I waited too long. I doubted my abilities too much, and 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 in Nashville.
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 on my life where I have had as much freedom, or as much stress as when I was fully supporting myself solely on 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, payment preferences. I use hellosign/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 get a significant $ dollar amount paid, you need a legitimate invoicing system. Freshbooks or and.co are a must - ACH payment is great because it avoid 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 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 don't don't go out there like I had to w/o a backup amount for your monthly expense
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're OKAY with it? Always be ready with "I can add that to the scope of work, looks like X amount of hours" 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 for going 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 rate 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 vaction) 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, 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
“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
7. UP FRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONTPAYMENT
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
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 same way you would for a client.
How Do You Transition From Agency/In-house SEO to Freelance
In order to launch a successful freelance consultancy you will want a nest-egg built up while you build your base of recurring clients/retainers and a flow of new one-time gigs or white-label sub-contracting for a larger agency.
I’d love to expand this article with your insights if you went full freelance consultant in the SEO space, chime in 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.