I Built A Profitable Resume Making Tool On The Side [700K+ Resumes Downloaded]
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Fernando Pessagno, I am an Argentinian Product Designer and the founder of ResumeMaker.Online, a WYSIWYG web app that could enable even non-tech-savvy users to design an attractive resume in just minutes.
In early 2018 I was managing a small digital design studio. Life was good, but after more than 10 years of only doing client work, my passion for design wasn’t really there anymore. I could see the burnout on the horizon, so I knew I needed to do something about it.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
During my early teens, in the almost prehistoric era of Geocities, I used to spend entire days and nights building Dragon Ball websites instead of playing video games. It was just too much fun! I missed that feeling and I wanted to reconnect with the playful side of being a designer.
The problem was that I wanted to build something, not just anything, and I couldn't figure out what. One day, my sister asked for help to design her resume and I couldn’t find a straightforward online tool to share with her. The small group of websites that did do a good job had too many features, which made them unintuitive for the average user. Moreover, many of the paid options forced users to sign-up before even allowing them to test the service, and a few others had dishonest and non-transparent pricing methods.
Then the idea came to me: to create ResumeMaker.Online.
It was a win-win scenario. On the one hand, I could hopefully help people in something as important as their job search. On the other, it was a great way to put my design and coding skills to a test in a challenging and fun personal side project, something I had wanted to do for years.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Working on a personal side project was an amazing and liberating experience. However, with no clients that needed the work to be done by a certain date, I was tempted to add unnecessary cool features for no reason but to feed my own ego. As the product´s main strength was its simplicity of use, I had to be strict and ask myself: which of all possible features will add real value for the user?
Luckily, I had a two-month-long backpacking trip around Europe planned for later that year, as part of the plan of avoiding burnout, and I took full advantage of it. Since I stayed in multiple hostels, I was able to interview potential users daily, identify friction points and understand their needs way better.
For example, at an early stage of development, ResumeMaker.Online had several resume templates to choose from. People with some kind of knowledge or appreciation for design would quickly pick the one that suited them better. But it came to my surprise that, for most users, the freedom to fully customize the template was leading to decision paralysis and frustration.
After I got back home, I removed all the features that did not fully support the core concept (including choosing different templates), polished the UI, and was confident the product was ready for launch.
Describe the process of launching the business.
On launch day in August 2018, I posted ResumeMaker.Online on Product Hunt without any real expectations. This was my first product ever and, even if I was happy with the result, it came as a total surprise when it was selected as the number one product of the day and the number one product of the week.
During the first month, more than 20,000 resumes were downloaded from more than 100 countries and it snowballed into countless websites and people sharing and tweeting about it, so I got it quite easy to attract the first users. Beginner´s luck maybe?
At first, ResumeMaker.Online was never meant to be something other than a fun side project. However, the launch was far more successful than I could’ve ever anticipated, and it opened the doors for considering ways to monetize it.
The validation that being featured by Product Hunt provided was a big first step, although I still needed to find out if users would be willing to pay for it.
In this initial stage, I was skeptical of adding a paid version, as I felt it could get in the way of the growth. Instead, I added a donation form with fixed values.
To my surprise, users were donating up to $20 per resume! This was the ultimate way of validating the product and, on top of that, a useful way to find out what could be the price most users will be willing to pay.
During the first two years of ResumeMaker.Online, I kept this strategy to focus on growth, offered a 100% free download, and monetized the product sporadically via sponsored links to other sites that wanted to connect with my audience.
When the pandemic arrived last year, the deals with my sponsors took a hit, and I thought it was then time to offer a “PRO” download instead. The free version is still available for all users, but they can now gain access to a higher resolution and watermark-free paid version.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
SEO was and still is the primary way for attracting new users. In the beginning, links from so many press sites with high domain authority, and the extremely low rebound rate (thanks to the fact that users do not need to register and they can try out the tool with one click) fast-tracked the website to the first pages on Google.
It currently ranks 3rd globally for competitive keywords as "resume maker", and traffic from Google sits at an all-time high after the v2.0 launch and passing the “Page Experience” test on Search Console and achieving a 100/100 score in Google Insights. Following the best practices, deferring the download of non-critical resources (website loads after only 141kb are transferred) and adding a CDN service was key to keep up the pace with Google's ever-changing algorithm.
Also, it's fair to assume that keeping the product 100% free for almost two years helped to keep a steady traffic growth by word of mouth, and the altruistic perceived nature of it provided an extra incentive for people to share it on social media. To maximize the mouth-to-mouth effect, nowadays users have to share a link on either Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to gain access to the free version (which contains a small clickable watermark), and paid users are incentivized to share a 50% discount code with their friends after their download is complete.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Nowadays a lot of things have changed. ResumeMaker.Online has had a huge impact on my professional life. In August 2020 I moved to Europe after landing a job at an amazing AI startup, while I still focus on my personal projects during my free time.
To date, more than 700,000 resumes have been downloaded on ResumeMaker.Online and it currently averages +$2,000/m after the recently introduced v2.0.
I am not going to lie and say I don't think for a second about how cool it would actually be to move back or relocate to southeast Asia. I could easily lower my expenses and work only on my products from a hammock with a perfect tan and a drink in hand. It's an unrealistic idea that doesn't align with my personal goals, although provides a comforting feeling to know that I could theoretically abandon the rat race today. It fuels my desire to build new products and generate multiple income sources to accomplish the European version of that dream scenario.
Luckily, I really like my job and it helps to keep my risk profile low while I live in a first-world country and develop my own business in my free time.
The next steps then are introducing price localization and a newsletter subscription, while I shift my focus to marketing instead of product development, now that I'm extremely happy about the product in terms of its new features and improved performance.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I knew that building an MVP was the way to go, but even if that was the case, I could have shared the progress much earlier and reduced time and costs. I remember feeling a little uneasy about showing my early progress, thinking the product was not good enough. It was quite hard for me to slowly stop being shy about it. Big mistake! Later on, it was way harder to cut off all the features that I've already implemented and invested time in.
Lesson learned: if you don't feel a bit scared of what people might think, then it is a sign that you should have shared your progress a long time before that.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I typically go with the simpler, most basic stack that can get the job done. Figma for design, Sublimefor coding, PayPal for payment processing and I´m just about to add a newsletter subscription powered by MailChimp. And let's not forget Google Calendar and notepad for time and tasks management!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Lean Startup (by Eric Ries) was super influential for me, and I am a big fan of the IndieHackers Podcast, by Courtland Allen.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
As a solo founder, I know it can be extremely overwhelming to think about creating a profitable product when just starting, but instead of giving advice, I'll tell you what worked for me.
I'm not a “proper” developer. I'm more like a designer who sometimes codes too, so it was natural to think small when I started building ResumeMaker.Online. It sounds counterintuitive, but while working on it, ending up earning money never crossed my mind. In retrospect, I think this undisturbed and humble approach to just try and design a useful product was key to avoiding frustration, not biting more than I could chew, and ultimately shipping the product.
Where can we go to learn more?
It would be great to continue the conversation in the comments if you want to share your feedback or for feature requests. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
Lastly, the link below offers a 50% discount for the PRO download that you can share with your friends and family (valid during August).
Thanks for reading and hope you find it useful!
Resume Maker Online has provided an update on their business!
8 months ago, we followed up with Resume Maker Online to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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