How to Handle Low-Paying SEO and Marketing Clients?

Malowney
Although this group is for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), my struggles aren't with SEO so much, but with running my business. I have searched this group to see if anyone else has talked about this. I had a little meltdown last week due to the workload and the clients. Some days I feel like I am doing everything wrong. I know what my problems are but I'm struggling with making the changes I need to make — Namely charging more, and not letting clients creep in with added stuff that isn't in the scope of what I am supposed to be doing for them.
I am a broke girl with a startup. I have had a successful business before but it wasn't client-based, my revenue came from advertising.
These are the things I think I need to do.
Phase-out or farm out the cheap, low-paying clients that waste my time.
Do better on the initial phone calls and explain what I do and don't do.
Write up some actual contracts. (or find some contracts if that's out there.)
In the meantime, I have a bunch of clients that are sucking up my time and I don't have the time to do what I need to do to get better-paying clients. I feel like I am in a loop, where I can't make the time investment to do what I need to do to get better-paying clients because I am trying to keep up with an clients I have.
I don't think what I am describing is uncommon. So, if anyone has advice on how to get my business running more much effectively, I'd love to hear your experience.

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Yamil 🎓🎩
What was a game changer for me was hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) and creating super clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)s via video. I have the SOPs organized in a One Note notebook. Also, my Scope of Work with my clients is a super simple 1 page that leaves no room for miscommunication as to what I do for them. I do on page and off page. Any technical stuff is on them. Period. Even if I know how to do it I act dumb and refer them to someone else.

Barry » Yamil
This is great advice 👍
Sherry » Yamil
Why refer to someone else to do what you say you can't, and give the client someone else to go to? I'd advise to either charge more for the specialized/custom work or outsource it and charge more. This would solve the OP's entire concern. "Sure, I can take care of that, but it's outside my standard package (or our agreement), so there will be an additional charge". I just did that with a client yesterday, and it was totally worth doing for what was charged. Just be fair with upgrades and your client will respect and love you for it.
Yamil 🎓🎩 » Sherry
There are generalists and then there are specialists. I am speaking out of my own experience. I am at a stage in my professional life that I don't want the hassle. I have my SOPs and processes down to a science. Onboarding clients in my business is a science because we specialize in one thing and everyone in my team know what to do. Yes there are times that I may take on other work but because it's out of our current process it's up to me to fulfill or supervise the new offer/service versus been able to delegate it which then causes bottlenecks to our process.

Facu
Get out of the bottle neck… What kind of business are you doing? Always depends… If you are in marketing then just find someone doing agency work like you but living in a country where what you consider small money is big for him… That way you can focus on doing the important things for your clients, outsourcing the rest to the people you trust, keeping a % of that money just for doing the connection ad you keep your clients happy doing small shitty things until they are ready to pay for what your time is worth spending
Roy
One thing that stood out here is you mention doing a better job on the initial phone call explaining your service…
Stop explaining on phone calls, it's a waste of time and clients forget what you say the second you get off.
I have videos and pre made outlines that I send to prospects prior to a call.
These assets explain everything so once we are on the call I am just answering questions and getting the project going.
Take what you say on calls and create easy to digest assets that do the talking for you.
This also is useful when they try and ask for "tiny" favors or extra tasks. Just remind them of the outline you sent them which should communicate that all additional work will be billed.
You should have a list or document that outlines exactly what was agreed upon for additional reference.
Other than that, charge more and outsource the work.
But the problem with outsourcing is communication.
So it goes back to these videos and documents for what your expectations are and what you need people to do.
Try to only say or do things one time. Create some outline or deliverable asset each time you have to explain something new so the next person doesn't require a conversation.
This should save you tons of time and frustration.
Vapoholic
What we did is hire more and more people as we grew and delegated, delegated, and delegated tasks to suitable team members so none of us burn out and everything runs smoothly. Best of luck to you!

Malowney ✍️ » Vapoholic
This is what I want to do. I'm just not there yet. Hopefully soon.
Vapoholic
Keep it at your own pace, off course. Scaling up is viable only once your business can afford it. Meantime, my advice is to take up a little less work than you can handle and leave some time for your own personal growth, and rest, of course.
Malowney ✍️ » Vapoholic
Lol this is what my sister says. However, I don't know who can function without food. 🤣 I don't have steady income yet so the downtime will have to come later. And ty for the advice. I really appreciate it.
Vapoholic
I see your point, but you do need a solid basis in order to get that steady income you want. No point in going overboard with your time and health. Money does come slowly but time and health can be lost fast. Stick to best practices in business and personal life and listen to your sis. 🙂
Morris
It kind of sounds like your at a point where you should just simply start raising your rate for new clients. You've grinded it out, still grinding it out, so maybe its that time to get what your worth. Sell yourself on the knowledge you have picked up and make it clear to your new clients from the start that you don't work for free, simply by billing them for any work you do or when they ask you do do something make it clear they know everything you do will be billed. One thing I have learned in this life is the more you give the more people will take and in this industry clients will ask you to do something they just think is a small thing and whether it is or not, that's not really the point – they are paying for your KNOWLEDGE and time, if its so easy or its so small they should be able to do it themselves. I can do some SEO tasks in a matter of minutes but some of them took me months or longer to work/figure out how to do it right etc etc etc. I'm still grinding so I am still at the giving stage but once I get clients built up and my work gets out there I will raise my rates for new clients and slowly drop my old ones if they do not want to pay the new rate. I did this in my previous business and it worked like a charm.

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Corey
Plenty you could do. My suggestion as a first step- advise your least valued client that you are increasing rates by 50%, see what happens. They stay you win. They go, you win. Either way, you start the process, and build your business muscle.
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Malowney ✍️ » Corey
Thank you. I so appreciate the advice.

Imran
You can channel your low paying clients to offshore SEO agencies, probably someone from third world countries. That way you will be the middle man and able to enjoy much free time to work with high ticket clients.
That said, I also run an inhouse SEO agency. Let me know if we can help each other out. A quick phone call will be great 🙂
Ivan
I would have two suggestions based on my experience and believe me I know what you are going through!!! Now, my agency is on a great track so I suppose my two cents count. I hired let's say account manager cause she is doing more than that but basically someone who would communicate with clients, send the offers and contracts, charge any additional work along the way and then chase the payments if needed (at that moment there were 5 employees at the agency). It needs to be someone who is good with people but very strict and professional. Once you have someone who knows what to do in the middle you start to get much higher revenue for your work and much less stress. In the end you have very satisfied clients because they get what they pay for and those who are not willing to, you will lose but those should be lost beelive me! Still, the work with clients is a pain in the ass no matter how good you set things up. We made websites that were making millions for clients and then started to think why not make our own websites that would preform even better (ads, commission based, affiliate). Right now we are on a right track to explode the next year with over 15 real gems under our umbrella with revenue much higher than any client would ever pay for the same amount of work.
I know when you chase income it is really difficult to have a year aside to put in work to make it happen, especially if that is your only source of income. But take the clients money to survive and put a lot of effort in building your own websites with all the spare time you have. Bit by bit they will start to generate enough income so you can switch on scaling it and then hire people and before you know it you don't have any clients but yourself and then begins the beautiful part of pushing yourself to the limits but when you know why and enjoy it!
Hope this helps! Take care!
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Malowney ✍️ » Ivan
Thank you. I honestly think that's what I need. I was actually thinking about the same thing. I don't have the resources for this yet. But I do think that's exactly what I need.
Ivan » Malowney
Take focus on one website, make decent revenue for 12 months and sell it to get funds for the next ones. Here you can get a feel how much you need to generate monthly and for what amount you can sell it. Make this your priority and you could generate enough to have all year financial peace to produce 3-5 more the next year and so on… if you are good at producing great websites that preform exceptional SEO results you'll be more than happy to take this path 🙂 but you have to do a hell of a good work. I'll be happy to provide you with really good high DA links to give you a push at the beginning.
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Ivan » Malowney
Links free of charge of course 😉

Pielago
Get rid of toxic clients. Not worth it.
Let me know if we can help on farming out low paying clients.
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Erik
Raise your rates. Lose some clients, keep most. Have some time for fun, skills development, and later prospecting for new clients. Get too busy again. Rinse and repeat.
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Mark
Subcontract out bits and pieces…and scale back in promises…charge more to incoming clients and older clients one by one…slowly
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Malowney ✍️ » Mark
That was very helpful ty.
Mark » Malowney
No problem…I struggle with similar things even though I have a minimal work load and demands

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Toto
What I do is I only take on a certain amount of clients at a time. I am picky about which ones I take and will drop a client if they no longer are suitable. I do prepay monthly, so no pay, no work. Everything is invoiced before payment is made and I make sure the client understands what is included and how everything works before sending out an invoice.
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Paton
Be ruthless. Get rid of the bloodsucking ones ASAP. You'll feel a whole lot better afterwards.
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Malowney ✍️ » Paton
This is a life long problem of mine. You are absolutely right.
Paton » Patty
It can be hard to do but once you summon up that inner strength a huge weight will be lifted and you can move forward with a lot more clarity. These people don't value you or your time, so you shouldn't value them either.
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Bowie
Subcontract what you can't do, even if you break even on a few so you can drive better pipeline.
Also, take some time to work on your boundaries. Don't let your clients run you. Be okay with firing clients or referring them out.
I've been here. Clients will walk all over you and suck up your time if you let them. You have to be the gatekeeper there. Develop rules and boundaries and make them a part of your contracts and sales process. Set expectations from the beginning.

Malowney ✍️ » Bowie
I like your ideas. The boundaries issue I'm working on. I am an empath so it's a real struggle for me.
Bowie » Malowney
I get that. Same. But to be successful in business, you almost have to turn that power inward and treat yourself with empathy.
Remember, you are a human too. One that needs rest and quality of life to show up for ANY of your clients. Clearing your schedule of piddly contracts and establishing clear boundaries in the scope of work gives you the space to be a human AND drive better pipeline.
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Kevin
I think you've already answered some of your own questions, to be honest.
One thing I can stress is that you make it clear to your clients that you're the expert and can get them the results they desire if they let you do your job. That's it. If they persist in interfering with your efforts, remind them of this and tell them you won't be able to work with them if it continues. You'd be surprised at how many of them will back off and respect you for it.
You just have to take a deep breath and say it to them. It'll be OK, believe me.
One approach I've taken as of late is to just be blunt and explain that my involvement is about their business and not them. It's not a vanity project and I'm not an order taker.
You've hired me to get more qualified traffic to your website that converts, and that's what I do.
You want a slider? Or a form that asks for way too much info?
Sorry. I'm not doing that, because those things don't help the process. They hinder it.
Anyway, I'd suggest that you define what you do and hire yourself out based on that.
As for shitty clients in general, send them an email explaining that as much as you love having them as clients, you are raising your rates by X per cent.
The same goes for any unpaid website maintenance. Offer an up-front option of one hour per month, whether they use it or not and charge for the year.
Don't want to pay? That's cool, but you're on your own and it was your choice.
One direct way to establish your boundaries is to show them a couple of proof of concept projects you've done and then explain how you can do the same for them as long as they comply with your conditions.

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Jason
Hi Patty,
Many of us have been there, sorry your going through this.
Here is what I did.
1. Cut all work that is not in your original agreement for all clients.
2. Document all that work and review it to see if it is adding value (I'm assuming it is). You will offer them this at an appropriate additional rate. Write something like " Hi namehere. We love our customers and often go that extra mile or 2 or 10. For the past # of months we have been providing your company these extra services which provide this benefit. We would love to continue providing you these services. Normally they would be $0.00 per month. We love our customers and our relationship is important so moving forward we would love to offer you these services for $0.00, a 10% discount. Please let us know by datehere if you would like to continue with these otherwise we will continue moving forward with your current plan. Thank you for your business, we appreciate you!
Or something along those limes.
3. Set all your current services at the correct price for customers moving forward.
4. Set up a ticket system for your clients to use. Set up a once a month report explaining results for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)/Leadgen clients. We do a 24 hour response time and shoot for a 48 hour completion. It's always much faster but set those expectations.
5. For clients you have to have a call with on an ongoing basis set up a booking system where they can book one call a month. Set the times you would like to be available They can do more but charge for that as it takes more of your time. Account for all time in your initial agreement and pricing.
Use this for going over proposals with prospects also.
Never leave the calendar wide open. Only open appointments on certain days for a certain period of time.
6. If client try to add stuff after the proposal just tell them you would be happy to do that, it will be an additional $0.00
7. Review all your current clients and see if you need to raise your prices to make them profitable based on the work you are suppose to be doing. If you have some that need an increase pick a date you will switch this over. See 9. If they won't ever be a good fit give them to another agency or let them know they will need to work with someone else.
8. Write a very nice email to all your clients letting them know you are growing and changing as a company and you are very excited about all the changes. Introduce all the changes you made from above and tell them if they have any questions yo are happy to get on a call and go over them.
9. For all folks that need a price increase write them a very nice email explaining that you really value them as a customer but due to increased cost prices will be going up as of datehere. Offer again to get on a call with them. I would call then a day after you send this one to ask if they had any questions.
Obviously that isn't everything but hopefully there is something in there you can use that will help you out. Some you feel you might not be able to do (price increases can be the hard one) and that's cool as long as you not losing money.
Hope that helps.
Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

Malowney ✍️ » Jason
Wow that was so comprehensive. I'm going to keep all your notes and work on this. I really appreciate your advice.
Jason » Patty
Hope it helps. It helped me 🙂

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