Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey guys! My name is Mary Southern, and I am the founder of Resume Assassin. I started Resume Assassin almost 10 years ago to combine my passions for resume writing, job searching, and serving others.
I create resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles that help job seekers land jobs at the world’s leading companies and enable entrepreneurs to capture 7- and 8-figure clients.
Before I launched Resume Assassin, I knew I wanted to start a company, but I truly didn’t believe I had any marketable skills. In the meantime, I was pouring hours into my job search because I loved it. Job searching always felt like a game to me. I was excited by the idea of identifying a job and writing a compelling story/resume to win an interview. However, the thrill always ended after the job offer was on the table, so that should have been my first clue.
Now, I get to translate that intense passion to help my clients achieve their goals. Many come to me extremely frustrated and disheartened; my goal is to light a fire through writing. With a lot of luck and a little skill, I have helped clients achieve their goals while doing something I love every single day while growing my business 25%+ YoY for the last 5 years.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Resume Assassin soon after graduating with my Master’s degree. I remember taking long walks with my husband and boxer dog after work every single day to brainstorm business ideas.
My husband is a man of many skills so I came up with a lot of ideas for him, but I failed to see any of my skills. I eventually came up with a few ideas and narrowed my list down to dog walking, dog poop cleanup, alcohol delivery service, and resume writing.
I knew I loved writing resumes and job searching for myself, but I did not have the confidence to do it for others. Despite my doubts, I decided to start doing a bit of research to identify resume-writing companies in Austin.
I immediately knew I wanted a catchy name because all of the other company names were generic and boring. They had no brand voice and no edge at all. I knew I wanted to empower job seekers with my brand, and that is when the idea of Resume Assassin hit me. I immediately envisioned a ninja with tattoos which was out completely of the ordinary in the world of resume-writing services at the time. Luckily, my husband is an exceptional artist, and he was able to make my vision come to life as well as build an attractive website.
Creating a brand that stood out in an incredibly saturated marketplace was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
I worked SO hard in those first few months, researching ways to market a small business, creating a social media presence, and plastering fliers all around Austin to get my business in front of an audience.
I had no idea that I would go from making $32K per year to $26K+ per month in the coming years.
Take us through the process of designing your services
I have been lucky enough to make a few great decisions throughout my entrepreneurial journey, along with a few really bad ones. One of those first great decisions was to reach out to a resume-writing company in Austin to get some insider details.
The company that I reached out to was willing to set up a phone call and chat. I quickly learned that they were closing down their business for personal reasons, but they gave me some great advice and pointed me in the direction of a professional organization created specifically for resume writers and career coaches.
I quickly joined this professional organization and started learning the ins and outs of creating and growing a successful resume-writing business. They had forms, templates, processes, strategies, and sales scripts pre-written and many of them were very helpful for a rookie entrepreneur like myself.
One of my key takeaways as a small, service-based business was to ask for reviews and referrals from day 1. Luck would have it, my first referral came in shortly after. Where did this referral come from before I even had a single client?! Well, it came from the resume service that I reached out to initially. This was also a lightbulb moment for me because I quickly learned the value of building partnerships to grow and scale your business.
My customer reviews, testimonials, and referrals are truly the heartbeat of my company. I would not be where I am today without them.
I still had a very long road ahead of me (and a ton of work) to get to where I am not, but this was a huge win at the time and a great start to my entrepreneurial journey.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I would be lying if I said I had a detailed plan to launch my business. It was a long, slow, and sometimes difficult process. I must say, it is much different to launch a service-based business than it is to launch a product. I say this because you are marketing and selling yourself so you truly need to find a way to prove your worth and impress your audience.
My initial website was…ugly (sorry hubby). For whatever reason, we chose colors (mainly brown) that didn’t resonate with my company or personality. We did create some badass business cards and fliers. I was also listing my business in every single directory, cold emailing companies, and trying to find any means possible to get in front of an audience.
Looking back, I truly failed miserably. As an entrepreneur, you feel those major wins and losses deep in your gut. I know you can relate!
I did have some big wins as well, such as landing a few clients shortly after launch. Let’s be honest, I gave away my services. My packages started at $100 for a re-write, regardless of industry or career level. I also implemented a sweet deal, buy one get one ½ off. I thought this was a genius marketing idea in the beginning.
After winning my very first executive-level client, I quickly realized that resume writing was a very time consuming service. My first few resume writing projects took 8+ hours, so I decided to create an executive package for $150. However, it also provided the experience and insight to implement a few processes and systems to make my life a bit easier moving forward.
In the beginning, I ONLY offered resume writing, which evolved over time to include resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn optimization. I have essentially created a niche with resume writing, and my clients love that my packages and pricing are so straightforward. Currently, I charge $499 for an entry-level resume, $549 for a mid-level resume, $599 for a leadership resume, $649 for an executive resume, $150 for a cover letter, and $349 for LinkedIn optimization.
Many of my clients have told me “it is worth every single penny” because they have received so many interviews and job offers.
My next big win was earning a feature in a local newspaper. This feature brought a bit of negative commentary due to the name of my business, but I did NOT let this bring me down. It also brought a whole new audience and market to my business.
As an entrepreneur, you find that several little wins start to add up and it truly breathes life into your business, motivates new ideas, and inspires you to keep forging ahead.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Creating a brand that stood out in an incredibly saturated marketplace was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I truly created a unique and memorable logo, theme, and identity. This was only the start.
After creating my brand, identity, and mission, it was time to define my ideal customer. Even more importantly, I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure my customers had a great experience and the best ROI.
I quickly learned that it was a waste of resources to spend money on pay-per-click advertising for a small service-based business. So, one of the best things that I did was to create customers that were brand ambassadors and advocates. I work hard to make sure my clients are happy and even more importantly have success. Their reviews, testimonials, and referrals are truly the heartbeat of my company. I would not be where I am today without them.
It is also incredibly important to build a strong network and forge mutually beneficial partnerships. In addition to creating brand advocates, I rolled out an Alliance Program which is a great way to spread brand awareness. As a small business owner, word-of-mouth referrals are everything. An alliance partner can truly advocate for you and your brand while helping you tap into new markets, opportunities, and communities.
Pricing is another way to attract clients. I have restructured my pricing a lot since the original launch. As I mentioned previously, I gave away my services in the beginning, but this was such a great way to build my initial client base. I am still searching for that sweet spot where I can deliver the very best value.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Resume Assassin is doing great today. My SEO in Austin is fantastic, my clients send referrals almost every single day, and my presence on LinkedIn has grown. I have also appeared on podcasts with 2 Million+ monthly downloads, including Entrepreneurs on Fire which has opened the door to numerous opportunities.
My revenue has grown 25%+ YoY for the last 5 years, and I have several plans to explode that growth to new audiences in 2023 and beyond. One initiative that I am pursuing is working with social media influencers to create campaigns that put Resume Assassin in front of a new audience.
Only 2% of women-owned businesses break the $1M mark, so my long-term goal is to grow to $1M in revenue while still delivering an outstanding customer experience.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Some of the best advice you will ever hear is to focus on the customer first. If you satisfy your customer over and over again, then great things will come your way. It is also critical to allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone.
At the beginning of my business, I was terrified to step out of my comfort zone. I turned down opportunities and missed out on growth due to fear. Remember, “change begins at the end of your comfort zone…” Do not be afraid to fail, take chances, and learn along the way. Some of your decisions will fail miserably, and others will launch your business to the next level.
5 years ago, I would have turned down the opportunity to appear on the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast out of fear. This year, I have put myself out there more, taken a few risks, and landed new opportunities that include appearances on a few huge podcasts in the coming months.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I have implemented several systems to automate my processes throughout the years. In the beginning, I was doing much of it manually.
Today, I use WordPress for my website, Yoast for blogs, Stripe for payment, Calendly for scheduling, QuestionScout for an automated onboarding process, Constant Contact for email marketing, Rewardful for my affiliate program, Gusto for accounting, LinkedIn for organic marketing/networking, WP Simple Pay Pro, and many more.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
As an entrepreneur with a 3-year-old, my time is limited. This is why I listen to TONS of podcasts! I have found so much value and inspiration in listening to business podcasts.
To name a few: Goal Digger (Jenna Kutcher), Chase Jarvis, How I Built This, Entrepreneurs on Fire, Boss Babe, The Jasmine Star Show, The Marie Forleo Podcast, Smart Passive Income, Online Marketing Made Easy (Amy Porterfield), Business Made Simple, etc.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My best advice is to come up with an idea and EXECUTE. I have spoken with so many people that want to start a company, and they think they need to come up with this intricate business plan. While a solid business plan can be extremely helpful, you just need to start taking the steps forward.
Every entrepreneur is learning as they go; I repeat, we do not know everything. You will run into obstacles, you will need to bust out a bit of problem solving skills, it will not be smooth sailing most of the time, and you will need to make tough decisions every single day.
The great news?! Out of all of those frustrating times, you will catch your first win. Then you will catch another win and another win. Over time, those wins will continually add up and you will unlock compounding results.
Don’t be afraid to start. Who cares what your friends and family think. Pursue your passion, manifest success, make decisions, overcome problems, push forward, and good things will come.
Be prepared to work hard every single day. If you leave your 9-5 job, there is a chance that you will now be working 24/7 (at least in the beginning). It is SO worth it. I truly look forward to every single day, I love my life, and I would not change a thing.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am always looking for affiliate partners. If you are interested in earning a bit of cash by sending leads and referrals, then definitely reach out at [email protected]. Of course, I am always happy to work with you to update your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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