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Preeti Gupta

Host: Isaline Muelhauser

Guest: Preeti Gupta

In this week's episode, Preeti Gupta shares mistakes she made in her messaging, branding, website, and blog posts she has written during her first year as a SEO consultant. She is a consultant and founder of Packted. She offers 1:1 SEO coaching, courses, and shares resources to learn SEO. Preeti genuinely discusses how she defined her services, pricing and how she started targeting her customers. We find out what inspires Preeti and empowers her to be the brilliant woman she is today.

You can connect with Preeti through her LinkedIn, X and her Website.

Episode Transcript

Isaline: Welcome to WTS Podcast. We are on a mission to amplify women in the SEO industry. 

Hello, everyone. This is Isaline Muelhauser. Today, I have a very special guest with me, Preeti Gupta. Do you wonder how to start freelancing as an SEO, or is that something you have in mind to start doing at some point in your career? This is excellent. Because today, Preeti is here and she's sharing her mistakes and what she would do differently. This is the story that Preeti is sharing today. Welcome, welcome. 

Preeti: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. 

Isaline: Oh, this is our pleasure. This is really my pleasure to have you. We love this kind of talk based on experience where you can share something that you've done and that you can say, "Okay, no. This was not good. And, this is how you can do it." So, thank you for being so authentic in proposing this talk. 

Preeti: Thank you.

Isaline: You are an SEO consultant and founder of the website pact.com. You offer one-on-one SEO coaching courses, and you also share resources to learn SEO in LinkedIn and YouTube. Preparing this interview, you said that you fell in love with SEO in 2021 after you discovered how much of an impact search traffic can have for a business. You started freelancing over a year ago. You said that you wanted to share the mistakes you made in your messaging, branding, and your website. The thing is, when one starts freelancing, it's really hard to position as a business. So, let's start, straight ahead, with the first thing that you would do differently. 

Preeti: Okay. The first thing I would do, like the first mistake, or the thing I would do differently is that, basically, I didn't know what my offering was. When I was just starting my career, my freelance career, I didn't know what I was good at because I just quit my two-month job from this company. And then, I was like, "Okay, I just quit this job, but what should I do now?" So, it took me a while to understand that, okay, coaching and courses is something that I can do and I'm good at. But, in the start, I just copy/paste with some consultants, the idea, and everything. I put it on my website, and that was a huge mistake because the consultant whom I copy from, they got to know that I copied their idea and everything on my website. So, that was a very weird thing. And so, it took me a while to understand that, "Okay, I have to do something different." 

Isaline: How did you choose that, "Okay, what I'm offering is one-on-one SEO coaching courses, and that's SEO audit content strategy or whatever." How did you choose this is what you want to do and not something else?

Preeti: Okay. So, I tried on a lot to get consultancy and audit kind of clients because that's what I was offering back then. And, when I was talking with the clients, I was like, "This is not something I want to do." The talking with the clients, and then try to get them to close the deal, and everything. That sounds very weird to me. Because I was feeling the same at my job. I was feeling like, "This is not something for me and I need to do something different." So, when I was doing the consultancy, I took some clients. But, at the end, I was not feeling content. I was not feeling happy about it. So, I was, "Okay, something needs to change. I need to change something." 

Isaline: So, looking back, for someone in this situation, what would you do differently instead of trying to offer everything? Because it seems a good deal to offer everything. Often, as SEO consultants, we do a little bit of everything. 

Preeti: I was also in the same mindset that, "Okay, I do everything." I can just do small bits of everything. But, if I have to do the same thing again, I will just sit down and I will just try to understand, "Okay, this is my strength; this is my weakness; this is something I can do and I'm good at." I remember that from the very beginning when I was a younger child, I used to love teaching and I used to love telling other people like, "Okay, this is how you can do things," just helping them basically. So, this was my trade. That led me to understand that, "Okay, I can do coaching and I can just make this in a better way." So, if I were to do it everything again, I would just sit down and just take some time, maybe take a month or something. Try to nail down the offer. What you do and what you should be known for. That is very important. 

Isaline: How did it change your relationship to your leads and clients after you refined and chose your offering? 

Preeti: This was very weird because I didn't get a lot of clients when I was doing consulting. I got some, but when they got to know that I completely changed my offerings and everything, they were like, "Will you continue to do the things that you are doing with us?" So, this was something. I was like, "Okay, I can do for you because you are my client already." But, I will not take any more clients for this particular service because this is not something I really feel happy about. That's why I told them, "Okay, I can do it for you because you are my good client, but I will not do it for others."

Isaline: Excellent. Yeah. So, the advice here would be sitting down and thinking about the offering and what exact type of service you want to offer. And so, let's switch to the next things you would do differently. 

Preeti: Okay. So, the second thing that I want to talk about is that besides what should my offer be. The second thing is that, if I'm offering consultancy or something, I didn't know how to price my services, how much should I charge? Am I overcharging? Am I undercharging? Or, even if I know how much to charge, I didn't know where are my ideal clients. Where should I go and find them?  And, even if I find them, how do I approach them? Like, should I do a cold email or LinkedIn message, or something? Or, if they accepted me, most of the consultants do a discovery call or something. And now, I didn't know how to do that. I'm not the best at communication. So, I didn't know how to communicate with them. It's not like you're talking with a friend, right? You are talking with a potential client and the language that you use, the way that you speak, everything matters. And, I didn't know that. So, I was very, very confused about that. How to make contracts and when you board the client, what to do after. You don't just go and start the SEO thing, right? You just have to make contracts and everything. I didn't know any of that. Because I was just doing, I was just thinking, I was just focusing on the SEO part that, "Okay, I know this, how to do content, and maybe links, or maybe this thing." But, I didn't know the business side of things, the freelance, the main things that are not related to SEO. 

Isaline: I understand. So, it means that as SEO, you were thinking about your offering and things you know how to do as an SEO. But, actually, one has to think about the business side and how is sales side, how you present yourself face-to-face. Can you tell me more about what process did you use to define the price? Because this is very, very hard to know how much is the service worth, or what one can ask of a service on a given market. What was your process to define this price? What did you look at? 

Preeti: So, when I was doing this last year, I looked at a bunch of consultants, already that are established consultants. And, most of them, don't really like share their price on Upwork or on their website. Most of them do like, "You can contact me and I will give you a customized pricing." So, that was very hard for me to understand like how much they're charging. I didn't know that. But, a lot of people were adding their hourly rates on their websites. That helped me a lot to understand that if you have five or six years of experience, then people are charging more than $700 or something for an hourly call or something. This is just a random number. It's not the best. 

Isaline: Yeah. 

Preeti: So, I was just taking these things into account. I was like, "Okay, I don't have a lot of experience in handling clients and everything. I should start with something small. I should not charge too much." Because I was also afraid that if I charge too much, then I will not get any clients. So, that was also something. 

Isaline: I understand. So, there was market research basically to position yourself. And also, some sort of a trial and error. Like, checking out. And so, you mentioned just before that, there was this whole communication aspect during the discovery call. How did you train to do that? How did you train to present your offering, present yourself? Tell me more. 

Preeti: Okay. I did a lot of mistakes. So, when I was starting two, three calls, I just told them straight ahead, I was like, "Let me tell you, I don't know anything about freelancing. I just know SEO. And, if I do something wrong, please don't say bad things about me or something like that." So then, a few of them were nice. They were like, "Okay, we can handle that. Okay that you are starting out and things." But, I searched a lot on YouTube and took advice from people who are already doing it. 

There was this friend of mine who runs a web design agency. He was the best person I could ever get contacted with. He helped me a lot to understand that, "Okay, you need to actually learn how to communicate better." He suggested me -- I was watching Chris Do's videos on YouTube, a lot. Because he talks a lot about entrepreneurship and these kind of things, and how to talk to clients and things like that. I watched a lot of his videos. It was just trial and error. Even if I did something bad in this call, and then I was like, "Okay, I need to fix it." Okay. So, this is something I can fix in my next call. I took notes on everything. And then, I was like, "Okay, I need to work on it."

Isaline: That's very interesting. So, I see lots of strategizing like, defining the offering, doing some market search to understand what can be the pricing. And also, I hear self-awareness. Because you actually took notes of your calls and actively tried strategies and changing your way of communicating. This is excellence. But, it's actually really hard to find the time to reflect on calls when you're trying to sell something. How did you manage that? 

Preeti: That was something I tried to ask their permission. Like, "Can I record the meeting so that I can do this for my own understanding?" So that I can improve myself. 

Isaline: Excellent advice. Yes. Definitely useful to listen to oneself like at another time with some distance, you know? 

Preeti: Yeah, that's true. I actually recorded a lot of calls. And then, I was like, "I did a lot of mistakes," and I really need to fix them. 

Isaline: Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing. 

Preeti: Yeah. 

Isaline: What would be your third advice slash mistakes you'd like to share with us today? 

Preeti: So, if I were to do this thing differently today, that would be, before jumping into doing everything, before jumping into actually talking with the client and doing the things, I would understand how businesses work, and how I can talk to the clients, and how to make proposals, learn the things before jumping into taking freelance work. That is something I would do. 

Isaline: So, learning about the management side of the business and sort of contextual side, right? 

Preeti: Yes. That's true. I need to try to learn both sides of things. Even if you are the best SEO, even if you know how to do SEO, I need to learn how to do the business side of things. 

Isaline: Yeah. Excellent. And, what is the next thing? 

Preeti: Okay. So, the next thing -- I think we are talking in an order. How to make your offering, how to price things. The next thing that I want to talk about is --

Okay. So, the next thing that I want to talk about is when I was starting, I was targeting basically everyone. It was very hard for me to understand that, "Okay, who is my actual target audience, and whom should I target?" I didn't know, "Okay, you can serve a specific type of person in order." I was very afraid that I'll not get my clients and everything. That's why I was targeting everyone. That made me feel like that I don't know anything about them. I don't know my target audience. I don't know how to target them via LinkedIn because I share content on LinkedIn. So, I was thinking of how can I target them. I didn't know who my audience was. I didn't know how to target them through content. What kind of content should I write? What words should I use in order to like to get their attention and to see that, okay, I'm an expert in this thing, or I know this thing, or I can help you? So, that was a big mistake that I did. 

Isaline: Which means that, do you mean that it's better to target few people rather than a lot of people? 

Preeti: Yeah, that is true because if you are targeting everyone, that means that you are targeting no one. You have to be specific. If I have to say something to the upcoming freelancer, then I'll just tell you, "Okay, you don't have to serve everybody. Even if you think that, that will not make you get more clients, it'll actually get you more clients because you know the specific niche that you are targeting, that specific segment that you are targeting." So, that's why it is very important to target a specific kind of people rather than everyone.

Isaline: Which means that it's really choosing the offering and understanding the audience. But, in terms of timing, would you say you sort of stopped -- did you stop the daily work to think about these strategies and organize everything? Or, were you sort of doing everything side to side? What is the most efficient there when you're starting as a freelancer? 

Preeti: My timing was bad because I was doing everything just at the same time. I didn't do anything right. So, if I have to do everything again, first, you need to -- you are doing your work. Maybe you are doing a job already, and you are doing something else. So, you can take some time out of your schedule, and you can just reflect on yourself. "What is something that you can offer and whom should you give services to?" So, define your target audience and how to price your services, how to make contracts, and everything so that you have everything before you jump on a first call with the client. 

Isaline: Yeah. I understand. So, it's really about being very clear with oneself, what you're doing, what you offer, and how, before you can actually explain it during a discovery call. And then, taking time to reflect on the discovery calls to know what you can do better. Wow! Congrats. This sounds like so much work. 

Preeti: That's so true. Even if you don't feel like it, when you have done something like that, you will feel okay, that really takes a lot of work to do. 

Isaline: Yeah. It's like one has different caps. You are an SEO, you are a business manager, you're a salesperson, and you have to do that all at once actually. 

Preeti: Yeah, that's true. Before I started my career, I was like, "Okay, I just need to do the SEO work. It's okay." But now that I realize that if you take them at 100%, in that, you are only doing the SEO work for maybe 40 or maybe 45% or something. The rest of it is related to the core business things that you have to do. Manage the clients, manage the team, if you have one, or something like that. So, that takes a lot of understanding and self-understanding. That, "Okay, you can do this." Like, define processes and everything around it. 

Isaline: Yeah, that's very interesting. It actually echoes something that's another guest from the WTS Podcast mentioned. SEO Jo Blogs also mentioned this thing that it's better not to book a hundred-person time with clients' work because then you have no time to do other type of work necessary for the business. Do you have the same feeling? 

Preeti: Yeah, that's true. That's actually true. If you give all of the time to the client's work, then you will not have the time to work on the business, and you don't have the time to work for the business. You will dedicate all of the time to manage this one client and you will not get time to upscale yourself, and then work on the business. So, how you can get even more time, maybe more revenue, things like that. 

Isaline: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. That sounds like a super important aspect of time management for freelancers. 

Preeti: That's really true. 

Isaline: Is there another thing you wanted to mention during the podcast, another mistake or learning? 

Preeti: Yeah, I can share something. When I was starting with everything, I didn't have a lot of confidence in myself to present to people. I was constantly feeling like an imposter. That I don't know anything. I was like, there are a lot of things that you learn on a daily basis. You know something new that is popping up in the industry. SEO is something that is not a stable industry. It is changing every single day. There are a lot of things that are popping every single day. And, that feels like that I don't know anything. I studied for maybe six months total, maybe more, to get the understanding of how SEO works and everything. But, sometimes, it feels like even if you took the SEO courses to learn how to do SEO, you still don't know anything, and that was a very bad feeling. 

Isaline: How did you overcome that feeling? 

Preeti: I think that feeling vanishes with time and with confidence. If you are a freelancer, you are starting out and you are feeling very stuck, and you don't know how to do things, and you feel imposter, you don't know much. But, when you take on some clients, and you do some work, and you help some people, then you feel like, "Okay, you really know something." That confidence, obviously, builds up in time. When you have held more people and take on more clients. That will take time but it'll fade away. Eventually, it'll fade away. 

Isaline: I understand. You mean it is a little bit of being patient and trusting the process. That if you bear with this discomfort, it actually gets better after a while after you do the things. So, it's like keep on doing, even though you're not 100% confident. Trust in yourself that it's going to get better and one cannot jump the process and skip a part of it. 

Preeti: Right. That's true. Even if people around you are saying that freelancing is not the best career. You should not do it, or you should not have a business or something. You should stick to the jobs because they are more stable. Freelancing career is not as stable as a job because you have to constantly work on yourself and your business to generate more clients and more revenue. So, if you have the confidence in yourself, even if you know that, "Okay, whatever I'm doing is right. And, with the time, I will make this happen and I will do everything." So, that confidence, you should just stick with that confidence because that will take you a long way and that will help you to become the better version of yourself. 

Isaline: Thank you. This is so optimistic and positive. I really like it. 

Preeti: Thank you.

Isaline: We are approaching the end of the podcast. It's time for our closing questions. Tell me, for someone who is in a situation today where they want to start freelancing, what advice would you give them? What final advice, final sentence, would you give them? 

Preeti: As we have discussed in the whole episode, the thing is that you should be clear on your side of things. You should be clear on what you are offering, how you should present yourself, how you will do the business side of things, making contracts and everything. And, if you can, you should also share your progress with the world. Because if you share things; like behind the scenes and your progress, how you are doing, how you are tackling things, that is very important for the people and the potential clients to see that, "Okay, you have a problem-solving brain and you can do things differently." Doing things like that. 

The last thing is that just believe in yourself. Have the faith in yourself, too. Even if the world is against you, you have to be with yourself and be, "Okay, you can do this." You have the confidence. So, just make that confidence and just do anything you want. It's okay. The world will give you everything. The universe will give you everything that you desire. 

Isaline: Excellent. What words of wisdom. Thank you, Preeti, for sharing. I think I have the same feeling of one should actually try to do things. But, I like your very structured process and your very structured ways of approaching the business and the different sides of the business, which are not 100% SEO. But also, as we have discussed, business management and sales and everything. 

Preeti: Yeah. That's so true. When you understand that there is a lot of things to a business other than SEO, then your mind will be blown and you'll be like, wow. You have to figure out a lot of things and not just SEO.

Isaline: Thank you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom today with us at WTS Podcast, Preeti.

Preeti: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here. 

Isaline: Of course, anyone can ask you some follow-up questions I suppose, and you are easy to find everywhere, your websites. Yeah, go on. 

Preeti: Yeah. You can always like to find me on LinkedIn and Mastodon. You can find me on my website. Yeah. 

Isaline: Thank you for being with us today. Thank you, everyone, for listening. Anyone who is interested in SEO can join Women in Tech SEO community. You don't have to be a seasoned SEO to join the community. We welcome beginners. We are very active on our Slack channel where everyone can ask question and answer questions, just like we're doing today with Preeti, but we also do it on Slack. So, do join us if you identify as a female, and if you are interested in SEO. 

Today, we welcomed Preeti Gupta, who discussed everything about freelancing. And, I was your host, Isaline Muelhauser. You can find us on Slack, and you can find us on every social media channel, do get in touch. Thank you for being here today and listening to us. See you very soon for the next WTS Podcast episode.