Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey there! I’m Jade Pruett, Founder of HelloSEO. We are a boutique SEO agency serving small to medium-sized businesses across the US and beyond. HelloSEO solely focuses on SEO and SEO-informed content marketing.
Most of our clients are small to medium service-based businesses looking to build their authority and visibility within Google. I offer long-term, done-for-you SEO for a fixed, monthly fee, and I also offer hourly consulting in the form of Power Hours.
Power Hours give small business owners the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with me and work on their SEO for a full hour. The results we see from both offerings have been very promising, and I love how my work can make a real difference for small businesses.
At the moment, HelloSEO is making around $25,000 a month, and the team consists of me and a part-time SEO specialist. I also have a network of contractors and subject-matter experts I can bring in when need be for my clients.
It is also my mission to bring transparency and accessibility to the world of SEO. This primarily happens through lots of Loom videos and the occasional Taylor Swift-themed explainer post.
My strong recommendation is to let go of perfectionism, focus on developing a skill, and start with reasonable prices.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I can confidently say I never wanted to own my own business. I have entrepreneurial parents who encouraged me to start my own business growing up, and I objected strongly to the idea. It wasn’t until 2020 when I suddenly had extra time on my hands that I realized I could use the SEO skills I built up from my full-time job to help other businesses on the side. The entrepreneurial bug bit, and I was obsessed.
At the time, I worked for a company that ran all the coupon pages for CNN and Business Insider. It was a young SEO analyst’s dream. I was personally in charge of the rankings for over 200 major retailers on both platforms.
The experience I built in that fast-paced, high-volume environment made making SEO choices for a five-page service-based website for a local business seem like a breeze. And the results were speaking for themselves. It also built up my confidence in SEO and inspired me to take on bigger challenges.
While my business was still a tiny side gig, I moved into a bigger SEO position at a semiconductor company. Because of the demand for full-time work, I was only able to maintain a few clients at a time.
I worked every evening and weekend to keep everything functioning, and there were many times I thought I just needed to give up on HelloSEO. I had a great job with a great salary, and trying to match that salary with a side hustle felt impossible.
Finally, I connected with the branding agency, AOU Creative, who offered me a partnership position. Doing the SEO work for their book of clients while I built up my clientele was the perfect segue between jobs. We continue to partner, share ideas, and act as sounding boards for each other, which makes the solopreneur's life far more fun.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Figuring out how to nail down the perfect way to serve my clients was a major challenge at the beginning. I knew my way around SEO, but I struggled to wrap it up in a neat package that gave my clients exactly what they wanted.
So, my first offering was a basic audit presented in a Google slide, followed by some keyword magic with minimal transparency. My clients had no clue what I was up to because I didn't have a solid tracking system in place. And to make matters worse, my reports were just a bunch of screenshots on Google Slides.
Things have changed since then. I've completely revamped my process. Now, I provide a detailed audit in a massive Google sheet and a competitive analysis that shows clients exactly where they stand in the market. We dive into 18 different metrics that matter to Google. To keep everyone in the loop, every client gets their very own dynamic dashboard in Looker Studio so they can stay in the know about their SEO, even between our meetings.
The way I serve my clients now is all thanks to their feedback and curiosity. I've learned so much from them. So, if you're trying to come up with your first service package, my best advice is to just give it a shot and be ready for changes down the road. And you know who the experts are on what your clients want? Your clients themselves. They'll guide you in the right direction if you’re willing to have open communication and take feedback.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I started my business without even having a functioning website or a name. Once I landed a few clients from webinars and referrals, I began drafting a website on Squarespace, just to establish an online presence. I built the entire website by myself, learning along the way.
Financially, there was very little investment in my business. The only thing I purchased initially was a membership for Ahrefs, which allowed me to track things for my clients. Everything else was managed through Google Suite.
To be honest, not much has changed in that regard. I now have a CRM, a website, and a few other software-as-a-service (SaaS) product memberships, but the bulk of my work still happens in Google Suite and Ahrefs.
Reflecting on the launch of my company, I admire how imperfect it was. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I might have been more of a perfectionist, but that would have worked against me. Starting with a small website and minimal expenses truly helped propel HelloSEO to where it stands today.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In the early days, my go-to strategy for attracting customers was hosting webinars. I was invited by a local group of therapists to give a presentation on marketing for therapists, and it led to three new clients. Then, I did a similar presentation around marketing for personal chefs and landed another two clients. This approach often resulted in an additional handful of leads, some of whom I continue to work with today.
Referrals were another major driver of growth. While working at a fantastic co-working space in Atlanta called Alkaloid, the owner consistently referred me to individuals who expressed a need for SEO services. As my company expanded and I relocated to Columbia, I became involved with another co-working space, FemmeX, that connected me with my advisors.
Building connections through generosity leads to more business opportunities, expanded networks, and overall happiness in life.
My advisors have been instrumental in referring me to their other clients and facilitating great connections. Naturally, word-of-mouth recommendations also played a significant role as satisfied clients referred me to their friends and colleagues.
Networking has proven to be a fruitful avenue for me as well. Offering a low-priced option called a Power Hour has been particularly successful in giving people a glimpse of what we can accomplish together. This is especially evident when I appear on podcasts, as individuals who have never interacted with me before often book Power Hours.
I wanted to offer something to the women business owners in my coworking space who might not be ready for a full SEO package yet. After performing a few, I realized just how amazing the results were.
One client earned over $10,000 in new business after a Power Hour, meaning they got a 12,000% return on investment. The wild results from the Power Hours have also skyrocketed by word of mouth referrals. They make it a no brainer to try out my services.
For a low fee, we can sit down for an hour and identify quick wins in their SEO. Although it doesn't always lead to a larger engagement, it serves as an excellent way to connect with business owners who may require my services in the future. As an added benefit, they receive instant value from our time together and typically have actionable items they can work on independently until they are ready to invest in SEO.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As of writing this, I have been running my business full-time for only 8 months. It has been an absolute whirlwind, and I'm amazed at how much the business has grown in such a short span of time.
I had originally planned to focus on my marketing in November, thinking I would have some spare time, but that never came to fruition. Finally, I am in a position where I can dedicate time to marketing and increasing my visibility. With my marketing efforts just beginning, I am eagerly anticipating further growth for the company.
At present, I can proudly say that we maintain an 80% profit margin on a month-to-month basis, and that number will only increase as new clients come on board.
Currently, I am still in the process of training my first employee. This has proven to be one of the biggest challenges of running this business. It turns out that I have a strong inclination to retain control and be involved in every aspect of my client's work.
I believe that this has been a key factor in my success thus far, as my clients receive exceptional care and attention when working with me. However, I must acknowledge that my first employee is fantastic, and together, we are developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that will enable me to further expand the company in the future.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the most valuable lessons I've learned as a business owner is that the more you give to your community, the more you receive. It may sound cliché, but being generous with your time and expertise has always proven beneficial for me.
Of course, there will always be individuals who try to take advantage of your kindness, but in general, building connections through generosity leads to more business opportunities, expanded networks, and overall happiness in life.
As a woman in business, I initially believed that I would need to toughen up and adopt a more aggressive approach. However, I have discovered that this is far from the truth.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics extensively every day.
Ahrefs is an incredible tool for competitor tracking, keyword monitoring, and essentially everything you need to know about SEO. Google Search Console and Google Analytics are user-friendly platforms that allow you to track various metrics and assess the performance of your SEO efforts.
Additionally, Google Search Console enables you to monitor your website's health effortlessly. The best part is that it's completely free—just set it up, let it collect data in the background, and you're good to go for SEO success.
Looker Studio is my go-to for reporting data to all of my clients. I also love Loom. It's a fantastic tool for creating videos to report metrics to clients, explain SOPs to my employee, and generate marketing content for all my channels. I'm obsessed with Loom.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love anything Mike Michaelowitz writes about business. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and Profit First were big when planning my business. I highly recommend his audiobooks. Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin is an incredible book about building one of the biggest SEO companies out there, and also his experiences with mental health and the financial side of building a massive brand. It’s incredibly honest and heavily influenced how I want to scale my business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
We are living in such an exciting time where you don't need an employer to validate your experience or talent to get started and make money. All you have to do is build a simple website, get a few clients, and just go for it.
My strong recommendation is to let go of perfectionism, focus on developing a skill, and start with reasonable prices. Take the leap and embrace it as one of the biggest adventures of your life. Even if you encounter failures, as long as you don't give up, you'll be failing forward.
Another valuable piece of advice that has stuck with me recently came from the CTO of a large startup. During a Power Hour, we discussed how AI is rapidly changing everything. He shared that he has discovered there is no single skill that guarantees lifelong employability.
The only skill you can rely on to keep you going in life is curiosity. Being dynamic, curious, and forward-thinking is what will make you successful throughout your entire life. Always be ready to embrace new things and continue learning openly. It's the key to staying on track and having lots of fun.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! I would love to meet some Junior SEOs and some backlink acquisition specialists who want to learn in a small, start-up environment.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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