How to Start an SEO Business in 6 Steps

I've been working full-time for Ahrefs for over three years. But before that I ran one SEO Companies.

My business wasn't huge. At the top, I turned around between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 per month. So if you are expecting to learn from the founder of a Fortune 500 company, let yourself be disappointed.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a handy guide to starting a lifestyle SEO This is the guide for you.

Here are the steps:

  1. Learn SEO
  2. Build your own website
  3. Go T-shaped
  4. Get customers
  5. Nail your logistics
  6. Scale your business

It's amazing how many people are trying to get started SEO Company with little to no SEO Knowledge. Do not do that. You have to make an effort to learn how to do it SEO long before you offer services to your customers.

I can't emphasize how important that is.

If you don't know what you are doing, you can be causing more harm than good. I'm sure you've seen the horror stories of websites ending up on Google's millionth page after being fined. You don't want this to happen to your customers. Their locations are their livelihood; You shouldn't take this fact lightly.

Now we've got that out of the way. How do you study SEO?

Let's start with the obvious place: the Ahrefs blog and YouTube channel. We have published hundreds of SEO Tutorials over the years, many of which are perfect for beginners. I'm clearly biased, but I don't think there is a better place to start learning SEO these days.

If you're not sure where to start, check out our beginner's guide SEO or SEO Video course for beginners.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btwC4zmewss&list = PLvJ_dXFSpd2vk6rQ4Rta5MhDIRmakFbp6

If you'd rather start elsewhere, visit Aleyda Solis's website: learningseo.io.

You wouldn't start an accounting practice after reading a few books on taxes. So you shouldn't start any SEO Read business after a few SEO Leader. Knowing the theory is not enough. You need practical experience before you can provide services to companies.

How do you get experience? Create your own website and use it as a testing ground for yours SEO Competencies.

I did this.

In 2012 I started a fitness blog. It wasn't anything special, but after just ten months the number of organic visitors per month rose to over 50,000.

Getting some nice affiliate commissions from Amazon was even better.

Now I should probably mention that starting a website isn't the only way to get hands-on experience. Another option is to find a reputable agency and learn on the job. If you're reading this guide, you are likely to be more entrepreneurial and not want to work for someone else. In this case, starting a website is the only option.

If you're not sure where to start, check out our guide to keyword research or watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMJQPqG2Uas

While practicing and honing yours SEO Using your skills on your own website will give you an idea of ​​what you like best.

It's different for everyone. For me it was link building and content creation. I found that I didn't really like the technical side of things like keyword research and on-page SEO were just things that I had to do. There is no way I loved her.

But why is that important for starting one SEO Companies?

Easy. because SEO Agencies that offer "all-in-one" SEO Business services are ten cents. While I don't want to prevent anyone from starting a business like this, I had more success when I specialized in one area and offered services.

Once you know what you enjoy, it's time to expand your knowledge in the field. If you do, you will soon become what Rand Fishkin calls a T-shaped marketer. You can then start creating a niche for your services.

After you've learned the basics and improved your skills in an area, you should be ready to provide services to clients. But how do you find these people?

Here are just a few ideas:

Freelance websites

Freelance websites get a bad rap and it's easy to see why. Search UpWork for a minute and you will see that most people have pretty unrealistic expectations.

I am talking about the following:

However, if you're willing to spend a little time separating the wheat from the chaff, you can find some great clients on freelance websites.

How should i know I found my first one SEO Client on People Per Hour.

This wasn't a one-time $ 50 job either. I ended up working with this client for a few years. And while I never put them on a holder (yes, pat my wrists), at one point they sent out around $ 25,000 / year worth of work.

Cold calls or emails

I could never bring myself to cold calling. I did it many years ago when I was trying to start a business without SEO and found it soul-destructive. I'm extremely introverted so it's pretty much my worst nightmare.

That said, cold calling / email still deserves a mention because it works.

How should i know Because it's just a numbers game.

Think of it this way:

  • You send 1,000 cold emails
  • 50 recipients agree to a call
  • Convert 5 calls

Given most of the SEO Pros charge $ 500 to $ 1,000 per month, five conversions are worth between $ 2,500 to $ 5,000 per month. Assuming customers stay for an average of 6 months, those five conversions are worth $ 15,000 to $ 30,000.

This probably doesn't sound like a life changing crowd, but it's a numbers game again. When you know that every 1,000 emails will generate $ 15,000 to $ 30,000 in revenue, all you have to do is scale:

  • 2,000 emails = $ 30,000 to $ 60,000
  • 5,000 emails = $ 75,000 to $ 150,000
  • 10,000 emails = $ 150,000 to $ 300,000

… you have the idea.

Side note.

These numbers are all hypothetical. Many factors affect conversion rates, including the quality of your first prospects.

If you're interested in this route, check out this post where Daryl Rosser explains how to sell SEO Services by email, step by step.

Inbound marketing

Being an introvert, inbound marketing was the main way I wanted to get customers. So in 2016 I started a website called The SEO Project to put me on the map.

Despite the tired design (I've been neglecting it for over 4 years), you can tell that this is not your typical website offering SEO Services. In fact, no pitch services are offered at all. That's because I chose a different approach.

Here's what I got to the point:

  • Creates link building content (the service I wanted to offer)
  • Complete list offered as PDF in return for the e-mail addresses of the visitors
  • I have tried to make my content known
  • Planned to "sell" my services via the email list

(Fun fact: my dedication to this piece resulted in my first interaction with Ahrefs. CMO, Tim Soulo, who asked if I would like to write for the Ahrefs blog. I said yes, and the rest is history.)

Now I never did this last part (I'll explain why later). But I did the first three parts and managed to create a list of over 1,000 subscribers in just a few days.

However, this isn't the only way to attract customers with inbound marketing.

Here are a few more options:

  • Optimize your website so that it ranks high in Google for lucrative terms (e.g. "SEO Consultant London").
  • Attract prospects through a YouTube channel
  • Run PPC Ads on Google
  • Write guest posts

Let's talk a little more about this last one.

Guest Post

Guest posting is another tactic I've used to successfully attract customers, as you can see from this email:

In this case, the customer found me through a guest post on the Ahrefs blog. I worked with him for a few months and made $ 5,375 in sales.

If you're planning on trying this tactic, my best advice is: Only guest post for industry-specific websites that are getting traffic. Remember, we don't use guest posting as a link building tactic. We use it as a marketing tactic.

The easiest way to find such websites is with Ahrefs' Content Explorer, a searchable database of content from over seven billion websites.

Here's how to use it to find guest posting opportunities:

  1. Open the Content Explorer
  2. Look for something related to SEO
  3. Select "In Title" from the drop-down list
  4. Search hits
  5. Check the Websites tab

Review each of the sites in the results and see if it makes sense to do a guest post.

Receive recommendations

Do a great job for the customers you attract using the methods above and they will no doubt refer you to others. This is the ideal scenario as it creates an infinite growth loop – as long as you consistently supply and impress your customers.

When setting one up, focus is of the essence SEO Hence, minimizing unnecessary distractions is key. You want to spend as much time as possible getting customers and providing services because that's what pays the bills.

Here are my recommendations:

Get an accountant

This seems like an obvious point, and I know this is not just the case with us SEO Company, but I urge you to find an accountant early on.

If you don't, you will spend countless hours filing tax returns every year – at least if you are in the United Kingdom/.US/Canada. This is not good for two reasons:

  1. It's extremely stressful.
  2. It is wasting time that you can spend working on your business.

I speak here from experience. I haven't gotten an accountant for far too long to save a few hundred dollars a year.

Believe me when I say it's not worth it.

Use billing software

Settling and tracking payments is another thing you don't want to waste your time on. There are numerous apps to help you with this.

Here are my recommendations based on personal experience:

If you are looking for a free app, try Invoice Ninja. You can send as many invoices as you want and set recurring invoices to automate invoicing SEO Customers on retainers, and it integrates with most payment gateways. I used this for years in the early days of my business.

If you're looking for a paid appTry Xero. This is an accounting app, but it also does the invoicing. It also integrates with most business accounts and payment gateways. Xero has been my favorite app for a number of years.

Get a multi-currency account

Nothing is more frustrating than having a customer ready to pay, but not an easy way to get money in their home currency. This is usually not a problem if you are working locally SEO and working with clients in one country, but it quickly becomes a problem when working with clients SEO International customers.

There are two possible solutions to this problem:

  1. Get a multi-currency account with your bank
  2. Use a service like Wise (formerly Transferwise)

For Wise, I can certainly vouch for a simple life. I've been using them for a number of years and their fees are incredibly reasonable compared to most banks. They also make it easy for you to send and receive payments in 50+ currencies.

Construction of a SEO The business takes a lot of time and effort. I'm making it easy in this blog post, but there will be a lot of unknowns along the way. You're unlikely to build a million dollar agency overnight.

For this reason, I advise you to only consider “scaling” or hiring employees when your sales are in the mid five-digit range per year.

That's not to say that in the early days of your business, you should shy away from hiring freelancers or virtual assistants (VAs). It is advisable to delegate tasks when things are gaining momentum and you feel overwhelmed. However, in my opinion, it is not advisable to hire full-time employees until your cash flow is stable and you are sure that you can actually afford to keep them.

If you are not at this stage yet, keep grinding. I know from experience that it probably won't be as fast as you'd like.

If you are at this stageYou have two options:

  1. Keep things as they are
  2. Hire and scale your business

Given the constant "hectic" mentality in the industry, I think it is important to remember that the first option is indeed there. Not everyone wants to scale their business to six or seven numbers a year. When you are happy with your sales and workload SEO Freelancer, there's no shame in keeping things this way.

It is precisely for this reason that I have never "sold" to the aforementioned email list. It took me a while to realize that, but I never really wanted to start one SEO Agency. I was very happy to work for a couple of clients and to have a comfortable life.

Suppose you want to scale your business. How you do that?

In theory it's simple:

  1. Produce your services
  2. Hire people

As you productize your services, standardize your offering and create a repeatable, step-by-step process for making it available to customers. This is beneficial because it makes it easier to provide services and it makes it easier to hire employees.

Speaking of staff, that's the second part of the equation.

It's impossible to scale your business without bringing other people on board because you only have so many hours a day.

Recommended literature: Outsource SEO (Simple framework)

Final thoughts

Most of the advice above is based on my experience. It's worth noting that there are many ways to build a successful build SEO Companies. I did it that way.

Let me know on twitter if you have any questions.

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