How to become a freelance… is a series of short interviews with freelancers from a range of careers, explaining what freelance life is like for them.
To kick off the series, Steve Morgan explains how he became a freelance SEO consultant.
1. What does your freelance role entail?
I’m a freelance SEO consultant, so I help businesses with their SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), helping their website’s pages gain more visibility in search engines such as Google.
2. What does an average day of work look like for you?
I try to prioritise and do as much client work as I can each day, which can cover all sorts of different SEO-related tasks: keyword research, on-site optimisation, link building consultancy, Google Maps optimisation, and so on. With any free time that I have, I try to keep up to date with the goings-on in the industry. Google is notorious for making lots of changes on an ongoing basis and therefore it tends to be the type of work that keeps one on their toes! There is sometimes also some admin tasks as well: sorting out my business’ finances, etc.
3. What qualifications did you need to become an SEO consultant?
It’s not a regulated industry and there aren’t really any dedicated qualifications or associations, so I didn’t really need any. Before being a freelance consultant, I worked for a few years, mostly agency-side with a brief stint in an in-house contract role as well, so that’s how I gained my experience. I think I’d been in the industry for around 5 years full-time before I eventually went solo (which happened back in 2013).
4. Where do you find work?
I get a lot of people come to me (so inbound sales rather than outbound sales) as a result of my networking habits over the years. I was very lucky in that in an old agency job (pre-freelancing) I did a lot of networking on behalf of the company, so I established a fair few business relationships early on. Then, when I went freelance, I revisited a lot of those relationships letting people know my change of circumstance, and also made an effort to make new connections as well. Here’s what’s worked well for me over the years:
- Early in my career I did a lot of blogging, which helped me to build up a bit of a following.
- I’ve always been pretty active on Twitter, using it to share my blog posts and also connect with people via Twitter chats (e.g. #FreelanceChat).
- Going to events/meetups (pre-pandemic of course), especially going to meetups and socials that aren’t directly related to what I do. So instead of just going to SEO meetups, going to web developer meetups, blogger meetups, PR meetups, and so on.
- Speaking at events, especially semi-related events (like the examples listed above).
- Running my own meetup: Cardiff SEO Meet.
- Joining a co-working space (again, pre-pandemic) and getting to know the other members.
- Making a habit of visiting other co-working spaces from time to time as well.
- Contributing to Facebook groups, especially those that are local to me (e.g. my co-working space’s group, plus a local entrepreneurship group).
I talk a lot about my networking habits in my book, Anti-Sell: anti-sell.com
5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an SEO consultant?
Go for it. It’s an exciting, in-demand industry. Either start working at an agency or in-house, or learn on-the-go by optimising your own websites/blogs. The SEO industry is (mostly) great – there’s a few bad eggs and gatekeepers, but the good folk hugely outweigh the bad folk.
6. What is the best thing about being freelance?
Blimey, where do I start?! The biggest one for me is: having a boss who respects you and has your best interests in mind (i.e. you)! Other things I like about being freelance include: avoiding office politics, being able to choose what type of work you do and what type of clients you work with, and being about to fit your workload around your optimum hours (e.g. if you’re a night owl, you can work night owl hours instead of being forced to do 9-to-5).
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