Today, let’s skip past SEO tactics and get right to the green. As I’ve blabbered about before, many SEOs lack common business sense. In no particular order, here are some tips I think are important for any SEO who is trying to be a better CEO.
1. Decide to make more money.
OK I don’t mean to sound like a speaker at a pyramid scheme “success seminar”, but goals are very important. As soon as your goal becomes “make $XX,000 per month”–as opposed to a goal of say, ranking #1 for a certain keyword, or getting 350 bloglines subscribers to your blog–you’re on a more focused track, and likely to make more money. Smart people tend to achieve their goals, the issue is picking the right goals in the first place.
2. Get a damn accountant.
Having an accountant do your taxes can be surprisingly cheap ($500?), but it is also surprising that a really good accountant can be hired for only a marginally more expensive price. Spend $1000 on a smart accountant who handles a lot of other entrepreneurs, and chances are he’s going to save you a multiple of the $1000 you spend. And a penny saved is a penny earned right? (Did I really just write that? Am I getting old or something?)
3. Depreciate asset purchases as aggressively as you legally can.
A lot of accountants don’t know how to handle depreciation on online assets such as premium domain names, and tend to be over-conservative when depreciating them. So if you’re investing in a lot of online assets, you may want to get an accountant who specializes in Internet business. But even if you have a “regular” accountant, find out how they’re treating depreciation of Web sites and premium domains that you purchase. According to this article, you may be able to depreciate over a 5 year schedule. One single premium domain could wipe out nearly all of your tax liability for the year. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or accountant, do not take this as legal advice, consult your own accountant and lawyer before depreciating anything.) Just be aware of this issue, and use tax law–legally–to your advantage.
4. Raise your prices aggressively and periodically.
OK you may raise your eyebrows at this one, but the truth is a lot of people get “used” to earning a certain amount and then more or less live with that indefinitely. The reality is, online you can go from novice to expert in a specialty pretty quickly (i.e., you can go from novice SEO to pro in 12 months, and you can go from n00b affiliate to super affiliate in 12 months). So make sure to take stock of yourself periodically and try to figure out if you provide more value than you did before (and if so, how much).
Last month I had my business partner call all of the merchants we’re an affiliate for, and ask them if they can pay us a better rate. Guess what? Every single one said yes. Our largest merchant partner gave us a 10% across the board increase. (We’re doing good volume, so they want to keep us happy.) It was probably the most profitable 5 minutes in our company’s history, a short, painless phone call made us an extra five figures this year.
If you perform a service, I think this tip is even more important. Are your prices the same as they were last year? Do you have more clients this year? If so, demand has increased and you should raise your prices. Are you better known this year? If so, your reputation has increased, and you should raise your prices. When a client knows you and likes you they won’t be angry that you’re asking them for more money. They will simply look at the new price and ask themselves if the value is still there, and if it is, they will pay you the new amount. Trust me, they would rather pay you marginally more than go to the bother of finding another provider, who may or may not be a scam/idiot. Another interesting thing is that increased pricing generally leads to increased value perception; you may find that you actually attract more–and better–clients with higher pricing.
If you’re an employee, you should also be aggressively (but politely, and intelligently) asking for a large raise periodically. The difference in the value created between a first year SEO and a second year SEO is huge–as should be your pay raise. If the value you create has doubled (and your boss is smart enough to recognize that), you’ll be able to negotiate for a lot more pay. So do it. Disclaimer: a lot of bosses are stupid, and won’t recognize value. In my experience, most employees also fall into two camps–those who wildly underestimate their value, and those who wildly overestimate their value. Make sure you fall into the third camp.
5. Get a personal assistant.
If you’re creating a lot of value, at some point you have to do what you can to remove low-value activities from your daily work. The best way to do this is to a) outsource what you can (design, programming, etc.), and b) get a personal assistant for other sorts of tasks (research, pick up dry cleaning, etc.) Bonus points if the assistant is hot and wears skimpy clothing. I actually have a “virtual assistant” who lives in another country and would pretty much hate my life if I didn’t have him (and I would get less done and make less money).
Anyone with other good business tips for SEOs, feel free to comment!
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