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How I Had a Baby & Started an SEO Agency at the Same Time

I had a baby and started an SEO agency at the same time. Here’s what I’m doing to balance these two things together and not drop the ball too badly.

How I Had a Baby & Started an SEO Agency at the Same Time
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When I told my wife that I wanted to quit my job and start my own SEO agency, she was 4 months pregnant.

Rise at Seven was born on June 17, 2019. Maximus was born on October 2.

So as I’m writing this, I have a 6-month-old business and a 15-week old baby.

Here’s what I’m doing to cope with having these two things together and not drop the ball too badly.

How I’m Balancing Fatherhood & Running an Agency

I Know That I Could Not Do Any of This Alone

I was able to take two weeks paid leave for paternity only because my co-founder Carrie Rose was there to run the agency while I wasn’t there.

My wife and I formalized the compromises I’d make for my family, too.

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  • I don’t check my phone between first getting home and Max going to sleep.
  • I have a checklist of things to do in the morning and evening to help at home.
  • I have Max for a couple of hours in the morning and leave my wife to sleep.

I Know Who’s in My Support Network

I have some wonderful friends in the industry who I know will help me.

But I do take a chance and DM people I admire from time to time when I could really use some advice from someone who has been there and done it.

I’m always happy to chat, so if any of this resonates with you, send me a message.

I Cut out Non-Essential Travel

Lots of social media hustle porn basically advocates door-to-door sales. Get on the road and force your way into buildings to get meetings.

Really, don’t do this.

We won 10 of Rise at Seven’s first 12 contracts without meeting our clients. I still haven’t met some of our best clients.

Qualify on the phone.

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Give your prospective clients the option to stick to email if they want to, not everyone even wants a phone call.

If I have to travel (I work on-site with clients two days each week right now), I stay in a hotel.

I’m worse than useless (disruptive, actually) if I’m getting home at 11 p.m. and leaving again at 5 a.m. – something I did for years and never batted an eye.

I Know Rise at Seven Wouldn’t Work as a Remote Business Right Now

I need separation or I know I’ll be constantly putting Max down to fight agency fires and abandon my work when Max is crying. Remote work is a great choice for lots of people, but I know it isn’t for me.

Don’t feel like you have to be a remote business just because it’s all over social media.

Likewise, there are plenty of remote agencies that you could work for, so I don’t feel like I have to change Rise at Seven to accommodate prospective hires right now.

I actually love commuting: I deal with 15 staff and 27 clients each day in the office – driving is the only time I have alone with my thoughts before I get home to my wife and Max.

I’ve Given up Drinking in the Evenings

I’d barely even realized I was doing it in the end. But I know I can’t walk in through the door and pour a whisky when the next thing I’ll do is pick up Max.

I think that everyone with a high-pressure career should find out what their coping mechanisms are.

Apart From Work and Family, I Pretty Much Punt Everything Else

I haven’t turned on my Xbox in months; I don’t watch box sets.

The downside is I don’t really exercise either, so when I do stay in a hotel, I make the most of the gym. Studies show that exercise is extremely positive for mental health.

The Time Between Deciding to Launch an Agency & Actually Launching It Was One Month

The only reason we were able to do this was the amount of time and effort Carrie and I had spent building our reputations, networks, social following, and skill sets.

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We have never worked 9-5 jobs. If you’re thinking of launching an SEO agency in the future, start building now – this is a momentum game.

I Spent Most of the Month Before Launch Planning the Launch Itself

We did not tell anyone about the agency before it went public and because we had a launch strategy – and the element of surprise – we were able to grab a lot of attention.

I’m entirely confident that if we’d started quietly and said we were “giving this agency thing a go” or “dipping our toes into consulting”, we wouldn’t have grown so quickly.

Growing Quickly Was Essential

I knew (roughly) when Max would be born, and that I wouldn’t be able to get work done for clients while I was in the hospital or on paternity leave, so we put everything into making enough money to make a hire.

Our SEO and CRO Manager joined just before Max was due.

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Delegation Is Important

I know I’d never be able to take my mind off the agency if I thought I was the only one who could solve something. I hired Matt because he’s a better technical SEO than I am.

I hired an Insights Manager who is better with data than I am.

Blair Enns and David C. Baker talked through the “12 roles” a founder does in an episode of their 2Bobs podcast – I wanted to get those 12 down to a manageable number as quickly as possible.

Home Time Is Home Time, Work Time Is Work Time

For me, home time is home time and work time is work time, so I don’t procrastinate at work.

I want to get everything essential done before I leave the office so I can give Max as much of my undivided attention as possible.

I Knew It Would Be Hard Work So I Was Transparent About It

I know I have to be honest with my teams, at home, and at work. When we interviewed our first hires, we gave them all the reasons not to join us.

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We were a startup (again, don’t let social media fool you into thinking that startup life is amazing – it has its ups and downs).

We had no processes to speak of.

We had no structure.

We only had a few clients…it would be hard work.

Tune Out Negativity

Again, on social media, I muted a bunch of people, even some people I like (in real life).

I need all the help I can get staying positive, so I don’t see the constant criticism from the same few people (but they can contact me if they really want to).

I would strongly recommend you make use of the mute button whether you have a small child to look after or not.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I wasn’t prepared for having a baby or having an agency and neither is exactly like I thought it would be.

I don’t sweat the small stuff so I think things that generally things are going well.

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To Sum Up

Although it might be obvious, this isn’t really intended as a guide to having a baby and starting a business at the same time.

As my former colleague Gina says, I’m lucky that, as a man, that this was possible for me.

Im just pointing out this thread is angled as ‘how to have a baby and start a business at the same time’ when it’s really ‘how to be a dad and start a business at the same time’. It’s gender specific advice but not labelled as such.

— Gina Kershaw (@gmkershaw91) December 11, 2019

But I hope that my experiences so far might be helpful to anyone who runs (or helps to run) an SEO business and doesn’t want to let down their young family.

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Stephen Kenwright

Co-founder and Technical Director at Rise at Seven

Stephen is co-founder and Technical Director of Rise at Seven, a creative SEO agency made in Sheffield and now in ... [Read full bio]

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