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My guest, Deborah L. Schuster of The Lettersmith, joined CDI four years ago as a 20-yr industry veteran and then discovered numerous other success secrets that apply whether you are starting up or trying to grow your resume writing or career coaching practice.

Her interview happening the week after the 24th annual TORI resume writing awards have opened is timely since she says that joining CDI was one of the best things she ever did for her business. Even after such a lengthy and successful career, it restored her joy in resume writing around creating high-impact resume graphics and led to her winning several TORI awards.

Plus, if you’ve ever dealt with health challenges you’ll love learning how Deborah flipped the script and created a boutique business to provide her financial security with the flexibility for self care.

The TORI wins were, in part, some of what she leveraged in CDI to take her business to the next level. You’ll want to watch the replay and read her tips below to see what else you should be tapping into for these same terrific results.

In the interview Deborah answers:

  1. When did you start your business?
  2. Tell us a little about your business.
  3. What did you do before you started your business?
  4. What made you decide to start your business?
  5. At what point in your business did you find CDI?
  6. What role has CDI played in the success you’ve achieved and what has been most valuable about it? What has your membership made possible? Did CDI provide a pivotal turning point for you?
  7. What has having your own business made possible for you in your life?
  8. What’s one thing you wished you had known when you first started your business, or, If you were starting your business today, what’s one thing you would have done differently? 
  9. For those who are considering a career in this field, or who are struggling in their businesses right now, what are a few key pieces of advice you’d share with them?
  10. Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know in terms of encouragement, lessons learned, or final thoughts around being a successful career industry professional?


  • What added advice would you provide around entering the TORI resume writing awards?

Deborah SchusterAbout Deborah: 

Deborah Schuster began her resume writing business – The Lettersmith – in the pre-internet days of the mid-1990s. Thanks to all of the changes in resumes, job search strategies, and the careers industry, she hasn’t gotten bored yet!

Deb is happiest when she’s hunkered down writing and designing resumes that are data rich and story driven. While her forte is the written word, her passion is resume design. She loves weaving those two elements together to tell her client’s story.

Deborah is a Certified Executive Resume Master (CERM) and one of a handful of Certified Graphic Resume Architects (CGRA) worldwide. She is the winner of six TORI awards, and her work has been published in over a dozen resume books. Most of her clients are mid-to-senior leaders, but she enjoys working with people at all levels. The Lettersmith is a career service company based in Southeast Michigan.

Plus, I love that 25 years into practice, she says that joining CDI restored her joy in resume writing around creating high-impact resume graphics and led to her winning several TORI awards, which let her justify price increases.

Deborah’s 4 Start Up & Growth Secrets (with my added commentary)

Links to CDI resources can be found in the additional resources section at the bottom of the page. 

Use Your Limitations to Your Advantage & Position with Exclusivity.

Sometimes life comes with its challenges, like the disabling physical symptoms Deborah was experiencing when she first started her business.

While Deborah says that she wished she’d had an abundance mindset from the start, it was her very health limitations that created opportunity for her. She says:

“Instead of seeking a larger volume of clients, I focused on growing my revenue for each client. Even today, this low volume, boutique style business model works best for my personality. I do my best work when I’m taking my time.”

While she came about this successful model through limitations and challenges, it serves resume writers and career coaches quite well in that our services are often time-intensive. When the pricing is not there to support the time involved, it can lead to burnout and even bouncing from the industry.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • If most prospects are saying yes to your services, it’s time to raise your rates. (If most are saying no, it’s time to use CDI’s educational show-and-tell consult strategy).
  • Offer complete solutions and not one-off band-aid services of what the prospect asks for.
  • Implement CDI’s Goldilocks 3 package system so that prospects have an option between yes and yes vs just yes or no.

Always remember that it’s about educating your prospect and not actually about selling.

Once you break the DIY myth and replace it with education and examples, prospects of all levels will readily sign on.

Join CDI for Support During the Unexpected!

Deborah says, “We all struggle sometimes. At the beginning of this year, I had a sudden slowdown in business. That was a big surprise, because it’s usually the busiest time of the year. Thanks to my CDI membership, I had a long list of business building projects I’d always wanted to do. The slowdown gave me time to do them, and things turned around.

Also: Laura was incredibly supportive. When I mentioned the slowdown to her, she sent emails of encouragement. I’ve said before that she is our biggest cheerleader. She really wants you to succeed!”

I do, I really do!

It’s true that I was called to walk away from my practice of 9 ghost writers supporting <270 prospect inquiries weekly through 50+/- contracts with professional associations as their resume expert.

I did it to start CDI because I wanted to provide resources that other associations were missing. I’m proud to have been leading that mission for 20 years.

Right now CDI has a waitlist, which you can join on our Why Join page. However, there are other ways to join such as signing up for a course, certification, or TORI entry, or by taking CDI’s business blocker quiz.

When Problems Arise, Have Access to Solutions That Let You Take Action.

Deborah says, “Take action. When I’m doing something about a problem, I feel less stressed.

Thanks to the incredible wealth of resources on the CDI website, I always have a list of things I can do to improve the situation and turn it around.”

It’s true we’ve worked exhaustively to create such opportunities for our members in CDI.

Here are some of the channels members (and even non-members) can use to gain support:

  • Ask a question in our Facebook community and/or participate in the daily topic prompt posts. Non-members are also welcome in the group. 
  • Build your support network and find accountability partners by attending one of the member-included events, all of which include structured 1-1 networking opportunities.
  • Reach out to a CDI member who has volunteered on our industry-specific, career service-specific, and country-specific lists to provide support.
  • Find and post opportunities with our subcontractor and referral directory.
  • Search our public Find a Career Pro member directory.
  • Join the Career Industry Accelerator Club, which is a tier of CDI membership for direct coaching/consulting with me.
  • While I monitor and participate in Facebook and Career Industry Accelerator Club events, you can also reach out to CDI admin when you can’t find an answer or resource for direction.

Focus On Abundance Rather Than Lack to Rewire for Success.

Deborah says, “Focusing on abundance rather than lack really works! Some say it’s because you’re sending a message to the universe. Others say it wires your brain for success. I think it’s both. But it makes a huge difference.”

I agree, and if you’ve been around me even a little bit, then you KNOW that I’ve built everything I have and all but preach focusing on abundance vs. scarcity.

  • It was necessary when well-meaning family told me I’d never be as successful as “X” was and I had to choose to forge my own destiny.
  • It was necessary when doctors told me I’d be in a wheelchair in two years and I was in no way ready to stop dancing.
  • It was necessary a thousand times over when a resume writer, career coach, job seeker or other entrepreneur trusted me when I gave them tools to get out of their own way.

There are just way too many tips to give but I’ll link to some CDI resources below such as the 10 Steps to a Competitive Edge in Your Life and Career lesson, Your Brain is Blocking You From Joy video tip, Coaching + Strategies in Resiliency, Mindset & Business Positioning During Challenging Times replay, 14 Ways to Thrive During Uncertainty lesson, and 5 Strategies to Bust Barriers and Bash Imposter Syndrome to Reach Goals replay.

We face enough challenges without becoming our own enemy through fear, doubt, comparison, and stress.

Make gratitude your attitude so you focus on only the good in every situation, and you’ll go much farther than you ever dreamed possible!

CDI and Deborah

Sandra just joined CDI in 2021.  Some of her favorite resources are:

  • “Non-Salesy Sales Script: I’ve been using it for about four years; and even used it as an outline to create a PowerPoint presentation. (Actual title: Done-For-You Consultation Script & Sales Strategy for Resume Writing & Career Services).”
  • “Member Events & Resources: Tons of workshops and courses that are free to members.”
  • “Niche Certifications: I don’t think the other career organizations offer certifications that are this specific. For me it’s the Certified Executive Resume Master and Certified Graphic Resume Architect.”
  • “Awards: The TORI resume writing awards were an important piece of my business growth and justification for my increased prices.”

Replay & Next Livestream

Next week I hope you’ll join me again on Wed at 3:45 PM Eastern as I return to Start Up & Growth Secrets from Successfully Self-Employed Resume Writers & Career Coaches with my guest, Cliff Flamer of BrightSide Resumes.

I first really got to know who Cliff was in 2008 when CDI hosted the World’s Best Resume Writer Competition. That was a unique event in that each entrant had to write a resume from the client profile we provided. Then we had a judging made up of recruiters and HR directors. We also opened up public voting on the top three they picked to see how selection would compare.  Out of the many applicants, Cliff took 2nd place in the professional votes and 1st place in the public votes. In the years since, Cliff has also been a TORI winner and a TORI judge.

Cliff says that on a scale of 1-10 he ranks CDI a 10 in how much our resources and support have played in his success. Even though already very successful, Cliff has been a member of CDI’s inner circle, Career Industry Accelerator Club, since 2018.

Prior to starting his business Cliff was a technical recruiter in Silicon Valley. He currently provides services which include resume writing, LinkedIn profiles, interview prep, job search strategy, and career coaching.

And on top of all that, Cliff says that probably his biggest claim to fame is that he hasn’t had to sell his services for over a decade yet has a very successful practice. He’s leveraging several unique strategies to achieve that with credentials, a client self-assessment, slide show, and pop up window that I’ll let him tell you more about next week.

So be sure to mark your calendars and tune in next Wed at 3:45 PM Eastern.

I hope you’ll join me!

We’ve streaming on CDI’s LinkedIn page, YouTube channel, and in our Facebook group every Wednesday at 3:45 PM Eastern. And, don’t forget to like, follow, and subscribe so you stay in the know!

Watch the Livestream Recording

What’s Next?

Join the Livestream on LinkedInYouTube, or in our Facebook group every Wednesday at 3:45 PM Eastern!


Join the Membership Waitlist >> 

Quiz – #1 Thing Blocking You From a 6-Figure Income >>

SWOT Analyze Yourself to Close Career & Resume Sales (Video Tip) >>

Your Brain is Blocking You from Joy – How to Hit Big Goals (Video Tip) >>

14 Ways Resume Writers & Career Coaches Can Thrive in Uncertainty >>

5 Strategies to Bust Barriers and Bash Imposter Syndrome to Reach Goals (Replay) >>

Size Matters in Resume & Career Service Sales Consultations | Easy Process to Close More (Lesson) >>

Q&A Tips and Lessons from TORI Winners & Judges >>

Bust the DIY Resume Writing Myth to Close More & Higher Sales (Video Tip) >>

Packaging Sweet Spot for Resume Writers & Career Coaches (Video Tip) >>

Stop Selling What Your Clients Ask For (Video Tip) >>

Master’s Video Course for Resume Writers & Career Coaches Who Want to Close 4-Figure Sales >>

Livestream Replays >> (Visit for top three marketing strategies and more)

Join CDI’s Facebook Community >>

CDI Free Stuff >>

AI Prompts & Posts >>

Six Steps To Your Successful Second Act As A Professional Resume Writer >> (Forbes Coaches Council article)

Members Only: 

TORI Resume Writing Awards >> (Fee + $450 bonus ends 4/30/2024)

TORI Award & Resume Writing Tutorials + Lessons >>

How to Take a Vacation and Not Lose Business (Best Practices Tip Sheet) >>

Done-For-You Consultation Script & Sales Strategy for Resume Writing & Career Services >>

6-Figure Blueprint for Consulting, Sales, Packaging & Closing >> (All Resources)

10 Steps to a Competitive Edge in Your Life and Career >>

Coaching + Strategies in Resiliency, Mindset & Business Positioning During Challenging Times >>

Upcoming 2024 Live (Included) Networking & Educational Events >>

Member Dashboard >>

6-Figure Sales Resources >>

Marketing Resources >>

Join the Career Industry Accelerator Club Waitlist >>

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