11 Steps to Becoming a Profitable, Self-Employed SEO



By Jeff Carey

In my opinion, few events are more exciting than putting a client on page one of the search results. A year ago, when I was just getting started and knew next to nothing about search engines, I discovered how to create basic PPC campaigns that amazed my customers, and paid my rent. Equipped with a new marketing tool, one campaign quickly turned into ten. A few months later I was managing nearly 50 campaigns and I made the decision to put aside my web design business and focus entirely on search. These are the eleven steps I took to become a profitable, self-employed SEO.

1. An office and a suit. While it was convenient and affordable to work out of my home, it also felt less than professional. My first step was to look and dress the part of a successful marketer, so I leased a small office in a professional building, and I purchased a nice suit for my client meetings.

2. Faked it ‘til I made it. When I started learning about PPC and SEO, I soon realized that the rules were constantly changing. Rather than wait until I knew it all, I began attending networking events and introducing myself as a search engine marketing consultant. Each sale presented a new challenge that forced me to find a way to be successful.

3. Free Site Reviews. When business was slow, I spent my time looking for websites that should have, but didn’t rank well for local search terms. Then I sent brief emails to site owners to explain my findings and asked them for a meeting. This turned into several new projects.

4. Local media coverage. Aside from PPC, I never spent money on newspaper or radio advertising. Instead, I hired someone with a PR background to pitch my search marketing story to our main business publication. When the article hit – it created a lot of buzz and credibility…and it made my phone ring.

5. Working on my own website. In addition to running several PPC campaigns for my own business, I also spent time optimizing my site. My success in outranking my competition marked the real shift from focusing entirely on pay-per-click to the wonderful world of SEO.

6. Always be learning. I purchased every SEO book I could find and began reading several blogs and online articles. Rand, Aaron, Danny, Andy, Joe and so many others – thank you so much for sharing. Someday I hope to buy you each a drink and thank you in person.

7. Say goodbye to driving music. For less than $100, I purchased an Ipod Shuffle and a car adapter. To this day, my best kept secret is listening to search marketing podcasts nearly every minute I’m driving. I do miss the 80’s music though.

8. Think Big. I discovered that my fees were too low when a potential client asked me if the rate I had quoted him was my monthly charge. I told him with great pleasure that it was actually a one-time fee, and it cost me the sale. I highly recommend that you include a big ticket item in your proposals, and don’t be surprised when they buy it.

9. Target a niche. From an SEO standpoint, targeting a niche helps you become an expert and speak your clients’ language. I learned this from several books by Al Ries and Laura Ries. With their help, I have continued to narrow my focus and position my company.

10. Create Partnerships. Of all the web design firms in my area, only a handful claim to offer search marketing services, and even fewer really know what they are doing. By meeting with these firms and passing them some web design leads, I now get a nice stream of SEM referrals from them on a regular basis.

11. Attend Conferences. This is the next step for me, along with hiring someone who shares my passion for improving rankings. I registered for my first Pubcon convention today and can’t wait to meet the people who have helped me get to this point. If search is your thing, I hope to see you there!

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]

  • http://www.wsiwebshop.com Brendan McNally

    Great work Jeff, so good to see someone layout a plan on how to succeed in this business. If I can be so bold “Radar”, in the continuos learning process I’ve often found myself spending valuable time on half baked tips & tricks (white hat of course). Now once I’m sure all the basics are in place it’s just content optimisation. Cheers, Brendan

  • Mariela Vazquez

    Way to go Jeff!! Great article. COngratulations on your success and for sharing your secrets.

  • Dandel

    Hi Jeff, Thank you so much for sharing your secrets with us ! All my best for continuing on this freeway of success – Gilles