Managing expectations is a big part of SEO freelancing. Clients want a consistent and reliable (repeatable!) experience and for good reason – a good SEO freelancer doesn´t come cheap.
We’ve spoken at length about the nature of SEO in that it is a changing and rapidly evolving subset of marketing. This is all easily understood by someone within the profession. However, it can cause problems for clients lacking in technical experience and understanding. Most people only see it as another channel for marketing.
Conveying the fluid nature of SEO to a client can be tricky. However, it can be a critical part of securing work as a freelancer. A balance must be struck between describing the benefits of SEO in a convincing manner while also reminding the client that guarantees are never possible in this field.
This can spook some clients who hear alarm bells ringing the moment this subject is brought up. As with many things in the sales process, the key is in phrasing and tailoring your replies to the client.
Let’s go over some statements that you should avoid when securing or maintaining contract work.
Avoid These SEO Freelancer Mistakes
The Page One-timed Guarantee
As old as the hills, this nevertheless needs to be at the top of the list. Anyone who has done more than Google “SEO” ought to know by now the danger of promising page one rankings within a particular time frame.
The truth is that there are too many variables, particularly in current SEO, to safely allow this. That’s not to say that you can’t tell a client to expect to reach page one as a result of your services or to reasonably expect it over a longer period such as a quarter. You have to give them something.
What you do want to avoid is blanket statements. While SEO changes universally with time as algorithm updates and new search methods, emerge the level of competition in keywords and other sites for a particular client will play a large part in the time it takes to achieve success.
Details such as their other marketing channels will also play a large part. If you work with a client that has an established and effective social media presence, it is easier to piggyback this to work alongside your SEO efforts.
A small start-up or a larger company that is not with the times regarding technology might lack such a presence. An effective marketing strategy that incorporates SEO might take longer to get running as other channels need to get developed also.
As with many things in business, the key is analyzing and understanding each client individually.
Don’t Mention Other Projects!
You’d think this was a simple point to make – you’d be surprised.
While more of a general business savvy point this still bears mentioning to ensure you don’t chase away your clients.
You might find yourself struggling to work within a specific deadline due to other projects. However, the last thing you want to do is explicitly state this to a client. You are the professional that they are paying for a consultative service. This means that missing a deadline because of work for other clients will only give a very poor impression.
It pays to be discreet in this instance. Of course, we don’t advocate outright lies. However, you can contact your clients sooner rather than later to advise that you foresee issues with the time frames provided. Negotiation in advance couched in this context is much more likely to be accepted. Additionally, it can quite often win you the respect of the client for your professionalism and honesty. It’s all in how you say it.
Don’t Over-promise on Your SEO
With an extensive range of different optimization tasks to do for most client jobs, it can be easy to over-promise in the name of pleasing your client.
The age-old phrase “under promise and over deliver” stands tall here. Especially with clients who have less in the way of SEO understanding. You will find that it can be very easy to promise more than you can feasibly do. This can have a range of adverse effects. In the worst-case scenario, you might jeopardize the overall quality of your SEO freelancer work as you hop from task to task.
Being clear about priorities and scheduling on your SEO can help in this phase of client negotiation.
If you are clear that you will first work on-site optimization and accessibility before diving into keyword strategy and planning, your client will appreciate your insight and expertise in SEO. It shows you are confident in stating what the priorities are and what can be left lower on the list.
Be Careful When Work is Completed Early
This point is again to do with client management. The first point to make here is that this piece of advice doesn’t apply in a blanket sense. Some arrangements will suit you contacting the client immediately once work is completed.
With others, however, it can pay to stay quiet if you have had luck and completed a large task well ahead of the required time.
The danger here is in managing expectations. If through uncommon luck of especially tough crunch time work you finish in record time and you let the client know there is a danger that they will expect such a level of performance from you. If this should occur, you can find yourself in the unpleasant position of being punished for being productive.
A smarter way of working is often to stick to the original deadline. It is better to use the free time to manage other clients or put extra polish on an area of work for the client you finished early.
Don’t Provide Free SEO Advice
A particular mistake made by novice freelancers is to provide their services to clients at no cost in the hopes of securing work.
This is an easy mistake to make when you are setting out and need work and money coming in. Advising informally on details of site optimization or quick keyword analysis might seem like a small service worth giving for free but in fact, you are doing little more than damaging your reputation and potential for further work.
The fact is that not all clients are fair. Actually, many try to coax free advice or assistance out of a freelancer with no intention of paying. This is particularly common in our business. Analysis of a site or strategy is apparently a very fast and easy thing to do for the initiated. Don’t be tempted to lower your value by doing this. Remember that you are the expert, and they are approaching you for consultation.
Draw a firm but a friendly line in the sand when it comes to what is work. This will help further the view that you are a busy SEO freelancer expert. It increases the chance that they will consider you worth paying for.