When you start building your SEO consulting agency there is many a lesson to learn: How to manage your time efficiently, how to deliver outstanding results, how to write proposals, and how shitty it is when one of your customers regards your payment terms as "net-never".
There are some lessons that can only be learned through making your own mistakes, then there are others that can be learned from videos (Fuck You, Pay Me), and lastly there are those that you can learn by listening to folks who have been where you are now.
In today's interview roundup our experts will share valuable lessons learned through costly mistakes to help you avoid the same mistakes they made.
Jonathan Tavarez – JonTavarez.com
The best way to grow your agency is to get your foot in the door. The first client I signed didn't even know I offered SEO until the topic came up in an email some time later. This led to a $40k/year contract plus all the other extras I was providing for this company because I didn't settle for just one thing. I constantly evaluated their business for ways to improve their bottom line which paid off big time.
TLDR; Get your foot in the door and hustle.
Brandon Schaefer – 90DayEntrepreneur.com
The #1 lesson I've learned in regards to running an SEO business, is to always set expectations, both in regards to results, as well as the time it's going to take, with whom I'm doing the work for. People typically want to have results immediately, and with SEO, when done properly… it's not an overnight process.
Joe Rega – Joerega.com
The number one thing I have learned is that communication is key. As SEO's we continually have to prove our efforts are working and clients want to know what their ROI is; keeping on open line of communication is vital. Reporting on traffic numbers is not going to keep them happy. I have found that explaining "why" I choose one method over another rather that just saying "I did this last month" goes a long way. Clients are eager to learn so part of our job is to educate them as to best practices. If you treat your client relationship as more of a partnership it will be far more rewarding to both of you.
Andrew Isidoro – AndrewIsidoro.co.uk
Starting a business within SEO is hard. Maintaining and growing that business is even harder. When I first began freelancing I did so because I loved getting involved in the nitty-gritty of SEO campaigns but no-one tells you about the "business-side" aspect of starting up. Growing your business is down to you and you alone.
Meeting new people, driving new business is vital to staying alive in the current climate. That's why I created Cardiff Digital to help facilitate this networking and learning locally, not only for myself but for other complimentary digital industries too. Use your current connections while looking to grow your network and you'll find your sales pipeline becomes much more manageable.
Gareth James – SEO-Doctor.co.uk
I made the leap into becoming a freelance SEO in 2008, after 7 years of running my own sites. The biggest problem with freelancing is actually managing your cash flow as your income will vary from month to month. This can be especially hard if you have a family to support. My monthly revenue can range from £2-£10K per month. I learnt not to panic when you have a quiet patch, it will always pick up again. You need to set aside a fund to tide you through a quiet periods and then spend time developing your own sites. Creating your own revenue stream from personal side projects will also help, so you are not totally reliant on clients. I also only accept payment in advance from clients, I just don't have the time or inclination to chase payments.
Gary Dek – StartABlog123.com
Like any business where you service a client, clear and detailed communication is important. Oftentimes, a small business/blogger will hire an SEO professional to help take their website to the next level, but the expectations are enormous such as cheap links, fast results, a do-it-all attitude, explosive growth, and a complete transformation of their online business. From the very beginning, it is critical to communicate quality over quantity, a focus on long-term results, and a detailed discussion of the job's scope. This will establish an open, honest line of communication and an understanding of how it all works; otherwise, you will undoubtedly have unsatisfied clients through no fault of your own.
Deepanshu Gahlaut – DeepanshuGahlaut.com
Never Work For Free – This is #1 lesson I've learned from doing SEO freelancing. Earlier, I've worked for free because I want to build trust to me and my business as well. Such clients called me early morning or late night for consultation, and I have to give. But I realized that people do not value free work, I mean they think that your value is Zero dollar and they(clients) are free to play with your time.
Brett Tudor – SEOProfessor.co.uk
Number one lesson is to maintain good communication with clients and listen early to their concerns. SEO can sometimes be a long and arduous process in niches where competition is high. In these cases it's important to report on progress and activities that have led to that progress being made so keeping records is essential. SEO is the kind of business where turnover of clients can be high and they often get impatient quickly if they're not on page one in a month.
The number one lesson learned from starting an internet marketing business is understanding and really grasping the idea of knowing when to 'let go' so to speak.
Now if you're starting a business, you probably love being in control or believe you can execute better than most who already have an agency — definitely more so than a 'newb' which can all be true but hey, you're in business to grow and make more money and wheel in more fish and focus your energy on your strengths.
You're definitely not in business to spin your wheels in one spot…
And it doesn't matter how talented, intellectually competent, organized or calculated you are at the end of the day your growth as a business depends on your team. When you learn to 'let go' you find your team — the big first step a freelance internet marketer needs to understand before starting your business.
Then from there it's how you govern.
So what's the main takeaway? Find the right team and get super picky with the results and let your standard permeate through the rest of the team until you see yourself rub off on others.
Casey Markee – SearchEngineNews.com
Never stop hustling. Be it self-education, writing, speaking or generating publicity, a successful freelancer or sole proprietor must be willing to put in long hours and wear many hats.
When I started Media Wyse in 2000 I did so with one client and was finishing an MBA. Even with limited hours I made it a point to speak at local marketing events, read and digest all internet marketing texts I could find at the time, and then set-up testing sites to find out what worked in online marketing and what didn't. I then leveraged that knowledge to steal business away form existing larger agencies who weren't delivering results for their clients.
Now, as the Head of FastAnswer Support for SearchEngineNews.com and a professional SEO Trainer to companies worldwide, that work ethic continues to serve me well as I balance the need for new business with the more important needs of my family and personal health.
Kai Davis — Double Your eCommerce
There are three lessons that I'd like to share with you today, friends, readers, and colleagues. These are things that I struggled with for years before the lightbulb went on and it finally 'clicked'.
I hope my few words here help you in your journey.
Positioning Is Everything
The more differentiated, specific, and exact you make your positioning — the more people you're saying 'No, I'm sorry, we're not a good fit' to — the easier it will be to attract and close the right clients.
This is, quite often, a challenging concept to internalize. "But Kai," you're thinking, "If I'm saying no to 90% of the people who want to work with me, I'm saying no to 90% of my work".
No, actually. The more specific and exact you make your positioning, the more exact you'll be in the clients you attract and work with.
For example, if you own a retail eCommerce website, who would you be more interested in working with?
- Joe's SEO Firm — We do SEO for everyone!
- Double Your eCommerce — We do SEO for retail eCommerce stores.
The more exact you make your positioning, the easier it will be to attract your best buyers, your ideal clients.
To that effect, I recommend that you read The Positioning Manual, a positioning manual for technical firms, that will help you refine your positioning and positioning your firm to attract your dream clients.
You Should Have An Email List
And you should email the people on your list.
Don't over think this. When you write an article — about Search Engine Optimization, Marketing, Business, or Great Book — add it to an autoresponder (or 'drip' series).
Then, when someone visits your website, you have a short educational and informational series they can subscribe to, sharing your knowledge and thoughts about your Area Of Expertise with them.
Likewise, when a client says "Hey, we'd love to work with you, but we don't have a budget" you can direct them to your free educational email series, keeping you at the top of their mind until they have the budget to work together.
There's a ton of different email service providers around. Mailchimp is great and free. I like Drip.
Think of your email service provider like a hammer. It really doesn't matter what hammer you use. What matters is the content — the house — that you build with the hammer.
So go sign up for an email service provider and start adding one or two new articles to an autoresponder every month. After a year, when a prospect signs up, you'll have 12 articles that you'll send to them, one every week.
Work With Mentors
Does this sound familiar to you?
In 2012, I was utterly depressed at my day job. Going into work every morning felt like dragging myself across a bed of nails. I found every excuse to get out of the office. Eventually, I get so fed up, I quit my job and started freelancing full time.
I was lucky. I had a few clients to start and was able to cover my rent and living expenses. But I had no clue how to position my business, raise my rates, or attract my dream clients. Every night, I lay awake wondering where next month’s rent was going to come from. At the end of every month, it felt like I had moved an inch in every direction — and ended up right back where I started.
Then I decided to do something different. I started seeking out mentors, coaches, and experienced business owners for their advice.
The single best thing I’ve done for my business is to seek out the help of other people.
Every time I’ve worked with a mentor and acted on their advice, it’s had a measurable and positive impact on my business. By working with mentors focused on helping me grow my consulting business, my rates have increased by 400% over the last two years and I'm working with dramatically better clients.
Recently, I launched a Business Coaching for Freelancers offering to help freelancers and consultants grow more profitable, stable, successful businesses. If you're looking for support in growing your business, take a look at the offering and see if it sounds like a match for your business.
Okay — those are the three things that I wish I could have told 2012 Kai Davis. And I hope that, by sharing these lessons with you now, they'll help you grow your business