How This Aussie Turned Her Love For Writing Into A $144K SEO Business

Janet Camilleri
Founder, Front Page SEO
$12K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
Front Page SEO
from Brisbane
started January 2012
$12,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
9.72M
alexa rank
1
followers
4.73K
followers
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How This Aussie Turned Her Love For Writing Into A $144K SEO Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

G’day from Down Under! Hi, I’m Janet Camilleri, from Brisbane, Australia.

I’m the founder of Front Page SEO, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization or SEO. In plain English?! We help businesses rank on the “front page” of Google and Co so that they get lots of clicks, calls, clients, and conversions.

Following a shock redundancy at the end of 2012, I decided to start my own business working from home, based on my digital and writing skills – and I had my first client within a week. The business I started out with, however, was very different from what I do today!

Originally, I called my business Redland City Living as my idea was to start a magazine-style blog about my local area, but after about a year I realized that this was not really what I wanted to do.

So in 2014, I registered my business name as Front Page Web Writing; this changed to Front Page SEO in January 2021, to more accurately reflect the type of services my business provided.

It took me a long time to make a decent income from my business, but it has progressed immensely, particularly in the past couple of years since engaging a business coach.

In 10 years, I’ve gone from the depths of despair to having a multi-award-winning business.

Last financial year I surpassed my goal of making $100 000 AUD (and growing all the time); and leaped a solo operator, to a team of three, soon to be four. It’s been a steep learning curve but I am thriving on the challenge!

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Figure 1: selfie at work, not long before I was made redundant in 2012

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Figure 2: Janet Camilleri from Front Page SEO

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Figure 3: The Front Page SEO Team July 2022

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started my career as a teacher but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. What followed was a series of jobs, working in accounts, debt recovery, as an office temp, and in a library, to name just a few.

It was only after my children arrived that I turned my love of writing into a career – I began freelance writing for magazines and was amazed that people paid me to write! I went on to become the editor of a small magazine where I was introduced to blogging, and I very quickly realized that quality content is not enough if you want to get found online. And so began my adventures in SEO.

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Figure 4: Just some of the magazine articles I had published I've written over the years

It was only after a shock redundancy in 2012 that I started the business I’d long dreamed of – one that combined my skills, knowledge, and passion for words and the web.

Initially, I offered a range of digital marketing services: WordPress websites, social media management, SEO, email newsletters, blogging, proofreading, and editing.

Over time, however, I realized that I couldn't stay across all the latest developments in so many areas; I could better serve my clients by specializing in one.

I chose SEO for the following reasons:

  • When done properly, it depends heavily on the creation of quality content (allowing me to continue with the writing that I loved).
  • I found it extremely rewarding to get great results for my clients - better rankings in search, and more importantly more business for them!
  • I was horrified by how many business owners were being ripped off and knew that with my background as a teacher, I could educate and empower business owners so they could be aware of the traps, and manage this aspect of their marketing with confidence.

It took a long time to replace the salary I’d taken for granted in my previous job; fortunately, I had a redundancy package to help me through the transition and a very understanding husband. But even his patience was stretched. I remember the day I proudly told him that I’d earned AUD 50 000 (finally reaching my old salary) – it would have been around the end of 2018 - to which he said, “Wow, it’s taken long enough!”. I was crushed. He didn’t understand what I was trying to say – that I was proud that I’d created this from literally NOTHING!

At the beginning of 2019 we had some very serious discussions, that perhaps I needed to give up on the “business” and find a “real” job … I didn’t want THAT to happen so was spurred on to success!

Not long after, at the end of 2019, I found and started working with a great business coach, and in many ways, this is when I feel my business started.

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Since then I’ve seen incredible growth! In the last 12 months alone, I have tripled my turnover, and doubled my profits! (Some might wonder why the profit hasn’t increased at the same rate as profits, but it’s all part of bringing on other team members to help me scale the business.)

Needless to say, there’s been no more talk about me finding a job!

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

For a long time, my business model was this: if somebody needed help with any aspect of their digital marketing, I would provide that service! My motto was to say YES to anything and then be like a duck – look calm on the surface, but paddling like mad underneath! It was a sign of desperation, and it wasn’t the best way to run a business. I realized that it is far better (and more profitable) to specialize than try to be a jack of all trades.

One of the first things I learned when working with my business coach, was the value of making it easy for potential clients to consider the offerings available – just like a menu in a restaurant! I developed my first SEO Services Menu, which outlined the different ways we could assist businesses to achieve their goals. I knew I was meeting with a prospect later that same day so I threw it together … and used it in that meeting - and was successful in landing the client!

The moral of the story is – I could have waited until it was perfect, but instead, I focused on just getting it done and started reaping the rewards straight away. Since then, of course, my SEO Services Menu has been greatly refined and expanded.

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Figure 5: New business cards in 2017

Describe the process of launching the business.

I was determined to “start my own business” in the wake of my redundancy, but I was completely clueless as to what that would require. I thought I could just work from home and that the clients, the work (and the pay packet!) would just magically appear … (insert rolling eyes emoji here)!

Fortunately, I already had a computer and a mobile phone, so didn’t have much in the way of start-up costs; plus the redundancy payout helped. I got a website (built it myself), some business cards, and brochures and that was about it.

I worked incredibly hard and at the end of the first six months, I had made a total of … $3000. It was quite disheartening!

The biggest mistake I made was charging the same amount, as my hourly rate had been as an employee. I hadn’t factored in the costs of running my own business (like the electricity to run my computer), or the fact that I no longer enjoyed employee benefits like paid leave, or superannuation (401K I think it’s called in the US).

Here’s a bit of a timeline of my business journey:

  • October 2012: Made redundant.
  • October 2012: Signed up my first client within a week.
  • Early 2013: Signed up my second client – my previous employer!
  • July 2013: I worked out that I earned a whopping $3000 from my business in that first financial year.
  • 2014: Completed a Certificate 4 in Small Business Management through TAFE Qld.
  • October 2014: Registered my business as “Front Page Web Writing”.
  • 2015: Launched my business website.
  • January 2016: Completed my Diploma in Digital Marketing.
  • March 2016: 100 likes for our Facebook page!
  • August 2016: Won the Redland Best Woman in Business award.
  • August 2017: Finalist in the Redlands Business Awards.
  • 2018: Launched my free e-book, What Every Business Owner Should Know About SEO.
  • 2018: Began presenting on SEO at business groups and events such as the Australian Virtual Assistants Conference, and Women’s Network Australia.
  • Mid-2018: Got a professional logo.
  • January 2019: Had THAT conversation with my husband, about looking for a “real” job. It was time to get serious about turning a REAL profit from this business of mine!
  • July 2019: Registered for GST (for those not in the know, that means I was expecting to hit an $80 000 turnover in the coming financial year).
  • Late 2019: Started working with my awesome business coach. My goal? To make more than my husbear! (I still haven’t quite managed it, only because he keeps getting promoted! But we are neck and neck.)
  • 2020: Named SEO Consultant of the Year in the Australian Enterprise Awards.
  • Early 2020: Started wearing my white cowboy hat, to show that we are the good guys in SEO!
  • November 2020: Finalist in the Innovation category in the Greater Brisbane Women in Business Awards.
  • January 2021: Registered my new business name, Front Page SEO.
  • May 2021: Launched the DIY SEO HQ membership program, to guide small business owners to do their SEO.
  • October 2021: Finalist in two categories in the Redlands Business Excellence Awards: Innovation, and Sustainability.
  • November 2021: Business was growing, so Lisa and Emma joined the team!
  • July 2022: In the last 12 months the turnover of my business has tripled, and profit has doubled.
  • August 2022: Nominated again in the Australian Enterprise Awards.
  • September 2022: 750 followers on Facebook. Getting ready to recruit another team member, and launch a new product.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We use several different strategies to attract and retain customers, including:

  • Offering a free SEO Snapshot and consultation via Zoom to potential clients/businesses. This involves conducting a quick review of how their website is performing in Google, how that could be improved, and introducing them to our SEO Services Menu.
  • Every 4 to 6 weeks I run a free webinar for business owners, teaching them how to check their SEO. This is a funnel into our DIY SEO HQ membership, it’s also a great way to grow our database, and build the authority and awareness of the business.

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Figure 6: Facebook ad to promote our regular free webinars

Video which we use to promote the free webinars.

  • There’s no point in having a database if you don’t put it to good use! So, we send out a monthly newsletter with helpful information about SEO, as well as updates on events, promotions, etc.
  • We post regularly on the following social media: Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and our Google Business Profile. I’m becoming quite well known for wearing a white cowboy hat – it shows that we are the “good guys” in SEO because there are a lot of crooks. Believe it or not, we use cowboy terminology in SEO: the good techniques are known as “white hat SEO”, and the dodgy ones are “black hat”!
  • Of course, our website is optimized for the search engines – though it wasn’t always! (It’s the age-old problem of the electrician who has never finished wiring up his own house properly or the mechanic whose own car is on its last legs, LOL). I realized the importance of “practicing what I preached” about 5 years ago, and Google sends lots of website traffic and inquiries our way. This has stood us in good stead, even after I changed my business name and URL at the start of 2021, from Front Page Web Writing to Front Page SEO, to more accurately reflect the services offered. It meant we were starting all over again but I knew in the long run it would be worth it!

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Figure 7: Old URL - keyword rankings rising from January 2016 to January 2021

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Figure 8: New URL - number of keywords ranking has more than doubled from what we’d achieved with the old URL, over the past not quite 2 years

  • Much as I love SEO, I also think you really can’t beat good old-fashioned, in-person, networking. I am an active member of my local Chamber of Commerce and several other business networking groups. I actively seek out opportunities to present at these events, to help educate business owners in the wonderful world of SEO. Not only do I gain clients from this, but I also get to meet and develop referral partnerships with business owners in related industries (eg a website builder, a Google Ads specialist, etc) so we can provide a more comprehensive service to our clients.

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Figure 9: Guest speaker at the South East Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, wearing my famous white hat!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As already mentioned, this past financial year I’ve seen my turnover triple, and my gross profit double, which has been extremely gratifying – building on a 30% increase in turnover, from the previous financial year.

Profits have also increased steadily. As a sole trader making the transition to a team (and soon to be a company) there are more overheads however I’m pleased to report that our operational costs now account for approximately 30% of our total turnover, which is a healthy ratio for any small business.

In May 2021, I launched the DIY SEO HQ membership program in response to a gap in the market – it’s about helping those business owners, without the means to hire an agency, to be guided to do the things that make a difference so they can get customers through Google and Co!

One thing I have found is that a LOT of people don’t like writing – and posting new content on your website regularly is essential if you want to get found online. So I am developing a blog subscription service, where business owners can sign up, and we write and email a new blog post to them each month. All they have to do is upload it to their website!

On social media, we have:

Instagram – 750 followers; Facebook – 650 followers.

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Figure 10: Instagram

This is how my website traffic has grown over the past 5 years, according to Google Analytics:

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Figure 11: Growth of website traffic over the past 5 years

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One of the biggest challenges faced about SEO services is building a level of trust and confidence with clients and potential clients. SEO can be difficult to measure and there are a lot of ‘cowboys’ offering big promises but not delivering results to their clients.

My business takes a holistic approach to SEO, which ultimately aims to serve the web user, not search bots. By helping Google to serve users the information they need quickly and efficiently, our customers don’t need to fear algorithm updates because our methods are very much in sync with Google’s goals and desires.

For this reason, I am passionate about educating and empowering business owners, so that they have the confidence to add search engine optimization to their marketing strategy – whether by outsourcing, or doing it themselves. I provide a monthly report to all of our clients and this report details the changes in the SEO performance of their websites from month to month.

When you are starting out, money can be tight and it’s tempting to try and undertake everything in the business yourself. But finding the right people to help you will free up time for you to focus on growing your business – working on the business rather than just in the business.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use our website, which is optimized and a great way for new customers to find us. We also use Facebook and Instagram to connect with new and current clients.

Active Campaign is our email management platform and we have just started using Asana to improve tracking of client projects.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I love listening to the Perpetual Traffic Podcast, the Business and Life Conversations podcast with Angela Henderson, and the Flying Solo podcast (even though I’m no longer a solopreneur!).

One of the best business books I’ve read is The E-Myth – essential for any small business owner - and at the moment I’m reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why which resonates with me.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

One of the best things new business owners can do is to invest in themselves. When you are starting out, money can be tight and it’s tempting to try and undertake everything in the business yourself. But finding the right people to help you will free up time for you to focus on growing your business – working on the business rather than just in the business.

I began working with a business coach in 2019, and have seen tremendous growth in my business, professional, and even personal development since then. I would recommend finding an experienced mentor or coach (somebody who has achieved success in business themselves) and allowing them to help guide you through the stages of growing your business.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I have two assistants working remotely now, and I have been gradually training them in all things SEO since they started nearly a year ago. They are coming along quite well, but it’s taken me ten years to get to this point and I’ve realized that I now need to add someone else to the team that already has that SEO knowledge and experience.

Ideally, they would be able to do more of the “heavy lifting” – keyword research, link outreach, planning strategy, that sort of thing. At the moment a lot of that falls back on me and that limits the amount of new business I can bring in.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Janet Camilleri, Founder of Front Page SEO
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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