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Rough cost of getting a SEO "firm" going

Discussion in 'Offline Marketing' started by thedon23, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. thedon23

    thedon23 Elite Member

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    Hey guys,

    So I've been into internet marketing and such since I was in the 8th grade. I'm 19 now, and have learned tons, tons, tons of stuff. Point is, I want to bank on my knowledge. I live in a big city, have a good amount of knowledge about SEO, and am great at talking to people (comes in handy to get clients).

    So it will be just me, a sole proprietorship. Now, the questions begin:

    1) Should I register a sole proprietorship (I live in California)? Or could I simply start, see how things go, and always do that later? What would be the advantages of registering as a business from the get go?

    2) How much it could cost to get a nice website set up for my "company", and to get some business cards? Anything else you recommend I spend a little money on? Where do you recommend I look to have my site designed? Freelancer dot com?

    3) Any other advice for me? I'm hoping for the best (success), but ready for the worst (failure). I mean, lots of successful businessmen have failed their first and second businesses. Nonetheless, I'd much rather minimize my risk of failure, hopefully through some advice from my fellow BH'ers who have taken similar ventures on.

    Thanks in advance everyone!
     
  2. Dr_Scythe

    Dr_Scythe Regular Member

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    Can't really comment on business owning costs as I'm from Australia. But a sole proprietorship should be all you need to get underway. Cost me $100 to register my business name and a bit of paperwork to get an ABN.

    Depending whether the website is going to be the main selling point for your business should be the deciding factor on how much/far to go with your website. But as probably the toughest google competition will be ranking with other SEO companies for 1st page the main traffic early on is mainly going to be people you tell to go there. And hell if you say you're good at talking just sell them in person rather than on your website. Use the website mainly as a brief overview of what your business does and how to contact you. Should be able to set this up on $5 hosting $10 domain and under $100 for design outsourced or free with wordpress and a free template.

    I saw you commented on the offline business thread by taktical. Use the resources there to start implementing a referral system which should help get things underway. Starting off is the hardest but once you've got a few clients under your belt it's all engines go.
     
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  3. daveguy

    daveguy Power Member

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    I'd recommend an LLC, a member here shared a method to get the whole package done for $100 not too long ago. I use hostable.com for hosting because its free for 3 years and it works fine. Vistaprint.com has cheap ass business cards, 500 for 10 bucks or something. For a website just buy a domain for 10 bucks and throw WP on it. Don't have any recommendations on a design. Although there is some guy on fiverr.com selling a html static website that looked decent. Templatemonster.com has a ton of good WP themes for pretty cheap, can use this coupon too. http://www.templatemonster.com/presentations/justhost_promo.php

    Hope this helps, good luck!

    You'll also want to invest in some branded binders/bookmarks/pens and a color printer. The big clients want to see that you mean business.
     
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  4. thedon23

    thedon23 Elite Member

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    Thanks man! Yeah, I've been reading Takticals thread page by page; tons of good stuff in there.

    I appreciate your help man, really do. I already have hosting, so just need to get a nice website set up with some business cards. Definitely going to use the referral system.

    I appreciate it. I'm definitely big on branding, as based on what I've read about running a business, it's one of the most important aspects. I'm going to start planning things out, and I'll try to post back here if I have any questions.

    I'm going to also look into how to get an LLC started. Appreciate your input.
     
  5. Dr_Scythe

    Dr_Scythe Regular Member

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    Just one thing to always come back to is to physically DO STUFF.

    It seems & feels obvious but it's so easy to get caught up researching and continuously thinking "oh I'll just wait for my website to start promoting", "oh just need to wait for my business cards".

    Before you know it three months have passed and you are still 'getting things ready' when in reality you could have already had a client and been earning money. All you need is your voicebox/keyboard to start selling the rest just helps so build it up as you go!
     
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  6. agente808

    agente808 Regular Member

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    You have to register your business if you want to accept checks in your business's name (and this is how your local clients will probably prefer to pay you). Doing this will let you open a business bank account at any bank.

    Having a registered business name makes you look MUCH more professional, especially if you are young. For trickier clients, you can pass yourself off as an employee of a firm this way: "I am the director of sales, I can ask my SEO guy and get back to you"

    I have set up an LLC in California, it's not hard.
    Do not pay someone to do it, you just have to go to your county courthouse and sign some forms.

    I also wouldn't worry too much about printing pens and binders right away - do that once you have some income.

    You DO need business cards though, and there are tons of cheap card printers. You could get something from zazzle or find a design from graphicriver for under $20 (look at stationary to see biz cards and letterhead combos) Printing is gonna be under $40.
    Do NOT get the free business cards, they come with someone else's domain name on the back.

    Also, for the website, do something simple and quick, personally I'd do a simple wordpress site. Pick a nice design from themeforest (http://themeforest.net/category/wordpress/corporate) and just change the info to match yours - cheap and quick. DO NOT spend money on custom design right now. theme will be around $35

    Personally, I havent had great luck with freelancer-com, but I know others have so no comment there, but if you have everything laid out VERY clearly for the freelancer, it's harder for things to go wrong. If you pick a ready made design (see above) and have your content ready to go, this shouldn't cost you more than $100, and it should take less than 2 days (assuming you are using a premade theme)

    Don't forget your domain name ($10) and your nice email, and some cheap hosting ($60/year)

    Also, since you are just starting out, and you have read taktical's thread - I would consider doing something like outsourcing all of the SEO work to Taktical for example, and then just concentrating on tracking results and getting more sales.

    My biggest word of advice for starting out in these things: do not underprice yourself! It's tempting to try to be cheap, but it's not worth it! Your biggest problem clients will be the ones who paid the least. If a potential client says to you "oh, that's too expensive, I can get that for cheaper" You reply "thank you very much for your time, when the cheaper service fails to deliver please give me a call." I have had more than one client who went with someone cheaper then came crawling back to me begging.

    Friendly and knowledgeable will get you the sale :)

    - - all told: about $265 + the cost of the LLC
     
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    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  7. thedon23

    thedon23 Elite Member

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    You're right man! That's the problem I've had in the past. Not letting that get in the way this time though. I'm taking action big time.

    You've laid everything out perfectly. Can't thank you enough. Off to the county courthouse tomorrow! ;)


    Question for everyone: I'm about to register a domain for my business. How important do you guys think it is to have keywords like "seo" or "marketing" in the domain? I'm thinking of just going for something catchy and cool, but it probably won't have keywords in it. I'm leaning more towards something cool for purposes of catching peoples attention. Plus, all the good domains with those keywords seem to be taken.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  8. cody41

    cody41 Power Member

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    IMO, either way works. I've been in biz for years (both online and for the majority - offline) and what i've noticed is something akin to either an immediate brand name recognition (Hey, that's the Sobe Lizard!..so Sobe is the drink, right?) or it's spelled out in the name, ie "I'm Al, from Big Al's Auto Repair shop".

    Either way you do it, you still need to get out and get the name in front of people. Catchy names "stick" but "___marketing or ____media or ____seo" also give an initial upfront understanding as well.
     
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  9. agente808

    agente808 Regular Member

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    If you are looking for offline / referal clients, your domain name needs to be as short as possible, and easy to remember & spell. CATCHY AND COOL like you said :)
    Do not bother with seo words because it's not how you are getting your traffic, you are "branding" and that brand should be consistant on your domain name, twitter account, facebook page, linkedin page, etc.

    "seo" is not a term that is known or memorable to non-marketers, by the way, so if you do decide to add something, "media" or "marketing" may be better.
     
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  10. iclosem

    iclosem Junior Member

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    The best way to sell is to have a portfolio going too... I had an SEO guy approach me years ago when I owned another business and he showed me on my computer all his clients that he ranked (separate industries) and it was very impressive to me at the time. If you don't have a portfolio start some pet projects on the side. I built a few nice looking sites with wordpress and when I got it to rank for different biz type I threw that into my "portfolio."
    Also, if you plan on cold calling try investing in a voice broadcasting service. They call a bunch of businesses within a certain business segment and ask if they "can handle more business" and if they're interested in more marketing they just press the "1" button which connects directly to you and then you can give them your final pitch. If they say no, no problem you have another customer waiting on the line right behind them. I ran a campaign like that just for a few days and I never had to use it again because I picked up a lot of referrals through there.
     
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  11. thedon23

    thedon23 Elite Member

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    Thanks everyone! As far as domain name length, you guys mentioned it not being too long. I have a pretty cool one picked out, 13 letters long. Too lengthy in your opinion?
     
  12. mudbutt

    mudbutt Jr. Executive VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Just so you know, the state fees for filing an LLC in CA is $800. When you go through a service like legal zoom (or the others like it) you pay them a fee for getting you the required documents and what not, but you still have to pay the state fees. Its not clearly stated, so I hope you don't get caught up in the Legal Zoom bullshit. Also, don't ever go into business as a SOLE PROPRIETOR.
     
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  13. -Jericho-

    -Jericho- Jr. Executive VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    First off, get out of California. God I'm so happy I don't have a business there anymore. They nickle and dime you to death.

    First thing you want to do is file for a fictitious business name. You can do that as a sole proprietor if you don't want to setup an LLC or corp but you should form one of those as soon as you can afford to. I believe that's done at the county level for fictitious names. Go online to CA government website. You can find the forms there I believe.

    You will need the fictitious name for a business bank account. It's important to go this route for tax reasons. It's much to your advantage to be a business rather than trying to hide it from the IRS. You will also need to file an SS4 with the IRS for a tax id number aka EIN.


    You can grab a nice business oriented wordpress design in the downloads section to save money and get started. Get some business cards from a cheap online company. Get a cheap logo from somewhere like fiverr if you can't afford much.

    If you want to get it professionally designed go with the BHW member webmastr.

    http://www.blackhatworld.com/blackh...esigns-turn-your-visitors-into-customers.html

    His designs are great for the price.

    Don't give up. Find what marketing method you're most comfortable with and expand from there. You will get the most business from cold calling and door knocking. You will get turned down a lot so if you have thin skin find another method.

    Make sure you have your talk down and don't get overly technical. Talk to people like you would a 12 year old. Which actually now they may even know more than business owners.

    Be confident in yourself and your services. Most people get ripped off by people who claim to be SEO professionals when they're just hustlers looking for easy money.

    Know that you're worth the money. Don't devalue yourself from lack of confidence. People who are confident can sell the same service for 10 times the price.

    Hope that helps.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  14. thedon23

    thedon23 Elite Member

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    Damn, $800? Definitely not willing to spend that kind of money until I actually start making some money. Is it really necessary to register as an LLC before I get started with all this? And what are the disadvantages of being a Sole Proprietor?
     
  15. cody41

    cody41 Power Member

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    Yea, $800 is a lot for an LLC filing..hell, here in TX it is/was $308
     
  16. tubeincreaser

    tubeincreaser Regular Member

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    I registered it as an S-Corp, $115 state fees plus an $800 franchise tax...it is play money if you are serious about the business. I also paid BizFilings to do it for me.
     
  17. iclosem

    iclosem Junior Member

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    Here's the main differences:
    sole proprietor- you open yourself up to more liability whereas with a
    corporation- it is it's own separate entity (it's mainly there so that if you get sued they can't get your personal assets). It's also good for tax purposes because you can write of certain things through a corporation that you can't do through sole proprietorship.
    LLC- is a lightweight version of corporation in a way. You get the pass through taxes of a dba or sole proprietor but you get the liability benefits of a corporation.

    To summarize:
    with an S-corp you get taxed 2 times. One as an employer and another as an employee. You should also technically be w-2'ed as well so you have to deal with all that. I had that a long time ago and I really regretted it because of all the paperwork and hassle.
    DBA (sole proprietor)- Very very easy to setup. But your personal assets can be seized.
    LLC- it's the way to go unless you're absolutely balling (over 150k) and you really need some more tax breaks to protect your money.

    I'm not a CPA and not trying to give out tax advice or anything. I've just had experience with all 3 setups. If you're starting out try just a DBA and then later you can incorporate. Also, I'm in California also and you might want to think about incorporating in Nevada and get a registered agent out there. Just my $.02
     
  18. Canuck

    Canuck Junior Member

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    It should cost you very little. You honestly just need a personal website to start and some business cards.

    Not sure about the states but here you can start a business w/o registering a sole proprietorship. I registered one last year so I could take cheques under the business name but never bothered using it - didn't even setup a business bank account. You just sort out your income + expenses at the end of the year on your tax return and make it clear what is business-related.

    I'm just now looking to incorporate my biz and hiring an accountant/bookkeeper, bringing in an assistant, hiring a lawyer on retainer, etc. Don't think about that stuff yet, not until you've got money coming in and actually need to hand stuff off.

    I'm around your age (turned 20 recently) and have been working towards starting my own marketing 'studio' - bringing in other smart people to work with.

    I started picking up small clients here and there, made enough money to pay my bills and have a little extra cash. Then I started targeting slightly bigger clients and am in the final steps of signing a very big contract with a national franchise.

    The biggest thing I can tell you to do is to start networking. There are probably meetups and networking events for small business owners in your area - that's where you need to be. Meeting people, explaining what you do and asking how you can help them. Business networking events are great for building solid relationships. Showcase your knowledge and ditch the pitch, talk about traffic #s and why your business needs to be online, the benefits of SEO (or whatever you sell), why the Yellow Pages is dead, etc. It takes some time but eventually you'll have a lot of people working for you and getting your name out there.
     
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  19. tubeincreaser

    tubeincreaser Regular Member

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    As an S-Corp I only get taxed once, you shouldn't have any employees, what would they do for you? I get taxed on income I make and then I can transfer it to my bank account since it has ALREADY been taxed.
     
  20. gettinthere

    gettinthere Regular Member

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    I'd do some work for "trade of service" (accountant, solicitiors...but also mechanics, taxi compaines...think of people who mix with lots of other businesses). Then look for referrals after you have proved yourself. THis will cost you virtually nothing if you have the skills to do most of the work yourself.