Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nick LeRoy, an SEO Consultant, based in St. Paul, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a freelance SEO consultant providing Search Engine Optimization services to large/enterprise companies.
Tell us about yourself
I started in SEO back in 2009, right out of college. I was given an opportunity to take a 6-month contract as a "web marketing specialist" at a web development/design firm. My sole task was to teach myself SEO and to provide page-level optimization for existing and new clients. At the time, nobody in the company knew much about SEO, so I started reading the few (physical) books that existed as well as every single resource I could get my hands on, blogs, articles, webinars, etc. Funny story, the company I worked for at the time had a 100% FLASH website. It was one of my first recommendations that we update it to HTML, and that would be my introduction to maintaining a basic HTML/CSS website.
After 2 years in this role, I left to join a company that had a large team of SEOs in the legal vertical. It was great to work with others in the industry and really validate the information/strategies that I had already taught myself. 3 years later, I would move on to my next challenge. 5 years into my career, I took an SEO role at an agency in downtown Minneapolis. They were an up-and-coming agency starting to add more and more enterprise-level clients to their roster. This is where I stretched my SEO knowledge/skills, scaling my recommendations across sites that were regularly 100K+ in size. This position would also challenge me to hone my communication skills and ability to "pitch" SEO as a service. Rapid growth and my unwillingness to play political games lead me to my last full-time role.
My final 9-5 role was as a Director of SEO at another downtown Minneapolis agency. This agency was world-renowned and also bolstered an impressive client roster. Here I would manage a small team of SEOs and navigate the challenges of owning an entire channel. When COVID-19 hit, we lost a big chunk of our revenue, and my position was eliminated. This brought me to my current state: freelance SEO. Since 2020, I've been freelance full-time. It's by far the best decision I've ever made.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Two primary accomplishments come to mind:
In my first year (well, the eight months I was full-time in 2020), I generated more revenue than I would have earned from my prior 9-5 SEO position. This was incredibly motivating as it was a moment of verification that I could find more monetary success doing things by myself than relying on a large company/agency to thrive. I wrote about my story of getting fired to generating over 165K (in 8 months) here.
Relearning the word "NO." In a traditional job, we risk losing our job anytime we push back against bosses/clients, etc. As the sole owner of my consultancy, I get to decide what is worth the risk, when to take on clients, when to pass on projects, and everything in between. The freedom of choice and control is by far my biggest accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest part for me is resisting the urge to simply coast. When you work 9-5, you often have a manager who is consistently pushing you to do more and faster. When you are the owner, you can either avoid conflict/things you don't like or tackle them head-first.
My entire freelance career has been about surviving, thriving, and now optimizing. I am largely motivated by growth/flexibility/money, so I often run my business to achieve these goals — it's not always easy.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Eliminate as much debt as you can prior to starting your business full-time. You'll realize that your minimum earnings drop significantly when you remove credit card and car payments. Money doesn't always come easy when you first start out.
- Network Network Network. Most of my business comes from referrals. I work hard to build and nurture my network. Whether this is in Linkedin, Twitter, in-person events, or even my newsletter. Without my network, I would not have had the success that I've had to date.
- Build an emergency fund. I mentioned earlier that relearning the word "NO" was critical to my business's success. Saying NO doesn't come without risk. However, if you have an emergency fund, you no longer feel compelled to reduce rates or take on projects that aren't a good fit!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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