Rhys Hughes shares his story starting his own SEO business


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Rhys:                     I thought I might just tell you just about what I’ve been up to, just if you’re interested.

John:                     Yeah, man. I was actually thinking about you the other day. I thought I’d like to share your story in the group, maybe if you’ve got time. I don’t know if you’ve got time or not, but maybe just-

Rhys:                     Oh yeah, I’ll give the short version. So I have a degree of IT and then I worked in IT for 10 years. And after a while I thought “This is fucked. I want to work by myself.”

John:                     Where were you working? Was that a government job like I had?

Rhys:                     A university.

John:                     Oh.

Rhys:                     And yeah, I just cracked the shits and I was like, “I want to work from home.” And I started mucking around, building websites with builders, trying to get a $500 deal here and there. Three months goes on, you’ve made no money.

John:                     When was this? What year was this?

Rhys:                     This is about three years ago. And then I saw you on the forums, and I was talking about a website and you’re like, “How much money is it making?” I’m like, “What the fuck do you mean? It’s a website. How do you know how much it makes?” And then we got talking.

John:                     Where was that? Was that over at Whirlpool?

Rhys:                     That would be Whirlpool, yeah.

John:                     What were you asking? You were asking-

Rhys:                     Who knows? I got 2000 posts there so probably a lot. And so we linked up and I did your consulting. So for those that don’t know, you also, well back in the day at least, did coaching at a one-to-one level, not a one-to-many. And so yourself and me had 20 hours together where you taught me SEO.

John:                     And I just want to say for the people in the group, because I’ll probably just share this in the group. I might share it on YouTube, if you’re okay with that. I can’t remember how the conversation started, but you took an, I guess you could consider it an enormous risk because we didn’t really know each other, and you put down $5,000 to work with me, private coaching for 20 hours. I hope you got great value out of it. I mean, you seem to be doing well now, but maybe just walk me through where you were at that point and why you decided to work with me? Because I know a lot of people, even now I’ve had a few people say “$1,500 to do John’s course, that’s really expensive.”

Rhys:                     Yeah, sure. So it’d been a couple of months in business and I wasn’t making any money and I was messing about on the forums and I saw your posts and you sounded like you knew your stuff. So I read your website in detail because I wanted to mitigate that risk of, “I’m about to give this guy five grand. I really want to know everything I can about you.” And so just reading all your blogs, all your pages, and then having short conversations with you, I knew that you weren’t interested in taking my money unless you could truly help me.

John:                     And you’d already quit your job at this point, and you were working from home?

Rhys:                     I was, yeah.

John:                     And just, if you don’t mind me asking, what was your financial, what was your positioning at that point? You quit your job, you were at home.

Rhys:                     So long story short being supported by my wife temporarily.

John:                     Right.

Rhys:                     But yeah, making no money. If I was a single person, I would have been bankrupt and back working at Bunnings or something like that. So having not made any money, I knew something had to change and I really liked SEO, but I knew nothing about it.

So with what I just said, I thought you were the appropriate person to contact. And then we did about 10 hours of consulting together, and I landed my first client. I got super lucky, and I think first clients are very hard to get. I just went to a BNI meeting and met a lawyer, and he gave me a run for my money, and I started on that campaign. And I used some of that time with you, John, to be like, “Okay, I’m setting up my analytics, I’m setting up all these different things.” And you were basically there to check that I was doing everything correctly. So that comforted me and that in turn led to a better outcome for the client.

And then literally once you get one client and you do solid work for, referrals start coming in. And since that point, I never, ever had a problem getting more work. And basically I saved, let’s say, eight hours of time with you and used that periodically over the next three or four months just to talk about, we actually did calls like this where it was ad hoc in nature. And it was just things that I hadn’t experienced yet.

John:                     Yeah.

Rhys:                     And yeah, long story short we kind of concluded that consulting, and I’ve earned sort of a minimum of $70,000 a year since then at the very least.

John:                     I know for some people they’re probably thinking, well, $70,000 isn’t a lot of money, but I’m not sure how much you were earning before you started working with me. Were you about $1,500 a month or so?

Rhys:                     Yeah I would have been earning about 80 grand at the uni. But the point is you get your life back. You can do whatever you want. And then you can earn, sometimes pro rata I’ll be earning a hundred, a hundred and fifty K a year.

John:                     Yeah. So when you first quit your job, what were you doing at home at that time? Were you building websites for clients or trying to-

Rhys:                     Yes, yeah. Mucking around building WordPress websites for this-

John:                     Yeah talk more about that cause that’s the shit that I love to hear about where you’re running around on the internet selling fucking $800 dollar websites, ’cause that shit’s awful. I’ve been there, I know.

Rhys:                     It’s cringey to think about, but basically, yeah. So having left my job and looking for a way to make money at home, I knew that I had the capability to build websites. And so I would spend a whole lot of time making my own site look pretty, and have all these examples sites that I can make you. And I would get in touch with little restaurants or little trades businesses and offer them a website and I’d met, I’d get some deals and max I’d be selling a website for $550 dollars. And I had no idea what my deliverables were, how to set up conversion tracking, or anything like that.

John:                     So you didn’t have any processes in place at all, did you?

Rhys:                     Yeah, that’s right. So I think the, not only are you not making any money, but when you market yourself like that, you get thrown in this basket where every man and his dog can do that service, whereas people now pick up the phone and they say, you’re that SEO guy that works in healthcare aren’t you? And you deliver a return on investment. And that’s what you want to be perceived as and not like a web, you know, “I’m a web designer.”

John:                     Yeah. I think you posted up in the group. Was it last month? You did $23,000 was your best month. Was it last month?

Rhys:                     The month before, yeah.

John:                     Oh, the month before. Okay. So $23,000 in one month, which is what? More than a quarter of what you were earning in your full time job before you quit.

Rhys:                     Yeah, definitely.

John:                     So what were you making a month before you started working with me?

Rhys:                     Not much after expenses. So like I said, supported by my wife who was on a hundred grand at the time. So I was probably turning over 15 K a year pro rata. I was only mucking around for sort of, maybe two or four months before I was like “This is fucked. I’m going to go bankrupt.”

John:                     Yeah. I’ve been there myself, man. It’s a hard thing to have to say. I remember plenty of months. I’m sure you’ve heard my story. I slept on a friend’s lounge room floor for almost two years on a fucking mattress on the floor, borrowing money to put fuel in my car and living off noodles. And I did plenty of months there where I might just have a couple of hundred dollars for the month. And this is why I think … sometimes, I think sometimes you’ve got to go through that level of hardship in order to get the shits and say “Fuck this! This shit has to change.” Which must have been a trigger point for you when you reached out for me.

But yeah, I love hearing stories like that, man. And I’m glad. It could have gone either way. Who knows where you would be now if we weren’t working together. And look, I think you’ve done really well, Rhys. What I give you a lot of credit for is the fact that you’ve never deviated away from what I’ve taught you. And I know that they’ll be small variations, and over time things might change, and you might decide to do fixed pricing instead of hourly rates, or maybe you might start offering a different service, or things like that. But at the very beginning, and even probably still now to this day, you still follow the process.

And I see people that I’ve worked with, both that have done my private one-on-one coaching, as well as people that did my training. I see comments and posts in other groups and questions that they’re making. I think “You’ve got everything that you need here. If you just follow my process.” If you get Gordon Ramsey over to show you how to make a fucking toasted sandwich, just do it the way Gordon does it.

Rhys:                     Yeah, definitely.

John:                     Do you know what I mean?

Rhys:                     And I think the tricky thing is there’s a fine line between a good service operator and a true professional. Like for example, you could do our service offering, but let’s say you’re not scheduling the monthly calls or you rock up five minutes late to that call. Or one time you send the report two days late, all these tiny little seemingly innocent mistakes, really are the difference between good and great. So I try to be a reflective practitioner as well as following the process.

John:                     Yeah, you’ve got good standards. I really liked that about you. I like the fact that you stuck with it. You never deviated outside of the process. And it can be really easy I think, and I’ve certainly done this when I’ve worked with other people and done their training. I thought “No, I don’t like that. I’m going to do it my way. I think this way” – it never fucking works.

So look, I think out of everyone in the group, you’d definitely be in the top, probably top three in terms of how you stuck at it and you haven’t deviated. I know every now and then you send me a message and say “I just got an offer from someone that only wanted to do X number of hours,” or “They wanted me to drop my rates,” or “They’re telling me how to do my job, and I said ‘Thanks but no, thanks’.” That takes balls, man.

Having that level of discipline and getting your mindset right. I think maybe when we first started working together, you already had the mindset. This is the difference between winning and losing. Some people, it’s 10% mindset and 90% process, and other people it’s 90% mindset and 10% process. They’re “I can’t charge that much,” and “I don’t believe in myself,” or “I’ve got no confidence.” I’m not sure where you were on the scale, but you’ve done very well. And seeing that you did 23 grand, and it must’ve been, was it February? February?

Rhys:                     Yeah. Something like that.

John:                     Yeah. And I’m sure that over the last month or so I think have gotten a bit wobbly with what’s going on, things will come good again, and I know, and have to say at this Rhys: a lot of people when they start their SEO business, and maybe even those who start my training, they have a number in their head and usually it’s always 10 grand. “I want to get to 10 grand a month.” You know, after you blow by 10 grand you go “Fuck. 20 grand.” You get to the 20 and go, I got up to 60 grand. That needle, it just keeps moving!

Rhys:                     Yeah, definitely.

John:                     But it becomes surreal and it makes you, I’ve kind of lost sense of real, not real money but … Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s amazing … It’s amazing what you can do once you have someone point you in the right direction and give you some guidance. And I think that’s been true for us, like “Here, Rhys. Just do it this way, dude. This is what you need to do.” You’ve applied it, and you’re getting fucking runs on the board, so that’s awesome.

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