Crushing Barriers to Launching an SEO Firm — Part 1: Opportunity

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As I’ve learned over the past 16 months, starting your own SEO company can be a challenging, frustrating, educational, and ultimately rewarding experience.  From the ups and downs of acquiring new business to figuring out how to balance client work and business development, one thing is for certain: If you are considering starting your own SEO company, you’re in for quite the ride.

The day after my college graduation, I woke up bright and early (read: 10:30 a.m.), sat down at my kitchen table, opened up my laptop, and went to work:

Okay, so I hadn’t exactly planned it all out when I made the decision to go forward with it.  But, as you’ll read, I did have a lot going for me, and my strengths aligned well with what are typically the most challenging aspects of starting an SEO company.  I had plenty of opportunity to undertake something as risky as starting a company, plenty of SEO experience under my belt, a solid strategy for growing my business, access to the finances I would need, and a personality that lent itself well to this sort of endeavor.

This series analyzes those barriers to entry for starting an SEO consulting firm and my experiences in overcoming those challenges:

  • Opportunity
  • Experience
  • Strategy
  • Finances
  • Personality

The 5 Barriers to Entry for Starting an SEO Firm: Opportunity

Starting your own SEO firm is serious work. In the beginning, you have a ton to deal with, including setting up a corporation and sorting out the legal/accounting end of things, developing a specific product to sell and working on your promotional materials, setting up a website, and trying to get leads and turn them into new clients. Once you start to grow your portfolio of clients, your attention shifts to getting results for your clients, dealing with the daily ins and outs of the consulting world (and some crazy clients), and trying to continue to grow your company and acquire new business.

The point here is that setting up a company isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, and it’s not something that just anybody can partake in. Ideally speaking, someone starting an SEO company should have the ability to take financial risk. This means that either financial support or serious savings will be required. This gets tougher if you have a family or dependents to provide for, but it is certainly a challenge for anybody.

Do you have enough savings to quit your job to start an SEO company that (optimistically speaking) might not be profitable for months? If you don’t have a job, can you really afford to attempt something as risky as starting your own company, or should your efforts be focused on securing employment first and foremost? It’s easy to romanticize the idea of starting your own business, but you can ask any entrepreneur — it requires dedication and hard work, and more people than not fail.

When I first started out, I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I had the flexibility required for this sort of endeavor. I had just graduated college and was in the post-collegiate Real Person Purgatory. This is where your existence on this planet is not quite as degenerate as it was during your years in school, but you by no means have the lifestyle of a person that has figured out such trivial things as employment, savings, relationships, and life goals.  Fortunately, this stage of life has a few benefits, chiefly freedom from serious responsibilities, an excess of time, and quite frankly, nothing to lose.  This sort of flexibility gave me the ability to do something as risky as starting a company rather than accepting one of the several job offers I had in front of me at the time.

Responsibility according to life stage. Note that “Real Person Purgatory” is equivalent to being either a newborn baby or a corpse.

The point of this post isn’t to discourage you from starting a company if your situation isn’t ideal. Opportunity doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but it does really make the process a whole lot smoother if it’s working in your favor. A singular event like losing your job, graduating from college, or going on maternity leave, may present the opportunity to make your dreams a reality, but they are by no means a requirement.

This post is part of a series that analyzes those barriers to entry for starting an SEO consulting firm.  Coming next:

  • Experience
  • Strategy
  • Finances
  • Personality

In the meantime, take a look at some conferences for entrepreneurs. And learn about the ROI of saying “no.”

Anthony Mangia
Anthony Mangia is the CEO of Mangia Marketing, a boutique digital marketing firm based in Downtown New York City that specializes in SEO, paid search,... Read Full Bio
Anthony Mangia
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  • Opportunity is either there for the taking or you have to create it yourself. When someone asks me which road to take, I tell them to forget the road and build a freeway. Can’t wait for the next post, when will it be ready?

  • Thanks, Ajay! I agree – if you want to accomplish something, I don’t think there is any barrier too big to overcome.

    The posts are all ready to go – I believe they are set to be published once per week, but I need to confirm that with SEJ.

  • George Lalas

    The Hardest thing about setting up an SEO company is ranking well for the SEO related terms in google. If you do not, your clients will never believe in your skills.

  • Don’t overanalyze starting the company. Set up a weblog, using wordpress and a free template, keep it focused on your SEO topic, and worry about the rest later. Accounting? Start with a spreadsheet (libreoffice / openoffice) and fill out your own taxes at the end of the year, or hire a bookkeeper/CPA to do those taxes.

    You have two things to worry about with your new company.

    Thing 1) getting sales
    Thing 2) worry about Thing #1

    People spend years honing their company into fancy letterhead, to the point of making an excuse out of it. Then complain that it’s just too rough to get in the business world. You don’t have a business until you have actual sales. Keep your expenses painfully low when you’re doing this so your ‘burn rate’ is miniscule. Such as get an old pc from Craigs List for “$50” and load Linux on it ( and run everything from that, not some fancy-pants fruit machine that you mortgage your car for.

    And the business is about SEO, right? Use your skills to get you and your business out there. You need sales.

  • Getting SEO clients is much easier said than done. When I started my company I had to take every SEO client I could get my hands on, no matter how small or bad of a client they were. You can’t afford to say no when you’re starting out, which leaves the future of your business in the hands of everyone but you.