As I was meditating yesterday (yes, meditation is good it makes your head clearer other than exercising) I began to look back at my SEO career and ask myself what could I have been if I continued being an employee versus an SEO agent working full time at home.
I decided to write about it given that I think this is a question most frequently asked by SEO’s who are interested in being a freelance SEO.
Advantages Of Being An SEO Employee
Being an SEO employee has its merits, chief of them is you get health benefits and constant pay every 15th and 30th plus a chance to be a head of a department being a director, manager or team leader. You also get to enjoy leaves, team buildings, 13th month pays and a stable source of income (perhaps the most important one).
This is all good, but you also have to contend with the following:
- Constant commute to and fro (we know how stressful it is to commute in Manila, I never had any problems in Cebu though)
- Office politics (this is unavoidable eventually you will get to meet people who just want to make other people’s life miserable)
- Contending with HR (this is subjective, but yes their job is to keep in mind that you work 8 hours a day without being late)
- No Privacy (your computer and everything in it is owned by the company you have no right to browse any other website other than the job given to you.
- A chance to be a victim of redundancy. (I’ve had my share of experiences on this as well)
- You get to pay for taxes that only goes to corrupt politicians pockets (this is personally my issue this might be okay with you but it is definitely not okay with me, I would rather not pay my taxes rather than have it robbed off me)
- Fixed salary
The list above are just a few that I know of, it could be longer depending on the company you are working with but then those are just the ones on top of my head.
I’ve known people who have stuck with this kind of model and enjoying it immensely, some of them I still see on LinkedIn and congratulating them on their new job description.
- Constant commute to and fro (we know how stressful it is to commute in Manila, I never had any problems in Cebu though) – You will spend on gas if you have a car or even if you are commuting so you have to consider that in your daily budget and you will lose the most precious commodity in the world and that is TIME. I remember back then I used to commute from Diliman to Makati every day and I spend 2-3 hours commuting. If you do the math in a month’s time you’ve lost 60 hours of your life! 60 hours that could be translated to reading a book, exercising, enjoying a date, SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES! Of course people who live near their place of work have no issues with this.
- Office politics (this is un-avoidable eventually you will get to meet people who just want to make other people’s life miserable) – there are just people who will hate your guts, not to mention the gossip, I guess this is a part of life. You just have to steer clear of this in the near future.
- Contending with HR (this is subjective, but yes their job is to keep in mind that you work 8 hours a day without being late) – The HR is either your best friend or your worst enemy never make the mistake of making them the latter one, or you’re in for a real world of hurt.
- No Privacy (your computer and everything in it is owned by the company you have no right to browse any other website other than the job given to you. – Make the IT people your friends, you never know when they will just disappear and delete all your company files on the server (yeah this happened to my company before)
- A chance to be a victim of redundancy. (I’ve had my share of experiences on this as well) – whether you like it or not you are only as good as the next new person they hire with a lesser salary to pay. It is still a business and unfortunately in our industry, companies try to make their overheads smaller as possible. Hence, if they don’t find you “important” anymore whether personally, professionally, or even if your division can be relocated to India for cheaper pay, you are considered a liability. After experiencing this thrice It became a motivation for me to start my own online career.
- You get to pay for taxes that only goes to corrupt politicians pockets (this is personally my issue this might be okay with you, but it is definitely not okay with me, I would rather not pay my taxes rather than have it rubbed off me) – In the Philippines, corruption is as clear as day, the way I see it taxes are there to help people not to make them poorer by the second. I have worked in a company that didn’t even remit my SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig insurances, perhaps that’s just my bad luck, but if I had invested that money in learning more about SEO I could’ve become even better! Alas, one has to experience these problems in order to learn from it. Paying taxes is good, but if no corrupt politician is being sent to jail then why do we even pay it?
- Fixed salary – you will be dependent on the amount of money the company is willing to invest in you, nothing more – nothing less if you are comfortable with this then there is no problem. In my case I personally think that one should be paid accordingly by one’s skill set.
Advantages of Being An SEO Freelance Agent
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned this the hard way. I did not own a house, I have to work for my food, electricity, transportation all from the sweat of my brow. I was not gifted enough to be born in a family that can provide me an allowance even after graduation. After graduating, I worked my ass off and earned my keep. So I guess I can say that I can speak about the advantages of being a freelance SEO agent in the Philippines.
Clearly the advantages that I am talking about here is the exact opposite of the dis-advantages I mentioned above. Being a freelance SEO agent will give you more freedom than you can imagine but with a price.
- You never know when you will get a client or lose a client
- You will need to spend in order to earn
- You will have to start from scratch
- You will have to really work your ass off
- You will have to eliminate distractions
- You will need to deal with failure
- You never know when you will get a client or lose, a client – it is the same even if you work for a company, you can never really tell if they will fire you or if they will close down. I realized this after getting pummeled over and over again by companies. At least if you are a freelance SEO agent, you get to control the direction your career is heading, instead of being entirely dependent on your company.
- You will need to spend in order to earn – I have spent thousands of pesos in learning SEO because there is no school that offers it, I always believe that knowledge is important and the key to everything, so I am not afraid to work for it and invest in it. So if you are going for the free route yes, go ahead, but it will take you some time believe me, but if you pay for it you get to have access to the ones that are already tested and proven techniques. So don’t skimp. Invest in a site, optimize your site, market yourself and make yourself a brand.
- You will have to start from scratch – I always think of myself as an explorer, I am never satisfied with what I know so everyday I read about SEO. This is entirely different from working in a company where one will just give you a task and expect you to submit it at the end of the day. If you are a freelancer you will have to compete with hundreds of other freelancers doing the same things you do.
- You will have to really work your ass off – make no mistake work is good, working to live is better, but living to work is the opposite of what you want to accomplish. Enjoy life, work because you need it, not because it is the end of your existence.
- You will have to eliminate distractions – in this age distraction is everywhere, I learned to eliminate distraction by writing down a list of things that I need to accomplish before I sleep or at the start of the day. Work on what is important and focus on one goal with the end in mind.
- You will need to deal with failure – failure is just a part of the learning process, what you need to be worried about is what you can do to at least have a calculated risk in your actions. I am not saying to just go ahead and risk everything. MODEL after people who has succeeded in this field of work and MIRROR them.
Bonus Section: Why not do both?
This is clearly possible; I know a number of people who does content writing or SEO on the side. But then consider that if you are an employee, you are obligated to represent your company and prioritize it over others.
My take on this is that it is safe and better to focus on just one for the moment while studying or making the transition to the other.
Bottomline is, it still all depends on your priorities. If you need fast cash – go for the company, if you don’t have clients – go for the company, but if you want to establish your name (earn more than the salaried SEO), business or brand – go for being a freelance SEO agent.
Still not convinced? Consider the following stories below:
I guess there comes a point in our life where we tend to compare our lives to other people, and perhaps find a pebble of wisdom in them as well.
Sometimes I think that it’s because I’m getting old and I am starting to look at things differently. Such is the experience of the existentialist dilemma.
So I came to compile a number of stories that I find very interesting and I am curious about.
The Case of Robbie
I had an interesting conversation last weekend when a student of mine, let’s call him “Robbie” visited me for our weekly Weng Chun practice. In between exercises and warm-ups he was constantly tired and catching his breath.
He was unable to come to practice for almost a month, saying that he had a lot of work on his plate that he had to work for at least 12 hours a day.
I asked him if they have overtime pay, and he told me that yes, they have but it is a requirement to work at least 4 hours in order to be paid, but most of the time the company opts out of payment, instead they offer a day off for the hours used in overtime.
It is a good thing though that his office is very near his house that he gets to go home early compared to the ones working in Makati and other far flung areas.
I asked him how much he is earning, and his take home pay and he told me that it was just enough to feed himself. He invested all of his money on paying insurances and mutual funds, and because he is single, he also has no girlfriend to go out with.
The good thing is that he is living with his parents and has nothing to pay for rent, food, electricity or water. He works in an IT company and wants to earn more and be free from the clutches of corporate work.
The Case of Andie
Another friend of mine, let’s call her “Andie” works for a huge company, and earns a lot of money, but then she recently messaged me and told me that she is at a level where she is tired of working in a corporate setting.
I can only imagine it because I’ve known her for a long time, and she’s the kind of person that never complains, works hard and does overtime with or without pay.
We are talking about a person who has never stopped working for a company since the time she graduated and has worked herself to be a part of the higher echelons of project management.
She is asking me on what to do next as she’s not happy anymore with her job.
Update: Andie was eventually made redundant by the company she worked for and she was not paid the proper amount for years rendered, she wanted to file a case in DOLE, but decided against it because she thought that it would hurt her chances of landing a decent job in another company.
Now contrast the above stories with these two people that I know.
The Case of TJ
TJ is now in India for two weeks training Indians for a job that they are going to handle. I asked him why; and he told me: “Filipinos are training them because the COMPANY is now closing the department here in the country and letting go of people who have worked for them for years to save money. So in effect I am training them to take over our jobs!”
As you notice, I use the word “FOR” and not the word “WITH” because the truth is companies are out there for you to make money for them.
This is not entirely wrong, I mean, if you got the skills and the opportunity to earn a lot really in a company then go for it.
But you should accept the fact that the company will only see you as an asset until such time that it can save money, yet earn a profit from you.
In the case of the last story I mentioned, the company opted to use the skills of Filipinos in order to let them go in the end with no regards to the families that they feed, for a cheaper workforce in India.
Update: TJ was eventually made redundant by the company and was paid a lot in contrast with Andie. He is now being mentored by me on how to properly transition from being a full time employee to a full time freelancer.
Now what is the most common thing between all of them?
They all love their jobs! It just differs on how they make their jobs affect their person and their lives.
In my last conversation with Andie, she told me “I guess it really boils down to knowing what you want and doing something about it.”
I answered: “Actually, I think you should ask yourself WHY YOU WANT IT AND WHY YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.”
Defining your why takes a lot more energy than one can imagine, because it gives you a sense of realization of where you are and what you need. In the case of Andie she needs to determine her priorities and what it is she’s happy doing.
Call it having a burnout or having a really bad day, still when one gets to lie down with a monkey on their back prodding them about what should’ve been’s and what could’ve been’s perhaps it is about time to leave the job that you love and try to live life differently.
The Case of Lakbay
Lakbay is what one would regard as a free spirit, hailing from a far-flung province in the Visayas he was able to enter the University of The Philippines Cebu College.
After deciding to work for an NGO while still in college, he filed for a leave of absence and worked with an NGO whose advocacy was to help the environment.
After saving some money and gaining more experience, he decided to come back to school and finish his studies while at the same time doing some part time jobs in the NGO he worked in.
He was able to graduate and after continuing to work for some time decided to pursue his lifelong dream of being a free diver, not after traveling the entire country out of piso fares and promos he avails a year before going to those places.
He is now one of the most sought after free diver instructors in Cebu.
Oh, and to add he was not rich, he came from a poor family.
The Case of Rico
There is this person, let’s call him “Rico” that I know who has never worked for a company since the time he graduated, he is an artist and has opted to develop his skills.
He decided to learn how to use Photoshop and learned it in his free time while getting gigs on the side.
He became so good in Adobe Photoshop that eventually he was requested to teach in a licensed Photoshop school in the Philippines while at the same time travel the world for different art installations and so forth.
He now has two kids and can go anywhere he wants while enjoying his time with his kids.
The Case of Ria
Another friend of mine, let’s call her “Ria” never worked for a company for more than a year. She works for 6 – 9 months save her money, then resigns and then tours the entire country.
Right now, she gets her job gigs online and has gone to every beach, mountain, and beautiful places in the country.
As of the moment she is in another part of the world.
Perhaps you are asking yourself, do these people have job security? Do they earn a very meager salary? Don’t you think that they are very immature for their age not thinking about what could happen to their kids or their future if they don’t have enough money?
If you are asking yourself this, perhaps you should also ask, how much money and time were you able to use and enjoy given the amount of money you are currently earning from your job.
Were you really able to achieve your dreams or did you brush it off believing that the only way to be happy is to have a really huge paycheck at the end of the day?
Were you so afraid of being poor that even thinking about it makes you swallow all the stress and injustice done to you and your people?
I am not saying that what Robbie, Andie and TJ are doing are all wrong.
I also started out as one.
Traveling 2-3 hours from Diliman to Makati and another 2-3 hours back.
Squeezing through sweaty and smelly people in the not-so-well-ventilated trains.
Being treated like shit “because you are being challenged to do your best”.
Being treated like shit “because you agreed to take on a very important position”.
Being treated like shit “because you earn a lot”.
Having your taxes plundered by corrupt politicians.
Having your SSS and Phil-health not deposited by the company you work for despite being subtracted from your salary.
Having no holidays because it is not a holiday in the US and still having no holidays because holidays in the U.S. are not recognized in the Philippines.
Getting fired for no apparent reason.
Getting fired and not getting paid for redundancy.
The list goes on and on…
I look back at the cases of Ria, Rico & Lakbay, and I contrast them with the ones with Robbie, Andie and TJ.
I then tried to factor in my personal experiences, and there is nothing farther from the truth, I realize that it all boils down to one’s capacity to handle risks, fears and current priorities.
TJ can’t leave the company he’s working for because he needs to pay for his kid’s school bills.
Andie can’t leave her company because she can’t leave a lifestyle that she’s been familiar with ever since.
Robbie can’t leave his company and enjoy what he wants to do because he needs to pay for those investments he incurred.
At the end of the day they are in a place where there is neither here nor there, and happiness is more of seeing those things they long for in the future be made true.
Now why am I writing this? Why is this ever so significant with the theme of my blog?
For one, I realize that no matter how hard or easy one’s job is, sometimes you got to stick to it in order to make a living, but if little by little it starts to suck your sanity, your soul, your creativity especially your dreams then perhaps you should leave it and find something that makes you happy.
Sometimes even at the cost of a few inconveniences. This has always been my dilemma when I was starting out, after graduating from college
Apparently I never expected the amount of douchebags in the workplace to be that high, that I felt they only applied for the job in order to look down on people or put people down.
It reminds me of the controversial study made by Philip Zimbardo namely the Stanford Prison Experiment.
If you take a look at how a workplace is designed, it particularly has a lot of parallelism with prisons.
- You depend on your superiors for sustenance
- Either you are stuck with them or you are forced to stay with them by virtue of your everyday needs.
- The bureaucracy is a pain in the ass. (This might be cultural but with all the company HR’s I’ve worked with, I can only count with the fingers of my right hand the really good HR’s out there)
- You are meant to follow everything they say by hook or by crook or else you get the boot.
There was a time when I worked for a really big company and I made no friends in my entire stay.
Was it because I dress differently? But what we all took the same exam, we all passed the same training, but why do they like the other person with long sleeves versus me wearing a 4 year old jacket?
I remember at lunch where all of them will go out, and I would walk in the corridor after eating my lunch in five minutes flat on my desk.
I will spend the time looking for areas where people don’t smoke so I can think in peace and that was before I even had my iPod then. Oh, how I wish I had my iPod, then I could’ve read hundreds of books just by spending my time alone.
After five months I was advised by my direct superior to leave the company or else she will just fail me come evaluation time.
She came up with ways and means to rig my work and tell me that it wasn’t good even when I merely copied it from last year’s report the exact same template which one of the oldest employees did.
It sucks to be me back then.
But it’s good to know that I left that place, I was working hours and wasting away time hoping that the clock would strike seven so I can leave the hell out of that place.
A friend of mine that’s still working there, albeit in another department told me that it’s because I worked in the wrong department, I should’ve worked in the creative department where people are “way cooler” and “down to earth”.
Another story I forgot to mention was about the story of a good friend of mine.
She was a college dropout and because the call center industry was booming back in 2000 she decided to work in one.
The pay is good, but the shift is shitty, nonetheless she earned her keep and kept on hitting sales, after sales eventually earning more sales than entire departments!
That’s how good she really is!
Now call centers are known to never discriminate, a potential employee takes the exam, passes it. Works his/her ass off and performs well then gets promoted according to the merit of his/her work.
But when the time came when she was supposed to be promoted, group of scumbags in the form of team leaders and HR specialists didn’t approve of her promotion.
Now I personally know this person, she is a down to earth kind of girl, and she never hurts anyone, you could say that she’s more of the friends of everyone type.
Now coming back to the scumbags… their only reason for not promoting her?
It’s because she wasn’t a college graduate! How absurd is that?
She left the company after that and that’s when we eventually met each other, working for an American SEO company in Cebu.
In ending, I guess it comes down to choosing what you want to do with your life and if you want to live a stress free life versus… you know, sucking it all up.
Now just in case you’ve decided to be an SEO Freelancer consider the article below:
How Does One Become An SEO Freelancer?
If you want to be an SEO Freelancer you have to learn two things:
- You have to learn about SEO.
- You have to learn how to apply SEO.
The truth is, with all the available information about SEO; you don’t know where to start learning SEO and who to believe.
My suggestion is this, before you even start learning SEO, learn first how to put up your own website. Learn how to buy your domain name, how to setup your hosting and how to upload WordPress and its plugins (as it is the easiest and you have more control over).
It is only by doing so that you will become familiar with SEO.
The reason is simple, people would say that there is no need to learn how to setup your website if you are already trying to learn SEO. They will say that those things are best left out for web developers.
I beg to disagree, learning how to setup your website properly is the beginning of learning how to do SEO.
Before anything else, before reading all the available free information and paid ones (and they will all tell you the same thing by the way) unless you learn how to create your website then you will never really learn SEO.
The best SEO’s in the world handle their own websites and they can explain to you in detail how they did it, theory is different from experience, so I hope you dwell on that first before learning any SEO.
In fact, in essence, SEO is about having a website and influencing Google to rank it on the first page.
Learning SEO: Where, How, Why
There is an interesting thread I read in the SEO Philippines Facebook Group.
Somebody asked if it was okay to enroll in an SEO University in Ateneo and be certified by them; the replies were spontaneous.
Others were saying: Why pay for something that is available for free?
Others were even questioning the authority of the certifying body and the people behind it.
The price was also very expensive, 40,000 PHP as of current writing.
I answered the thread and said that it is ok to enroll in those things if you have the money, but then you should never regret it afterward.
You see, I took a lot of free and paid SEO courses on the web, and even if those courses gave me a certificate the only thing that would prove otherwise if I learned anything or not, is if I was able to outrank my competitors.
The reality is, Google is constantly changing its algorithm, so instead of relying on courses I suggest you rely on forums with like-minded individuals that will update you every once in a while on the changes in Google’s algorithm.
But if ever you choose to go the course route, the best thing that you will learn in those courses are the case studies.
Case studies plot out the best ways web marketers handled a specific problem, by doing so internet marketers were able to reverse engineer Google and find loopholes in its algorithm.
In these case studies sometimes even a simple changing of hosting provider can make a website rank on the first page.
If you are willing to learn SEO, you must also be aware that you would need a stable internet connection, a fast computer a good operating system and for goodness sakes a good anti-virus!
As of the moment I use the fastest internet cable connection available in the country, and while people ask me why I need that kind of speed despite its expensiveness my answer is simple.
If you plan to travel faster and safer from one point to another, you must have a good car to bring you there.
So I bought a server type desktop computer with a double monitor and high-speed ram.
As for the operating system, I bought an original copy of Microsoft Windows.
Don’t get me wrong, I started from the bottom.
My O.S. was pirated; my internet connection was, very very slow.
My computer was not that fast.
And my antivirus was also free.
I chose to make it all better because the returns will be much better for you and your business. If your problem is money, then better save for it if you are serious about becoming an SEO freelancer.
I also use a laptop, but once the motherboard gets fried, that’s the end of it along with all your files. Therefore, you would need a lot of space in your external hard disk.
Oh, and by the way you also better buy an original Microsoft Office product, trust me on this.
Now going back to the question: How Do You Become an SEO Freelancer?
There is a proverb that says the only way to survive in life is to be able to answer two things.
One is how to get into it, and the other one is how to get out of it.
It applies to every facet of life, from business to relationships. If you can answer them, then you are safe to go. But mind you it is by no means an easy task to be an SEO freelancer.
For one you need to dedicate time and effort to studying SEO, the problem here is not where to get the information and materials to learn SEO, but on who to believe when someone talks about SEO.
Not to mention the amount of time needed to learn SEO. Everyone wants to earn money as soon as possible, but a lot of them fail to recognize the amount of time needed to learn SEO. I am going to discuss this issue below.
The Long-Path and the Short-Path
In my years of being an SEO Specialist, I came to realize that SEO is very simple, but you would need another set of faculties in order to become one.
Patience – Looking for the right information is hard enough, especially when you realize that two experts are practically saying the exact opposite of what the other is saying. My issue back then is how I can thresh out the truth from the lies.
In the world of SEO a lot of gurus seem to have sprung up and because of the lack of any form of certification (other than their earnings) one would have to be skeptical to every SEO guru promising riches in a single day.
Practicing patience is the most daunting task ever to be exercised by anyone wanting to become a successful SEO practitioner.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars in searching for the right mentor and then experimenting while searching for the right information only to be dissuaded by other “white-hat” SEO’s that brand those practices as “not following the Google white-hat only marching orders”.
Tell you what, if you are trying to influence rankings in Google, then you’ve already become a non-white-hat SEO practitioner.
There is a thin-line between providing value and ranking on the first page of Google, and that is the motivation behind it.
If you are trying to rank on the first page because you want to earn more money and by achieving it you are trying to get more links, then guess what, you my friend are not a white-hat SEO, in fact, there is no such thing as a white-hat SEO as long as you are trying to influence the search results! If you are still not convinced, then try reading Google’s guidelines.
Experimentation – It is not often that you find an SEO that is willing to experiment anymore. A lot of SEO’s nowadays would rather err on the side of caution rather than on the side of experimentation and finding out what works and what doesn’t.
In my experience there is no single way of doing SEO, because if there is such, then nobody would need any services from SEO’s at all. They would just monitor the practices of their competitors, and that’s it.
Most of their reasons for not experimenting is because they want to make sure that every campaign should be as close to what Google wants and what other “white-hat” SEO’s do.
But take my word for it when you get deeper into the world of SEO you would have to ask yourself if that is all there is in the world of doing link-building and on-page optimization.
Think about it, if ranking in the first page of Google is as easy as churning out ten 1,000 word articles per day (as evangelized by a lot of “white-hat SEO’s) then everybody would’ve already done it! Who would be so stupid not to notice it right?
But what does “experimenting” really mean?
Experimenting would mean trying out alternative ways to outrank your competitors by not following the “white-hat SEO only” method that would take more time and more budget as much as possible.
In closing, I hope that I was able to shed some light on this topic as I am more than happy to share more secrets if you are really interested in becoming an SEO Freelancer.