Be ready for great clients

Beautiful chocolate cake with berries
Beautiful chocolate cake with berries
Are you ready for this?

For years, I was hesitant to offer any sort of done-for-you search engine optimization (SEO) services.

People want to hire me to do this work because they know I am an expert in SEO. But, up until almost a year ago, I wouldn’t do it.

Instead, I limited my SEO services to a single product: a 2 ½ hour SEO training.
I had dipped my toe into the “done-for-you” SEO waters and found it frustrating.

When I did the work for them, my customers didn’t have the patience to wait three to six months to start seeing a return on their investment.

Other SEO agencies were whispering in their ears.

They had only their fragile faith in me as a defense against false information. Before long, they would be emailing me 30-page SEO reports generated by bogus companies, asking me to interpret the nonsense found within, and to explain myself.

I felt defensive. My clients didn’t want to take the time to understand or listen when I explained how things worked.

So, I stopped accepting the invitation to the “manage my SEO” party. It wasn’t any fun. I stuck with teaching SEO, where I was appreciated.

Still… I was missing opportunities.

Was there a way I could say yes to the people who wanted me to do their SEO, without the negatives?

The experiment

I explored the possibility by creating a prerequisite that I suspected very few people would say yes to.

It was a product meant to allow me to say, “Yes, I offer that service.” But, I fully expected people to decline my offer because they wouldn’t see the value.

The prerequisite for engaging my company for SEO services is a 2-hour interview which costs $1,000, paid in advance.

I use the information I get from the 2-hour interview to create a custom SEO Strategy document.

I deliver the document and we discuss it by appointment a week later.

In that follow-up appointment, I describe the pricing options for engaging my company to execute their new, customized SEO strategy.

This work—the interview, the research, the written plan, the follow-up conversation for next steps—I used to do that for free.

Although, it looks a little different now. First off, when it was free, I couldn’t get my clients to spend two hours on the phone with me while I asked questions that would help me do a better job for them.
And, I didn’t push for the time because I wasn’t getting paid for a two-hour phone call.

The results

You know how I thought no one would want this?

People want this.

The people who make this investment know exactly what they are paying for when they hire me for the next steps. They understand their specific SEO plan and they are all in.

That was missing before I started charging for my research and consultation.

I wish I could say that I recognized the value in this part of my work and therefore decided to get paid for it.

Instead, I stumbled into the discovery that my research and consultation—all by themselves—are valuable.

The value only became obvious to me when people started saying, “Yes, I want that service!”

As a result of this new product, I started attracting a different client for my SEO management services.

They are the most enthusiastic about working with me. They appreciate the extra time I’ve taken to really understand their company and the way their prospects think. They know I’m not just fitting them into a predefined (limited) service description.

Instead, they have found in me a partner to help them achieve their business goals.

And, they are happy to pay for the time it takes for me to do the preliminary research and planning.

If I had continued to underestimate the value of my experience and knowledge in the form of consultation alone, then I would be missing some of my most rewarding business relationships.

How do I take this experience with my SEO services and apply it to the rest of my business?

Every now and then I get a call from a prospect who has looked through my website in detail. I know this because they repeat the words they’ve read on my website back to me. They’ve already decided they want to work with me before they call my office.

Sounds terrific.

They also say something along the lines of, “I’m really looking for someone who will partner with me.”

I used to be confused by what this meant so I ignored it lest they think I was willing to trade my services for shares in their company.

Now, I understand this prospect wants more. They want my consultation and direction because they don’t know what I know.

Based upon what they’ve read on my website, they believe I have what it takes to help them. They don’t necessarily know how to describe the customized plan they really need. That is my job.

I’ve learned to be ready for this person when they call.

They are often great clients who value my work. I can be fast on my feet with flexible options. I can go way out into the deep end of ideas and problem-solving without giving my ideas away for free. In return, I get to experience business relationships that are rewarding and profitable. My clients are happy because they get precisely what they need from me for their business success.

Welcome to WebDev Success. I’m Emily Journey and this podcast is where I take a hard look at the challenges facing the website development industry. Learn how to attract loyal customers, how to raise your prices with confidence, and take steps to craft the work life you’ve always wanted. Subscribe, listen in and develop brilliantly.

Join the discussion

  • Smart Lady. I love these posts! I will definitely use your model to think about my own business. I knew that your waters ran very deep when I met you.

    • Thank you Karen. I can’t tell you how much that means to me coming from you.
      I continue to be amazed whenever I see a comment pop up here on my blog. People are actually reading this stuff. 🙂

Further reading

Web developer working at table

Hi, I’m Emily Journey. I founded and lead a website consulting agency with six coworkers. This blog is where I write about the things I’ve learned at my real job.
I respond to your comments at the bottom of my posts. Subscribe to get my weekly email.