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 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 in my life where 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’re 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

7. UPFRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONT PAYMENT, UPFRONT PAYMENT

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.

I’d love to expand this article with your insights if you went 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.