SEO fatigue. Leaving agency life to go solo?
I have been working in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for around 6 years, a senior manger now for 3-4 years.
I have always worked agency side and have never worked client-side, nor have I ever freelanced (except for doing favours for friends etc).
I am sure many other SEO users out there have gone through this, but I am currently experiencing what I would describe as 'SEO fatigue' and a real lack of motivation.
Although I work with big brands, and am earning a good salary, i feel unfulfilled and craving a change.
Sometimes I think about a career change, but then feel like it would such a waste of everything I have learned… I also have a mortgage to pay.
Has anyone gone through something similar?
I am curious to know if anyone has gone from my position and went solo (freelancing) and how did it go for them?
Perhaps it is the professional shift I need to get the fire going again.
If anyone has any wisdom or advice on this, I am all ears, and would be very grateful.
Not the exact response I think you are chasing, however from the agency side of things we see a lot of guys who start solo or go solo, struggle with the sales/client end of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and come back to agencies.
Yeh that makes a lot of sense. I work a lot on the new business, agency growth side of things, so I am hoping that would work in my favour!
This is not exclusive to your career.
Keep your job while working on a passion project. If you really want to do SEO as a freelancer, what is stopping you from getting clients when you're not working in house?
Sales is a different type of beast.
Sales is a different type of beast. <— Well said.
I agree with CinemaMike. You shouldn't go solo if you don't have a client base. It might take months before your first client.
How about you talk to your agency Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and try telling him you'd like to build your own business? Maybe he'll be happy to work with your new agency as partners.
Same boat man. Bounced around until I had enough experience to take on a senior leadership role and it's an endless grind. I do think I'll likely start picking up freelance work within the next year, and if I can get to a point where I'm making more money doing that than I'm making in agency management… consider going into business on my own. But there are a lot of risks involved there that I'm not sure I'm willing to take; at least not yet. Big ole TBD.
Literally. This is it. How long have you been in the game out of curiosity?
10 years all told, so, not even that long in the grand scheme, but long enough nonetheless. Honestly have had thoughts of going solo for most of the last 5.
Same here. In-house SEO for 7 years now and I feel bored/burned-out but cannot come up with the motivation to dive into another field. I'm sorry that I have no answer. Still, it makes me feel a bit better that I'm not alone with these feelings.
You don't have to be a freelancer in order to run your own business. You can also implement SEO on projects of your own (affiliate blog, e-commerce, etc.).
If you actually know SEO then this is the safest option.
It's also a great way to practice :)
I work solo as a freelancer and I love it! I get to play different roles for each client, choose which direction or niche I want to go into, train myself in what I find is useful, and all without reporting to anyone except directly to my clients. It never gets boring because it's never the same thing… and if I ever do get bored or unmotivated, I can easily pivot into something that inspires me.
I recently ended a contract with one client after 4 years simply because it started to feel like a 'real job', like a corporation or agency (I'd imagine). There were regular meetings with many different parts of the team, hourly tasks, and way more involvement than I'd ever like to have with a client. (the whole reason I went into SEO was to be a digital nomad and NOT have the corporate experience)
At first, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to easily find a new client to replace them, so I put out feelers, hoping that someone would at least respond. I ended up signing two contracts within a week and have an exploratory call set up for next week.
Just want to share my experience to let you know that it is extremely easy to find new clients, I do not struggle with the sales/client end of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and I wouldn't trade this for anything (work related) in the world. And I don't have as much experience as you, so you definitely can jump out into your own thing :)
Thanks for that, I really needed to hear something positive. I'm currently on the same path and I heard a lot of negative things about Freelancing as an SEO without many years of experience. But so far I've really enjoyed the work with my first two clients.
That's awesome man! Congrats on the solo success and nomad lifestyle.
Definitely given me some stuff to think about.
Especially with regards to the ease of getting work. Do you find yourself shooting for 12 month retainers or more frequent project work?
I have a four month minimum when signing contracts just because it usually takes at least that long for them to notice a bump in traffic. One new client just signed for 12 months, which I didn't expect but am pretty happy about.
I think the important thing to mention here is that I've made myself very visible online. I write a lot of marketing articles and am active on Twitter and in SEO slack groups, most of which have a jobs channel. So that has been key in getting work. I also have people emailing me directly after reading my content, asking if I can send them a proposal to do work for their business. I find that these leads don't convert as well once they see my prices, but it's still cool to know that I can generate leads like that.
If you want to start flirting with the idea of freelancing, I recommend
• getting your name on some marketing/Search Engine Optimization (SEO)/customer acquisition articles on major sites
• getting involved on twitter in the SEO and marketing world
• finding some solid SEO slack channels
For me as a woman, we have Women in Tech SEO, which has been amazing and is where I got one interview (the one next week).
Traffic Think Tank is a paid group but has been invaluable in my training and networking.
Also worth mentioning, I've been writing articles like this for a few years BUT my twitter and Reddit profiles are only a few months old. It honestly didn't take long to build it up. And I'm not nearly as involved in the social media world as many other marketers. You totally can do it 💪🏽
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
I've done this. It's the exact same feeling though when you go freelance. You are still working for a brand that isn't yours (getting clients). Now you got to do all the work instead of just SEO (sales, accounting, managing anyone you hire). I will say though that how much you make is at your control and isn't at the whim of a boss giving you a raise. You get to make the strategic decisions as well. I still feel as unfulfilled as when I worked for an agency but you can pay others to do the work you don't want to do.
If you want to not have this feeling I suggest starting a side website. Doing it this way gives you a feeling of ownership and you still use your skills.
This is really great advice. Thanks
I've worked in agency, in house and freelance, and some of my happiest times were freelance. They were also, simultaneously, some of the most stressful. Even when you have steady work, you can get less done in a workday than if you're working for someone else because there's so much admin, sales, accounting etc work to do. It wasn't uncommon for me to work 12 hour days.
The solution for me was to go back in house, but for a cause I believe in. I now work for an education/activism nonprofit & can honestly say that 90% of the time, I've never been more satisfied or settled. The pay is, undoubtedly, less than when I was freelancing (& probably on par to a similar seniority in agency) but the satisfaction is just through the roof
Right on, man! I've considered joining an agency that supports charities just so that I can do good with my skills. It's uplifting to see that others are already doing it!
This is also great advice! Thanks!
I agree with the side project idea. I've been working for the same company for years doing writing and editing. I really like my job, but it's become obvious that I will probably never get promoted beyond where I am, and that's frustrating. I decided to start side projects, which led me to learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I'm now making more from my website than I am from my job, but it's likely to be short-term income, so I'm staying at my job and putting the profits in savings. I feel more fulfilled and it's giving me something to do in this pandemic.
Try starting a website about something you're interested in, or taking on a few clients on a freelance basis, whatever you would find exciting and motivating if your job that pays the bills is not doing that for you. But that way you still have the security of the job unless/until the self-employment income is stable enough to rely on.
I recently transitioned to freelance life after having worked on both the agency and corporate side. I've had experience in every area of marketing: Pay Per Click (PPC), SEO, content marketing, email, etc. so right now I'm currently pitching myself as a full-stack digital marketer. Oddly enough, I told myself I would focus purely on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content, but several of my referrals are all for PPC which I'm not complaining about. I could manage PPC campaigns all day with my eyes closed.
I'm not planning to just freelance for years though. One of the directors at the agency I just left will be resigning within the next 6 months, and we plan on creating a consulting group together (we will not be referring to ourselves as an agency). He's amazing at sales, so he will focus more on the business development side while I would focus on strategy and execution. We're also close with a solid web developer who we'll most likely contract with in the future.
If you know more than SEO, you can vastly widen what you're able to pitch to prospects and the business development piece won't be too bad. I strongly recommend having a close-knit group of people you can collaborate with.
I started in an agency and worked there for 5 years before going solo. That was 15 years ago. Still working for myself. I have a pretty stable set of clients so income is good.
I remember my first month on my own I made as much money as my last month at the agency. I worked my butt off to get those clients, but I felt so good.
Month 2 I doubled. And pretty consistently since then business has grown.
The great thing about being self employed in this industry is I'm free to try new things – do some testing. Some things worked great, some not so much but I feel I've actually learned more on my own then before. I have more latitude obviously to do things my way and not the company way.
But self employment isn't for everyone. You need to be highly motivated. It's too easy to just blow off work when it's nice out, for example.
My other nugget of wisdom, should you choose to go solo, is when a client cancels (and it will happen) you have to learn how to not take it personally. In most cases it's just a business decision so you need to think of it that way too.
But if you do a good job you will keep most of your clients. I have one that's been a client for 11 years. Others that have been around for more than 8 years. Most of my clients have been with me for at least 5 years. That's 5 years of regular "guaranteed" income. I know it's not 100% guaranteed, but as long as you are good at communicating and give your clients what they deserve you can make quite a successful firm.
Great response here. As a freelance SEO, sometimes I feel like I've figured out the secret to life and I try to convince others to do the same lol but you're right, freelancing is NOT for everyone. Some people cannot manage themselves or their stress levels, and f*ck off way too often to ever make any progress. It's always disheartening to see when I feel like this kinda life is legit the best way to live and work.
But that's just it, freelancing isn't for everyone. If you're highly motivated, organized, and able to resist temptation, though, it's a great way to make a living and also enjoy your day to day life.
Some great responses here, and I'll add some more food for thought.
I was a director at a mid-sized agency working with larger ($5m/year revenue) clients. I shifted in-house, but I've kept a small 3-5 client practice on the side to bring in more money and keep my skills sharp. Nothing changes in terms of the work itself except I'm no longer working with buttoned up clients, and the relative level of understanding of what I do for my clients dropped dramatically.
So I guess I would ask, what at the agency is burning you out? Is it the monotony of the work? That doesn't change going solo. Is it the lack of fulfilling clients on your plate? That could change, but you're going to have to sell yourself to them and find them. That's a lot of work.
Maybe look around and see if you can find an agency that works with clients that are more fulfilling from a day to day basis? Good luck!
Transitioned to content marketing from Enterprise level Software as a Service (SaaS) sales (and was damn good at it too). If you can deliver the work, learn how to sell. And I'm not talking persuasive writing, or finding the perfect pitch. Its a pseudo scientific process that is mandatory to.learn if you want to determine your own path.
I'm an independent affiliate marketer and I handle all the SEO for my sites. My passion is in the content/affiliate side but my limited experience in SEO has already generated a good amount of client revenue this year.
I'm currently sitting on another $100k site build/SEO offer. It's the same group that I did the previous project for but my heart just isn't in it. I'd rather build my own stuff.
When I branched out on my own a couple years ago, it was scary. It still is from time to time. I have a daughter, SoCal living expenses and, if I don't show up, I'm a few months away from crashing and burning.
Thing is, even with the occasional added stress, I wouldn't trade it to work a 9-5 for someone else even if I was offered double what I'm making now. At some point in the future that might change but, for now, I couldn't be happier working for myself.
The burnout you describe is normal. Unfortunately, it probably won't just go away on it's own unless your work responsibilities change. If you get a promotion or change to a different department, that might push it off for a while.
If I were in your shoes, I would spend a couple hours every night building my own SEO consulting or agency site. As it grows and you get new clients, hand off the daily responsibilities to someone else. Like anything worthwhile, it probably won't get anywhere overnight but, in 6 months or a year, you can be making more than you do now and not have to deal with the daily grind.
Hope this helps.
This guy gets it! Start building your personal business on the side while you have a job with a steady paycheck. Once you build it up enough to the point where you can pay your bills then (and only then!) should you think about quitting and going out on your own.
Too many naive people quit their job and think they are going to start a business overnight, and have their bank account flooded with cash. It never works that way.
Fortunately for you, you have a valuable skill to sell.
Step 1: Set up your website.
Step 2: Put case studies up of the results you got for your friends businesses complete with reviews from them. Preferably video reviews. This could be as simple as sitting in front of their laptop webcam. Have them explaining what their problem was before, and how you came in and saved the day. Once you have a handful of these case study reviews up on your website making you look like the expert you are, then it's time for…
Step 3: Figure out a specific niche you want to specialize in and carpet bomb the hell out of these people with highly targeted social media ads. For example… I have a client who is a Videographer who specializes in filming Music Videos. He's located in Atlanta, Google Analytics (GA). I've got his demo-reel going around the clock on instagram for a monthly ad spend of $750 and it's netting him $20,000+ per month. He's a 24yr old college dropout who is on track to make $250k this year (during a pandemic!).
The money is there, you just have to know how to connect with the people willing to give it to you who value your service.
Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
I also have 8 yrs of experience but didn't earn enough from SEO while working with companies. Didn't get any big hikes and bonuses no respect in organization but after switch to freelancer I am own boss of my work. Do anything when I like to do and it effects my output, self respect back
Same here. Well I've got only 2 years of experience but the place where I work has binded me into THEIR processes.
My very First project as freelance was a local home decor. The website is very simple and content is just too easy to adapt. I've started ranking for the client's target keywords within 2-3 months of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This pumped me up as I had just 6 months of internship experience. But I made sure that my clients gets what he wants and even I worked as per ethical SEO standards
But I don't have any idea about sales. The above project was a reference one. I am poor at pitching clients, closing it and retaining them.
Imo Sales are difficult and starting from scratch without customers can depress you more than you already are. Sometimes you have to leave some things. Put what you want on the scales.
A job in an office is good, no worries, but you're also always going to depend on your bosses and
If you are adventurous, if you like dealing with people and adventures, go for the freelancer, create your brand, make videos to teach, travel and wake up every day in a new place.
If you're a person looking for stability. Talk to your boss ask for a few days or look for a project
I made the move about 7 years ago as a lifestyle choice. I'm in the UK and in the last agency I was on £25k, I landed 3 clients for myself whilst still there and left on the same salary. 7 years later I'm now a VAT registered Ltd company with no staff or major office overheads earning £160k and I can pretty much work when I want. I still have panic moments, especially cos I'm now 45 years old with a family and mortgage but I've been able to buy the car and house I want and treat my wife and kids to some nice luxuries. I don't push my business either, work comes mostly word of mouth. I think this is because I really like SEO, it's my hobby as well as my job. The amount of times I've wanted to quit is unreal though but I think this is because of a lack of self confidence and social anxiety more than anything which I've suffered with most of my life.
I'd say do it but do it for the right reasons that matter to you personally. Be prepared to work for what you get but more importantly work toward your lifestyle rather than to be incredibly rich or whatever.
My own personal life philosophy/discovery/whatever is life is made up of every moment of every day and you can make choices in those moments to do something that makes you happy right now. A series of happy moments makes for a good life. Just my 2 cents.
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