[Liz Handlin’s rescue dogs and officemates, from left to right: Luke, Flynn, Duncan, Oliver]
Texas native Liz Handlin, founder and CEO of Ultimate Resumes, has a lot of energy. She completed her MBA at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business while serving as the Manager of Economic Education and Outreach at the Federal Reserve. “When you work full time and go to school at night,” she told Yahoo, “it takes up all of your time. So when you graduate, you feel like you have a ton of time on your hands.”
Over the years, in between school and work, Handlin helped various friends write and refine their resumes. “I started my career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as a recruiter, so I learned early on what hiring managers did and did not want to see on resumes. I am also truly curious about other people, and endlessly fascinated by their stories.”
In 2003, the Chicago company that employed her then-boyfriend was acquired by Cisco—which didn’t have a branch in Chicago. Rather than move, the boyfriend, Jonathan Hogue (he’s now Handlin’s husband), decided to keep Chicago as his home base. But he was traveling all the time, which was tough on the young couple. They both wanted him to find a new job.
“He had talked to me a lot about his work,” Handlin told us, “so I was up to speed on his accomplishments. But his resume was very sparse. I knew that if he tried to search for a job with it, he wouldn’t get the type of position he deserved.”
So she got up early one Sunday morning and rewrote the resume for him. “I remember hoping he wouldn’t be offended. When he woke up and I showed it to him, he almost cried. He said he had no idea how impressive he could look on paper—and couldn’t wait to start showing it to recruiters.”
Hogue told his bride-to-be that people would be willing to pay big bucks for her skill at making a CV shine.
In 2004, with the encouragement of her fiance—without quitting her day job at the Federal Reserve—Handlin launched Ultimate Resumes LLC as a part-time business, meeting with clients after work and on weekends.
A year later, she was recruited by a startup in Austin—and jumped at the chance to move back to Texas. “It worked out perfectly for Jonathan, too,” she told us, “because Cisco had wanted him to move either to Austin or San Jose.” Handlin stayed with the startup for a year before deciding that she’d like to see if she could grow Ultimate Resumes into a full-time business.
Working from home, where she enjoys the company of four dogs and a cat, Handlin writes or rewrites 100-200 new resumes every year, along with about 150 resume updates for past clients. She also writes LinkedIn updates as part of the resume package she offers.
She’s not making millions. But the business allows her to stay at home and do what she loves.
Making an Online Business Out of Something You’re Good at Doing
Liz Handlin believes that a lot of people who could make a successful go of their online business idea are too intimidated to take the plunge—or simply unaware of all the resources available to them. Here she gives Yahoo readers the low-down about the top five resources that would-be entrepreneurs all too often neglect or ignore:
1. Personal networks: “If you want to start a business, tell everyone! Don’t worry about being pushy. Telling people what you are doing gives them an opportunity to evangelize for you.”
2. Constant Contact: “In my opinion,” says Handlin, “this is the best resource out there for creating a newsletter. Newsletters are great for maintaining contact with your client base, and it’s a great way to make it easy for existing clients to forward information about your company to potential new clients.”
3. Virtual Assistants: “Hiring a virtual assistant enables you, the entrepreneur, to focus on your product or service while your assistant handles billing, client screening, and accounts payable. A good assistant is worth every penny you spend.”
4. LinkedIn Recommendations: “Get satisfied clients to leave reviews of your services. It enables potential clients to get to know more about you.”
5. The Better Business Bureau: “Join it and keep your reputation clean. I have had clients contact me just because they found me on the BBB site, and because of my rating. It can seem a little expensive, but I have found it to be well worth the money.”
Is it ever hard to stay focused on her job, we wanted to know, working from home? “I’ve often considered renting office space,” Handlin told us, “because working from home with four rescue dogs definitely has its challenges and distractions. But it makes sense for me to keep my overhead low. I have a dedicated office in my house that’s off limits for anything but work. I have specific work hours and a schedule, so I stay on track. And I have an assistant who manages the calendar and keeps me very busy.”
Is her home office off limits to the dogs? “My office is their office,” Handlin said with a grin. “In fact, every morning—after breakfast and walks—I say to them, ‘Lets go to work!’ And they all run upstairs to their designated spots. They love the routine. Flynn lays down under my desk, Luke on the couch. Oliver goes to his ‘bed’—a pillow on my desk. And Duncan lies just outside my office door. Between the time we enter the office, to the time I get the computer on, they are all asleep.”
Are there any particular challenges, we wanted to know, faced by women wanting to start an online business? “Actually, I think online businesses may be easier for some women to launch than brick-and-mortar businesses. For one thing, your overhead is low. And for another, you can do a lot of low-cost marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your website.”
Anyone starting a brick-and-mortar business, says Handlin, will likely need to secure a business loan and develop a comprehensive business plan before launching a company. Many would-be entrepreneurs get stalled at this stage of the game, intimidated by the barriers to entry.
We asked Handlin for some words of advice for women outside the USA wanting to start an online business. “If you build it, they will come,” she said, flashing another one of her compassionate smiles. “Well, I should say, ‘If you build it well, they will come.’ Honestly, one of the perks of my job is getting to meet and talk to people from all over the world. I am constantly surprised at niche business ideas that take off and become really successful.”
The bottom line? “If you have a great idea for a product or service to sell—whoever you are—just do it!”