My First Week as an SEO Entrepreneur

Remember me?

I’m the guy who traded my SEO Manager title for full-time entrepreneurship 10 or so years ago. That first week, I was feeling so high and energetic that I wrote this post. I’ve learned a few things since then, which I’ll share.

SEO Entrepreneur, Week One

The Escape

First, a little backstory. Before waving goodbye to the 9-to-5 job (it was more like 9-to-7), I’d been behind the doors of an agency managing SEO clients and cost-per-action campaigns for four years. Despite all the talented people and great clients, pouring my life into someone else’s bottom line left me lacking the sense of fulfillment that we all desire in our careers.

What kept me going?

During my time off, the entrepreneurial spirit simmered within me. I loved building and optimizing sites so much that I was naturally doing it in my spare time at home. Nearly every single night (that’s right, night) after getting home from my day job, exhausted, I’d set up shop building, testing, strategizing, and hoping to escape from corporate servitude.

Then it happened.

The Journey Begins

In retrospect, all that enthusiasm, all that zest came from a decision to set out on a journey to find the answer to one question, a question that I dreamed about during the years spent behind the desks of various employers as I poured my soul and skill into their bottom line.

The question kept getting louder and would eventually push me to steer my career in a direction that has brought me so much joy and fulfillment.

Could I become a successful entrepreneur?

Then doubts crept in. While thinking through the escape plan, doubts would come and go like ocean waves—not overwhelming, but still.

Can I actually succeed?

Eventually, the burning desire for freedom prevailed. So, I took the leap of faith and launched myself into entrepreneurship. I started my own SEO company and was hooked from day one.

Standing by a 301 Redirect Sign
Ditching the 9-to-5 SEO job was the biggest permanent redirect of my career

Not long after I quit my day job, I bumped into my neighbor. She’d probably heard the loud music and wondered why I’d been hanging out at home during the day. She seemed not to like it. The conversation went something like this:

“So, I hear you’re doing consulting out of your house?”

“Yes, I…” I was not about to explain the business of SEO and affiliate marketing to someone who had already formed their opinion about me. Was it the loud music?

“Unemployed, huh? Times are rough. Gotta run. See ya.”

While I was taking my first steps as an entrepreneur, a lot of my friends assumed I’d be setting up shop and trying to sell SEO services to whomever I could.

Not exactly. I didn’t want to make a living. I wanted to make a killing. That meant not just helping clients SEO their businesses but launching my own sites and using my skills to create all sorts of revenue streams.

So, fast forward ten ish years—

How am I Doing Now?

After leaving the search marketing agency life, it is hard to imagine ever working for anyone again or how I could have sat at that desk and poured my life into someone else’s company for so long.

Owning your own biz is exciting. I can say that I’ve done well enough and have had so much fun and peace of mind that I so don’t miss my day job.

To put it in SEO terms, this was a “permanent redirect.” This is what I want to do. This is me. And this is the way it’s going to be.

Things I’ve Learned Since I Quit My Day Job

So, ten years went by, and I’m still going strong.

Riding the choppy waves of the SEO industry taught me: trends change extremely fast, buzzwords come and go, but some simple truths remain the same.

  • SEO is boring, long-term, expensive, and not guaranteed to work. Ah, the days when you could tweak a few keywords and rank. Now, with cutthroat competition on the rise, you have to approach SEO  strategically. It’s a Marathon, or perhaps a Thermopylae; not a sprint.
  • You reap what you sow. Subpar investments get subpar results. No exceptions. Very few people have pockets deep enough to underpay their employees, contractors, and partners. Having to constantly redo mediocre work and suffer through high turnover is simply not worth the candle.
  • Providing value is the only way to go. No matter how tempting, avoid cutting corners. All the websites that turned to shady SEO techniques to get ahead have one common denominator: they eventually get busted and mercilessly penalized by Google. Deliver value instead.
  • David can still beat Goliath. Yes, big brands get special treatment from search engines. But the little guy can still compete with the big guy, which is one reason I so dearly love SEO and which leads me to what I really want to do as an entrepreneur.
  • Say no to bad deals and enjoy it. Rather, scream “NO!” to anything that’s not a good deal. I dared to do this a bunch of times and later was glad in every single case. Don’t take on a new client unless the benefit is mutual. It’s liberating.
  • Lawyers and accountants are your friends. “Kill all the lawyers,” but leave a few on life support just in case. Nothing works without them nowadays.
  • Listen to loud music while you work. The others won’t matter as much.

Would any entrepreneurial post be complete without the obligatory Sun Tzu quote?

If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.

Having stayed in the game long enough, I can only look back and appreciate the incredible up-and-down roller coaster that’s been my entrepreneurial journey.

And what about you? Did you make the jump to entrepreneur or have you been one for a while? Are you still as full of energy as you were that first week or do you feel you’re burning out? What lessons has SEO taught you?

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