From Zero To Six Figures In a Year

Having a website is simply having an idea. Scaling it into a profitable business is a whole different ball game.  That took me a long time to figure out.  I’ve built over 70+ websites in the last 3 years and only 12 actually made any money.  I’ve been freelancing for over 6 years, but it wasn’t until early 2012 that things started to really pick up.  We’ll get back to that later.

The starting point

urlMy first client was a referral from an unpaid internship as a web developer at an Artist Management company. I literally sent out 60 resumes and got 1 call back. Working for free is brutal but at this point I was thankful to have any opportunities at all. Nothing panned with that internship but at least I built a few connections and got my first client out of it.  Having little to no track record of success can be the hardest part of getting your first client.  Sometimes you have to work for free or put up your own money to prove your worth.

Getting referrals is great but you can’t count on it as a primary source of income.  Eventually the well runs dry no matter how good you are.  I started thinking about ranking my own site for SEO related keywords.  The competition was ridiculous as you can expect.  I mean, what kind of SEO company are you if you can’t even rank on page 1 of Google for keywords related to your niche.

The inflection

I began the long treacherous task of trying to rank SEO keywords against companies that specialize in SEO!!  Talk about fighting an uphill battle with no end in sight.  I really had no clue what I was in for.  The SEO blogs and forums became my new home.  I was immersed in learning as much as I could about what was working in the SEO world.  My full time job became dissecting Google’s search ranking algorithm.

Through a lot of trial and error I eventually figured out how to rank keywords that were small/medium competitively speaking.  These are keywords that have less than 1,000 searches a month.  I still didn’t know how to rank highly competitive keywords at this point.  Breaking into that territory means that you are going up against the big dogs.  It was a bit daunting but at some point I had to take a leap of faith and give it a shot.  It took me almost a year to finally get to page 1 for a major keyword through hard work and white hat SEO.  That was the day that I went from having a website, to having a real business.  That was my inflection point.

The turning point

The keyword seo los angeles changed my life.  Once I got that to the top of Google my phone didn’t stop ringing.  It’s like going viral on YouTube.  One day you’re on the webcam in your bedroom ranting to the computer like a crazy person and the next day CBS This Morning is knocking at your door.  That one keyword gets searched 2,400 times a month locally.  That’s a large volume of targeted traffic headed towards my landing page. It’s like turning on a water faucet of endless incoming leads with no shut off valve.  Witnessing firsthand the power of ranking for major keywords helped me understand how valuable SEO truly is.  It inspired me to work harder for my clients so that I could show them the value that I was experiencing for myself.

The consistent blogging also helped a lot in driving organic traffic.  The posts were always geared towards helping others learn.  It makes a big difference when you start writing for the user and not the SEO benefits of the site.

My client roster took off.  It went from $2k/month to five figures a month in no time.  Being able to quit my day job to focus on building my company was the most liberating feeling in the world.  I always made sure that delivering quality service and meeting clients expectations came first before customer acquisition.  Now that I was ranking for a major keyword I no longer needed to market my company.  Not for a while at least.  That one year of work paid off tenfold.

The road ahead

What’s the next step?  Using the money as leverage and spending it strategically to make more. I’m no genius, I’m just an expert spender.  A big portion of my job is to make the right investment choices.  Putting a good portion of your revenue back into your business is absolutely vital to its success and growth.  Knowing what it needs and how to get the most out of your marketing dollars is key in the development stages.  You may have a killer idea, but if you can’t figure out how to market your product or service then you have nothing.

Getting new clients is key but keeping the current ones is even more important.  The only real way to do that is to deliver quality results.  That’s what separates me from the other people on page 1 for the same keywords.  Quality results.

The defining difference

My work ethic has been the defining difference between success and failure.  When I’m not working on a clients campaign directly, I’m reading articles, blogs and books on how to improve my overall performance.  There’s no days off when you run your own company.  It’s 9am every morning and 3am every night.  18 hours a day is normal for me now. I work until I can barely keep my eyes open every single night of the week.  If you aren’t tired every day, you aren’t working hard enough.  Everyday is another set of challenges that need to be addressed and executed efficiently.  Needless to say, coffee is my best friend.

The other main difference was my ability to change my focus when I recognized that my current path just wasn’t working.  The second I stopped chasing my pipe dreams, I started making money.  Having passion for something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always meant to be monetized.  I learned that the hard way.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t follow your dreams.  By all means become the next American Idol and date Katy Perry or John Mayer.  As for me, at some point I had to make the conscious decision to either follow my pipe dreams or build a business.  Finding a happy medium where I can do both is the perfect balance.  I’m still trying to figure that part out.

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Ryan Bartlett

About the Author

Ryan Bartlett

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Ryan Bartlett

Ryan Bartlett


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