How to Become an SEO Freelancer – Lessons Learned from More than 10 Years in the Industry

Already in April 2020 when COVID-19 When I started taking jobs, I received a message that my job would be eliminated in 30 days.

After looking for a new job and attending six rounds of interviews, I finally realized: full-time SEO Freelance work was a real option for me.

The reason I say "full time" is because I've been freelancing part time since 2010. The chart below shows that this added to my income, but it wasn't until I started freelancing full-time that my income skyrocketed. I don't want to show the exact numbers, but the amount is in five numbers per month Range. During my eight month full time freelance job, I did 150% more than my old annual salary.

Whether you want to go out alone all day or want some extra experience (and cash), this article is for you.

Why Freelance?

I started freelancing in 2010 to supplement my income from my regular 9 to 5 years, but there are many other reasons you might want to go out alone. Here are the most obvious:

  • More freedom
  • Increased income
  • Better work-life balance
  • Experience in industries and / or platforms in which you may not have worked before

I've personally experienced all of these benefits, but the improved work-life balance is perhaps the most important positive outcome for me. You will notice below that my total hours have actually decreased since moving to a full-time freelance worker. This is because all of my freelance hours are billable and are not wasted in consecutive meetings as in my old "9-5".

Aside from the obvious reasons mentioned above, there are a few other reasons to get freelance that are rarely talked about.

  1. Low barrier to entry
  2. No more 9–5
  3. Infinite career growth
  4. Complete control

1. Low barrier to entry

Unlike many other entrepreneurial adventures, he is a freelancer SEO doesn't have to be insanely expensive. Welding capital goes a long way in that SEO Industry. In fact, the following list makes up 90% of the tools I use in my freelance services.

  • Keyword research & Link analysis tool – $ 99 per month (check out Ahrefs 7-day trial.)
  • Web crawler / diagnostic tool – I'm using ScreamingFrog ($ 193 / year). However, you can use Ahrefs' Site Audit to save those costs.
  • Accounting software for tracking income, expenses, invoicing, etc. – I use QuickBooks for $ 50 / m.
  • Quotation software – I use Prospero for $ 8 / m.
  • Time recording software – I use Harvest for $ 12 / m.
  • Google Analytics & Google Search Console – Free

For less than $ 200 a month, you can get yourself set up with the tools it takes to destroy search results. The best part is that you don't have to invest that money until you have already made income.

2. No more 9–5

When I was a full-time freelancer, I struggled with the idea of ​​not working between 9 and 5. Even though I got my job done, it felt like I was doing something wrong by not sitting at my desk. This is a habit that has instilled in me over 10 years of working for someone else.

With your job done and available to your customers during business hours, it doesn't matter whether you are at your desk or playing golf at any time of the day.

3. Infinite career growth

I will never forget the conversations I have had with various executives about promotions and promotions. It always seemed like you had to do more, generate more income and train more young people. Only then (if they agreed) would you be rewarded with a promotion and / or raise. Do not rely on other people to advance your career and / or income. If you are a full-time freelancer, you can own 100% of your growth and income.

4. Complete the inspection

How many times have you worked on a project that you disagreed with? Have you ever sacrificed your ethics because your boss / company told you to? You get all of this freelancing full-time again. Don't get me wrong, full-time freelancing isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but you're in control. You decide who you work with, what amount of money and how much effort you put into it. This was a critical need for me after having worked for others for too many years.

How do I become one SEO freelancer

SEO Freelancing is easy at first glance. You learn SEO, Find customers and bill them for your services. But as with all things in life, execution matters – and it's not always easy. Below, I'm going to share eight lessons from over 10 years in the industry to get your freelance business on the right foot.

  1. Build your network
  2. Get your books in order
  3. Be confident in your pricing
  4. Effective communication is key
  5. Build your own website
  6. Build assets to support your pipeline
  7. Can be found online
  8. Know your role

Lesson 1. Build your network

When I was a full-time freelancer, the first thing I did was create a table with all of my contacts in the industry. I then identified ten people from that list who I might be able to ask a favor or use my services directly. I sent ten emails explaining my newly shaped business. This resulted in a lot of phone calls and extra email strings. Some of these people had work for me, some didn't, but each had advice that was both encouraging and terrifying, but equally valuable.

Today, a lot of my work continues to come from client referrals and people in my network. You will be surprised how many agencies need help with their overflow work. While I'm not suggesting that you just go to an available networking event, I highly recommend that you get to know the people in your industry and build relationships. Not only could this drive business in the future, but you never know when you might be able to ask them for help yourself.

Recommended literature: 11 Slack Communities for SEOs and Digital Marketers

Lesson 2. Get your books in order

As a young freelancer, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to afford an accountant. I began to worry about tracking my expenses and withholding the appropriate amount of tax. I finally reached out to an accountant that someone referred to me. The first thing he made me do was reclassify as an S-Corp. The tax savings from this easily paid off for his services. If you are considering full-time freelance work (or even part-time work), you should get yourself a good accountant.

Lesson 3. Be confident in your pricing

In the beginning, I accepted half of my standard tariff. It cost me money as I had to turn down full price work as I got busier. While your rates naturally go up (if it's a project you're not particularly excited about) or down (if it's something you're genuinely excited about), I strongly recommend that you not work with a Accept rate you would like. I will regret it in the future.

Not sure what your rate should be? In 2018, Ahrefs surveyed the SEO Industry and found that $ 100 to $ 150 is the most common hourly rate. If you are considering saving your services on a per-project or monthly basis, read the complete information SEO Price study below.

Recommended literature: SEO Pricing: How Much Does It Cost? (Industrial research)

Lesson 4. Effective communication is key

I like to see my “people skills” as one of my strengths. I screwed it up the first time I went out full time and it cost myself a dollar10K Project. I had a client read my article on the importance of web migrations and seek advice. He made a verbal commitment to work with me on his upcoming project. He fully understood that I wasn't the cheapest option, but that he wanted it to be done right. He also mentioned speaking to an overseas company SEO Company for ongoing advice. I bluntly shared some of my concerns with his approach and the budget he was planning to invest on a monthly basis. I insulted him. Guess what? He never called me back when it came to migrating his website. While I don't regret being transparent, I could have taken a different approach and still landed the project. Lesson learned.

Recommended literature: Effective communication as underrated SEO Skills

Lesson 5. Create your own website today

I highly recommend creating a website for your brand. As Tom Hirst tweeted, your personal website is your resume for 2020+. If you don't have a website, how can people find out more about you, see the types of services you offer, or even examples of the success you've had?

Your personal website is your resume for 2020.

– Tom Hirst (@tom_hirst) September 1, 2020

Get creative with your website. While you should always work to do better, don't let it stop you from taking action. Get something live today.

Recommended literature: Testing your website for SEO and UX

Lesson 6. Create assets to support your pipeline

In 2016 I started writing the weekly newspaper SEO Newsletter #SEOForLunch. It was always my intention to give something back to the community that had given me so much. But deep down, I also knew it was my insurance policy. I was not fulfilled by my previous agency appearances and longed for the opportunity to go out alone. I knew that if I made an email list that I could use one day when I decided to freelance full time – and that's exactly what I did this year. Some of my best projects come from valued readers who have been subscribers for years.

Recommended literature: 7 digital marketing strategies that actually work

Lesson # 7. Can be found online

You don't need a high domain rating (DR) Website or newsletter with thousands of subscribers to get work as SEO Freelancer. However, they need to be found online. Their service offering is to find your customers online, and when THEY cant find THEY Online it could be an uphill battle closing deals.

You might be asking, "Where / how do I start?" My answer to that question is to post it on other websites. Much like Ahrefs gives me the opportunity to write this post, you can reach dozens of people SEO/ digital websites to contribute your knowledge.

This is not the time to be spam. You want to offer real added value and link your knowledge with your name. Do you remember the site migration lead I lost and talked about? That came from a post that was published on Search Engine Land with a large audience. I just emailed the editorial team with the idea I wanted to write about. After some drafts, I was published. Don't overthink it. Make it easy for others to help you by providing amazing content for them. It's really a win-win for everyone involved.

Recommended literature: Guest blogging for SEO

Lesson # 8. Know your role

Unlike your 9-5 job, full-time freelance work requires you to wear multiple hats: project managers, hangmen, and entrepreneurs. You are already used to the role of "Executor" from 9 to 5, but are you also ready to be a project manager and entrepreneur? Granted, being a freelancer for ten years gave me a huge head start. I was already aware of the need to be the salesman, the accountant and the one PM. Granted, I'm not the most organized person, and this is where I double up. If you want to be successful as a part-time or full-time freelancer, you need to know what's on your plate, set deadlines, and meet those due dates. No exceptions.

Final thoughts

Whether you're looking to add experience to your portfolio or put extra dollars in your pocket, I recommend freelancing for everyone. As long as you provide good service, communicate effectively, and meet your deadlines, I am confident that you will have great success.

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