I'm a Freelance SEO Consultant Who's Made $500,000 in 2 Years – Business Insider

I'm a Freelance SEO Consultant Who's Made $500,000 in 2 Years – Business Insider

In April 2020, I was the director of SEO at a global marketing agency. As COVID-19 started affecting businesses around the world, people started to lose their jobs. With SEO being a progressive digital-marketing channel, I wasn’t too worried about my job. I should’ve been.
When I received an email scheduling a meeting with my boss and an HR representative, I knew something bad was going to happen. Upon joining the virtual call, I was informed that members of my team had already been let go, and that my position was being eliminated.
I decided my next step would be to freelance. In the remaining eight months of 2020, I made 40% more than I would’ve if I still had my corporate job. In the past two years since I started, I’ve earned almost $500,000 as a specialist in technical SEO, content strategy, and website migrations. (Editor’s note: Insider has verified LeRoy’s income with documentation.)
Here are the critical steps I took to kickstart my freelance consultancy.
Similar to many other freelancers’ stories, my early freelance success came from networking. This wasn’t just through people I had direct relationships with but also through social media. In fact, one of my first projects came through LinkedIn after I announced my transition to full-time consulting. That project ended up being a three-month, $12,000 website migration and relaunch project.
I highly encourage that when you meet new people you connect with them on LinkedIn. As you continue to post more and your connections “like” or comment, your post will become more visible to their network of connections as well.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to online connections. More in-person networking events are starting to happen again, and this is a great opportunity to meet people in your industry. To date, the best projects I’ve landed have come from referrals as a result of my networking efforts.
The primary networking event I like to go to is the MnSearch Summit. It’s a local digital-marketing group in Minneapolis. The SEO space is digital and involved on social media. Twitter and LinkedIn lead to one-off conversations that lead to one-on-one Zoom calls, coffee meetings, or happy-hour meetups.
Similar to networking, creating digital assets is a great way to promote your business. At minimum, this could be a website outlining your credentials and your services. From there you can write blog posts, record podcasts, or even author a newsletter.
I attribute a fair amount of my initial success to the #SEOForLunch newsletter that I’ve been writing for more than five years. The newsletter has allowed me to build an audience that I can reach out to at any moment’s time. I’ve received leads directly from subscribers, and I’ve also gotten referrals from people who get leads but then send them to me as a trusted thought leader within the SEO industry.
I have about 5,400 subscribers, and I created this newsletter for three primary reasons:
Creating a podcast, blog, or newsletter also builds your network. The larger your network, the bigger reach you have, which leads to more work opportunities.
It doesn’t matter how good of a salesperson you are or how big your network is if you can’t deliver on your promise of results to your clients.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see with freelancers I consult with is the inability to measure the results behind their efforts. I highly recommend that every project that you work on starts with a conversation about key performance indicators. KPIs are the metrics in which you (and the client) should be able to judge your performance.
A good KPI is fully quantifiable and easily collected. A few examples of quality KPIs that I often track (and report) to my clients are these:
Each of these KPIs is measurable through an analytics platform and/or a call-tracking solution. I primarily use Google Analytics, and I have experience with Adobe Analytics. If your client doesn’t sell products directly on their website, then it’s important to have a larger discussion about the lead value, and even potentially the lifetime value, of a customer. You can then use these numbers to place a monetary value on leads driven from your efforts.
Ultimately, your job as a freelancer is to provide a solid return on investment. I aim for a three- to four-time return, which means that if a client spends $5,000 with me, my work should provide their business with $15,000 to $20,000 in value.
Having a solid measurement plan in place allows you to always show proof of your value. I don’t recommend that freelancers take on work where they can’t measure and actively demonstrate their value. I think “I can’t measure XYZ” is one of the biggest mistakes that freelancers make — all projects should be measured. The more value you provide, the more opportunities you have for contract extensions, which means more money in your pocket.
My more than 10 years of SEO experience gave me a significant advantage in launching my freelance career, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made plenty of mistakes. I’m constantly learning and challenging myself to get better each day.
Don’t get discouraged or give up when you hit hurdles in your freelance journey. You’ll have good and bad days, but for me, the good days significantly outnumber the bad ones — which makes me only wish I’d started my freelance journey even sooner.
Are you a freelancer who wants to share your story? Email Lauryn Haas at lhaas@insider.com.

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