Randy, why did you decide to do this out of interest?
Pretty simple answer there really Adibranch. One that sorta does and sorta doesn't come down to money. I've found that a person only needs a certain amount of money, and beyond that it quickly becomes something else. For me it's how much headache is caused.
Part of my decision to move away from being a hired SEO was that I was already tired of clients who wouldn't do what they were told, or wouldn't allow me to do it, even though they were paying for the advice. Those who couldn't follow simple directions were also the ones who would later complain about the worse than (I) expected results. So there was definitely that part on the headache side of things.
The main reason though is that during a 3 month time frame several years ago I'd taken on three new clients, two with brand new ideas/sites and one with an existing but really badly put together site. I was charging each of them my norm at the time, $3,000 retainer to get the ball rolling plus $1,000 per month with a 12 month commitment. All three projects ended up being pretty much ground up development because there was either nothing there or nothing there that was useful.
So I began doing my thing. All three happened to be pretty darned good ideas. Something people needed and wouldn't mind paying for, and as Jill said back then there was just less competition so it was easier. More of a wild west feel with very few startups that had a legitimate chance of real success because too few people understood how to build a real 'Net business, let alone how to market to a niche.
Soooooo long story shorter that it could be
6 months in I'd been paid around $15-16K to develop these three sites from the ground up. When I ran the quarterly reports for these three clients I noticed that during this same 6 month time frame the three sites combined had gross profits of something north $700k.
As you might guess a little lightbulb went on over my head and I went back and looked at the real numbers (both what I made from working on other people's sites vs. how much they made from my work/advice) and quickly realized that a lot of people were making a lot of money based almost totally upon my work. Not only were they making a lot of money I'd never get a cut of, but because putting a good SEO, marketing and business plan in place tends to keep things steady for at least a year or two, even if someone canceled their contract with me they would continue to make a ton of money based upon my work for at least
12-18 months after I stopped being paid if they did nothing more with the site once I'd worked on them.
Since I was already doing everything except coming up with the original idea, and I'd always had ideas that I just didn't have the time to implement, I started out on this path I'm on by not taking on a new client I otherwise would have for a single month. Basically I freed up a little time to hire myself. 8 months or so later my one site I'd hired myself to work on was making me more money, for a lot less work mind you, than all of my SEO/Marketing/Business development clients combined.
This single realization is what got me out of doing SEO for others. It's just easier and more lucrative for me to develop sites for myself. Given these small facts, why would I put myself through the constant wringer of trying to make other people understand what's best for them and their site when I could have one client (me) who already knew and agreed? Especially when working for my own sites made me a better living with the same or less amount of work involved?
From a purely personal perspective it just didn't make sense to make a living building other people's businesses anymore.
The only problem with this concept is I think I have the same bug as most other SEO's. Could I build these little sites and run them for 5 or 6 years and continue raking in the profits? Sure enough, I could, and it would be lucrative in a purely financial sense. Even just 2 or 3 sites would earn me a darned good living and do so for years.
But that's just not where I get my thrill
from. I get my personal satisfaction from building stuff and seeing it become successful.
Realizing this (quirk? failing?) about myself I tweaked my business plan a bit.
Nowadays what I do is come up with the new ideas or new twists on old ideas, do all of the market research to make sure the potential profits are there, test it quickly and build it out if it looks profitable. The ones I build out I tend to keep anywhere from 18 to 36 months (depending upon how much fun it is, not how much it makes me) and then sell 'em off to people who are more interested in running a business as opposed to my main interest of building one. I typically sell them for 2-3 times annual earnings, so when I sell one off it's a nice little pot-o-money to roll into my retirement plan, the daughter's edumacation savings or back into new projects.
I did also tinker with the idea of keeping some of them and simply hiring someone to handle the day-to-day stuff, where I retained ownership of the sites. This "boss" approach just doesn't suit my personality. It is another way someone with a development bug like I have to do it though, if someone wanted to build a large 'Net empire. And there are plenty of people out there willing to do the daily work. In my experience if you're going to do this and keep a handle on everything you either need to have an office where people show up to work every day or you need to find a few folks who are really well disciplined if you're going to try to do it remotely. I don't want an office full of people so tried the remote thing. The lack of discipline from some folks caused me too much headache to continue it, even though each of those folks had a personal stake in the sites they ran.
So to round it all out, was it a dollars and cents thing? Yes, to a degree. But more about how I could not only maintain but improve the financial side of things with a lot less work rather than just making more personal moolah. The truth is the more attractive thing for me was that switching my business plan from being an SEO to working for myself immediately removed almost all of my headaches and freed me up to work on stuff that actually interests me.