@Matt @ High on SEO: Obviously this is easier said than done, and I have no knowledge of your business aside from the text above, but my 3 key pieces of advice...
1. I would figure out what you need to do in order to "take care of your own SEO." It'll be hard for clients to want to work with you, if your own stuff isn't up to snuff. It'd be like the designer of [www.theworldsworstwebsiteever.com] trying to sell his/her own design expertise (although, hopefully your SEO isn't that drastic).
2. Just like you get a subcontractor to take care of client issues, you need to get someone to take care of your own issues. The reason it isn't getting done is because you're placing it lower on your priority list and valuing other tasks and responsibilities higher (whether valid or not). If your own issues aren't worth it, then they aren't worth it; but take a step back to look at your priorities and see if they need to be shuffled around.
3. You assumed one of the suggestions you'd get would be to "lose the lower paying clients," so I'm staying near, but also away from that one. Instead, I suggest you "lose the low efficiency clients." I don't know whether you charge per project or per hour... if per project, it's relatively easy to figure out where you're getting the best return on your time, so keep the ones that bring you $1000 for 2 hours of work, and lose the ones that bring you $1000 for 10 hours of work; or if per hour, there are some clients that will still take advantage of your time, emailing you all the time, calling you, not paying the easiest/quickest way you need, etc., drop those ones. Time seems to be your most valuable asset, make sure you treat it as such.
Tyler,Thanks for taking time to give me some great ideas and advice. I have read and re-read Wil's interview on growth: http://mixergy.com/wil-reynolds-seer-interview/ and I've done this in another market successfully. I don't know what is making me so crazy about this particular business ... 1) I agree - I definitely need time to get my stuff up to snuff. I know what I'm not doing right and what I just plain need to do more of everyday. I have had clients since the beginning and a wait list at one point that stretched for months (and people stuck with me!) It's crazy to think that I've never really had time to build my own SEO site/brand.2) Agreed. If nothing else, I need to settle my brain, come up with some conclusions and just act. I am good at that ... I feel like I'm in a fog or something over this with my own stuff.
3) "low efficiency" vs "low paying" is a *very* good point. This may be the most important thing for me to focus on - how to a) create more efficiency in my current work, b) create offerings that support my clients AND my own efficiency and c) figure out how to make the most of my time.If I can put these ideas together with my current plans to bring on at least one more person for now, I should be able to get on track. I think the hardest part is going from 2-3, 3-4 and 4-5 people here, not 9-10, 12-13, etc.
Thanks again for taking your time (a valuable asset for all of us) to help me solve my own issues.
By far my #1 problem is how to go from where I am to where I want to be on the business side of things. I have 3 contractors I work with to get stuff done but none are "Full time." I really need to bring on another SEO consultant but because I do mainly small business SEO contracting, my prices aren't really high enough to be able to afford to bring someone in and pay myself even ramen noodles wages. I have a lot of clients in one niche and if I raise prices, I'll lose a bulk of them. I have "enough" work to keep me busy full time - so much that I haven't EVER managed to get ahold of my own SEO, my own site, etc. I had a waiting list of clients, raised rates, cut through the bulk of that, got more efficient, but at the end of the day, I'm either working on one of my clients or trying to figure out my own issues. I haven't really *ever* started marketing but I haven't had a free day in the 2 years since I started doing SEO. What I really want is to be able to hire someone who can take care of some basics (site audits, site changes, analytics setup) while I build the business, recruit more clients and ultimately raise rates. I ran a very successful small business for 8 years and grew from 1-8 people so I know how it can work. But in that business, we added new people as there was a need. Now I have a need but don't have the right cashflow in place to bring someone in. And this is my #1 by far issue. It's so bad that about once a week I look for jobs so I can go work for someone else and quit this ritual bashing myself over the head with what to do. I had a very good job offer last week but turned it down because I think I can make this work. I just don't want to struggle through this whole year and be where I am now 12 months from now.
Sorry that's long. Obviously I need more friends in the industry and people to talk to. I'm starting to develop those relationships and networks but clearly I'm in overwhelm. Appreciate the place to vent, even if nobody has any real suggestions other than "raise prices, lose the lower paying clients." Which I know ... but I can't figure out how to do without losing all my clients, all my referrals and all my income.
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