More threads by Laustin1878

Sep 27, 2012
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Everything in the world takes time. There are many wonderful tools out there to help you make more out of your day. I don't believe in offering an "automated" service despite there being several competent tools to achieve this. There are also options available to contract some of the work out.

I'm looking to get a rough average on how much money per month, per year you shell out for services, tools, etc. to make your business go? What kind of services do you delegate to and what types of tools do you find provide the best bang for your buck? What percentage of your price quotes or monthly income from clients do you set aside for 3rd party tools or service?

Linda's training is a must. Whitespark offers several great services. Phil has some nice tools in his toolbox and the list goes on. Where do you draw the line? This question comes in part partially because my time management flat out SUCKS. Looking for ways to better manage my time is essential. There isn't an infinite amount of budget sadly. Where does it end for you?
Really interesting questions Luke. You always start such thoughtful posts!

My only thought is, if I was back working on clients I would DEF not do citations myself. That's time consuming grunt work that I think needs to be outsourced so you have time to build the business. The exception might be once you got bigger, if you built a team to do it in-house. But if it was me I still would not do it. I'd hire the experts at Whitespark that know all the ins and outs and can do it more efficiently.

Then you need good tracking and reporting tools. But that I don't see a whole lot besides hosting and any marketing expense that need to be spent monthly.
Thank you for the kind words. I do try to create engaging thoughts to discuss although sometimes novice. I know that everyone started somewhere. The majority probably didnt step in crap and have a well-oiled machine handed over to them overnight. People who have started on their own and made something of themselves are the best to learn from IMO.

I would certainly agree with you about the citations. Probably one of the better investments for local. I have been looking for tools and ways to put it "all together" and I understand that tools cannot be free. I respect the time and effort people have put into these tools to make them what they are. I find so many things that look amazing and must have. The costs start adding up quickly though.

I figure there are variations and nothing totally straight forward when it comes to which tools you use for which project. I was hoping that someone had a magical formula they used or found a number of tools that kept the costs consistent and allowed them to still earn a paycheck without crushing the client with fees.

Hopefully some others will chime in and share their thoughts.
One of the best decisions I have ever made was to get an office to separate my work life and home life. I worked from home for the first 2 1/2 years I was in business, because that's the dream, right? I love going to my office to get work done. Best. Investment. Ever.

Now onto tools. I have the LCF tool at Whitespark. Def worth the money, if you haven't invested in it yet. You can easily compare citations of competitors to clients, explore citations by category, the list goes on and on.

One of the other tools that I purchased was an ahrefs membership. The backlink analysis they provide is pretty robust. Whether you use ahrefs, OSE, or Majestic, any one of them are worth the investment. Before signing on a new account I'll take a look at their current link profile. If it's too spammy I have to readjust pricing, and educate the client on what needs to be done in order to get back to a healthy link profile.

I'm in the process of upgrading to SalesForce as my CRM. The current system I have now is great for a small company, but I'm outpacing that and have to scale.
I can speak only as an owner of a service business (not SEO), but I very strongly believe there are common factors for service business expenses and how to outsource in order to free up time to work on the business instead of in it.

What allows you to have the tools you need to provide the absolute best product/results possible for your customers, costs money. If your goal is to be the best and have the best resources, along with providing yourself and your employees a healthy salary, benefits and retirement, it too costs money.

One of my greatest "aha" moments came when I finally realized my total costs, cost/billable hour, and what I really needed to make in order to be profitable and afford the necessary expenses to free up my time to focus solely on the company.

It's amazing how many service companies do not know their cost/billable hour. It's really the foundation to building a solid service business with all the professional tools you need! It's a major stress reliever.

That ends my little opinion :) If you're interested in some spreadsheets that can help with expenses analysis and eventually get you an exact selling price PM me. I love helping with this stuff and try to consult on side whenever I can. It's a major passion of mine.
Great topic, Luke.

My monthly expenses are pretty low, and my margins are morbidly obese. My biggest expense is buying new pants for them.

There are some oddball, one-time, and few-times-a-year expenses, but here are the monthly ones I can think of:

  • Paying my assistant to do lots of legwork on citations
  • All Whitespark tools
  • hosting
  • Aweber
  • Qualaroo
  • CrazyEgg
  • Books
  • My CPA

I work from home, and have for the last 4+ years. It?s very intentional.
That's awesome Phil. As of now I personally do most of the citation work to ensure the quality of work.

Can you suggest where to find good assistants for citation work?

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk

Good question. My assistant and I found each other almost by accident. I showed her the ropes, which took a while. So I made a certain investment of time, and to some extent of money (on-the-job training, if you like).

One thing you can do is ask around and see if someone you know will let you poach his/her citation-builder(s). Short of doing that, I'd probably look for a PA - or someone who isn't too hesitant to do gruntwork - and show that person how to build citations.
Great question and I believe it will vary as to where you are in your business versus where you want to go and how you want to scale.

There are some great resources mentioned previously, but generically I would have to say find:
  • good billing software and a pro to hire for book-keeping, taxes etc,
  • good tracking software for ranking and any other services you provide,
  • VA or reliable source for specific tasks or assistance,
  • project management software or team project tracking portal,
  • citation building delivery service or pro,
  • client report generator,
  • time tracking tool,
  • fee for creatives (videos, photos, advertising materials),
  • recurring billing platform,
  • add your specifics here :)

We also use an autoresponder (Mailchimp or Aweber) along with Freshbooks for client related tasks such as billing, tracking time on projects and communication.

Over time we found costs of delivery range average about 33% but can be as much as up to 50% if we allow for the unexpected hiccups and support time that we include initially (in 2014 we are weaning everyone off that model).

As RossP pointed out, your actual billable hours is a good number to know along with your bottom line average monthly cost per client.
Thank you to all for sharing some information. I appreciate the feedback. There are so many good options out there and you can easily find a reason to use them all. It's somewhat overwhelming at times.

I trust you've tried several things along the way and each found a use for the tools in your toolbox. Thanks for your contributions to the thread.
ARKlady, quick question about mail chimp... do you know if you are able to create and send emails from multiple email addresses under one account? I was thinking about setting up various emails on behalf of the client to send to their customers. I haven't been able to find any information about this on their site yet.
@Laustin1878 if you are asking can you set up multiple response emails in one account, yes you can. For instance, or You can segment lists or create specific groups to reach customers or clients of particular types.

Mail Chimp is a bit different than other services, so a bit of a learning curve and they are super helpful and playful (which I like).

However, if you are thinking of creating an account to service your client's customers under your business account, I'd discourage that and set up an account on behalf of the client that you manage. Mail Chimp has a free version up to a specific amount of sends and then just changed their paid options on a new tiered pricing option.

I've used at least four autoresponders and encourage either the use of Aweber or Mail Chimp but for more robust options my colleagues go to InfusionSoft. Their service is more extensive but the price point is quite a bit higher.
Thank you for the detailed response ARKlady. That is exactly what my initial thought was; to set up client accounts under my account. Mind you, I'm not there yet. I've learned that when leaving things to clients, they either don't get done or get done differently than you want. The old adage comes to mind, if you want it done correctly, do it yourself. I am trying to find ways to leave as little for the client to do as possible.

I dove deeper into researching autoresponders last week. There are many options out there and it's a little overwhelming actually. I have read that Aweber is also a good alternative although I didn't read up much on it yet.

As it's still early in the process for me, I have not thought about exactly how I would use an autoresponder/remarketing tool. That is a topic for another thread.

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