How to Become an SEO Freelancer

How to Become an SEO Freelancer

If you’ve spent much time on the internet, and particularly if you’ve ever written online content, you’ve likely come across the acronym “SEO.” Many business owners and marketers who seek writers for their blogs or websites specify SEO experience or expertise as a requirement.

But just what is SEO, and how can you—as a freelancer—add associated skills to your toolkit? Why do businesses and clients want SEO writers specifically? And how can you break into this world and become an SEO freelancer?

In this article, we’ll review what SEO is, what’s involved in freelance SEO, and how to pursue this field in a part- or full-time capacity. If you’re seeking a simple guide to understanding how to become an SEO specialist, you’ve come to the right place.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is part of a larger digital marketing strategy and refers to optimizing content published on the internet so that users can easily find that content when they use a search engine.

You’re likely no stranger to using search engines, such as Google or Bing. People use them all the time to look up information. The search engine uses complex algorithms to make its best guess as to which webpages contain the content you’re looking for and displays them in order of relevance.

If you write an article or otherwise create content to be published on the internet, you ideally want it to generate high rankings so that internet users can find it easily—ultimately improving your organic traffic results. The problem is that there’s a lot of content on the internet already, and there may be quite a bit of it that’s similar to what you published. SEO is how you can make it so that your article or webpage is what users find.

The algorithms that determine what content to return when a user performs a search are complex and continually evolving. Because of this, a successful SEO campaign requires a certain amount of skill and expertise. This is why businesses are willing to pay freelancers who know how to navigate this terrain and craft content that will improve their search engine rankings.

What are the tasks of an SEO freelancer?

An SEO freelancer creates and optimizes content on the web. In particular, they employ various strategies when creating that content so that it’s more likely to show up as a top search result. Their ultimate goal is to get people to the webpage in question.

Some key strategies employed by SEO freelancers include:

  • Keyword research: In its simplest form, keyword research is the process of identifying the queries that will lead searchers back to your site. Once you determine which words or phrases people are using, you can include those specific words and phrases in your content title, headings, and body. The goal is to use these keywords strategically in your content to get it rank higher in Google.
  • Competitor analysis: Competitor analysis involves comparing your content to content created by competitors who rank highly. Through a technical SEO audit, you can identify what you’re already ranking for and identify any gaps with your competitors’ rankings to help you prioritize specific keywords in your SEO strategy.
  • On-page SEO services: On-page SEO refers to the SEO strategies that can be deployed on the website or webpage where you’re posting content. These page optimization strategies include but are not limited to detailed meta tags, including structured data within your content, adding relevant internal links, etc.
  • Media outreach and link building: Link building is the art of getting other sites to link to your content (these links are often referred to as backlinks). Search engines view links as votes of confidence, and with enough external sources pointing at your site, it will likely rank higher as a result. There are multiple ways to generate backlinks, including promoting your content to publishers in hopes of getting a story that will link to your site or seeking out guest posting opportunities.

The SEO skill set is highly sought after by businesses or individuals who rely on internet traffic. For some businesses, particularly e-commerce, funneling traffic toward their webpages is how they gain customers or make people aware of their products or services.

How do you become an SEO freelancer?

If you want to become an SEO freelancer, you’re in good company. This is a popular choice for freelancers and an in-demand field. Any place with a website wants its webpages to show up on the top search results. It can make or break their business or income stream.

Here, we outline the steps you can take to become a successful SEO freelancer and gain a steady stream of clients.

Become an SEO expert

It’s a good idea to learn everything you can about best SEO practices. The more you know, the better the webpages you create will perform, and the easier it will be to attract additional clients. Consider reading about SEO in more detail or taking classes to increase your proficiency.

Sources of SEO knowledge include the following:

  • Classes. Whether online (most common) or in person, a class can provide you the opportunity to fully engage in understanding SEO principles. There may be opportunities to collaborate or ask questions, as well. Courses may be free or paid. Some online sources of SEO courses include Coursera, Udemy, SEMrush Academy, and more.
  • Books. Check out your bookstore or local library for reference materials about SEO writing. Many leaders in the SEO sector have published how-to manuals that can guide you through the basics. Check out the latest edition of Search Engine Optimization for Dummies, for example. You might also consider subscribing to the Search Engine Journal (SEJ).
  • Websites. High-quality websites that provide information about SEO strategies are another great resource. Google offers an SEO starter guide, and the popular MOZ offers The Beginner’s Guide to SEO and more.
  • Industry experts. Find SEO industry experts on social media and follow them. You’ll then receive the latest insights, links, and thoughts that they post on your newsfeeds, allowing you to keep abreast of changes in SEO best practices and opportunities to learn more. The SEJ offers a list of 140 top SEO experts you should be following.

Create a portfolio of your work

When a prospective client seeks to hire an SEO professional, they want to know they’ll get what they’re paying for. The best way to prove your worth is to show samples of what you’ve done. This is more challenging as you start, but you can create your own blog and add content, to begin with.

A portfolio is an easy way for prospective clients to see what your work looks like and whether it’s a good fit for them. In this way, it’s more valuable than a list of credentials or a resume.

A solid portfolio may include the following:

  • Your name and contact information. Include this information right at the top of your portfolio so that prospective clients can get a hold of you.
  • Your clients. Include a list of your current or previous clients so that prospective clients gain a sense of who you’ve worked for. You might also include links to articles or pages you’ve written or optimized for each of those clients.
  • Your best search phrases. Provide a list of optimized search phrases you have used, along with the number of results returned for that search phrase and your page’s ranking. You should include a link to the page that was ranked, as well.
  • Website performance statistics. Any data that shows how your SEO optimization improved a client’s website performance is also great to include. Track before-and-after statistics if possible and include those, as well.
  • Link building examples. Include some examples showing how you applied link building to improve a website’s traffic and click-through rate (CTR).
  • Any other types of projects you have done. For any strategy you have applied, include an example showing how it improved site traffic or other important metrics.  

You want prospective clients to look at your portfolio and have a solid sense of what type of work you have done and what that work looks like in terms of content quality and important SEO improvements.

Earn references and reviews

In addition to a portfolio, words from happy clients provide further proof of your skills and value. Ask clients if they’d be willing to leave you a review, and make sure these reviews are posted publicly so that other prospective clients can see them.

Asking for reviews might feel awkward at first, but it is common practice. Consider creating a carefully worded email template to use for this purpose. It helps to lead with compliments directed toward the client about how they were a pleasure to work with. Then, make it clear that they are under no obligation to leave a review but that it is sincerely appreciated if they do.

The goal is to make the client feel valued by you. This, in turn, makes them want to return that expression of value. If it makes sense, given your relationship with a client to post a review for them, you can also offer to trade reviews.

Reviews may be posted on your personal website or on any platform you use to find clients, such as Upwork. You may also post them to your social media accounts or include them in your portfolio.

Create a website

Creating a website does a couple of things. First, it provides a landing page on the internet where people can find you, learn about what you offer, see your portfolio, and contact you if they’re interested.

Second, it can provide a chance to showcase your writing even before you get clients. Write good SEO articles of your own and post them on your website. If your personal website demonstrates proper SEO practices and is attractive, prospective clients will see this as further evidence that you’re the right choice for them.

Using a content management system (CMS) platform like WordPress or Wix can make this task fairly straightforward.

Use social media

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn provide a way to advertise your work and show off your skills, and they can also be a source of future work.

Many companies post freelance opportunities on their social media pages. People also may post opportunities they’ve come across in freelancer Facebook groups. If you follow SEO experts on social media, they may periodically post opportunities, as well.

You can also use social media to show off your stats. If you just did a major SEO overhaul, make a post showing the before and after of the site traffic and include a link to your portfolio for those interested.

Obtain the right SEO tools for your toolkit

Many SEO tools on the market can help you improve your SEO strategy. Some are free, while others charge a fee. Some popular choices include the following:

  • Google Search Console. Free to anyone with a website, the Google Search Console makes it easy to monitor and report on different SEO metrics.
  • SEMrush. This company offers a single platform that allows you to do SEO, content marketing, competitor research, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, and social media marketing all in one place. Price plans range from professional to business level.
  • KWFinder. This SEO keyword tool helps you find long-tail keywords and run analyst reports on backlinks and search engine results pages (SERPs). Pricing plans range from basic to agency level.
  • MOZ Pro. This popular all-in-one SEO tool set includes site auditing capabilities, rank tracking, backlink analysis, keyword research, and more. You can even try it out for free for 30 days first.

Use job boards

Creating a website and letting everyone you know on social media that you’re open for business may be the first step in finding clients, but you’re likely to find even more opportunities on websites and job boards designed to advertise openings to freelancers. Many sites exist, including Upwork. Our online talent platform can connect you to the top clients based on your skills and experience.

Start your SEO freelancing career today

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with a solid jumping-off point as you explore SEO freelancing. If you’re ready to start your career today, create a profile on Upwork.

Many businesses seeking SEO freelancers turn to Upwork as a source for in-demand talent. In fact, more than 60,000 jobs are posted on Upwork every week, and it’s trusted by more than 5 million businesses. Creating an account is free, and you can present yourself in the best light for prospective clients and begin bidding on jobs immediately.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation


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How to Become an SEO Freelancer
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