- Nick LeRoy is a freelance SEO consultant, podcaster, and newsletter writer in St. Paul, Minnesota.
- He earns six figures specializing in technical SEO, content strategy and website migrations.
- He says his first success came from networking and he grew his clientele and audience from there.
In April 2020, I was SEO Director at a global marketing agency. When COVID-19 started affecting businesses around the world, people started losing their jobs. With SEO being a progressive digital marketing channel, I wasn’t too worried about my job. I should have been.
When I received an email scheduling a meeting with my boss and a human resources representative, I knew something bad was about to happen. Upon joining the virtual call, I was informed that members of my team had already been terminated and that my position was being terminated.
I decided that my next step would be to become independent. In the remaining eight months of 2020, I made 40% more that I would have done if I still had my job at the company. In the past two years since I started, I’ve earned nearly $500,000 as a specialist in technical SEO, content strategy, and website migrations. (Editor’s Note: Insider verified LeRoy’s earnings with documentation.)
Here are the critical steps I took to start my independent consulting business.
I favored networking
Similar to many other freelance stories, my first success as a freelancer came from networking. It wasn’t just through the people I had direct relationships with, but also through social media. In fact, one of my first projects came through LinkedIn after I announcement my transition to full-time consulting. This project ended up being a three-month, $12,000 website migration and relaunch project.
I strongly encourage that when you meet new people, you connect with them on LinkedIn. As you continue to post and your connections “like” or comment, your post will also become more visible to their network of connections.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to online connections. More and more in-person networking events are starting to happen again, and this is a great opportunity to meet people from your industry. To date, the best projects I’ve landed have come from referrals through my networking efforts.
The main networking event I like to go to is the MnSearch Summit. It’s a local digital marketing group in Minneapolis. The SEO space is digital and involved on social networks. Twitter and LinkedIn lead to one-on-one conversations that lead to one-on-ones
calls, coffee meetings or happy hours.
I invested in digital assets
Similar to networking, creating digital assets is a great way to promote your business. At a minimum, it could be a website describing your credentials and services. From there you can write blog posts, record podcastor even create a newsletter.
I attribute much of my initial success to Newsletter #SEOForLunch which I have been writing for more than five years. The newsletter has allowed me to build an audience that I can reach at any time. I’ve received leads directly from subscribers, and I’ve also received referrals from people who get leads but then send them to me as a trusted thought leader within the SEO industry.
I have around 5,400 subscribers and created this newsletter for three main reasons:
- A weekly newsletter based on SEO updates kept me accountable to follow SEO best practices and updates as they became available.
- I wanted a resource that I could refer to, as I often wrote one-off emails to clients explaining various changes or updates posted by search engines.
- I wanted an insurance policy. In case my career bit my ass (it did), I wanted an audience to contact for work opportunities.
Creating a podcast, blog or newsletter also strengthens your network. The bigger your network, the bigger your reach, which leads to more work opportunities.
I focused on measuring results
It doesn’t matter how good a salesperson you are or how big your network is if you can’t deliver on your promise of results to your customers.
One of the biggest mistakes I see with the freelancers I consult is the inability to measure the results behind their efforts. I highly recommend that every project you work on start with a conversation about KPIs. KPIs are the metrics by which you (and the client) should be able to judge your performance.
A good KPI is fully quantifiable and easily collectable. Here are some examples of quality KPIs that I often monitor (and report) to my clients:
- Revenue generated by the organic search channel.
- Contact form submissions or phone calls from the organic search channel.
- Total number of organic search channel sessions or users.
Each of these KPIs is measurable via an analytics platform and/or a call tracking solution. I mainly use Google Analytics and have experience with Adobe Analytics. If your client isn’t selling products directly on their website, it’s important to have a broader discussion about the value of the prospect, and even potentially the lifetime value, of a client. You can then use these numbers to assign a monetary value to the leads generated by your efforts.
Ultimately, your job as a freelancer is to provide a solid return on investment. I aim for a three to four times return, which means that if a client spends $5,000 with me, my work should return their business $15,000 to $20,000 in value.
Having a solid measurement plan in place allows you to always show proof of your worth. I do not recommend freelancers take on work where they cannot actively measure and demonstrate their value. I think “I can’t measure XYZ” is one of the biggest mistakes freelancers make – all projects need to be measured. The more value you offer, the more options you have for contract extensions, which means more money in your pocket.
My 10+ years of SEO experience gave me a significant edge in launching my freelance career, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made a lot of mistakes. I’m constantly learning and challenging myself to improve every day.
Don’t get discouraged or give up when you encounter obstacles in your freelancing journey. You will have good days and bad days, but for me the good days definitely outnumber the bad – which only makes me wish I had started my independent journey even sooner.
Are you independent and want to share your story? Email Lauryn Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.