inserts $75k into your bank account each year worth a $600 investment?

    *tough guy option = if you’re REALLY good at this, and with a strike rate of 14/15 it sounds like you are – offer a ‘get the job or free’ option for jobs over $100k, with a 2% of annual salary fee if they get it. You’d have to weigh up quality of applicants before you took jobs on, but even if only 1 out of 2 were successful you’d still be making more than the $600 option.. Plus it’s very marketable!

    Hope this helps!

  • Struth! I go up to the shops for 20 minutes and come back to a carillon of clever comments! :)

    Many thanks for your most generous response, Bambi. Reading your words, I see that fixed price really sounds like the way to go. I’ve only ever had the misfortune of sitting in a lawyer’s office once. The knowledge that our preliminary chat was costing me $320 per hour actually reduced me to tears.

    CGB, thanks for another fascinating insight into your operation. The more I learn about it, the harder your field appears. I never realised there was so much to it.

    Daniel, you made some absolutely ripper suggestions. Your words drip with authority and I shall consider them carefully.

    Many thanks to you all! :)

  • Another great article Paul and some wonderful food for thought from everyone who has commented so far.

    I too have pondered whether it would be better to state set prices for ‘X’ length of copy, or to quote each job based on its individual components and complexities.

    With the responses from prospective clients, I’m beginning to sway toward the idea of set prices. As pointed out by Bambi, at least prospective clients will know the price before they make contact, so it eliminates those who are looking merely for the best price, rather than the best value.

    I imagine this approach would also save a lot of time from putting together lengthy proposals outlining all the value included in the price. The prospect either understands that prior to making contact (which is why you’ve heard from them), or they don’t.

    Gosh, my little brain is ticking over..!!

  • Thank you, Anna. I always love to get another copywriter’s view on these matters.

    Your comment is making me realise that the ‘I only charge for time I actually work’ approach is counterproductive.

    I’ve actually had clients who, having set a budget for a piece of writing, did not want to be charged less (as it’d cause accounting dramas down the track)!

    It’s funny, but a large, fixed price seems less daunting than a variable price that could be large or small. I really appreciate you adding your voice. :)

  • I would have to agree with the set rate, if customers know what it is upfront then they have security. This is usually my fear when someone says an hourly rate.

    We are currently in the process of developing a digital campaign to use with new employer clients and their staff. I prepared a brief and sent it to 4 agencies that I wanted to talk to. 3 where happy send us a light proposal with ideas and some very rough costing. This was free.

    One was upfront and said that if you want our ideas it is $1500 for the ideas alone.

    I actually expected more of them to do this and was suprised when they didn’t. I can’t say that it devalued their skills but I could see them investing time in a proposal that they may or may not win.

    Before we where prepared to spend the $1500 on agency 4, we wanted to see some proof of their work and potential. Once we received this we were happy to invest the money.

    BTW we also took the free ideas and will invest in a couple of them.

  • Great to see you MCB. We do seem to have a trend emerging.

    What a fascinating process to be picking your own agency.

    Having worked on the other side of the fence, I know the desperate hours spent putting together a killer pitch, only to be pipped by the competition.

    Meanwhile, there’d always be tension about taking time away from serving the clients we DID have. It’s a very tricky business.

    The worst thing was to see the winning agency use losing ideas that WE’D pitched! That really hurt.

    I hope you’ll keep us posted on your campaign. Your website sets a high standard, so it should be fab. :)

  • Hey Paul,

    It sounds like your work is top rate. Sometimes its not the PRICE but the RISK of the spend that stops people seeing the value they will get. I spoke to someone today who spent 400 bucks on a resume that they wouldn’t wrap fish and chips in. They are furious that they have been ‘ripped off’. How many others are scared of looking like a fool for buying rubbish?

    Have you thought of offering a guarantee to lower the risk? A high fixed price, but a great guarantee demonstrates confidence in your product, and the customer knows what their outlay is from the start. I don’t know what it would look like, but with some sizzling testimonials and a guarantee, people will see the VALUE proposition, rather than the price RISK.

  • Great to have you back, Phil. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your ideas. I’ve learned the hard way that guarantees are the way to go. And you just can’t beat testimonials.

    If I want to grow this arm of my business down the track, I’ll definitely follow your suggestions (and those of our other readers). For now, I’m having fun working on big projects that are making time fly like there’s no tomorrow.

    Thanks so much for your return visit! :)

  • Here’s a recent thread that Anyce has been kind enough to let me record here. Many thanks indeed, Anyce!

    I’m a big fan of Paul’s blog on Small Business Owner. I read his post on discrete goods where he used resume writing as an example. I was hoping that you still offer resume writing services, but if not, I’d love to try the ‘free’ option at least if it’s available.
    I understand if you don’t, but it’s always worth asking.
    Warm Regards,
    Anyce G. Grayly
    Strategic Bookkeeping

    Hello, Anyce.
    It’s Paul here.
    Many thanks for your kind words and inquiry.
    It certainly was an interesting debate about resumes.
    I’ve decided that $600 per resume is the way to go.
    The free option is definitely available too.
    I’ve attached the template for you.
    I really hope it helps you and would love to hear how you get on.
    Best regards,

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you so very much for sending me your resume. It has been very helpful in helping me tweak mine. I have never seen one so succinct and easy to read.
    It’s so very hard to know what makes a great resume as it seems subjective between resume writers, employers and recruiters. I approached 3 professional resume writers before reading your blog and compared their samples and they were each completely different. When I read your blog I was curious to see what yours was like and it was unique again. It makes it very difficult to justify a spend of over $250 for a service when there doesn’t seem to be any consistent standards by which to discern the benefits compared to doing it myself.
    Honestly, I’m rather confused. There is certainly an opportunity for someone who can clearly communicate the benefits and market resume services. Like your latest blog post, I too am considering returning to employment instead of running my business. I’m not entirely sure what I will do yet.
    Thank you so much again. I’ll let you know how I go.
    Warm Regards,
    Anyce G. Grayly

    Many thanks for your response, Anyce.
    I’m glad you found it helpful.
    There are indeed many ways to do a resume.
    The only right way is the one that gets you the job.
    So, the more you know about the job, the organisation and the person/s hiring you, the better your chances of skewing your resume to suit.
    My resume is designed to work in the maximum number of situations.
    But that’s no guarantee it’ll work in yours.
    You’re on a tricky quest, but it’ll be all the more satisfying when you succeed.
    So, good luck to you, Anyce.
    By the way, I’d LOVE to add our chat as a comment on the resume blog.
    It’d add a wonderful dimension to the discussion.
    Would you mind?
    Refusal, of course, will not offend.
    Best regards,

    No worries, feel free to add it to your blog. Thanks for your help.

  • An interesting take on resumes from Seth Godin:


    I must say I agree with him.

  • I just collaborated with Blyss Personnel on a piece called How to Write a Resume:


    You may find some of our ideas useful.

  • Well, running your own business is bloody hard yakka, but at least you have some control of your destiny.

    Unlike these poor souls:

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/thousands-more-jobs-doomed-20120213-1t2bf.html :(

    So let us give thanks for the (albeit rocky) path we’ve chosen.

  • Paul, Paul, Paul.

    You sound schizophrenic: you know what your value & outputs are, but you’re pricing your inputs. Don’t worry, you’re not alone…lawyer can’t let go of this pricing model either.

    Pull up a comfy chair, sit down, and spend 30mins reading this…


    Ring me in the morning if the symptoms persist!!!


    • By gum, Jon; if ANYone can sort out my pricing problems, it’s YOU! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I shall study that link as soon as I get a sec. Kind regards, P. :)