Or: How I Got on the Road to Entrepreneurship
This is a bit of departure from the normal SEO/SEM talk I usually have here. But a topic that’s equally important, perhaps even more so, when you’ve mastered your craft and have to decide which way to turn.
Search engine marketing didn’t start in an agency setting. It wasn’t created in a board room of an agency/firm; it just got incorporated that way when people started needing the service. That’s how a lot careers start; the marketing department of an agency that focused on websites.
If you’re lucky, you always love the shop life. And the shop life will always love you too. Or, you can be like a few SEOs/SEMs I know, wake up one morning, find yourself in a place, and not be entirely sure how or why you got there. Take a few minutes and see if this mission statement scene from Jerry Maguire rings true to you.
Everyone Goes Through Tough Times in Shop-Life
Maybe you’ve never reached that point. Maybe you have. Maybe you’re even there right now. The fact is, everyone goes through something in agency/shop/firm life. It’s just a part of the game; people leave, new people arrive: dynamics change. The question is do you work through it and try to implement changes, put your head down and barrel onward, or do you find the nearest exit and bolt? Every situation is going to be different. Different variables and factors.
Let’s be clear for a moment. Putting your head down and barreling through a rough time does not make a person of gelatinous nature. I’d argue that it takes a hell of a lot more spine to stay in an untenable situation and work toward making changes that make your job easier. And, yet even as I say that, there’s a point where spine turns to stupid and thick-headed. So how do you know if you’re there?
This is a collection from my own personal experience over the years, and I’m sure there are some that I’m missing so feel to let me know.
Working on Changing the System
The Breakthrough Change
You’ve been pissed for a weeks. For no reason at all: on weekdays you wake up depressed and angry. You drive/bike/commute to work and you’re pissed. Your day is a swirl of annoyance. You get home and it melts away until you go to bed.
After a certain amount of time, a month or two, you realize being angry just sucks. People think you’re an asshole and it’s not making you situation any better. So you decide if you want change, you have to change yourself and the system. You bend the ears of co-workers, you bend the ears of management. They love your ideas, they want to implement them. You make your list of things to improve and how to achieve it.
Months later you’re still getting the run-around. Phrases like: “It takes time”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and “We’re working on it” seem to be all you hear. Meanwhile, the anger backfills. You’re getting the picture: this place is the Hindenburg and we’re all going down in flames.
Fuck it. Why care about it? No one else does. Everyone is perfectly happy to sit and wallow in the doom they’ve created. They’re screwing themselves and their clients. You just want to be left alone, collect paychecks, and stay off the radar. No hassles, no problems.
One day you wake up, and it hits you; I’m going out on my own. Your skill set is in high-demand, you are damn good at what you do, and you know for certain there are a lot of people who need (really need) what you do.
Your Personal Manifesto
This is that Jerry Maguire moment. Standing on your ethical and moral high-ground you march out into the forest. You know how you want to conduct business, you know the clients you want to work with, you know how to charge and how to produce meaningful results. And, as Dicky Fox said, “It’s all about personal relationships.”
For me, that is my manifesto. I want partnerships. I want clients that are serious about marketing themselves online and believe and trust I have the toolbox to make it happen. It’s why I created my company. It’s why I have the utmost respect for the Danny Sullivan’s, Rae Hoffman’s, Aaron Wall’s, Andy Beal’s, Janet Driscoll-Miller’s, and David Harry’s of the SEM world.
What’s your manifesto?
It’s Scary Out There. It’s Exciting Out There Too.
I’ll be the first to tell anyone that going out on your own isn’t easy. It’s downright scary. There’s no safety net. You walk the tightrope or you fall. You’ve got to bring your game-face out every day. The struggle is real. Especially with the veritable flood of SEM agencies, traditional agencies going “digital”, and hack-freelancers crowding the market. You’ll fight for every inch you get.
But, it’s exciting too. You call the shots. You make the rules. You get to name success. There’s a real satisfaction from helping a small business or the person going at it alone, and making their business grow. It’s a great reward.
Or maybe you’re taking small steps; keeping your full-time gig and working projects on the side. It’s a great way to build your reputation and keep security. But you’ll be burning the candle at both ends and soon you’ll have to make a choice. Hopefully this post gets you pointed in the right direction and helps you make the right choice.