I waited too long. I doubted my abilities, wasted a lot of time waiting to start doing freelance SEO work, and made some big mistakes when I finally launched my full-time SEO consulting service (now based in Cookeville)

Don’t be like me. Don’t wait too long.

But also don’t jump in too early and get overwhelmed!

There has never been a time in my life when I have had as much freedom or as much stress as when I was fully supporting myself solely through my freelance SEO consulting services. Here’s what I learned that could save you some heartache.

1. Save Time With Templates For Important Documents: E.g. Scope of SEO Work

Have a pro forma of a scope of work template saved in Google drive – it should have definitions of what you intend to do, your rate, NDA type verbiage, and payment preferences. I use hello sign/DocuSign once they agree, and then send them a Freshbooks or Paypal invoice.

2. Invoicing Software Is A Must for freelance SEOs

Online it’s easy to make small amounts of money fast. But if you’re looking to really start freelancing seriously and get a significant $ dollar amount paid, you need a legitimate invoicing system. It gives your business more legitimacy and generally improves your success rate in actually getting paid in a timely manner.

Many companies have a finance team, and a lot of the delay is in the bureaucratic details they have set up to “streamline” their process, which is rarely convenient for you as a freelance service vendor. Freshbooks or and. co is a must-ACH payment is great because it avoids the CC processing fee, which sucks after you start submitting 1k+ invoices. The downside to using either of these options is that you have to wait an additional 2-3 days for your payments to process through either Wepay or Stripe.

3. MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST commit to having 3 months of buffer savings BEFORE you launch!

You need to have a significant amount of savings set aside both for yourself and your business. You WILL lose a client. You WILL get net 15 or even net 30 terms and get messed around with their finance team in paying the damn invoice, so don’t go out there like I had to w/o a backup amount for your monthly expenses.

Please keep in mind that I will be integrating additional tweets as you read to keep you entertained.

4. Know how to say “No”

When you get pressure to expand the scope of the engagement that would make you do stuff you’re not good at e.g. asking you to run social media once you’re done with keyword research. If they want to expand the scope and you OKAY with it? Always be ready with “I can add that to the scope of work, looks like X amount of hours” and don’t do extra work for free.

5. Work angles to get retainers and recurring payment relationships established.

It’s hard to go from WIN to WIN even if they’re large wins because then you have to go back to your networking/promotion process to get new customers.

Once you have a retainer, DO NOT GET COMPLACENT! Communicate more than you think you should, to keep the energy up to go further and farther. It CAN become enticing to just “hit your marks”, but long-term you risk stagnation if you just “stick to your SEO stuff”. Learning other aspects of their business model can unlock ways to expand your retainer or scope. You may uncover new products or services the client can offer or insights on conversion rates that improve overall income.

6. Pay Attention To Taxes

I got lucky the first year, as my client with my largest retainers just offered me a w2. But then I got ROFL stomped the next year when I landed a 5k-a-month gig that lasted 5 months. It SEEMED like manna from heaven, but damn if our lifestyle didn’t SUDDENLY cost a bajillion times more (moving expenses, doctor visit, a sudden unplanned vacation) and we did NOT set aside enough out the gate for taxes and ended up owing at the end of the year.

Went to a tax guy, and they put in all my business expenses and got it cut in half on our Schedule C. I’d recommend setting aside the $500 to have a tax person do your taxes for the first year, then if you’re comfortable, duplicate their return the next year with the free tax form submitter system. There are good resources out there like this one about managing taxes as a 1099 freelancer, so don’t wait for tax time to roll around and panic!

“I feel a lot of freelancers end up losing a lot of money by not keeping track of their expenses or operating as a sole proprietorship/corporation and converting their expenses as write offs.”

Akash Kalra – Izart Content Services


Get paid up-front. Whenever possible, Always ask. Even if you’re doing retainer work, you should ask to get paid upfront for the next month’s work.

8. The Cobbler’s Kids Must Have Shoes

You can not afford to ignore your own SEO efforts. Do your keyword research. Do your link building. Do your on-page SEO.

The BEST lead you could ask for is someone who has already SOLD THEMSELF on you and your expertise! Show them you know what you’re doing by maintaining and building your site the way you would for a client.

9. Know What Kind Of Additional Online Services Your Clients Might Need

Listen, if you’re an SEO consultant, then you’re going to be in a position where your clients need things. They might need hosting. They might need a domain. They might need a plug-in to do their coaching and help their CWS scores. They might need Azure DevOps backups or a recommendation for a backup solution for their hosting.

You should have a pre-created list of services, referrals, and SAAS you trust and recommend. Even better if you let the client know, “Hey, here’s an affiliate link for this, and a non-affiliate version.” Here’s a suggested guy who does PPC who I have a referral partnership with and one I don’t have that with.” It builds trust and generally, they will help you out and choose the affiliate because…why not!

How Do You Transition From Agency/In-house SEO to Freelance

In order to launch a successful freelance consultancy, you will want to have a nest egg built up while you build your base of recurring clients and retainers and a flow of new one-time gigs or white-label sub-contracting for a more prominent agency. Remember you don’t NEED an office right out the gate, because it’s just YOU, so coworking locally is 100% an option!

Coworking is a great option for freelancers and new business owners. It allows you to get out of your house, have a dedicated work space, network and collaborate and have a legit business address so you can create a Google My Business listing.”

Jess Lewis, Marketing Director at The Biz Foundry in Cookeville TN

I’d love to expand this article with your insights if you went a full freelance consultant in the SEO space. Chime in comments or DM on Twitter to get your insight featured and credited with an appropriate link attribution or check out this post if you’re building a whole SEO team for an in-house SEO project.

Launching your SEO freelance business requires careful planning and preparation. By following these 9 quick tips, you can avoid common mistakes and set yourself up for success. Remember, don’t wait too long to start, but also don’t jump in too early and get overwhelmed. Save time by using templates for important documents and invest in a reliable invoicing system to ensure timely payments.

Prioritize building buffer savings before you launch, as it will provide a safety net during challenging times. Learn to say ‘no’ when the scope of work expands beyond your expertise, and focus on establishing retainer and recurring payment relationships.

Pay attention to taxes from the beginning and consider seeking professional advice. Ask for upfront payment whenever possible and don’t neglect your own SEO efforts. Finally, be prepared to offer additional online services that your clients may need, building trust and potentially benefiting from referral partnerships. Launching your freelance consultancy is an exciting journey, and with the right strategies in place, you can thrive in the SEO industry.

If you have experience as a freelance consultant in the SEO space, we’d love to hear your insights. Share your thoughts in the comments or DM us on Twitter to be featured and credited in future articles. And if you’re interested in building a whole SEO team for an in-house SEO project, be sure to check out our related post for valuable information.

Don’t wait any longer—start your SEO freelance business today and embrace the opportunities that await you. Remember, success comes to those who take action and persist in their endeavors. Best of luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

Categories: SEO

Jeremy Rivera

Jeremy Rivera started in SEO in 2007, working at Advanced Access a hosting company for Realtors. He came up from the support department, where people kept asking "How do I rank in Google" and found in the process of answering that question an entire career. He became SEO product manager of Homes.com, went "in-house" at Raven Tools in Nashville in 2013. He then worked at several agencies like Caddis, 2 The Top Design as an SEO manager and then launched a 5 year freelance SEO career. During that time he consulted for large enterprise sites like Smile Direct Club, Dr. Axe, HCA, Logan's Roadhouse and Captain D's while also helping literally hundreds of small business owners get found in search results. He has authored blog posts at Authority Labs, Raven Tools, Wix, Search Engine Land. He has been a speaker at many SEO conferences like Craft Content and been interviewed in numerous SEO focused podcasts.