How a Freelance SEO Expert earned $500k
Learn how an SEO Expert started his own freelance business doing search engine optimization for other companies and earned $500,000 with his own consulting business.
If you have ever tried to launch a brand or business online– you know how important SEO can be to your success. The traffic from search engines can make–or break– your business. We recently spoke with a freelance SEO expert who recently went out on his own to help businesses get found on Google – and earned $500,000 doing so.
Nick LeRoy is a 36-year-old SEO freelance consultant based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received a bachelor’s degree in management information services and now helps large enterprise-level companies rank better in search engines with his own SEO consulting business.
HOW NICK GOT STARTED IN SEO
Upon graduation in 2008, Nick received his first job offer as a “web marketing specialist” at a small web development firm. They had never invested in digital marketing but had regularly sent out finished projects to marketing firms. The understanding was that his job was to self-teach himself digital marketing (primarily SEO) and establish a product for the firm’s existing and future clients. He's been actively involved in SEO for 13 years.
Did you have any savings money when you started on your own? What was the cost to get started? Investments?
In April 2020, Nick's job was made redundant due to COVID-19. He wrote about this entire experience and why it pushed him to go freelance full-time.
Nick was fortunate, despite losing his job, that he was given a severance package including 2 months of health insurance. This allowed him to set up his freelance efforts and if needed he would be able to claim unemployment to supplement my income. "I was very fortunate that I never needed to actually make this claim." he noted.
Nick's start-up costs were very minimal as he already had a home office with a functioning computer, monitor, desk, and an internet connection. His main expenses were keyword research tools ($100/m), accounting software ($85/m), and nominal hosting fees ($30/m) that he was already paying to host his own websites. Nick's biggest expense was his family’s health insurance at about ~$1600/m.
Nick was fortunate to already have one “side client” that he was working with in addition to my 9-5 job. At that point, he hit up his network hard (in addition to announcing in his SEO newsletter that I was open to taking on more work). The opportunities came in and he rarely said no. "The entire journey truly is one day at a time."
Nick's first month out on his own full-time brought in about $10,000 in revenue. Each month moving forward he would continue to build from there. Nick took on nearly every project and retainer that was provided to him. Before he knew it he was able to turn this solo consulting business into a multi six-figure business.
MANAGING THE MONEY
Nick has a very “defensive” approach to his finances. The first thing he did once he started making money was pay off his car loan. "If work were to slow down that was ~$400/m I didn’t have to worry about."
After the car was paid off the only debt Nick had was his house which. The next step was building an emergency fund. Each time Nick received a payment from a client he would take 35% and stash it into a savings account for tax purposes. He then paid himself which covered daily expenses for his family of five. Anything left over would go into his emergency fund. This emergency fund would eventually grow to cover 6+ months of expenses on the chance that my income would drop to zero. "I don’t take the work I have today for granted," Nick notes.
Once Nick's emergency fund was fully funded he started contributing to his retirement accounts. As a freelancer, Nick is eligible for a SEP IRA which allows him to contribute more than a traditional 401K that most people have through their employees. It’s also a tax benefit too.
Last but not least, after his emergency fund and retirement accounts, Nick puts money into his kid’s 529 (college) accounts and his taxable brokerage account. "I mostly buy mutual funds but have some money invested in crypto."
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
We asked Nick to share a few tips for our reader who may be interested in starting their own freelance or consulting business.
Become GREAT at the skill or service you are providing. There are a lot of people selling SEO but very few understand it beyond the guide/videos they are watching.
Always remember that your customers need a positive ROI on their investment with you. Accept and price your work accordingly.
You don’t have to hire/outsource work to make more money. Raise your rates (as long as you can answer “yes” to the first two points).
ALWAYS meet your deadlines. When you commit to a deliverable make sure you meet them. You’ll be surprised how this will differentiate you from 95% of your competitors.