How to Launch Your Own Legit SEO Business For Under $700 So, you want to enter the financially lucrative world of SEO? You want to start an SEO company, but you think you need thousands of dollars to start? I'm here to show you how anyone can start a legit SEO business for less than $700. I will cover everything you need to focus on if you want to operate a legal business and stick around for the long run. What I won't be covering in this blog post is how to source SEO services to re-sell, I've discussed this enough in the past. So, if you are serious, read this post and you will see that it's very possible to get started for less than $700. I'm not preaching some guru bullshit. I've done it myself. I hope that someone reading this decides to jump into this industry and experiences the same success that I have. Just one success story will make the time it took me to put this together worth it. Put together a solid business plan: $0 Most people hear the word "business plan" and immediately think of putting together some fancy document to raise money or get a loan from the bank. This is not why you should do this. I think taking on debt to start a business is very foolish. Grow it with proceeds that you take in from your clients rather than maxing out credit cards or taking a loan. This just creates stress and it won't allow you to focus on building your SEO business. Plus, this post is about starting your SEO business for less than $700, so no load or funding is needed. The business plan I want you to put together is meant to be a guide for YOU. It should outline specific goals that you put into place, such as when you want to have your website launched by, when you want to have your first client signed by and what kind of growth and expansion goals you want to aim for. There isn't a right or wrong business plan. Some people will start a SEO business and have the ability and desire to grow it into 50+ clients right away, while some might be comfortable financially slowly adding a single additional client every month. Determine what your financial goals are and what benchmarks you need to hit (and when) to reach your goals. Always put this in writing and refer to it often to help keep you on track. Register a legal business entity: $150 Ok, so there are several ways to do this, according to what country you are located in and what type of tax/company structure you want to establish. Disclaimer: I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT OR ATTORNEY. You need to speak to a tax or legal professional to determine what type of business entity you should establish. The point I am trying to make is this: You need to set up a proper business structure from the very beginning. Don't operate in your name and then switch. Setting up a proper business allows you to open a business bank account and also it can provide some liability protection as well. It isn't wise to put all of your personal assets on the line because you were too lazy to get set up properly from the start. In the United States, a lot of businesses get set up as an LLC in Delaware because of specific tax and liability laws. You can set up a Delaware LLC for $150. You can also set up LLC's and other corporate structures for this price and even less, so just use this as a guide. It depends on where you are located and what structure you are going for. I will give you this tip: Try to avoid going through a 3rd party, as their fees are high. They don't do anything that you can't do yourself by registering directly with the proper state or country authority. Establish an online identity: $65 If you want to be taken seriously as a legitimate SEO provider then you need to at the very least look the part. This means having a corporate brand look and feel, complete with a professional website. I would not advise anyone to even attempt to re-sell SEO without a great website. The competition is too fierce and you won't fair well. Domain Name: $1 You need to first think of a company name and then see if the domain is available. You want to make sure the name is catchy and easy to remember. Don't worry about having "SEO" in the title. Take a look at some of the biggest SEO agencies and you will notice they all have short and catchy names. Your service and marketing will sell, not your company name. You can find $1 domain coupons from GoDaddy any day of the week, so there is no need to ever spend more than $1 for a new domain. Logo: $5 Once you have your company name picked out, head over to Fiverr and get a logo made. I rip on Fiverr all the time as a source for SEO, but logos are a different animal. There are surprisingly a lot of talented graphic designers there that will give you a great logo for just $5. Sort by popularity and read the most recent reviews to pick out someone. Most will offer revisions, and even if you have to try a couple different providers, you won't spend more than $10 to get a nice logo for your new SEO business. Hosting: $10 When you are first starting out, shared hosting is fine. The amount of web traffic that your site is going to receive at any one time will be fairly low, so shared hosting will do the trick. There are plenty of coupons out there that give huge discounts. I have seen shared hosting coupons from GoDaddy that gave a full 12 months of hosting for between $8 and $12 a year. That is really all you need to start. When your business grows and you want to add additional sources of income, I would suggest offering hosting. For this, I would buy a dedicated server to host your own website and then add your clients website. This is a bit more secure than public shared hosting, as a bad neighbor can really slow the performance down. Website: $49 Here is an example of a professional looking WordPress theme that you can grab for only $49. To be honest, this theme looks better than most SEO agency websites and it's fairly customizable. You can purchase this and have your company website up in no time. A couple hours of set up and you are ready to go, for less than $50! This is by far the best SEO agency theme available. Email Addresses: $0 A major pet peeve is seeing so called SEO professionals using a gmail email address. You have a domain, so create email addresses that match. You should have a personal email address with your name, a generic info or hello email and then one for support at the very least. Nobody will take you seriously if you are using a generic email from a free service. That just looks so foolish. Auto-Responder: $0 You are going to want to start collecting email addresses from day one, so set up and account with mailchimp. Their free account is great for a new business and allows you to use all their features with zero cost. As your list grows, so will your profits, and that will make the small cost worth it once your list grows to over 2,000 subscribers. Be prepared from the very start to collect every email you can. You never know what ones will turn into paying customers, so don't let any opportunities slip through the cracks. Build a complete social media presence: $0 Every successful business, big or small, has a large social media presence. You have to these days, and I will be the first to tell you that there is a lot of business that begins as a Facebook or LinkedIn conversation. Everyone is dialed in on social media, so it makes communication very easy. It's important that you have your business social media profiles established before you launch. Potential customers are going to look you up on social media and many of them might initiate a conversation through them, so make sure that all of your profiles are complete and make your business look professional. LinkedIn: I would advise that you create a personal LinkedIn profile as well as a business page. There are so many shady SEO companies that never associate a real person with the company. They do this because they have something to hide, or operate several companies and bounce back and forth to avid negative press. Since launching SerpLogic and doing quite a bit of guest blogging I have noticed one thing: Big companies trust SEO companies with a face to them much more than they do just a big name. I've had several executives personally reach out to me because they felt comfortable with me as a person. Building your brand with your name and face will help you in the big picture. Facebook: Everyone is on Facebook, so it's important that you build up a nice company page. I really don't focus on racking up a lot of "Likes" because organic reach is pitiful these days, but Facebook is one of the best paid advertising methods you can use, and you need a business page to run ads, so create a nice page and if you get some organic "Likes" then great, but I would focus on what Facebook is best for these days: paid ads. Twitter: Ehh, Twitter is basically dead these days but I will tell you this: Creating a Twitter page is great for branding, because it will show up in the SERPs for your business name almost immediately after you create it. You want to fill page one with strong social properties, and Twitter I one of them. Even if you don't intend to tweet much, sync it with your other social profiles and your blog so it constantly publishes new content. Instagram: You aren't going to use Instagram to sell SEO, but as mentioned above it's a great social profile for page one branding. Create an account, include a link to your website and throw up an occasional post to keep it active. Google My Business: This will be your most important local business profile. Spend some time optimizing it for your location and watch it in the local search results. In the next step below I will show you how to get a legit business address, which you will need to create your profile and verify its existence. Yelp: People get scared of this because they don't want negative reviews. I have a simple solution: Provide great customer service and you will never have to worry. An active Yelp profile will rank on page one and if you get your customers to leave positive reviews it will make closing future clients much easier. Hootsuite: Do yourself a favor and sign up for the free account. You can use it to really help automate your social media marketing. Running an SEO business isn't going to require an aggressive social presence like a retail store would use, so you can spend a small block of time once a week scheduling all of your posts in advance. This frees up a lot of time when you don't have to worry about posting daily. Establish a legal business address: $50 You will actually want to do this before you even register your company so you have everything under the same business address. With so many companies using remote workers these days a physical office location isn't needed. You can get a virtual office for $50 per month from companies like this one. They have locations all over. That link is to a company in the United States. I would suggest you search in your home country and find one that you can easily drive to for two reasons: You will want to be able to pick up mail and postal packages. All of your mail communication will go through their mail service so rather than having to ship it, make it easy on yourself and get a virtual office location close to you. Most of them will have meeting rooms and conference rooms that you can rent. Some will actually even include an hour or two every month in the package, so if that is something you feel will benefit your business look for an option that includes meeting space. Sometimes you can close a deal when you meet face to face, so it's a great option to have available. Bank Account, Payment Processor & Invoicing: $0 Business Bank Account: $0 Once you have a legal business entity set up you can open a business bank account. Look for a free option, as you don't want to pay monthly fees. After some comparison shopping you should be able to find an option that offers free business checking. Again, I'm not a tax professional, but keeping all of your business income and expenses in one account makes it much easier. I would suggest you open two accounts: One main one and one that you just use for incoming transfers and deposits. Once your money clears and is available, transfer it into your main account. With so much banking hacking I don't like my main account info out there, so I set up an account just for deposits and transfers, but I don't let it sit in there. That way, if I am ever a victim, I don't have to deal with the hassles. My money is always safe in an account that nobody has the info for. Payment Processor (and a back up!): $0 You hear horror stories every single day about PayPal freezing money and siding with buyers and their ridiculous claims. I would avoid PayPal at all costs, as there are several alternatives. If they freeze your money it can really screw up your business, so why risk it? I like 2CheckOut and Stripe. Both have no monthly fees and their charges are standard and they align with PayPal's without the tendency to freeze funds. Also, as you do more sales volume they will lower your transaction fees. I suggest opening two merchant accounts and always having a backup option. You never know what could happen and it's always a good idea to make sure you can collect payments. If you run all of your payments through an invoice application (as mentioned below) then all you have to do is change your settings to the other provider. In fact, I suggest you run two and switch between them every couple weeks. This keeps a steady slow of transactions going between two merchant accounts and will help you keep both active. For example, if you run Stripe and 2CO, their fees are the same, so it won't cut into your bottom line and your clients will never know. Invoicing: $0 There are a lot of options out there. Freshbooks is a popular option, and they have a free 30 day option that allows you to get up and running with no cost. After that, you can manage 5 clients for $10/month or unlimited clients for $30/month. This makes you look professional from the start but it also helps you manage billing. Staying organized and on top of clients is a task, and this just makes it easier. Create a marketing plan: $415 Once you have your business set up and roaring to go, it's now time to let the world know you exist. You might have a great website and great services to re-sell, but if people don't know about you, how do you expect to land clients? The entire budget for this is under $700, and more than half of it is allocated to the marketing of your business. You have to spend money to make money, but you don't have to go overboard in the beginning. This is where I would focus on spending my initial marketing budget: Business Cards: $15 You have to have business cards. Think of how many times you are out and about and there could be a potential opportunity to connect with a business owner or someone that "has a friend that's just starting a business." It happens all the time. You want to make sure you are always ready to tell people what you do. There are so many online printing services that offer business card starter packs for $10 - $15. They offer them at such low prices to get you locked in and into their email marketing campaigns. They are hoping that after you buy the cards (that they lose money on) you will buy more (at regular price) of them and also buy promotional items and whatever else they sell. You don't have to get fancy for your first cards. Get something with your logo, website address, and full contact information. Facebook Ads: $100 Facebook is such a great lead source, as everyone is on there. They have such extensive targeting options, so it really allows you to target specific people and professions. For example, you can set up industry specific campaigns that target pest inspectors, doctors, dentists, etc. A dentist is going to be more likely to click on an ad that says, "Are you a dentist that wants more leads?" rather than just a generic "Want to buy SEO service?" Take $100 and play around with Facebook ads. Make sure that you take advantage of the conversion tracking and see how many leads you can generate with that first $100. Don't send the traffic to your homepage. Send it to a lead form that asks for some basic information that you feel will make a solid lead. Google AdWords: $100 Just like with Facebook, Google can be a great PPC lead source. The cost per click is going to be higher and the targeting isn't as solid, but you will want to test at least $100 and attempt to generate some local leads. Tip: Use Google's click to call, so you are only paying for phone calls. When someone fills out your lead form you call and hope they pick up. This eliminates a lot of waste and you get a potential client on the phone every time. If you are good at 1-call closing, this can be a very profitable lead source. Local Newspaper Ad: $200 Print is dead, right? Wrong. So many SEO companies avoid the newspaper because they aren't legit. They aren't operating as a legal business and they don't want to bring too much attention their way. If you are a real business there is no need to hide. There are a lot of small business owners that read the newspaper daily and if you place an ad in the business section you will have almost no competition. When you advertise online you are competing with other SEO agencies that have ads right next to yours. With a newspaper ad you can command all of the attention. Newspaper ads aren't cheap, but if you can get a new client from a single ad you can make it pay off. Secure Affiliates: $0 Once you are up and running why not try to find some local affiliates to help sell your service? You can start by offering friends and family members a kick back and they look for business partnerships. Source customers: $0 Aside from the marketing discussed above, there is a way to land customers for free. It involves picking up the phone and dialing for dollars. While most businesses HATE cold calls, there is a way to do it in a way that won't upset them. Play the local card. "Hi, I'm calling from (your SEO company), and we're a local marketing company right here in (your location). I wanted to see if you would like to set up a time for a free online business review. It's something we are doing for free, just for local businesses here in (your location). Would that be of interest to you?" There aren't many business owners that will turn this down. The key is to have a very laid back approach on the phone. You can't be overly aggressive or have commission breath. If you sound like you genuinely want to help, then they will be much more interested in the offer. You have to understand that you aren't going to close every person that you meet with. You might sit down with 10 business owners and only get two of them to buy something. But, you will also get 8 possible future leads and if you provide value you will have 10 business owners that will be talking about you to other business owners. Also, pay attention to local meetups and business networking events. These are prime opportunities to break out your new business cards and put your business in front of people that could be potential leads. In the beginning there will be a lot of networking and footwork. If you expect to just sit behind your computer and watch money roll in you will be in for a rude awakening. The first few months of hard work will pave the way, so stock up on Red Bull and hit it hard. Create customer support focused business flow: $0 I take great pride in the customer service I provide. Results are responsible for a large percentage of my success, but I also credit my growth to the attention I give to every single inquiry from potential customers to clients that have been with me for years. I give everyone the same level of respect, whether they have spent $0 with me or $20,000 with me. Imagine if you ignored a basic pre-sale question because you assumed the person wasn't a serious client and then you found out they went to a competitor and because they answered their basic question they signed a $5K/month SEO contract with them. That would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine if a client that has been paying you $3K/month for several years feel like they are being ignored and leave. That would be entirely your fault, and something a simple email reply could have prevented. I've been in the SEO industry long enough to give two solid pieces of advice: Your current clients will stay very loyal as long as you show them respect. Answer their emails and phone calls right away. This will help you keep them on your books. When you get someone shopping for a new SEO provider, give them excellent customer support. The main reason (aside from poor results) that people change SEO providers is because of a lack of customer support. ZenDesk: $0 Part of delivering great customer service is staying on top of all requests. If you have everything going to a general email inbox this can be a problem, especially if you have a virtual assistant or staff to help you. Use ZenDesk's free 30 day trial to help you have a solid customer service system in place from day one. Slack: $0 This is a great communication tool for teams and as you grow your business, Slack will become a more important way to keep track of all projects and team members. If you are just starting out, you will probably be outsourcing and re-selling, rather than doing the actual SEO work yourself. By creating a Slack team account and including everyone that is a part of the SEO services you are selling, it allows you to easily communicate with everyone as a team. They have a free version to play around with. It's something that can grow with your business, so I suggest getting acquainted to it from the start, Final Words of Wisdom If you only take one piece of advice from me, it's this: Stay debt free! A lot of people think that they need a big pile of money to start a business, when in reality they just need a solid plan. You aren't going to compete with the big players right out of the gate. Start small, and build up a client base that you are able to manage efficiently. Customer service is the most important part of SEO, but it's also the one thing most resellers and agencies don't focus on. They chase the money instead of focusing on pleasing the customers that are already paying them monthly. It's much harder to go out and sign a new client than it is to keep your current clients happy. Grow when you have the internal structure and support in place to handle the growth. If you build too fast you will create a big mess that can be very hard to recover from. With a complete plan, willingness to work hard and less than $700, you can start a legit SEO company and be on your way to creating a very nice recurring income for yourself. I've done it personally, so this comes from experience. I didn't start out with a huge budget. I worked my way up, always focusing on customer service and not just sales numbers. When you put the client first, they stay loyal and also become your most valuable marketing method, bringing in referrals every single month. If you do decide to get into the SEO business I only ask that you do the right thing. There are already enough fraudsters and cowboys that give us a bad name. We don't need any more of them. Good luck if you decide to take action, and as always, let me know if you have any questions. I'm always willing to help. Until next time.. Ciao for now!