Are The Best SEOs Not Taking on Client Work?

Aug 5, 2008 • 8:57 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

There is an excellent paid only WebmasterWorld thread on the topic of why would the best SEOs decide to take on client work, as opposed to building out their own ideas and cashing in on those ideas. The rational is, if they are the best, why not make a living doing your own thing then making someone else rich?

This debate really is valid in most "consulting" practices. But many SEOs get a thrill from helping other companies achieve their goals. In addition, not every SEO has the entrepreneurial spirit to run their own thing. Some do both and have client work as a way to reduce financial risk.

I personally run a web development shop named RustyBrick. Sometimes clients ask me, what is stopping you from taking our idea and doing it yourself? I respond, I am in the business of building web sites and software, not in the business of running other businesses. Of course, I have built out our own software and products but at the same time, most applications and software require a whole new business to operate them. In many cases, one doesn't have the means either financially, physically or emotionally to run a separate business.

There are many reasons why an SEO might do client work. What are some of yours?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld (note, paid access required).

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08/05/2008 01:16 pm

I remember exactly the same sort of discussion a few years ago (there was a post somewhere along the lines of "The first thing you should ask your SEO is why they're not doing it for themselves"). Personally I think you sum up all the issues - I have no desire to take on the stresses of running my own business (I saw what it did to my parents) and would rather be involved in high-level strategy with major brands than running a couple of e-commerce sites.

Steve Hill

08/05/2008 02:21 pm

I like to do both, why not? I help other people to promote their websites and also have a number of sites of my own. It works well for me.

nick garner

08/05/2008 03:27 pm

you get the client to pay your bills and so your own stuff on the site do make the extra $$


08/05/2008 04:51 pm

They're talking about the best SEOs, not about yourself or any other SEO.


08/05/2008 08:20 pm

Your the real expert with your MFA website James!


08/05/2008 09:32 pm

Working with clients can give you an opportunity to test out different niches without any financial risks. It also adds a lot of interest, since you are not constantly working on the same topics and niches...


08/06/2008 02:34 am

Of course we do, you can't become the best SEO without doing client work, also alot of times its not that simple or exciting doing your own business as you spend more time doing non-seo tasks in running other aspects of your business, the SEO takes a back step as thats something you know are more assured you can control, not so much as a viable website business model and non-seo publicity. Also in most cases SEO's do not enjoy copywriting and so maintaining a profitable blog is out. Most of the businesses making money on the internet are ecommerce businesses that sell a REAL TANGIBLE PRODUCT that they ship you in a box, so to setup a business of that sort i'd have to have a product to sell...etc. etc.


08/06/2008 02:36 am

Client work gives experience; I can say to any future employer that "I worked for (insert company name here)" - I have found this so much more valuable than being able to say "I worked in affiliate marketing". Plus there are so many more client and real world face to face business issues that I never experienced when I didn't do client work.

Matt Keegan

08/06/2008 03:05 pm

Excellent point. I prefer to balance the two, but I can understand where someone prefers working for themselves versus client work. Either way, measurable quantifiable results certainly help, something that can be realized in each situation.

Dr. Pete

08/06/2008 03:54 pm

"I am in the business of building web sites and software, not in the business of running other businesses" I think you nailed it. Why is this specific to SEOs? Why don't the best designers and programmers start their own e-businesses? Why don't the best marketers and consultants start their own Fortune 500 companies? Frankly, anyone who thinks it's that easy probably has never run a business. One skill set, no matter how good you are at it, isn't going to cut it.


08/06/2008 04:37 pm

I really think part of it is a personality thing. I don't like working on one project all the time.


08/09/2008 03:47 am

Yup, why get the headaches of running a business, if all you do is building websites? I have many times contemplated about running my own site, but have always thought it's simply more comfortable working for someone else (inhouse, in my case).

Simone Icough

10/30/2008 04:59 pm

I like to do both also, I enjoy helping clients gain more business and I usually end up on an ROI basis with the clients that are long term. We save one day a week back for ourselves and concentrate on our own projects, eventually we would like to stop with clients.


02/13/2009 01:59 am

Variety is supposed to be the spice of life, yet being fully immersed in one project sounds like a good way to be. Better than flitting from one part finished job to another.

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