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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28 Responses

  1. Even as a blogger I can’t afford to spend that much time on social media – commenting on posts with relevant keywords, heck, commenting to try and get a new audience member: those things have to be done. Other people’s work has to be read and given due consideration.

    It sounds like “think big” is a powerful motivator that has really helped you through this first week.

    Best of luck with this route, hope you hit it big soon.

  2. I could probably do social media all day :)

    Thinking big is something I am learning to habituate. I’ll keep you posted, probably post a one month update as well.

  3. Hi Emory,

    You are starting with all the ingredients for a successful business. By parlaying your expertise in SEO, you are hitting the ground running.

    By targeting advertising – a sector that is a cash cow in nearly every business climate – your smallest gains will be larger than what most people have any right to expect when just starting out.

    You remind me of Gurbaksh Chahal, the author of “The Dream”.
    Even there, you have the advantage of experience, whereas as Chahal started from scratch in a less saturated field.

    I wish you the best and look forward to getting to know you better.



  4. Listen to loud music while you work… how can one do that?? I simply cant. Its irritating and I lose focus, but thats just me :)

    Youre full of ideas. Good luck!

  5. Emory, I know you said that being underestimated is a good success driver, so I guess I should underestimate you, but I don’t. Every instinct I have tells me you are going to do very well. I have confidence in you.

    I plan to stop by once in a while to check up on you, so look out. There will be people peeking over your shoulder. Don’t slack! LOL. Good luck. I hope it goes really well for you.

  6. @Mitchell Allen – I’ll check out Gurbaksh Chahal. “The Dream” sounds insteresting. I am hoping to leverage my experience.

    @Cindy – You caught me being idealistic. I want to hear only my most favorite songs at high volume.

    @DazzlinDonna – That means a lot coming from you. Please stop me if you see me going off the cliff :)

  7. Congratulations on your new journey! I love the organizational chart..that looks very familiar. I have that same phone system! :)Best of luck to you, I believe you have the right attitude to be successful.

  8. Hi Emory :)
    Pretty much everyone above came from a new blogger community I saw them saying you should join. As I was reading I thought I was listening to myself but your thoughts are clearer then mine in your writing.For 2 yrs I was locked onto a rant type blog and now don’t even want to post on it :)
    Change is scary but good.
    I totally agree with the contracts and ownership ideas as I almost looked to sell shares of my site when an owner of a big site msg me and saud PULL THAT POST and called me to explain the nightmare of a 10% share owner :)
    Best wishes in your new direction
    I don’t know where you live but I wish there were people like you around :)

  9. Emory,

    Best of luck on your venture. Find your internal voice and forge your own path.

    To protect yourself as a new business owner, be sure to check out this list of government resources.

    I’m not trying to promote my site. The list is too long to list and it includes my honest opinions in there about the services you will get. (such as the quality of SCORE counseling vary from city to city)

  10. @Kim, I would like to include that in the upcoming “My First Month as an Entrepreneur.” Thanks for sharing.

  11. @Melinda – Thanks for the encouraging words!

    @John Sullivan – I signed up at BloggerLuv and looking forward to getting to know you all better. Appreciate the advise and kind comments :)

    @Kim, I would like to include that in an upcoming update about my status as an Entrepreneur. Thanks for sharing.

  12. My dad does that too… I let him listen to a some Andrea Bocelli music and next thing I know he is requesting them from me everyday and he wants me to turn the volume really loud :) I guess theres something in them that really inpires and motivates them spiritually :)

  13. the capcha no sh8t is coo
    I used that as a joke to say coo
    which what I have to say about what you said :)
    BloggerLUV is not a social network it may look like that
    but there are deals going down with each other
    it’s a working bloggers site and I think WE ALL would be
    happy to assist anyway we can with your new venture
    the premise of the site was after a long day of blogging you come by see your friends who work hard also make some deals share questions ideas etc.So it’s some exciting times for everyone :)
    Look forward to learning more about you and your work

  14. Emory,

    Remember you need to obtain a business license from your state or local government (people never realize this). You can research all that you need to do using the business resource tab on my site. It includes local government for each state.

    There will more business tools later as I am still negotiating for API access.

  15. Hey Emory,

    I like the idea of writing these posts to stay motivated. I find it difficult to get things accomplished when no one is “forcing” me to do it.

    Its going to be really cool watching your new ventures take off.

    Everyone who’s still “behind the doors” of “that agency” misses you and is wishing you the best!


    1. Hey George, I am trying to maintain discipline as I know that’s the downfall of lots of lone ventures. Time does seem to go by a lot faster. The interruptions are few, but the distractions seem more numerous and intense. Who’s going to stop me from just loading up a game of Modern Warfare 2 if I don’t feel like working? You know what I mean.

      The “behind the doors” reference applies a great deal to blogging. I feel a lot more free to speak out about things I learned during the agency days, whereas before, I kind of felt restrained. Thanks for the well wishes. I miss you guys as well–all the comaraderie and teamwork and heck, even the meetings :)

  16. I’ve been there too a couple of years ago. For me it felt like hell but I got used to it. i cant stand the music while working either

  17. Re: doing social media all day – that’s happening to me more and more even as I comment on blogs more and more. I have to help promote others, and I have to give others a chance to give something back to me.

    I actually cannot conceive of blogging without social media at this point. Someone asked me about how people were reacting to the Maimonides post, and I had to go to a number of sites to show the reactions. It’s very strange how “fame” – if this can be called that – works online.

    1. Blogging and social media really do seem to be converging. It’s interesting too, to see how individuals can be “famous” within a niche. They are no less loved than a big name celebrity. Keep up the fight and please continue to share how things are going.

  18. i’m too an entrepreneur. I also do seo, i’ve learnt many things about SEO, realize the power of that, i then decide to utilize it for building my business. Instead of building an SEO service, i do other business and use my skill in SEO, so now i’ve many business running well :)

  19. Well said, Thomas. SEO is one skill in the toolbox and one channel in the revenue stream for accomplishing the objective. It’s my favorite, but still just one :)

  20. Hello emory,that’s awesome I love seeing anyone taking control of their future. Personally I’ve been working for myself for almost 20 years now. I have never looked back. I will admit some months I make $0 but the next month I make up for it. Basically it’s a constant push to do better especially when you have to put bread on the table.

    I have no doubt you will be a success it’s always scary but you seem to have a lot of great people believing in you & that in itself is already motivating.

    Oo one last thing I wanted to mention partner with like-minded services. Don’t be afraid of competition. With 1.9 billion users on the World Wide Web, there’s enough to go around.

    1. Hi Gabriella, your 20 years experience is encouraging. Working 100% for myself for almost six months has been fulfilling so far. I appreciate the confidence in me and wise words.

  21. Congrats and best of luck, I’m going into year five and it was the best decision of my life! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures!


  22. Hi Emory, Congratulations! I’ve been on my own for 3 years now and I could not work for another corporation anymore. There was too much RED tape. I like your suggestion to listen to music while you work. Sometimes I take it too seriously, my workdays, and forget to even take a break. It’s best to take the break so you don’t get burn-out.
    Good luck with your venture!

    1. Hi Lisa, music, breaks, ergonomics and comfort – there are so many benefits to being in control! Thanks for the encouraging words. Keep up the great work!

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