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James Agate of Skyrocket SEO gets JobShadowed about his career.  You can find James at www.skyrocketseo.co.uk and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview. 

What do you do for a living?jamesagate

I run an online marketing company Skyrocket SEO – we specialise in link building campaigns for digital agencies and major brands. I’m also an investor and advisor to a couple of other companies.

How would you describe what you do?

With great difficulty. As soon as you start talking about “links”, to people outside of the industry they instantly glaze over 🙂

That being said, I tell people I work in online marketing and if they show an interest and ask me questions I usually go into a bit more detail. This usually involves an explanation that goes something like… “You know Google, well when you search Google, certain websites come up. We work with those websites to help improve their visibility when you search for the products and services they offer BUT more specifically we do this by acquiring relevant links from other web pages to our clients because one of the main ways Google assesses where to rank a page is based on how many links a page has and the quality and relevance of those links.”

What does your work entail?

My typical day involves clearing my inbox in the morning, having a catchup with team members, providing any training and support as necessary. Then I will probably check through progress of campaigns and discuss with our operations manager. In the afternoon I will sometimes dive into client work myself if I get the time, writing a blog post for our company site, speaking with clients or putting together proposals.

Don’t do it for the money, because it is a seriously consuming career, you have to LOVE it so make sure you do before you commit to a career in it.

In terms of what the work we actually do entails… the life of an SEO building links is pretty varied from sourcing relevant opportunities (other web pages that might be interested in linking), devising pitches, making contact and building relationships. Someone building links for a living needs excellent time management and organisation skills but at the same time needs to be creative and relentless.

What’s a typical work week like?

Skyrocket SEO as a company actually runs 24/7 because we have a cloud-based workforce that are involved in the various pieces of the puzzle that comes with building links for clients. So we have people in every time zone from Sydney to Los Angeles.

This means that for me that my work week running a business of this nature is pretty varied and frequently longer than I’d hope.

I would say that my time divides into the following:

Client contact – 50%
New business generation – 20%
Actual client work – 20%
Business running stuff – 10%
How did you get started?

I started working for a large international company helping them deploy digital in one of their departments (even though, at the time, I was basically just one step ahead of my bosses there in terms of my knowledge of online marketing. I’d be learning it one day then presenting it to them the next day). I started running my own websites experimenting with making money online, enough to quit my full-time job then I picked up a few consulting gigs and Skyrocket grew from there.

What do you like about what you do?

The variety. I know everyone says that about their job but genuinely there are so many nuances to this business that if you get bored with the actual work you probably aren’t pushing yourself enough.

What do you dislike?

Sometimes it can be frustrating needing to change direction or at least amend a particular strategy that you were working towards because the industry goal-posts have shifted – remember we are all at the behest of Google. It can often feel like you don’t control your own destiny in this business.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I get a salary and then take a dividend based on company performance.

How much do you make?

I take a 5-figure salary and then I top up my income with dividends that vary according to how well the company performs.

How much money did/do you make starting out?

Not a great deal, and that is fairly typical because lower-level SEO positions don’t pay particularly well but if you get your head down, connect with others in the industry and more importantly do good work then you can advance fast and find yourself in a position that pays very well when compared with say other people your age, with similar experiences in other industries. My point is that SEO is a pretty lucrative business to be involved with.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

None as such and I guess that’s part of the difficulty. Most agencies want graduates but I personally feel like that’s not a necessity, I myself dropped out of University. If you work hard, you’re ambitious and you’ve got a relentless attitude then you’ll be able to thrive in this business.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Staying abreast of the changing techniques and best practices.

What is most rewarding?

Seeing how we make a difference to businesses whether that be helping to grow revenue or taking the strain off a department by providing an outsourced service. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not motivated by money as well and if you can do a good job then there is decent money to be made in this business.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Don’t do it for the money, because it is a seriously consuming career, you have to LOVE it so make sure you do before you commit to a career in it. Keeping up to date with such a fast paced industry is quite frankly tiring. Also it is likely you’ll become a little “obsessed” with details and experiments to the point where you lose track of where the work week ended and the weekend began.

How much time off do you get/take?

You will also find that the SEO community (in terms of industry peers) is like NOTHING you’ll have experienced. I can honestly say that the people in the business (who are actually competing against you in theory for jobs or clients) are some of the most willing, helpful and down to earth people I have ever come across.

Hmm I’ve not had a completely “switched off” day off for 3 years. Even when I go away for a holiday, the laptop comes and I check emails. To be fair though this is probably more to do with being a business owner than an SEO but that being said, it’s not the kind of industry you jump into if you are just looking for a 9-5.

There are a handful of companies out there that offer extremely generous holiday/vacation time.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That it’s dead easy and anyone can do it.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

To grow a business I’m proud of, achieve an exit and do it all over again in another industry 🙂

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

Having a sense of humour is really important in SEO – there are definite points where if you don’t laugh it off you’d probably cry 🙂

You will also find that the SEO community (in terms of industry peers) is like NOTHING you’ll have experienced. I can honestly say that the people in the business (who are actually competing against you in theory for jobs or clients) are some of the most willing, helpful and down to earth people I have ever come across. Sometimes this is to the downfall of the industry as there is a tendency to spend too much time within our own bubble but if you are looking for an industry where your peers are pretty cool and easy to get along with then look no further.

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