How to Make More Money as an SEO Consultant or Freelancer

As an SEO Consultant or freelancer, your income can be unlimited. One way to bring some stability and increase your income is the get more customers.

But that also comes with more work, more stress, and taking on clients you probably don’t won’t work with. Now, the easiest and most trust-free way to make more money as an SEO Consultant or any concern for that matter is the charge more for your services and sell more to your existing clients.

So, I’m going to share 6 tips to help you make more money as an SEO consultant or freelancer without taking on more clients. 

Now, the way people usually price their services is based on arbitrary theory.

For example, they might think: “Hey, I want to make $100,000 this year, so if I charge $100/hours then I only need to bill 1000 hours in the year which is an average of just over 19 hours per week.”

On the other hand, some people will think of a volume approach and try to undercut their competitor’s price by 10-40% hoping to be a more attractive option. Neither of these models makes sense because pricing is based on your own goals and desires to make money. They need to be centered around your client’s needs and value your services offer to them. So in its simplest form, the way you make more money as a consultant without getting more clients is to 

a) sell more services 

b) sell your services for a higher cost 

c) sell someone else’s services

And we’ll be discussing all these things in greater detail. Now, it’s important to note that if your skills aren’t up to scratch, then trying to become a high-paid SEO consultant probably isn’t the best first move.

Focus on honing your skills in a specific area of SEO. And this will help you become a master of your craft faster and it’s also easier to build authority in a tight niche like link building as opposed to SEO as a whole.

Plus, you’ll want to get tangible results that you can use for detailed case studies. Now, let’s get to the tips and these are based purely on my own experiences as an SEO consultant, meaning there are other models you can use to increase your income.

Charge Full Price For Your Initial Consultation

People often give a free hour of their time to attract more Consultations. And the underlying goal is to sell them on the call and make money as a result. Now, while you may convert some clients, you’re likely wasting your time with most prospects. Because what’s likely happening in reality is that you’re cheapening the value of your services. 

Let me explain, 

Consultants are paid for their time and expertise and if you give it a value of $0, then you have a lot to prove in that hour to show you’re worth $100, $500, or even $1000 per hour.

But charging your regular rate that’s justified by your skills in results, you avoid tire kickers and attract people who 

  1. Want to work with you 
  2. Can actually afford your services

From my experience, these calls are usually a lot more fruitful and lead to long-term engagement, which is how you make more money and bring consistency to your income.

Now, one thing you can do to improve conversions is to offer clients the option to use the initial consultation fee towards future services. And I see this happen a lot with lawyers.

Yes, it technically makes the initial consultation free, but that’s only true if they agree to engage you for 30 to 100 times the initial fee. Alright, the next tip is to partner with reputable agencies.

Partner With Reputable Agencies

First, let’s talk about the difference between a consultant and an agency. A consultant’s job is to provide expert advice, guidance, and strategy for a business. And while agencies can also provide this kind of advice, their main selling point is in the actual implementation itself.

Reputable agencies almost always provide some kind of referral fee for that range between 17-15%. And my opinion is better to work with an agency you respect, rather than the one that pays the highest fee. The reason being, agencies will often be tasked to implement strategies that you’ve created.

So by being on the same page, you’re more likely to deliver better results. And the more you work together, the better the synergy gets over time.

These kinds of partnerships aren’t always one way. Sometimes the agencies will send leads your way or engage you for the more bespoke cases. 

Upsell

Upselling is a technique that’s used to get customers to spend more money or more premium services. Upselling isn’t about “tracking” clients into paying more.

It’s about communicating the level of your services and the other offerings you provide. And the reason why it works so well is because they’re already sold on your services. So if there’s an option for a higher level of service, it’s within budget, and it’s going to add additional value, then why not? 

For example, in my previous life before the SEO tool, I created SEO and other digital marketing strategies for some in-house teams. But the teams weren’t always seasoned markers.

So natural upsell was to create standard operating procedures for their team. And an upsell on that was to offer live team training sessions. These kinds of services for consultants are quite lucrative considering something like SOP’s can be repurposed quite a bit.

Put Your List Rate 15-30% Higher Than Your Actual Rate

While networks like Upwork are great to find free leads, they can charge quite a hefty commission and buyers often send lowball offers. A higher rate gives you a bit more padding.

On top of that, if you’re an established name in your niche and you’ve published impressive case studies, people will often do their due diligence and search for more information about you.

This will naturally lead to your website where they’ll see that your rate is much cheaper than on the third-party marketplace where they may choose to contact you instead. It’s important to note that I’m not encouraging you to move clients off of the freelance networks.

It’ll be against their terms of service, but in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with people naturally finding you through your website and contacting you there.

Outsource Parts of Your Process Where You’re Not Critically Needed

Next up is to outsource parts of your process where you’re not critically needed. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started consulting. Because clients were hiring me for my expertise, I felt that I had to do everything myself or I’d be cheating them.

When in fact, I was doing them a disservice by not hiring help to do some of the more monotonous work, While these aren’t exactly time-consuming tasks, they consume your mental capacity which can limit you from always putting your best foot forward. And the additional time you free up can be better used to take on more clients.

Give Total Transparency

If I asked you, how much does your service cost? You’d probably know the answer right away. If I asked you, “why do you charge so much” or “why do you charge so little” then you might feel stumped. The reason being, a lot of consultants make up arbitrary rates based on their competitor’s rates or personal goals.

And this is where transparency with your pricing can help both you and your leads. For example, let’s say that you have a client who wants a competitor analysis, a technical audit of the site, and a one-hour strategy call with you. Now, let’s add on to this scenario and say that you have a small team with a junior SEO that gets paid $20 per hour and technical SEO at $50 an hour. 

Assuming your initial consultation requires 3 hours from junior SEO and 2 hours from your technical SEO, then your overhead cost at this point is $160. You’ll also have additional overheads like payroll tax, software subscription, rent, insurance, and other operating costs.

But since we’re talking about a small operation, that cost will likely be marginal so let’s leave these out for the sake of simplicity. Now so far, your rate doesn’t even account for your time.

So assuming your hourly rate is $100 per hour and you’re going to spend 2 hours in total previewing and editing the desk and get on a call for an hour with your client, then you should be charging at least $360 for your time together. And this is with zero markups on your employment costs. 

Laying out a pricing model like this helps to justify why you charge what you charge and the client is actually getting. And it’s something that I wish I had done better when I was consulting to really layout where a client’s money goes.

Nick Eubanks actually has a really good post on how his agency prices their services. 

Apply For Jobs

Alright, the final tips to apply for jobs. Now, this might sound completely counterintuitive especially since consultants are usually self-employed.

But there are companies that hire an in-house consultants on a part-time basis. Meaning, You get 10-20 hours of work per week at higher than average hourly rates. And this results in a consistent stream of revenue, you’ll still technically be self-employed, and you’ll likely be advising management or an in-house team of SEOs. 

Now again, if you are just starting out, focus on building up your skills, portfolio, and reputation in your niche.

These alone are going to help you justify increasing your rates and attracting better clients.

It’s not necessarily a fast process, but it’s one that will continue to produce more revenue for your consultancy over time.

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