Jim Westergren
A blog about me, my projects, SEO, Web Development and Personal Development.
"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." - Thomas A. Edison

An update, what helped my success and what happened then

During March to June my company grossed around $30.000 a month (a total of $95.000). For two of those months we had a result of over $20.000 after all salaries, taxes, payments to partners and other expenses paid. Most of the money left over was invested to buy new PR6 and PR7 web sites and invested to create many new web sites which was later used to make even more money.

I think that is impressive for a small company with only 2 employees (excluding partners), me and my father Peter.

What sold our services

We had 2 web sites as landing pages selling our services. This one and this one.

Every day we got new service inquiries with no real effort. They came from the following sources:

  1. SEO companies for their clients (resellers)
  2. Clients from our directory submission service
  3. Our free directory that promoted on their automatic confirmation e-mails.
  4. My articles such as this one that went viral and got a lot of traffic.
  5. Word of mouth from clients that got excellent results from our services. (a few here)
  6. My name and my activity on SEO forums
  7. Google
  8. Andy Hagans that sent some clients to us as well

How did I organize the clients?

First you should know that we had no phone contact with our clients, all was via e-mail and all payment was made up front before start of service (Paypal).

We had 3 big white boards next to each other on our wall in the office. The one to the right was "The Prospect List" and it contained a list of names of people that had expressed a serious interest in taking our services. It usually contained 5-10 names with about $2K each in average. About once a week we went over those names and e-mailed them. If a person had not answered we usually asked if they got our mail, if they had any questions and so forth. This went on until A the person paid or B the person decided not to take our services and then the name was removed.

If the person went A and paid the name was moved the the white board in the middle. "Paid Clients List". That board was divided in squares and in the squares we had the names of the paid client, date of payment, which services paid for and current status. We had about 10-20 names there. As soon the services for a client was completed and the reports sent and they confirmed all to be ok we removed the name from the white board in the middle.

On the board in the left we had 2 sections. List of major strategic targets for the next months (actions that had to do with organization and establishment, not production) and a list of major promotional targets (in fields such as branding, goodwill, e-mailings and so forth).

Peter worked a lot to get names to the white board on the right and move those names to the board in the middle. I worked a lot to make sure the white board in the middle did not fill up and backlog. When we had clients under control I could work with the targets on the board to the left.

We actually had names established and could for example say: "Today I will work on left", quite funny.

I got a lot of e-mails, a lot. I used Outlook Express and they e-mails were mainly divided in the following folders:

  1. Clients that has paid
  2. Clients that has not yet paid
  3. E-mails relating to domains and web sites (I had 140 sites)
  4. Goodwill (Answering questions, helping SEO friends out and so forth for free)
  5. Other e-mails
  6. Private e-mails

(I had about 20 more but those were the main ones.)

The goal was to have a empty inbox, something I almost never could manage. Usually I had around a hundred mails unanswered but that's life. The above mails were answered in the above priority. In the worst cases there was only time to answer e-mails from category number one above, the rest had to be sorted out and looked at later.

Every person that had expressed an interest in our services I created a text file for and the file name was the name of the person. In that text file I kept all the e-mail correspondence, notes, notes about payments, phone notes, PMs from forums and all else about that person with the most recent at the top. F5 is great to get the date. E-mails was not saved in Outlook but deleted once copied to the text file.

This system with text files was created 2 and a half years ago when the company was created and today I have 464 text files containing around 5 thousand e-mails. I like to get all info on a client by simply typing the first letters to select it and open it instantly. Those text files are also great to use as attachment in e-mails to your employee or the client itself. ("see all our correspondence in the attached text file"). I also like to order the text files after latest changed and see those I recently had contact with. There are negative factors in this system such I can't generate lists and so on but I like it.

The signature system in Outlook is great. You simply create text files that you use as templates and when you answer an e-mail with a template you simply click Insert -> Signature -> Which template. I had for example one for link exchange mails, one for directory owners wanting to get on my directory list and other common e-mails. Earlier I also used templates to answer service inquiries but later I moved all info to the site itself (hidden or visible) and simply asked them to read it. (But always type their name when answering.)

Also the e-mail rules in Outlook is very time saving. For e-mails you get regularly such as from web sites, newsletters, email lists or others create rules that make them go in specific folders so you never see them in the in basket. Then when you have time you can look at them.

We also had an internal password hidden blog that contained vital lists of rented links and so on that both me and Peter maintained.

Production

We tried to maintain the making of to-do-lists. Each night we were supposed to write a to-do-list for the next day and we were supposed to get it done. Each month we tried to make more income than the previous month, reaching higher and higher. We celebrated with cake and nice dinners out when we broke a new income record.

We played video clips such as this one with high volume: Rocky II - Training Montage

We both had the attitude that nothing was impossible, it was 100% up to us and so forth.

And then what happened?

I changed everything. Stopped taking in new clients, fired my employer, negotiated and bought out owners, cancelled the renting of the office and more. I started a whole new life.

It is difficult to explain and make sense of something like this, ie to more or less shut down a company so incredible profitable. There was no major upset or something that people could believe. There is a lot I could write about it but I can say that it is a combination of many things that culminated me to do what I did. Some of these things are in order of magnitude: Wanted to follow my writing dream, not having a life outside the internet, having almost no friends in real life, a complicated big religious conflict, Googles campaign against link selling, the inability to service more as all resources was used up, the services became less effective and gave less results, the pain of always being behind and having backlog, the urge to find a girlfriend, my fathers dominant personality and much more. A lot of thought went into the decision I took and it was the right one. I am an artist and I am meant to write, I am not a commercial executive and money is not that important for me. My goal is that from a few months from here I can make a living 2 days a week and write the rest.

Exactly how I will make a living is not decided. Maybe Adsense, affiliate, making and selling sites, selling linkads, a combination or something else. But I don't think it will be a problem.

I started to change my life in end of July and a lot of things has happened since then but it has not been easy. The thought of more or less leaving the SEO world and entering the writing world were I am a total beginner is still a bit strange for me.

Related post from almost a year ago: Important Major Business Decision

Quote:

In 2007 when I have my new major link building service set up I will withdraw a bit from the SEO world and I will then go back to my writings and write the 4 novels I long wanted to write. Perhaps I will take a laptop and travel somewhere far away …

The reason for me starting up a company in the first place was to earn a living and to make it possible to write. The company was never meant to go that far.


Update:

There were some great articles written in relation to this one and I would like to list them here for further reading:

7 Sep 2007

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About the Author Jim Westergren Jim Westergren is a Swedish web entrepreneur. He is happily married and has two lovely children. Some of his interests are web development, SEO and writing. He is the Founder and owner of TodaysWeb offering SEO, web development and manages projects such as DomainStats and N.nu. Read his ..

Design, text and CMS (N.nu) by myself.