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From Web Design to SEO: A Journey of Transformation

Learn the journey of a web designer who built a successful SEO agency. Discover the process, the challenges, the solutions, and the rewards of this transformative journey. Get insights into finding clients, pricing your services, and balancing SEO with your current job.


I was a fresh college graduate, grossly underpaid as a web designer just three years ago. I quickly realized that web design alone wasn’t going to pay my bills, let alone help me get wealthy. So, I embarked on a journey to build my SEO agency, now making multiple six figures. I’ve got an SEO team, and I still get to enjoy the benefits and the fun of designing websites. In this blog post, I’m going to break down every single step of that process.

The Realization

Not too long ago, I was a college student studying web design and development. I was incredibly frustrated with my college experience. I didn’t feel like I was learning what I wanted to learn, and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to writing out a resume and applying for jobs after graduation. They were only going to pay me maybe $40,000 or $50,000 a year, and that just wasn’t something that I wanted to do.

The First Steps

With just a few semesters left, I started building my web design agency. I started finding clients, mostly through word of mouth, and I did start to make a little bit of money. But I was working from website to website. Some months I would make a lot of money, some months I would make nothing and meet no new clients. I quickly realized that while this freelance lifestyle was something that could make me good money, it wasn’t consistent, it wasn’t predictable.

The Need for Something More

I determined that I needed to bring an additional service or expertise into my freelance agency to provide value to my clients but also convince them that they should stick with me for the long term and pay me every month for these services. I looked into a lot of different residual services that I could offer as a freelancer. First, I looked into running ads on Google and social media.

While that is a great way to make money and a great way to provide value for your clients, at first, that was intimidating to me. I was not ready to convince a business to spend five or ten thousand dollars per month on ads just so I could pocket a small percentage of that. It was really kind of nerve-wracking because I was dealing with huge amounts of money or I would be dealing with huge amounts of money and only making a little bit. I just felt like that was overwhelming to me.

The Discovery of SEO

It was at this point that I came across SEO. The thing that I loved about SEO was that people were paying me for my time and my expertise, but I didn’t have to roll over and spend all of that money on ads. With an SEO campaign, people were paying me to optimize their website, do outreach, create content, and all these things that were a lot easier for me to do under less stress. Also, my margins were a lot better. Certainly, over time, my margins have gone significantly better, and also the results that I’ve gotten for clients have gotten a lot better.

I found SEO to be the perfect service to add in addition to my web design services. SEO stands for search engine optimization and is a series of tasks that we can do to a business’s website to get them to show up organically on Google search. There are a lot of different things that go into an SEO campaign that we’re going to touch on during this blog post. But again, the nicest part about SEO is it is a long-term service. If you set expectations correctly, it typically takes between six to nine months to get any sort of noticeable results for your clients. So they’re willing to give you a chance. Of course, if you sell it properly, they’re willing to give you a chance to spend that six to nine to 12 months to do everything that you need to start.

The Misconceptions about SEO

To many, SEO seems like a kind of dark magic service that is nothing but hacks and tricks to appeal to Google search. That’s not the case at all. Traditionally, SEO was a very technical service that was only offered or done by these technical coders. It was like its own specialty. A lot of people, particularly web designers, have this mentality that it’s something outside of their realm because it’s too technical or you have to have this crazy knowledge of algorithms or all these different things. Frankly, that’s not the case.

The Perfect Service for Web Designers

I quickly realized that SEO is the perfect service to learn and offer as a web designer. The biggest reason for that is you just built their website. You know their website better than anybody else. So, for you to then take that website and start optimizing it for Google search, you’re able to provide a ton more value to these clients. Now, rather than just paying you a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars for a website, they’re going to pay you that big chunk for the website and then those payments are going to continue month after month.

The Value of SEO

Every month that you run that SEO campaign on the website that you built, it adds more value to that website. So your clients love you even more because they’re saying, “Wow, I love the way the website looks, but now I’m loving even more the way that it’s performing and it’s making us money.” That is why I love SEO and that’s why I determined that that was going to be the best service for me to offer as a web designer.

Can You Learn SEO?

If you’re sitting there right now wondering, “Is SEO something that I can learn or master and get paid for?” the answer is absolutely. In my case, it only took a couple of months to learn the basics of SEO. The most time-consuming part was that I didn’t know where to look. I didn’t know who to turn to teach me SEO. But once you get those basics down, really the best way for you to implement the things you’re learning and see what works and what doesn’t is to execute an SEO campaign on a website.

The Advantage of Web Designers

In our case, as web designers, if we already have these web design clients or websites that we’ve built, it is incredibly easy to talk those clients into letting you try out your SEO skills for free or for a discounted price. That is one of the biggest reasons that I think that we, as web designers, have a hand up on anybody else who wants to learn SEO. We have this perfect proving ground to test what we’re learning and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Very quickly, you can become an SEO expert and offer way more value than anybody else in the SEO space.

Learning SEO

In my case, it took me just a couple of months of looking through YouTube videos and I bought a couple of courses. While it was really useful, I also ran into a lot of courses that were just full of fluff and crap and things that just didn’t help me understand SEO in its most basic and simplified form. That was the biggest time consumer. So, I want to share some of my favorite resources that will save you a lot of time in the learning process of becoming an SEO expert. These resources are going to be enjoyable, quick, and efficient ways to learn SEO, knowing that you’re not wasting your time or your money.

SEO Courses and Resources

One of the biggest names in the SEO space is Ryan Stork. His course, the blueprint. training is fairly expensive but it certainly has everything that you could need to not only learn SEO but build a full-scale SEO agency. He shares his spreadsheets, his templates, literally everything that you could need to not only learn it yourself but then teach a team and build your SEO team.

Ryan Stork also has an awesome YouTube channel where he shares a lot of really useful tips and tricks about SEO. I highly recommend you check him out first if you’re looking for some great free content.

The next places that I would turn to look for free content about learning SEO are Fat JoeMoz, and Backlinko. These are all SEO companies that either offer SEO services or they offer white-label SEO services or are in just that space of teaching agencies how to build their SEO agency. They are certainly authorities in the SEO world and they do a ton of great stuff whether that’s on their website blog articles YouTube channels or their free tools.

The last one that I would mention is the tool that I use and I swear by when it comes to SEO which is called SEMrush. SEMrush is pretty much your all-in-one SEO tool where you can run website audits, competitor research, keyword research, and all of these different things. Besides those tools that they offer, SEMrush has an awesome training program where you can go through their courses and learn every aspect of SEO. There’s even a certification that you can get once you go through all of this and take a test.

My SEO Course

I just recently released my SEO course. It is called SEO and Webflow. Now while this course is directed primarily towards those who use the website builder Webflow, it is very relevant to any website builder whether that’s Wix Squarespace or WordPress. This course breaks down all of the basics and it shares all of the resources that I use in my agency from my pricing sheets to my agreement templates to my week-by-week SEO checklist that you can go through on every single client and know exactly the tasks and the steps that you need to accomplish to run a successful SEO campaign.

How Long to Learn SEO?

The next question that you guys probably have is, “How long is it going to take me to learn SEO to where I can get to the point where I’m charging people for it?” I would say that it is a pretty safe bet to give yourself about two to three months to learn SEO enough that you can take on a very small-scale client.

Starting with SEO

When you’re starting with SEO, it’s okay to take on a very small-scale client and start practicing what you’ve learned. You’re not going to be able to go into a new client and say, “Hey, it’s going to be $2,000 bucks a month for a full-scale SEO campaign” because you’re not going to know enough to charge that much or to truly execute a super elaborate SEO campaign. But you can take a previous website client that you’ve got or maybe a family friend or a family member that has a website and charge them a couple hundred bucks a month and just practice what you’ve been learning. Implement new content or keywords or run a site audit and improve some of the on-page things. These are all things that you can do to start to get the ball rolling.

Understanding SEO

The first thing that you need to know is what is SEO. If you don’t know what SEO is, first off, you’re not going to be able to sell it and second off, you’re certainly not going to be able to execute it. So, you need to research SEO and not only what is included in that but also what’s expected of an SEO or SEO agency. By doing that, you’re going to get a good feel for not only what you can charge but you’re also going to know the expectations that those clients are going to have for you as an SEO expert.

Main Ranking Factors

There are hundreds of ranking factors out there, but there are some core pillars to every SEO campaign that you need to understand. Those things are website quality, on-page optimizations, local citations, backlinks, content, Google My Business, and of course, there’s a lot more. But by understanding these pillars of a successful SEO campaign, you’re going to position yourself to be able to have success and make your clients happy.

SEO Tools

The next thing that you need to know is what tools you’ll use to execute an SEO campaign. One of which I already mentioned is SEMrush, which is your all-in-one SEO tool. There are also a lot of other free tools that you can use like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Moz Local, and Keywords Everywhere, which is a great keyword research tool.

Charging for SEO Services

The next thing that I want to talk about is how much you can charge and how much you can make as an SEO. In my case, early on, I was undercharging and it cost me a lot. I still am working with some of those first clients at that really low rate and it’s killing me now because at this point now that I’ve hired an SEO team, a lot of those clients are basically

Pricing Your SEO Services

When I started my SEO company, I was charging right around $200 to $400 per month per client. This was simply not enough considering the amount of time and effort that I was putting in. I quickly learned that you have to charge a much higher amount not only because people will perceive the value of your service as much higher but also because you’re going to leave yourself room to have good margins and be able to take home a good portion of that while still getting results.

If you’ve got a client that says they only have a budget of $250, you can certainly offer them a slowed down or a smaller SEO campaign plan. But I would not recommend running and promising an aggressive campaign plan if people aren’t paying at least $500 per month. This is kind of my baseline price where I can still keep a little bit of a margin but I can also deliver great results even if I’m outsourcing that work.

I’ve also got clients that are paying several thousand dollars per month based on how aggressive we need to get with new content on their website backlink outreach or whatever it might be. You’re certainly going to want to keep that range wide and then price that according to the client and their needs and their size and how aggressive you want to get with that.

Potential Earnings as an SEO Provider

Now that we’ve covered all that, I want to address the question of how much you can make as an SEO provider. I’ve broken down my average SEO contract value which is right around $700 a month. If you time that by let’s just say you have 15 monthly clients, you’ll see that that’ll make you right around $10,500 per month which then translates to $126,000 a year.

Keep in mind this has nothing to do with the other fees that you’re charging for your web design services. This is just your monthly SEO campaign contracts. This is certainly going to fluctuate and I found that typically, at this point in my agency, I’m bringing on one to three new websites every month and typically one to two of those become new SEO clients a month.

You can see how quickly you can grow this where by the end of a year you can have a six-figure business. By the end of two or three years, you could potentially have a million-dollar business. There is a ton of potential in this and again, the thing that I love so much about it is it’s consistent, it’s residual, and it gives my family a very predictable monthly income.

Monthly Reporting and Client Relationships

The most critical pillar of a successful SEO campaign is your client relationships and the way that you keep them up to speed with what’s going on with their campaign. If you run an SEO campaign and your client doesn’t hear from you for three months, they’re going to get nervous, really sketched out, and they’re going to fire you. So, it’s going to be important for you to check in with them at least monthly and tell them, “This is what we’ve done, this is what’s going on, this is where our rankings are, this is where our traffic is, and most importantly, here’s what we’re going to be doing next month.”

SEO Checklist or Game Plan

The final thing that you’re going to want to have to run these SEO campaigns is some sort of game plan or checklist. This is something that you can find out there online. I know there are a lot of free SEO checklists. I offer the SEO checklist that I follow for all of my campaigns that are included in my course. But you can certainly find free versions of that that are going to help walk you through the step-by-step of an SEO campaign.

Finding SEO Clients

The next question that I get asked all the time is, “How do I find SEO clients?” The first thing that I would like to mention is this brings us back to my point where we are at a huge advantage as freelance web designers because most of us already have web design clients. We’ve got these people that we know want to invest in their online presence, they’ve got a new website, and they are prime for the picking to become monthly SEO clients.

So, the first thing that I would say is to go back to all of the websites that you’ve built for clients, reach out to those people, and say, “Hey, I am offering a new service of SEO. If you would like to be one of my first clients to do this, I do it at a discounted service or if you’re confident enough, you can just go in and charge them a normal rate and say I offer SEO now, I’m an SEO expert, and I would love to execute a campaign for you on your new website.”

I would also like to mention that I have gotten a lot of new clients from word of mouth. If you do a good job, people are going to refer you. Especially if you work on a local level, people talk, people know each other, they see each other’s websites, they see that they’re ranking well on Google or that they have a ton of reviews. That is kind of that ignition point where people are going to say, “Hey, who do you use for your website or how do you guys rank so well on Google?” and inevitably, people are going to get passed to you.

Finding SEO Clients and Trusting the Process

The next thing that I would like to mention is niching down. This is a super great way to accelerate word of mouth and also meet new people who are good potential clients. What I mean by this is you should niche down to an area. If you could become the SEO expert of your small little town or an outlying suburban of your city, that is a great niche to find yourself in because there’s not as much competition. People talk, they know each other, and so it’s going to be a great way to very quickly meet new people, and land new clients.

Just by targeting a single city, in my case, Idaho Falls, I’ve been able to grow a multiple six-figure agency just off of local businesses here. So, you don’t need to target Detroit New York Tampa, or any of these big cities. Just target some small cities, niche down, and become the SEO and web design expert in that area, and you’re going to be able to find a lot of new clients.

The last thing that I would mention when it comes to finding new clients is just trusting the process and knowing that if you build your agency properly and you do a good job, things are going to grow exponentially. This is something that I have seen every single month of my business where even today I’m getting referrals that are friends of friends of friends of friends of the first client that I ever had. It grows so quickly and word spreads of the great job you do.

The more websites you build, the more people see your work, and the more people you get ranking on Google, the more you’re going to be able to show that on your website and build case studies. Everything grows exponentially and it gets easier and easier to not only get in front of potential clients but then when you get on the phone with them, you can be super confident because you can say, “Yeah man, I’ve worked with 50 different companies and we’ve ranked 49 of those on page one of Google for tons of different keywords and we know what we’re doing, we’ve got a process down.”

Balancing SEO with Your Current Job

You might be thinking, “This sounds great, but I’ve got a full-time job, a family, bills to pay, and a mortgage.” That’s okay. You need to ask yourself if this is something that would be worth the risk and worth the hard work. If you’re someone who hates your job or hates college and you just feel like you want more, or maybe you feel like you have a talent for learning new things and you could provide more value than what you’re currently getting paid for, then this might be for you.

Starting Your SEO Journey

You don’t have to completely scrap your full-time job or drop out of college to start this. This is something that you can certainly build on the side and see if it works and see how you like it. Maybe you start landing a lot of clients and you say, “Oh my gosh, I could go full-time on this and instantly be making more than I am in my full-time job.” If that’s the case, do it. It may seem risky, but in my opinion, the more risky thing is staying in a $ 50,000-a-year job and not allowing yourself to grow and reach your potential and build something truly awesome.

Recap and Next Steps

So, to recap everything that we talked about in this video, if you’re wondering where you need to start, first off, watch some of my other videos on SEO and web design and my agency and how I built it. This is going to help you get a good feel for if this is something that you should do.

The next thing that you’re going to want to do after that is go to the resources that I linked below and then I talked about earlier on in this video and go start checking out some of those YouTube videos reading some of those articles and taking some of those courses. Nothing is stopping you from spending 30 minutes every night after your 9 to 5 job going through the SEMrush course and becoming a certified SEO. It’s free, yes it takes time, but you can make a lot of money off of this if you’re just willing to invest that time and that effort.

Once you’ve done that, think about how much you want to charge people and start bringing on maybe some lower-skill clients, and then start increasing your prices and then start getting better at SEO. And then before you know it, you’re going to own a yacht and be in the Bahamas and you’re going to love your life. Your spouse is going to be very thrilled that you took this course of action. I promise you that that’s possible. I am at the point where I am so grateful that I took that risk and now anything else or any other path in life seems like a total risk to me because this path that I’ve taken of growing a web design and SEO agency has provided a life for my family that I never thought that we would be able to have.

Overcoming Obstacles and Building Your SEO Agency

What might be holding you back? This is a question that many aspiring SEO professionals ask themselves. It’s normal to have concerns and doubts when embarking on a new venture, especially one that requires a significant investment of time and effort.

However, it’s important to remember that every successful journey begins with a single step. If you’re passionate about SEO and digital marketing, and you’re willing to put in the hard work, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Building your SEO agency is not just about making money. It’s about building something way bigger than yourself that you can truly be proud of. It’s about helping businesses grow and succeed. It’s about constantly learning and growing, both professionally and personally.

So, don’t let your fears and doubts hold you back. Start small, learn as much as you can, and gradually take on bigger challenges. Before you know it, you’ll be running your own successful SEO agency.

Remember, the road to success is always under construction. There will be obstacles and setbacks along the way, but with perseverance and determination, you can overcome them. So, take that first step today. Your future self will thank you


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