If you’ve followed my advice from last month and started your SEO consultancy, congratulations. That’s a big step for anyone to take. Chances are you’re spending most of your time chasing down new clients. That’s a good thing. It’s where your time is best spent.
(In other words: What are you doing reading this? Get back to work…after you finish reading, of course).
This actually leads us to an enormous, and enormously overlooked, problem with new SEO consultancies. Since the founders are SEOs, they like to get into the nitty gritty once they get some clients. Their attention moves from client acquisition to client management. ‘
At first you might feel as though you have to immerse yourself in working on client projects. They hired you, so you want to impress them. Yet I’ll bet you it’s the #1 reason that consultancies go bankrupt. Think about it this way:
If you’re performing client work, who’s finding new clients?
As the founder and owner, your primary job is to find new business. Without clients, you won’t pay the bills. So while you’re busy doing an SEO audit, you’re also too busy to bring in new business. And without a steady flow of new business, your consultancy is going nowhere fast.
The only solution is to hire a team.
This isn’t to say that you’ll do none of the work. You’re the consultant that the client hired, so you’ll have to do some of it. Maybe a lot of it. But you simply cannot perform all of the work, end-to-end. It’s nearly impossible to find any balance that way.
With a team in place, you can balance your workload. Team members can take on the more tedious aspects of the client work, while you focus on the bigger picture.
How to find team members
When you’re just starting out, finding a team can be a stressful activity. With few, if any, clients on your roster, you’ll have a hard time paying a team. You’ll have to keep them busy, too. So how do you grow your team without moving into the poor house?
My advice is to hire a virtual assistant. No, I’m not talking about someone off oDesk or Elance. That kind of assistant might work for low-level work on temporary projects. But you want to grow a consultancy. That means having employees who can do more. Virtual assistants can provide you with that start.
You’ll have to seek out a business-grade virtual assistant, which will cost a premium. But again, you’re looking for a professional partner who can help you grow. A business-grade virtual assistant might cost more than someone off oDesk, but where will that oDesk freelancer be in two months?
The advantage of virtual assistants is that you pay for the hours you need. Yes, you’ll have to pay a baseline price per month, but after that you can buy packages of hours. So if you only have 20 hours worth of work per month, you don’t have to pay someone for 40 hours a week. You can pay just for those 20 hours.
What tasks you’ll do
Just because you have a staff, even if it’s virtual, doesn’t mean you can step aside and let them do all the work. You have to be involved — the client hired you after all.
(Read up a bit on consulting skills here.)
Let’s go over some aspects specific to SEO consultants.
Overall analysis. Before you can hand work off to your staff, you need to get a sense of the client’s website. What are its strengths? What sites are its greatest competitors? What keywords does it rank for? What are some related terms where competitors rank? These are all questions you don’t want a staff member answering.
Strategy and direction. Once you analyze the site, you’ll have to decide how to proceed. What principles can you apply to make the client’s site stronger? Again, you don’t want to leave these decisions to a low-level staffer. They are yours to make, since they will ultimately determine the success or failure of the campaign.
Review and verify. Your staff will do the nitty gritty work, but you’ll have to get in there and make usre that the work was done right — and that the work was done, period. That is, you can’t just send the client the report without a thorough review.
It’s about letting go
Growing is about letting go — letting go of the day-to-day tasks that are necessary to peform work, but which don’t add the most value to a business. You can’t run an SEO consultancy without crawling the site and understanding how it’s indexed. Yet that is probably best left to a subordinate. Crawling a site won’t make you more money. It will merely help you not lose business.
SEOs who start consultancies surely want to do the technical stuff, too. We’ve done it for years and probably — shockingly — find it fun. But if we want our businesses to grow, we have to let go of those day-to-day tasks and look at the big picture. What’s going to move the business forward?
In order to grow, we have to let go of those things we once loved and pay someone else to do them. Otherwise, why leave a job doing SEO to pursue your own consultancy? It makes little sense when you think about it that way.