I’ve soaked up advice from CEO’s and business leaders for years now. I “learned the language” of business so to speak, but until 2012, I was still making less than $100k/year doing what I love. From 2007 – 2011 I worked my way from web developer to Vice President / Operations Manager at a real estate and property management company that was approaching the Inc 500 list. I learned a lot in those five years, but when I left the company in August of 2011, I was only making $85,000/year and working 80+ hour weeks, so in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t worth it. My health was degrading with little to no time for exercise and no practical options for food other than fast food. Not to mention, my stress levels were off the charts, as soon as one problem was solved it seemed there were 10 more waiting for my immediate attention. In those 5 years I developed wrinkles on my forehead, my eye sight worsened from staring at 3 computer screens 12+ hours a day and I starting feeling tired and uninspired.
I started working for myself as an independent contractor in 2011. At first the path I had chosen was uncertain, I was bidding on jobs on oDesk and Freelancer just trying to keep food on the table for the next week. In the beginning I didn’t have the funds to hire a bunch of people and staff a huge company, I didn’t have investors or access to any outside capital, to be honest, it still felt like I didn’t even have anyone who believed in me except maybe my handful of clients. Jay Z wrote in Moment of Clarity “my balls and my word is all I have” – that’s pretty much how it seemed at the time. Things were really slow the first three months, but by November of 2011 I had worked my way to 10+ long term SEO clients. It was around then in Q4 2011 that something clicked and I suddenly knew 2012 would be the year that everything changed for the better.
My intuition rarely fails me, and this time it was spot on. I had picked up two web design clients, a couple custom development gigs, and the rest of my clients were all long term SEO contracts. I drafted a three page PDF in a couple of hours to sell search engine optimization, I crafted a unique selling proposition by taking an angle that no one else had ever attempted, and finally – I branded my SEO service as “Dollar SEO Club” and immediately started building a small but efficient team that could facilitate sustainable ongoing business growth. I knew right away that search engine optimization alone was not a service I could consciously sell as a “one all” solution to my clients, it’s important – but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Any successful internet marketing strategy also relies on PPC (pay per click marketing), SMM (social media marketing), video production & seeding, content writing/marketing, customer re-targeting, reputation management, lead generation, and in many situations local optimization. I had already mastered many of these trades, so I was confident we could build a “one stop shop” for internet marketing and cross-sell our services to our current clients, increasing revenues and of course profitability. This is exactly what happened.
By the end of 2012 I had already generated over $100,000 in SEO sales, and that’s just the SEO. In total I grossed over $200,000 in 2012! Almost a quarter of a million dollars. Of course, after operating expenses, the few SEO guys and web developers I had to break bread with – I ended up only seeing a fraction of that revenue as personal NET profit, but the dollar amount didn’t really matter at that point as for the first time in my adult life I felt FREE. I didn’t have a CEO breathing down my neck or bombarding my email box with hundreds of emails every day and night, I didn’t have to worry about not having enough funds to buy organic non GMO produce and eat healthier and best of all – I made my own schedule. I realized these freedoms are crucial to having a productive and cohesive work environment – so these freedoms are going to be essential to have in place for any person I ever employ. People need to not just like, but LOVE their job. They need to feel important, the need to BE important, but the cold hard truth is that 99% of the jobs out there are not very successful at making people feel “at home.”
In the first quarter of 2013 me and a couple of my team members went to visit our off-shore team in Mumbai India. We had a great time there, we learned a lot and of course had a lot of fun, but something else majorly important happened on this business trip. I realized we needed to design a brand for EACH of our key services. Coincidentally only a short while after my return, I was chatting with a very successful friend from my childhood about content writing and marketing. I told him how I was outsourcing the bulk of my content services to Zery’s and only making 5-10% on content marketing at the time. He let me know he had a team of 4 writers in-house and he was looking to build out a marketplace to compete with providers such as Zery’s. It was no secret I was planning the same thing, he had the administrative resources, I had the development resources, so naturally we formed a JV to create “Prontent,” offering professional content at the absolute best prices online. Prontent is still in development, we are working out the final build of our content delivery API and completing our last round of QA/bug fixes, but by the end of 2013, it will be live and ready to heavily promote and will start generating revenue in early 2014. We have five other products and services in development right now, many of which have potential to grow into multi-million dollar brands – but at this point, it’s no longer about the money, it’s about loving life, it’s about enjoying every second we have left.
Money is not bad, but being money centric is setting yourself up for a pretty miserable life. That’s why the majority of the income generated from SEO and other services is being reinvested right back into the business. It’s going to experienced web developers and mobile developers who are working on ground breaking marketing software applications that will enable us to build an even larger team and do even bigger and better things. Happiness and morale is how I’ve learned to gauge success. I’ve realized that when your team is happy and productive and nobody is hating their life, the funds will keep coming in to supply the demand. And let me tell you, happiness sure is in high demand!
I’m not saying you can simply duplicate my entire approach and like magic generate your first six figure year, but I can say this: Once you take your mind off how much money you can make and instead focus on creating a rewarding work environment where no one ever spouts the words “I hate my job” – that’s when you start reaching your sales goals, and that’s when you see the big MO (momentum) take root. From there, the sky is the limit.