In 2015, I quit my career in law. I remember feeling elated and free as I eagerly handed over the keys to the office and company car.
“You invested so much money into law school and 12 years of practice,” my friends and family told me. “Why throw all that away?”
But I had a plan: I would take The Writing Guru, a resume writing company that I started in 2010 as my side hustle, full-time. I had fallen in love with helping people find happiness in their careers, partly because I lacked it in my own.
Leaving a six-figure salary wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did it because now, at 43, I’m making twice as much. Here are some key lessons I learned along the way:
1. Start small, but don’t be afraid to increase your rates
The idea to start The Writing Guru sprung from my parents, who saw my passion for writing — essays, poetry, blogging — evolve over the years. I was also the go-to person in my circle for writing and editing help.
So I bought a domain and created my website. I initially charged $150 per hour, which was around the average hourly rate. I spent the first few years editing resumes and college admission essays — earning anywhere between $300 and $500 per client.
As I became more invested in The Writing Guru, I discovered how untapped the resume writing market was. Eventually, the demand for my services grew by so much that my rates increased to more than $1,000 for some projects, depending on the scope of work.
On average, I was making about $5,000 per month in the first few years.
2. Leverage your background and keep expanding your knowledge
What really set me apart from other resume writers was my background in law. Lawyers are trained to think in a very systematic and logical way. This converts to strong writing, creative analysis and problem solving skills.
A lawyer can easily identify and spot issues in a person’s career, understand common themes and create a compelling argument in their resume to persuade managers to hire them.
But I needed to further my skills. I knew that if I wanted to be an authoritative figure and stand out from my competitors, I had to invest in gaining more knowledge and learn the ins and outs of the resume writing field.
So in 2014, I obtained certifications in resume writing and career coaching from several career industry organizations, including The National Resume Writers’ Association and The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
3. Work during lunch breaks if you have to
Anyone who works a side hustle in addition to their 9-to-5 job can tell you that slacking off is not an option if you want to be successful. I was working 90-plus hours per week between my legal career and my side hustle.
It wasn’t easy. I spent lunch breaks doing client consultations for The Writing Guru from my car. I spent evenings and weekends trying to meet deadlines. Essentially, I had traded extra sleep and a vibrant social life to build the framework of a full-time business and a consistent pipeline of clients.
The blood, sweat and tears paid off. In 18 months, I was earning up to $1,500 per project (my current rates are now triple that amount) and had accumulated $30,000 in savings.
That nest egg served as the foundation for my professional pivot; I wanted to make sure I could exit my career and take my side hustle full-time with financial ease.
4. Put yourself out there and share your story
Many people were fascinated by how and why I left my decade-plus career in law. Soon, people were asking me to share my story on podcast and radio interviews, as well as at various conferences.
I also maintained a blog on my website and wrote articles for several career-focused online publications. I used my writing portfolio to market myself on social media. This forced me to be at the pulse of writing new content and stay on top of career trends.
I undertook every opportunity that would allow me to become a household name. Each speaking engagement led to more social media followers, more readers, more clients and a trail of media that confirmed my credibility and reputation.
5. Continuously modify and tweak your business model
While the success of The Writing Guru has been a result of consistent pursuit and expanding my reach both online and offline, its financial growth wouldn’t have been possible without continuous tweaking, refining and modifying.
I created spreadsheets that analyzed the demographics of my client roster, and then fine-tuned my work model to best serve my clients’ needs.
I eventually moved from a general focus in all career levels into a niche area of working with prominent executives and senior leaders in law, business, technology, finance and healthcare with salaries between $250,000 and $500,000 (or more).
Today, each client spends an average of $3,000 to work with me. And I’m not just rewriting their resumes and LinkedIn profiles from scratch, I’m also teaching and coaching them about how to leverage their skills and look for jobs that they’ll actually be happy in.
6. It’s never too late
If you’re thinking of launching a side hustle, my best advice is to start small and spend conservatively in the beginning.
Think about the first few steps and just do it — create your business name, set up a simple website and slowly build your credibility. Spread the word and don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re doing with others. It can be one of the most effective ways to grow your customer base.
If you put your heart and soul into something, you’ll likely succeed. I always tell my clients not to fear failure, because you never know what’s waiting for you on the other side.