- Amit Raj was working as a pharmacist in 2013 when he started learning SEO from an online mentor.
- Raj started freelancing as an SEO consultant as a side hustle using platforms like Upwork for gigs.
- Here’s how he quit to consult full time and made his annual salary in a month, as told to Amber Sunner.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Amit Raj, a 35-year-old founder from Glasgow, Scotland, about starting an SEO and link-building company. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider has verified Raj’s revenue with documentation.
I joined Lloyds, a popular UK pharmacy chain, as a pharmacist in 2012, but I have always been interested in digital marketing.
In 2013, I started researching SEO. I was browsing a marketing forum called WarriorForum when I stumbled across a comment from Dan Ray.
Dan was talking about clients he worked with who were paying over £10,000 a month for SEO and digital services. I messaged him to find out more, and I learned he was an SEO specialist.
We had a few calls, and he asked if I wanted to be the “guinea pig” for his coaching business. He wanted to try taking a complete novice and training them to get to his level of SEO expertise.
I learned the ropes of SEO by working under him as an intern and eventually started to do link-building outreach for him around 2014. This was generally unpaid for a few hours a week. I did it in my spare time for about six months.
Link building is the process of getting your website included in other websites as a hyperlink. This builds a website’s authority on Google and will boost its traffic and search ranking.
Having seen how lucrative the industry was while working with Dan, I started an SEO side hustle
I started doing freelance SEO consulting regularly in 2016 while working full time at Lloyds. I spent a few hundred pounds of my savings to make and host my freelancer website on WordPress.
It was a lot of manual work to develop my website’s SEO to ensure it would rank for terms such as “freelance SEO consultant” and “freelance link builder.” I was in the top 10 on Google search terms at one point. It helped to consistently drive leads.
I worked on SEO projects after work and on the weekends. I only had two clients at the start and had decided to specialize in the link-building aspect of SEO work.
I would reach out to other websites and blogs on my client’s behalf to be featured as a hyperlink by either showing them our client’s content or sharing something newsworthy about the client.
My first few clients came through freelancing platforms such as Upwork
When I first started out, I was charging £10 an hour or working on a package basis. (Today, £10 is the equivalent of about $12.50.)
In 2018, I was always working with between two to four clients, and I was making enough revenue to hire my first freelancer. They helped me scale the company by taking on the manual work of sending reach-outs.
In 2019, I decided to move to part-time work at the pharmacy, working two days a week.
I wanted to invest more time in the business and find higher-value clients who signed longer-term contracts, but quitting entirely seemed too risky.
With my time freed up, I learned more SEO skills. I also started posting more on social media and in SEO and marketing-related groups about my business and personal brand. As a result, I gained several new clients and began building up my network of freelancers.
In 2020, I rebranded my company to The Links Guy and set up a more professional website on Web Flow. We hired a web designer for £600 to design a website that would inspire more trust in our customers.
Since the pandemic, more businesses have turned to online services, so they’re investing more in SEO
In the 2020-2021 tax year, we made £151,000.
In June 2021, I quit Lloyds. I didn’t enjoy the pharmacy industry — it’s a lot of pressure to handle people’s medications.
I also left for financial reasons. My SEO business was growing, but my pharmacist salary had stagnated, so I decided to focus on my business.
I began acquiring clients organically through referrals in 2021. Now 90% of my clients approach me. We have clients in dental, tech, and telecoms. One of our clients is Formula Swiss, a producer of high-quality CBD oil.
Last year, we made £285,500 in revenue. I now have 20 freelancers working on our content. and I’m still the only full-time employee.
I made £60,000, or about $75,000, in revenue last month. My yearly salary as a full-time pharmacist was less than a single month’s revenue now.
I have learned not to scale too fast
Don’t try to do everything — we focus on link building. It makes things easier to manage when it comes to marketing SEO services.
I recommend that you test a business idea out before taking a big risk. See if it will work out by going part time in your current job or doing the business on a small scale.