How I get 80% of my income Through Social Media

So you’re an independent consultant – or you’re thinking about becoming one.  Maybe you’ve known all along that it’s your path.  Or maybe the economy has taken its toll and you’re either tired of working for someone else for far less than you need to live on, or you lost your job at some point in the past couple years and thought – maybe I can work for myself and not have to rely on an employer to survive…

Whatever your unique scenario is, one reality holds true for anyone in the consulting business.  The need to market your services.  A couple of the biggest challenges to marketing are where to market, and how much is it going to cost.  Having been at this for as long as I have, I’ve found the answer to both of these questions for my unique situation, and would like to share them here with you.

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Works For Me, Maybe Not You

Of course, these methods may not work for you – I can only share what works for me.  So well in fact, that last year, this is how I generated about 60% of my income.  And since November of last year through today, it’s now where I get 80% of my income.  The total of which has, not insignificantly, increased as well.

You’ll need to see if what I recommend fits your unique persona, situation and market.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  Yet if it does, you’ll be amazed at how well it works.

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Find Your Ideal Community

A lot has been said over the years, and more is discussed all the time these days, about the need to find where your ideal market – the people who make up your customer or client base are spending their time online.  I can’t emphasize enough how important this is, regardless of what the services are that you’re offering.  Because it’s wherever they are that you need to get yourself engaged.

For me, it turns out that just a few of the places my prospective clients spend there time include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Search Engine Journal
  • Twitter
  • This Blog
  • My Own Site
  • SEOmoz Pro Q&A

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LinkedIn

While I hardly spend any serious time on LinkedIn these days, when I first dove into social media as a possible source of leads, Iwent to LinkedIn.  I set up a well crafted profile. I then explored the various services they offer to see where people were connecting and how they were possibly getting value out of that participation. Personally I didn’t care for groups, or blasting questions out to everyone in my circle.  Instead, I found the LinkedIn Q&A were best for my needs.

Not only was I able to ask questions from time to time, I was able to find questions others had posted where I felt I could offer real value and insight.   And within a matter of just a few months, I garnered a total of fifty “best answers” awarded to answers I provided.  Eventually I dropped off the LinkedIn system for extensive periods of time, mostly because life took me in other directions.

Yet I still go back occasionally, and when I do, I pop into the Q&A area.  And even that casual effort has since gotten me a handful of additional “best answers”.

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Search Engine Journal

SEJ is a miracle to me.  Ann Smarty reached out to me and asked if I’d guest post there.  That first guest article was so well received that Ann asked if I’d like to write again.  And that led to being invited to being a regular contributor.  As of this week I’ve now written forty nine articles at SEJ.  Some have been monumental in how well they engage dialogue.  Others, not so much.

My best success however, from the perspective of what generates the most client business from SEJ has got to be my four part “Anatomy of an SEO Audit” series.  That series of articles has brought me no less than a dozen clients.  More recently, my article on the Farmer/Panda update, which I posted at the beginning of March, has itself brought me four clients.

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Twitter

Many of you know all about my adventures on Twitter. I’m now infamous for my rants there.  Something you’d think was NOT conducive to generating business.  Yet that’s why it’s critical to understand the environment, and how you can bring your unique style to bear in making it work for you.

It turns out that the majority of my business that comes through Twitter comes from the fact that the people I engage with the most there are within my industry peer community.  And while some people find my tweet style to be quite caustic at times, there are enough agency owners, and small business consultants who follow my Twitter stream and also happen to enjoy my rants.

They say it’s because they appreciate how brutally honest I am in my tweeting.  How refreshing it is.  And how dead-on accurate my perspective is in much of what I rant about related to this industry.

And of course, I also happen to go the extra mile to retweet quality content from others that’s appropriate to my little corner of the Twitterverse.

The extra beauty of getting client work this way?  When one agency becomes a client, they inevitably lead to several projects.  Repeat business.  And what I really like even more?  They do the heavy lifting – they get the end clients, handle the sale pitch, the contract work, the project management.  I just bang out high quality audits, and offer guidance as requested.

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This Blog

SearchMarketingWisdom.com has been a wild journey.  Started out in 2007 as a way for me to offer additional free Internet Marketing info to existing clients. And over the past couple years, SMW has gone through the roller coaster of my persona changes.  Some good, some not so good.  Yet always, this blog has been one of the best ways I’ve been able to show prospective clients who might come to me from other paths, specific articles and knowledge that supports the concept of how I can help them.

And of course, there’s enough “extended rant” material here to support and back-up what comes across on my tweets.  Again – that’s not always a good thing.  Because I can be very cutting and go over the top in those rants.  Which is something I’ve been re-evaluating as of late.

It has, nevertheless, been as much a “deal closer” as anything for me.

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My Own Site

When I began the transition earlier this year with SearchMarketingWisdom.com, I realized it was time to finally take the plunge with a site solely around building my identity as a brand – that I, myself, am the brand.  That’s how AlanBleiweiss.com was born. And let me be quite honest here – it was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made.  Nowadays, when I get a contact from a prospective client, it’s almost always through that site’s contact form.

Sure, the majority of people find me on Twitter, or here, or SEJ, or LinkedIn, or lately even SEOmoz, yet the vast majority end up at my personal site and most of them end up reading three or four pages there before contacting me for an audit. And because I have ballpark pricing info right on my audit services page, anyone who’s gone there already knows I don’t give away my services for free.  So all the “can you do an audit for $50 type inquiries have gone away.

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SEOmoz Pro Q&A

Over the past few years I’ve read a number of articles in YOUmoz, and reading Rand’s correlation articles is always entertaining, and even enlightening in many ways.  Yet until recently, I never really spent a whole lot of time there.  There’s just so much time in a given day.  And countless other great sites and communities that continually attempt to lure me away.

That’s when I came across Pro Q&A.

And let me tell you here, and now, I simply LOVE it.  It’s like if you could extract the Search Marketing section out of LinkedIn’s Q&A section, then get a much higher level of reasonable relevant questions into the system, weed out nearly all of the bullshit that pollutes the LinkedIn system, and wrap it up in a neat little bows, that’s how I feel about the Moz Pro Q&A system.

Why am I so enamored with it?

Because I love being of help to others.  And from my experience with the LinkedIn Q&A system, I learned how to use it to be of the most service possible.  So I don’t just try to answer every single question.  I only offer answers either when I know for a fact that I’m going above and beyond what others are providing, or when what I offer adds real value to the discussion, or occasionally, if a question goes unanswered for several hours or a day or two, and if I can offer at least some insight.

Bonus Value.

In these couple months I’ve been there, I’ve already gotten fifty five “good answer” flags.  And three of my answers were recognized by Moz staff as being truly worthy enough to be Moz endorsed.

Not Just Ego.

Now while you may think that’s ALL about ego, it really isn’t.  It’s also about third party confirmation of value offered.  It’s about “how do I know I’m really being helpful beyond my own mind’s belief”…  And that’s what matters most to me.

Oh – and did I mention that already this week, I’ve picked up two new clients, both of whom found my answers in the Pro Q&A system of such high quality that they reached out to me to help them on their sites and both have now hired me…

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Some Final Tips

Be Outstanding

Whatever the places are you identify, find ways to get involved.  Be sure the way you get involved is appropriate to that unique environment.  And just as appropriate to your unique style within that environment.

When you participate in any community that fits your market focus, and you truly provide value, you may get a lot of people thanking you, yet ultimately you may not see direct results the way I do.  For me however, what happens, every time I get involved at a high quality level, is people ultimately to contact me.  They read what I contribute there, and that leads them to reaching out for my services.

Go the Extra Mile

Don’t just write articles, or tweet or answer questions or participate like everyone else.  Be truly helpful.  If someone else has already said it, it’s okay to once in a while say “I totally agree with what X said”.  Yet if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not really adding much value beyond confirmation that someone else is providing the real value.  And sure, it’s okay to occasionally or even regularly write vapid hot-air type articles if that’s your style.  But to be truly outstanding, you need to go that extra mile.

Like when I wrote the Microformat Reference Guide for SEO & Programmers. To this day, that’s one of my most successful, visited and linked articles. 

Be Consistent

Consistency is one of the biggest challenges I face in my daily routine.  I love to have something different going on every day of my life.  It’s the whole “shiny object” syndrome.  Sure, I float from one platform to the next over the years.  Because that’s reality – your path will always take you where it will take you.  Yet when I do recognize that there’s something of true value somewhere, I do my best to be consistent in participation, to whatever degree my life allows.

And everywhere it’s different.  On SEJ I do my best to write twice a month.  On Twitter, at least several days a week.  Here, I’ve recently lagged a bit, yet for the most part it’s at least once if not twice a month.  Over at the SEOmoz Pro Q&A system, it’s almost every day.  Because I made that page my browser’s default landing page.

 

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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19 Comments

  1. Hey Alan, I’m so glad you’ve made the SEOmoz PRO Q&A a part of your daily routine. I remember tweeting you the link, then you sent a response along the lines of of “HOLY CRAP how have I not seen this before?!” haha and the rest is history. :) Seriously though your contributions have been outstanding and we really appreciate you!

    I love the fact that you make it clear that these tactics work for you, but not necessarily for others. All too often we see posts telling people the right way to “do” Social Media and I strongly feel there isn’t one right way. Sure there are things that you probably shouldn’t do, like don’t be a spammer or a jerk. But otherwise, it’s all about learning what works for you.

    Also it’s not always easy to go the extra mile & be outstanding, but look what happens when you do… you get clients! :)
    Jen Sable Lopez´s last blog ..The Transformation of JenMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Michael says:

    First time visitor to your site and what a great article to land on!

    I too found myself in the consulting game before I knew it. My source of income in the first 2 years have been solely on word of mouth in my network. I have tried many online tactics from eLance to twitter with very little luck.

    I have decided to turn my website into a blog and start fresh. My number one stop in the last week has been over to Google Reader and setting up alerts for discussion forums. Lets see how we go.

    I might just add if there are two things I have taken from the consulting game is;

    1. Don’t do ANY jobs for free!

    2. Don’t discount your rate (too often my pitches were too low in $$ and therefore missed out on work)

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hi Michael – I agree on both counts – not doing work for free, and not discounting what I do charge a fee for, other than reasonable discounts based on proven volume or existing relationships where I can offer 10% or 15% from time to time. Never however, when someone says “If you do a good job, I’ve got five more of these…”

  3. Michael says:

    If I got a dollar for every time i heard “If you do a good job, I’ve got five more of these…” I would have retired by now :)

  4. Jim Rudnick says:

    @Alan…as usual, spot-on!

    I have no exp with the ProQ&A area at all…but I will now!

    and that Anatomy 4 part piece was the paragon of how to do an Audit, eh!!!!

    :-)

    Jim

  5. Dr. Pete says:

    Thanks for busting the myth that social media is just where we all congratulate ourselves for being so awesome while other people actually make money. Last year, I calculated that about 60-70% of my income has come from a combination of blogging, social media, and other online brand building. Most of the other 30% is from a client who I’ve worked with for 13 years (before social media existed). Otherwise, it might just be 100%.
    Dr. Pete´s last blog ..5 Years as My Own BossMy ComLuv Profile

    • Dr. Pete what I didn’t mention is that the rest of my income comes from a client I’ve had for five years, from a time before I was involved with social media, so yeah – it could otherwise be 100% for me as well.

      • Dr. Pete says:

        I forgot to mention that 1% of my income comes from birthday checks from my grandma, who hasn’t even HEARD of social media. Wait, what were we talking about? ;)

        • Ha! Well I didn’t count the income from my eBook, or the ad banner income that’s just started coming in, since both are really new to my income stream so they don’t officially count yet :-)

          What I did factor in though was how a few people on Twitter have offered to pay me to shut the hell up at times, yet I’ve refused. So there’s no real income there. :-)

  6. How do you feel about Quora? Does it compare with the Pro Q&A at all?

    • Nick,

      I spent about 5 minutes on Quora once, and even offered an answer on a question at some point. Personally nothing about it felt aligned enough for me to stick around. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, just that it’s not personally something I find value in.

      • Fair enough. Thanks for the response.

        I never really delved into the Pro Q&A section when I had the chance, but hopefully I will get a chance to rectify that oversight soon.

        Quora seems to have an above-average number of people that appear to know what they are talking about though. Nothing like any of the Q&A sites that I encountered in the past.
        Nick Manteris´s last blog ..What is SEOMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Alan,

    Another well written article and insightful perspective! I am going to openly confess that I’m jealous! First, understand that jealousy as an emotion or yearning is foreign to me most of the time. I’m very content in who I am and don’t year to be someone else.

    However, I am jealous of your time in the social realm – reading, answering questions, commenting, writing and shedding insights and rants on Twitter. I don’t make my money through social media and make it by spending hours focused on client work. However, social media has lead to numerous connections and indirect leads connections that brought a heavy workload.

    Thank you for your consistency and willingness to share. Thank you for your consistency in friendship, for being willing to pick up the phone, answer a tweet, to comment on a blog post or forum to share ideas, to listen, to provide insight and advice. Your social media participation has touched many lives, myself included!
    Dana Lookadoo´s last blog ..SMX Photos- Conference- Networking &amp Epic DinnersMy ComLuv Profile

    • Dana,

      It’s only because I stopped doing the implementation aspects of SEO, and stuck to audits, occassional training, and as-needed follow-up consultation that allows me to devote as much as I do to participating in social media. That in turn continues to drive enough client opportunities that fit my unique parameters of service offerings.

      And all of it is because I asked God to guide me on clarification of my unique path. And trusting that guidance when a prospective client contacts me and wants to hire me to be there SEO managaer, or to respond to a full life cycle SEO RFP. My human self has a great deal of difficulty in those moments not wanting to “miss the business opportunity”, usually out of fear. And when I get quiet, and go within for guidance, the answers are clear.

      It’s these things for which I am most grateful. Because it’s transformed my life these past couple years.

      Then again, other aspects of my life are such that I assure you, you’d have no desire to emulate those :-)

  8. @Dr. Pete

    Wow, I could only hope some day to have that kind of income breakdown. If I may ask(and assuming you actually read this), what inspired you to work for yourself and get into the industry?

    Anyways, great post for me to stumble upon as I am beginning to start an online business of my own, I’ll be sure to check back for more!

  9. Fedobe says:

    Hi Alan, Thanks for this nice blog. The process you have mentioned is excellent. I would say this is the best process for earning money through social media. I have been earning 50% of my monthly income doing Adsense.

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