Business Owners Don’t Provide Resumes

I wanted to focus today on another of the words to delete from your business vocabulary: resume.

Business owners don’t provide resumes (or curriculum vitae), employees do.

And you are not an employee.

Here’s how to understand this stuff:

When you were an employee, the cover letter is what got your resume read. The resume is what landed you an interview. And the goal of the interview was to cinch the job.

But once you are in business, you need to use business terminology to set proper expectations and understandings in clients. When you use employment terminology and apply employee-minded ways to business situations, you confuse and miseducate your prospective clients about the nature of the relationship. It actually causes the kind of problems you live to regret later down the road.

In the business world, your marketing and networking become your “cover letter.” This is what lets your target market and prospective clients get to know, like and trust you, and leads them to your business website to learn more about you and how you can help them.

As a business, your entire website and other marketing collateral become your “resume.” This is what should be working toward educating qualified and interested would-be clients about how you can help them and lead them towards engaging with you further in a consultation.

And the consultation is what is used to learn more about the client, determine if and how you can help and that there’s a mutual fit of needs and interests, and ultimately decide whether or not to work together.

Here’s the visual:

Cover Letter > Resume/References > Interview > Job

Marketing/Networking > Website/Testimonials > Consultation > New Client!

Just because someone asks you for a resume, doesn’t mean you provide one. If you continue to indulge requests for resumes and references from clients, you have no one but yourself to blame when you keep getting clients who don’t extend you professional respect nor view the relationship in its proper context–namely, one of B2B (business to business).

Instead, steer them toward your website. In fact, you could even say something like, “My website is my business resume. It will give you all the information you need about the work I do/my company does, how I help clients and what kind of clients benefit most from working with me. There’s even a page where you can learn more about me personally, and I’ve included some words from some of my happy clients.”

You have to understand that many clients have been completely miseducated about the nature of our profession, the relationship and the work we do thanks to incorrect (and, frankly, idiotic) articles about our industry. When most of them ask for a resume, it really is because they think we are a sort of offsite, telecommuting employee.

The term “Virtual Assistant’” doesn’t help things either–when you call yourself an assistant, that’s exactly what people think you are. Go figure. ;)

Call yourself an Administrative Consultant instead and just see what a difference it makes in peoples’ demeanor and understandings. It’s like night and day!

Professional respect and understanding of the relationship are very important ingredients in shaping client perceptions, showing them how to treat you, and commanding professional fees. Insist on being treated as a professional. Use the right language to reinforce that expectation and understanding.

Ultimately, this is about providing superior service to clients. If you create misconceptions and confusion because you’ve used or allowed clients to continue using wrong terminology at the start of your business relationships, you make things more difficult for them in working with you because I guarantee you, it will cause problems and misunderstandings in the relationship in some form or fashion down the road.

Using correct terminology and engaging in business practices that subtly educate clients that you are a professional they hire for business, not employment, facilitates great working relationships.

22 Responses

  1. I am always referring to myself as a Virtual Assistant, and perhaps it is time to change my own mindset.

    Love the idea of referring potential clients to my website (business resume) instead of sending them a resume.

    Thanks for the excellent article, which has given me plenty to think about.

  2. Verleene says:

    Great information. I notice on some websites the owners have their resume posted on the site, but your advise is better to have your website speak for itself.

  3. Great information you are sharing Danielle – I try extremely hard to stay away from the employee terminology so that things don’t get confused. I usually don’t even use the term “hire” instead I use “partner” or “contract” just to make sure I am clear…so it’s always refreshing to see my thoughts being reinforced by someone who’s a veteran in the industry.

  4. Luana Gerhardt says:

    Thanks Danielle for the excellent article!

    I totally agree with the premise of using the ‘correct’ terminology when referring to my business. As you said, it educates prospective clients and sets the tone for the client/consultant relationship. Great food for thought!

  5. Keelah says:

    I love this post and this blog! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Judy Reyes says:

    Thanks so much; this is why I love being part of the ACA network you’ve created. You share valuable advice and advocate for us to command the respect we deserve as professionals. Like everyone coming from the “employee” mindset, I’m still working to purge all those old terms and concepts. But it’s getting better all the time!

  7. Thank your for timely information. This question has always been in the back of my mind — if I am not an employee why am I sending resumes to potential clients? I know what I need to do.

  8. D Ford says:

    This is great information for anyone in this business. Thank you for this article because I am just beginning my business and it’s better to know what to call yourself at the beginning than giving the wrong impression and having to rebuild yourself part of the way through.

  9. Nancy Perrine says:

    I’m just starting this business and this is great information. Thanks

  10. Great advise Danielle! Not only do I not provide a resume, I’ve taken care to remove any such language from my LinkedIn account as well, albeit recently. It should have been done a long time ago!

  11. Yolanda Smith says:

    Thanks Danielle. I absolutely loved reading your article because it is so true. I will definitely be changing my terminology with immediate effect.

  12. Sonya Ramsey says:

    Good information, but, many VA’s have the term Virtual Assistant as part of their business name. Is there a point where your business name should be changed to reflect Administrative or Business consultant?

  13. Yes, I know and it’s unfortunate. Yet I would still advise them to change the name. They never needed to have a title in their biz name in the first place and the word “assistant” just sets all the wrong expectations and understandings in clients.

    For those needing the guidance, I have a whole category on business naming here on the blog:

    I took a peek at your site and it would be well worth the investment to change your name. Based on your content, you were never a VA at all, but rather a marketing company, so you would benefit even more from changing your business name to something that better reflects what you actually do in business. Your biz name now only serves to confuse and negate your expertise. Your tag line and your description on your About page are much better at relating who you are and what you do. You’ll benefit very much from changing to a name that is in more alignment with those things.

  14. Sarah King says:

    I really enjoyed your post, it really makes a lot of sense. On occasion I think clients have got the wrong idea, but on the whole I think they know that I am a business owner offering a professional service. However, due to that ‘on occasion’ I will be reflecting on my business name and website content in light of your article to see if I can make any improvements.

    Thank you

  15. Love your advice! Love reading your stuff!

  16. Jude says:

    This is terrific advice (as always!), but here’s one problem: for the purposes of search engine optimization, the term “virtual assistant” is invaluable to attract people to your site. People don’t know to look for and admin consultant, so SEO advice says the VA terminology needs to appear repeatedly in out web copy. I’ve gone through my site (which already had an unfortunate domain name…chosen before I found YOU and all your amazing insights)…and I’ve taken out every instance of the word “assistant.” Now I feel better, but also utterly unsearchable. What’s a girl to do??

  17. Jude says:

    I have to get out of the habit of posting without proofing. Three typos in my last comment. Facebook has ruined me…SO embarrassing!

  18. Nothing to be embarrassed about, Jude 🙂 I make typos all the time due to autocorrect or my nails getting too long or whatever.

    Here’s what I want to assure you… You weren’t searchable anyway using the VA term. First of all, because it’s an oversaturated term and second, being a new site, it’s not likely that you would even get to the first 10 pages, much less the first or second page or third, of a search any time soon.

    On top of that, the VA term is still largely unknown. Many have never heard of it and the ones who have, have in large part been miseducated to view the industry as the cheap labor pool of flunkies. So even if someone like that were to find you due to the VA term, is that really the kind of client you’d want to work with? Someone who has been miseducated to look upon you as a gopher, an employee they don’t pay taxes on, and who only wants to pay $5 or $10 an hour that you have to kill yourself trying re-educate in the manner you need them to be? It’s an effort in futility.

    Search engine marketing is the least important way for you to be found by your right clients. Sure, it’s a tool you can definitely use to your advantage, but you could also go your entire business life not caring a whit about your ranking and search engine results and still get clients. Anyone who is relying solely on search engine results to find clients is going to have a long road ahead and has really not been paying attention to their marketing lessons whatsoever. These are typically the same people who think all they have to do is slap up a website and clients will be dropping in their laps. Not gonna happen.

    Here again is where having a target market makes everything in business so much easier. When you have a target market, you stop wasting time and energy trying to be found by anyone and everyone and focus instead on that just that specific group. When you do that, you start paying attention to where those folks are hanging out, online and off. You should be networking amongst them, and if you are, then you should also be directing everyone you meet (through your signature line, through your calls to action, through your free offers, etc.) to your website.

    When it comes to SEO for your website, stop focusing so much on our industry terms and focus instead of the industry terms of your target market. For example, someone in your target market isn’t going to set up Google Alerts for our industry, but they certainly are for their industry and the related kinds of things they do and are interested in. Those are the kind of keywords and phrases you want to use in your search engine marketing and optimization. But SEO is never the lead driver of traffic to your website. It’s your networking and relationship marketing efforts that create the real and better qualified pipelines.

  19. Just been directed to this article via LinkedIn. Love it. It’s bang on! One new job title coming up.

  20. Kim Harris says:

    Another good post on resumes’. Definitely something worth putting into practice. It’s so true that our online profiles say so much more about us! A resume is not needed.


  21. Willi Morris says:

    Thanks for directing me to this article and the comments. Great stuff! I did accept an assignment as an “independent contractor,” but she did want to see a resume. I should have just directed her to the website, but I did do something a little different.

    First of all, my resume is a hidden, password-protected page that’s already a part of my website, which includes links to other pages.

    Second, you can transfer the skills and tasks you used in a resume and put them in your “about me” section. I listed some of the industries I worked for and the tasks and programs I’ve done. Definitely benefits using your website as a marketing tool.

  22. Molly Baker says:

    I was so happy to run across this blog post as this has come up quite a few times in my new business! I also love the idea of directing them to my website as just one more way to reinforce the idea that they are working with another business person and an equal, not an employee of their own. Thank you!

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