What nobody told me about starting an SEO agency

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In 2021, if you’re searching for “businesses to start with little or no startup funds” becoming an SEO consultant is almost always on the list of professions that you should pursue. It sounds easy at first, right?

Simply cold email a few local businesses, utilize your existing network for referrals, and manage a handful of clients who pay you $750-$1500/month to maintain their websites and SEO efforts. Who doesn’t love recurring income every month?

You can also offer your clients “market exclusivity” promising to never work with a competitor in the same city or state for as long as you’re a client.

Sign them up for a 1-year commitment, pay a freelance WordPress developer to redevelop their website, and after a few months, you’ll have a steady roster of happy clients.

If you need to hire a few freelancers or contractors off of Upwork or Fiverr to help with things like content generation, link or citation building, or web development, you can even take some tasks off of your plate.

I’ve been running a solo Maryland SEO agency since 2012, and I can tell you right now that, just like drop shipping and other “get rich quick” virtual ideas which seem to be no-brainers, I can assure you that a lot more issues pop up than you realize.

The recurring costs for running an SEO agency and managing multiple clients, between the internal software (keyword rankings, link building/analysis, web hosting, etc.), costs for directory submissions, costs for web development contractors, costs for content creation, taxes, and everything else begin to add up after a while. 

If you’re considering starting an SEO agency, don’t be surprised if you’re sitting down at the end of every month reviewing your company’s finances wondering where everything went. $12 to renew this domain, $20 for this link, $50 for this article.

It might sound like it’s as easy as needing to break down each expense for each client, but we haven’t even begun to discuss the costs of managing your own marketing efforts.

The Facebook and Adwords ad spends, the cost to maintain your own website, the time it takes to manage multiple clients in addition to managing your own SEO and marketing.

The time it takes to actually run a business and manage multiple moving parts such as freelancers and contractors.

In addition to the costs, one of the additional obstacles is the amount of competition that is out there in the SEO vertical in 2021. 

When I started my agency, I was focused on targeting the legal vertical.

However, every marketing and digital nomad with a laptop has started marketing themselves as “legal web marketing gurus” over the last few years, forcing me to change and adapt my strategy.

Now I’m offering SEO services to a wider variety of B2C businesses, such as SEO for plumbers as well as CPAs, doctors, and other types of businesses.

I still offer niche legal marketing services such as personal injury SEO and family law, bankruptcy, and other types of legal niches.

However with more companies and consultants targeting law firms, I was more likely moving forward to have success targeting law firms in my home region of DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

SEO can be a profitable career, however, don’t be fooled by the stories of 100% profit. The expenses, time, and stress of running a solo SEO agency all start to add up after a while, and it’s no surprise that SEO companies that seemed to be “killing it” one minute are out of business the next.

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