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Starting an SEO/Web Design Company when you have little credibility?

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by ADeuce, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. ADeuce

    ADeuce Newbie

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    I'm a college student in the US and the town that I live in, Ann Arbor, has a ton of local businesses with terrible websites and even worse SEO.

    Given that I have some decent design experience and am pretty good with SEO I was contemplating starting a SEO/Design 'company' and reaching out to local businesses and offer to redesign their websites and help them rank for relevant key terms.

    My question to anyone who has done something or has started their own SEO company is how did you build credibility and find customers when you first started out?

    I don't have any references or reputation so I feel like it will be hard to convince local businesses to pay me anything.

    Anyone have any advice on how to get those first couple customers? If its a matter of going into the store and selling my ideas that's not a problem but I feel like that may hurt me since they'll see I'm a college student.
     
  2. blueguilt

    blueguilt Junior Member

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    Same here. One of my colleagues have suggested to start a small SEO company and I have to admit we only have ideas. We really don't know where or how to start.
     
  3. bonzo90

    bonzo90 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    I will be honest with you guys, its best to start off just doing some personal portfolio sites for local businesses just follow this list...

    1) set yourself up a facebook/twitter/linked in profile personally and with relevent info
    2) set your own website design portfolio, go with wordpress and get a premium theme ;)
    3) promote your business online linking to facebook/twitter/etc
    4) get rank tracker seo software and just rank locally try local ranking keywords like seo services [your town name] etc
    5) do some personal sites for pepole, go into stores or local businesses and offer your sites, do them cheap to start then build up... using this method you will get back-links from people who have had their sites from you and people will be interested, get referrals, I have found that from doing websites I have got more work from word of mouth and the like!

    It takes time, its not an instant thing, need any advice PM ME. I will reply to you once my posting limit is high enough!!
     
  4. reinie

    reinie Elite Member

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    When I started, I used some of the sites I owned myself as reference, worked well :)
     
  5. bonzo90

    bonzo90 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Any work you have done put it on a portfolio section, any websites you have or have done work for just reference them, if you have anyone who you have worked for before or done stuff with get their numbers /emails for references..
     
  6. ADeuce

    ADeuce Newbie

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    How much would you recommend charging for these introductory sites? I don't want to work for free by any means but given that I have zero credibility its probably going to be on the cheaper end.


    Thanks, that's a great idea, I have one in mind that I can use already.
     
  7. AuraObscene

    AuraObscene Junior Member

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    I started off by doing a few really cheap sites in exchange for testimonials, if you are super desperate you could always do a couple sites for free. There is always the method of designing a site first and then approaching the business owner that way you put your money where your mouth is.
     
  8. artizhay

    artizhay BANNED BANNED

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    First, about your concerns about being a college student, if you want to make a good impression on your clients, you should meet up with them at some point anyway and discuss what you will be doing. They will find out now or later that you're young, so you might as well take what you have and make a good impression despite your age.

    As for a portfolio, design is easiest to build a portfolio. You can at least take one weekend to put together 4-5 nice PSD home page designs so you can show your prospects what you're capable of.

    Perhaps be honest and say that you are a new company, but use the designs to show the value you offer, and maybe offer a 50% discount to your first 3 clients. Mention this to them; people want to help you, and if you do them a favor such as a discount for helping you, they will want to help you more.

    I'd say 3 functioning, well-designed sites are enough for a local portfolio and then you can start charging full price or start upselling services to existing clients, whatever you want to do.

    Now for SEO, you have to realize that a lot of top firms (when I say a lot, I mean some do, some don't; it's a preferential thing) don't openly list their SEO portfolios. You can tell your prospects that you are protecting your current clients' marketing strategies. But be sure to given some estimates of traffic increase based on your experience (of course, no guarantees, but give estimates based on gathered statistics, past results, etc.)

    It's always good to have a case study site though. I don't list my portfolio, but I use a couple of my own websites as case studies that I can show my clients. If you're opening a SEO company, I assume you've done SEO on at least one website with success, so you can transform that into something to show your prospects.
     
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  9. talwin

    talwin Registered Member

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    As far as the web design aspect of it, here's what I did to get my first customer. There are numerous local Italian restaurants in my area. I first went through the yellow pages to obtain a decent size list of them. Then I scoured the internet looking for any references to them (ie. websites, rating sites, social media, etc). You''ll notice many of them using a similar color scheme. Build something that can easily fit any of those, but make sure it's better than what they currently have. Put a sample menu up and make sure it has a lot of functionality used by larger restaurant chains and franchises (ie. interactive menus, food item slideshows). This is what I did. I got lucky and sold it to the first place I walked into. Rather than calling first, as many here might suggest, I walked in during a time of day they would not be too busy (in between meal times) and struck up a conversation while I was eating. Let them know that a place with wonderful food needs a website to match. One issue you might run into is the fact that a lot of the local places are convinced that they're all set because they have FaceBook. Just explain the benefits of a website and tell them you'll throw in some free search engine optimization. You won't have to work too hard if you're not in a large city (ie New York). Then you'll have a reference for both services. I only made 1400.00 usd off my first sale, but they're happy and have gotten me other business, so it was well worth it.
     
  10. aftershock2020

    aftershock2020 Senior Member

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    Research and study ' local offline marketing ' and learn how to approach these customers.

    I do this line of work sometimes, to merely stay in the market arena as a hands on SEO/website designer, to keep doing this stuff for others, not just my own business properties.

    As for a company starting out, heres a general crash course outline:

    1. Find the prospect company that you have interest in and qualify them as either an seo, web design, or an seo and web design prospect.

    2. Presell them as a client by locking them in from jumpstreet, by spending a couple of hours and run your routine of seo for them ON THEIR SITE, using offsite seo tactics.

    Push a little traffic and linkjuice their way, then track it and most importantly, make reports that you can show as proof that YOU did it for them.

    Once the results show up in the search engines, email them with who you are and the stat data which you have done for them. Request a meeting if they are interested in seeing more and more importantly, finding out more of what you did to do it. KEEP THIS SIMPLE and VAGUE, as it is to get them to contact you by any of your contact info you add to the email.

    This should be everything; company name, contact name, phone number, email, skype, local address if you are local, as in this case, etc.

    3. DON'T mention money in your email but, DO have results, contracts and MORE PROOF waiting at the ready for the first meeting. Be sure and have a ' starter offer ' on hand, for a smaller, one-time push campaign, to get your foot in the door, for $20 - $50 to get them started and PAYING YOU SOMETHING. To get them to make that first purchase with you is key...and that comes with proof of what you've done, what you are willing to/can do and what you can prove on the fly, ( or so they see it on the fly ).

    4. Let them call you first...don't contact them again. When the new wears off that campaign you do for them in the original sample run, they will come calling if you got results for them.

    5. Once you get the gig, always follow through and keep to your word. If you can't, back out in writing and give the client time to replace you without damaging their promotions, business, timeline/production schedule or reputation. Be professional about it.

    Hope this helps.
     
  11. the_demon

    the_demon Jr. Executive VIP

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    @OP: If you would like I would be willing to do up to a 30 minute Skype call on how to get your SEO business started. Though, I can't promise it will be today as I'm pretty busy.

    THIS OFFER IS EXCLUSIVE TO OP.
     
  12. bizroot

    bizroot Supreme Member

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    Don't worry about college student... LOL every one knows that in today's world best work is created by dropouts... They will believe you as long as you show them some thing solid...

    Several people discussed possible ways to start and you can pick any one... You just have to beieve in your self that it will work. Don't start thinking about money, think it like investment... Even if you have to do some thing for free but in long run you are able to build name and credibility to your self and your company then it could be very good venture...

    If I were in your shoes (assuming I am good with design) then designing would be my first product... I will pick few business owners who are in mid range or small and check their websites... Every one will agree here that most of them got crap as their site... I will make mockup for them and then I will go and show them... I will explain them how good sites bring more credibility or status to their business.... How it can help them in search engine ranking to have nice and optimized site with better navigation, user friendly blah blah.... You get the picture...

    I am sure by this time they will start discussing about getting redesign.... Don't tell them their site is crap just say your site needed upgrade... :) Diplomatic and Polite terms lol

    Not every one will agree but you will get good number of clients this way... You give them nothing for free just a mockup which can be reused again if you don't crack sales... don't sale same theme to every one, always remember you professional and only give customized solution to every client after thorough research... :) In case you are unable to get time from some client you can also send them logo or banner for their site for free or watermark it with your company name...

    Once some one take design from you and happy you can always suggest them other things like, facebook page design or SEO or any other services where you are good.

    You will have to be patient and I believe you are sitting on gold mine... It's now your skills which will decide how much you can get...

    Price: do market study and keep it low by using discount name... Don't pitch for cheap work... Always say Best quality work (it's cheaper just because you running some promotion to get more clients or some holiday discount)...

    ALL THE BEST :)
     
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  13. puneetas3

    puneetas3 Senior Member

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    Ok, if you need to do some serious business, then go out and ask local clients to do web design work and SEO work for free (yes for free). In return ask them for a testimonial (not a written one but a video testimonial in which they clearly states what they had before and what they have after availing you) and inclusion in your portfolio. If they agree then do it. I would consider that 5 web design project and 3 SEO projects are more than enough to start a portfolio to show.

    Also do signup an agreement for your free work before starting.
     
  14. frozenatlantic

    frozenatlantic Registered Member

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    When you're young (and I'm pretty young myself) so much of your leads depend on image. There are a handful of people that won't trust you because of age/race/gender/WHATEVER but they're really a small minority. Most people have their own busy lives, insecurities, whatever. So you've got to GO IN STRONG and show that you're a skilled person that can help them out. How to do that? Well, you can start by developing a strong pitch... part of that can be proof of results (go get 2-3 things ranked) and part of that is becoming good at sales, which means talking to people and taking an interest in their problems!
     
  15. makinsales

    makinsales Regular Member

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    Ann Arbor, yo im in Lansing.
     
  16. jcash12

    jcash12 Junior Member

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    are you in ann arbor michigan?

    *edit, im in grand haven