Suppose you want to become self-employed as an SEO freelancer. In that case, you can find out here what you need to pay attention to when setting up your SEO consultancy in order to start as legally secure, effective, and sustainable as possible.
What is SEO Consulting?
SEO means search engine optimization. It’s about better listing web content in the unpaid search results of Google and other search engines, thus achieving greater reach. An SEO consultant, simply called “SEO,” helps their clients improve their search engine rankings. SEO consulting is usually not a one-off service but rather an ongoing process.
Industry insights for self-employed SEO consultants
In many cases, self-employed SEO consultants are self-taught because SEO has so far hardly been possible to study. Some Chambers of Industry and Commerce offer further training in the SEO area, but this is aimed more at inexperienced users than at future professionals. In any case, more important is practical experience, which you should first acquire as a trainee on the job. More about this, for example, in the blog www.seo-trainee.de
Anyone with the appropriate SEO know-how should not be afraid to focus their offer fully on SEO consulting or online marketing. In any case, this is more credible than carrying a box of services with you, such as web design or banner design, hosting, etc. However, it is important to have a good active network of specialists from other areas to give the customer suitable recommendations in case of doubt.
Many SEO consultants start as part-time freelancers and build a small customer base. This way is definitely useful to start the topic of self-employment gently.
Since SEO consultants usually run a long-term support business, building trust on the customer side is particularly important. Good communication skills in SEO are also important here! Good regular reports on measures and their impact on the customer are essential!
Capital requirements of freelance SEO consultants
Since many SEO freelancers initially start from home and without their own office, the investment required to set up an SEO consultancy is quite manageable. In addition to a PC and mobile phone, a vehicle may also be required. Of course, one should not forget the internet connection in the cost list, as well as costs for SEO tools, and then, of course, accounting, tax advice, and your own website.
There are also travel expenses, costs for specialist literature, further training, and conferences, if necessary, during operation. Costs for freelancers, but in any case, for health insurance and taxes.
Otherwise, a certain financial cushion should be available during the start-up period, usually one year.
Depending on your initial situation, you may be able to take advantage of subsidies to finance your project.
Self-employed SEO consultant: trade or freelance?
As an SEO consultant, you practice a so-called catalog-like profession like an IT consultant. Although this profession is not expressly included in the statutory catalog of freelance professions, you may still have the coveted status of freelancer if the following two conditions apply to you:
First, you must have the appropriate qualifications as a self-employed SEO consultant in the form of a scientific, engineering-like education and work in an engineering-like profession. Secondly, you must provide your services personally and on your own responsibility and may not carry out any commercial activities, more on this below.
Ultimately, the tax office will also assess individually whether you are considered a freelancer. So make an inquiry to the tax office immediately after founding and have your status confirmed in writing by the tax office so that you are not confronted with high additional trade tax demands at a later point in time.
Note: You should not simply accept a possible rejection of your freelance status as an SEO consultant by the tax authorities but take legal action against it. Because freelancing offers you numerous advantages, e.g.:
- You do not have to register a business
- You do not have to pay a trade tax
- There is no entry in the commercial register unless you set up a corporation
- You don’t need to keep double-entry bookkeeping, and you don’t have to prepare annual accounts
- You do not have to publish information about your winnings and losses
- To determine the profit, it is sufficient if you submit an EÜR (income surplus calculation) to the tax office
- You are not a member of the IHK or HWK, so there are no chamber fees
And here are the risks:
Suppose you, as an SEO freelancer, work in an advisory and training capacity and work yourself directly, such as building links, optimizing pages or trading (e.g., with hardware and software), or commercial services. In that case, you risk losing the status of a freelancer to lose.
Freelance income requires the direct, personal, and individual provision of services by the freelancer based on his or her specialist knowledge. Therefore, if the freelancer employs many dependent – especially non-professional – employees, this can lead to the loss of the freelance status.
Please note that your job and not just your professional training matters!
Business registration as a self-employed SEO consultant
If you start as a commercial SEO freelancer, for example, because the service dominates in your case or the tax office prescribes this for you, you must register your business. The following steps are necessary in this case:
Visit the trade office in your town or municipality now and fill out the form provided for business registration. You can get the form from the office or download it from the municipal website.
Online registration is only possible in exceptional cases. Most municipalities still require the personal visit of the managing director or an authorized person. Some cities or municipalities allow the documents to be sent to the authorities by post.
If you submit the form personally, you will usually receive confirmation from the office immediately. However, if you register by post, you will receive confirmation within a few days.
You should bring the following with you to the trade office:
- valid identity card or passport
- possibly the notarized articles of association
- if applicable, approval or notification of approval to practice the trade
- if you do not have US citizenship, you need a residence permit
You provide this information in your business registration:
- Company of the company or your first and last name
- address of the company
- Part-time business, yes or no
- Information about the business owner
- Disclosures relating to the activities
The trade office will immediately confirm your registration as an SEO service provider if all documents are complete. It will normally automatically inform the following institutions and authorities about your foundation:
- The tax office
- The trade association
- The state statistical office
- The labor inspectorate
- The responsible chamber
- The employment agency
- The customs administration
Marketing for freelance SEO consultants
Of course, a professional website is a must for an SEO consultant. Please note the following points in particular for your web presence:
- In the consulting industry, two things are paramount: seriousness and trust. So above all, be honest. Save yourself exaggerated superlatives or standard phrases. Instead, get to the heart of the areas where you, as an SEO consultant, are better than your competitors.
- Pay attention to a modern, young design. The tidier and more reduced the design is, the more likely it is to inspire trust.
- Your website as an SEO consultant should be mobile-optimized so it is also displayed perfectly on the smartphone.
- You create trust with faces. Our tip: Go to a professional photographer and tell them you need pictures for your website.
- Communicate as openly as possible about the services and prices of your consulting offer. Provide extracts from completed projects.
- References are important. Show who you have worked for and get customer opinions, which you present on the homepage.
- Don’t forget to indicate your location on Google Maps. Customers are happy if they receive directions so they can find you as quickly as possible. Also consider whether social media networking makes sense and if so, which ones!
- In addition, you should definitely integrate a contact form for your customers and prospects.
In addition to a good website, ensure your SEO consulting website is visible in the usual search engines. After all, that is your very own profession.
In addition to the internet presence, an independent SEO consultant can draw attention to himself, for example, through lectures, events on search engine optimization or other aspects, or through specialist articles in special interest publications. Finally, a well-maintained blog on SEO topics is also very valuable, but the competition here is quite fierce.
Finally, an interesting way to acquire new customers can be a website SEO check for a one-time introductory price. Advertisements in local media can also lead to success here.