Brenda Bernstein, The Essay Expert, LLC
IB's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Brenda Bernstein, owner and senior editor, The Essay Expert, LLC.
(page 1 of 2)
Business Address: 1329 Spaight St., Madison, WI 53703
Birthplace: Ojai, Calif.
Organizations: Career Directors International, Career Thought Leaders, National Résumé Writers Association, Dane Buy Local
Education: B.A. in English (magna cum laude), Yale University, 1991; J.D. (cum laude), New York University School of Law
Brenda, when and why did you start The Essay Expert?
I started my business about 15 years ago when I was living in Brooklyn, N.Y. and working as a public interest attorney. To earn extra income, I put up signs around my neighborhood advertising college essay consulting services. People called, and I had great success working with college applicants on their admissions essays. That’s how I got started and where the name of my company came from.
When did you move it to Madison, and what did that mean for the business?
I moved to Madison in October 2008, and in March 2009 started working on my business full time. I put up a website and offered both résumé and college essay services. The company quickly evolved to include business writing, MBA admissions consulting, and LinkedIn profile services. I learned a lot about résumé writing in those first couple of years!
What brought you to Wisconsin?
In 2008, I was living in Brooklyn and working for a legal services nonprofit in its housing unit. I was ready to stop practicing law and move out of New York. So I did what any smart Ivy grad would do: called an astrologer! He gave me a few choices of places to live, including Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Pensacola, but as soon as I set foot in Madison I knew I wanted to live here. I love the bike paths, the farmers market, the food co-op, and the small-city atmosphere. I also enjoy being just a few hours’ drive away from my extended family in Chicago.
What is your day-to-day role in the business now?
As the sole owner of The Essay Expert, I wear many hats. I network, market, respond to new customer inquiries, write e-books and blog articles, and manage a team of subcontractors (including editing their work and coaching them to be better writers). I still spend some client-facing time as well, primarily with LinkedIn and college essay coaching, and I spend a lot of time answering a steady stream of emails.
Who has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
I met Chris Kokalis on LinkedIn when I was just starting my business. He had some expertise in marketing and suggested that I offer free LinkedIn profile reviews. I had no marketing training, so I never would have thought of giving away my time and advice officially for free! But those free profile reviews led to a burgeoning business writing people’s LinkedIn profiles and to the e-book How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile … and 18 Mistakes to Avoid.
I am also very grateful to Susan Thomson of ActionCOACH who has frequently supported me, including helping me to retain one of my most loyal clients when they were considering a less expensive competitor.
What was a career high point?
Reaching the No. 1 ranking in Amazon’s business writing skills category for my [LinkedIn profile] e-book.
What is a long-range goal that you’d like to achieve?
I’d like my company to become self-sustaining, which will mean training a team to do what I’m doing. That goal seems very far off at the moment! I would also like to write another e-book; I expect How to Write a WINNING Resume: 50 Tips to Reach Your Job Search Target to be published in March or April 2013.
My overall goal is to give more people the resources they need to move their career, education, and businesses forward. If I can do that for 10,000 people a year in some way or another, whether through direct services, a blog article, or an e-book, I will feel I am contributing something to the world.
When you were in high school, what were your career aspirations?
I was never sure what I wanted to do, though I guessed I might become a lawyer, which is eventually what I did for 10 years.
Your very first paycheck: From where, how much, and what did you do with it?
My first paycheck was from Sesame Street, and I have no idea how much it was for. I have always been a saver, so it went straight to the bank. I was about 7 years old.
My first job after college was as an environmental education instructor in upstate New York. I took groups of kids for hikes in the woods and taught blacksmithing, broom-making, and tin-smithing. What did I do with that paycheck? I don’t think there was much left over to do anything!