Growing A 10-hour A Week Multi-6 Figure Marketing Agency

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Hey Guys,

I hope you enjoyed the last email you received and that it provided some inspiration.

Today I want to walk you through what I actually do as a day job and my plan for growth with it and how I’ve built a multi-6-figure marketing agency working 10 hours a week

(Please note you’ll probably have a ton of questions and if you do – just email me back and I’ll try to answer them all)

So my day job is running Pearl Lemon – my SEO agency which is expanding now into lead gen, content, design, CRO and more.

I guess given I said ‘multi-6 figure’ I should provide some stats:

Here’s Pearl Lemon’s Stripe (we have also a fair amount of bank + international transfers)

Marketing Agency

Pearl Lemon Leads (same as above)

Marketing Agency

Here’s a screenshot for the overall ‘group website’:

Marketing Agency

The company was originally called Purr Traffic and was incorporated in October of 2016 – but turned into Pearl Lemon in Jan 2018

(I formally announced myself as an SEO in Aug 2017 – had no recognition in the space before that – not sure I do now :p)

Marketing Agency

The aim has always been that the agency would provide great services, but also be a lifestyle business that could be run from anywhere and provide cash flow to do other things.

i.e in time, work on it no more than 10 hours a week.

That has been the focus over the 22-month period it’s been running.

My ideas since then have expanded as it became obvious I wanted to build a brand that would last through the sands of time.

To do this I worked on some ‘no-cost’ brand-building elements through the course of building and growing the business:

It’s probably been in the last six months (months 16-22) I’ve been able to get it down to 10 hours a week.

Before that, I was relentless, as I was building for short-term (cashflow) but also long-term (brand growth)

That meant 80-hour work weeks (which I likely still pull – just on different things now)

And here’s how I spend my money using some assumed numbers; but the gross profit may be anything from $10-15k a month.

On the basis of an assumed $10k from Pearl Lemon SEO activities:

$10k profit goes into:

  • $4k a month on living expenses
  • $2.5k reinvested into brand SEO growth + contently monthly
  • $3.5k on investments (we’ll explore these in the next emails)

The $2.5k reinvestment goes into:

  • $1,000 = Link-Building Outreach (to generate more inbound leads)
  • $300 a month = Upwork which typically nets a 5-10x return (all I need is one client at $1.5k a/month)
  • $500 = Content writing (blogs, new pages etc)
  • $250 = Clutch sponsorship
  • $450 = Link-Building on other PL brands (Pearl Lemon Design, Sales, Convert, Leads)

As you can see I invest heavily in our own long-term passive growth.

Those numbers aren’t even that big in many respects – as it’s slowly scaled and I’ve likely spent around $60k on internal development over the 22 months (or maybe it is a lot?)

But now we average 3-5 incoming leads PER DAY. Phew!

Marketing Agency

Marketing Agency

And as of June 2019, we’ve been working with commission callers who have closed over $100k in new business (when you have good leads they are easy to find)

The idea has always been to make the collection of Pearl Lemon Websites totally inbound and to pair that with a great delivery team and then a client relationship manager (likely a remote based intern type figure)

It’s all been worth it.

And on balance, we’ve banked around $40-60k from our inbound activities during the course of building this all out

This means that ultimately I could turn off outbound channels completely; with the aim being to get those numbers to 10 leads per day.

(And this element is very stop-start the outbound stuff – as long as inbound works I’m not highly motivated to do aggressive outbound if at all)

So the pain of applying for jobs on Upwork and being on sales calls all the time (which were my biggest time-sucks historically) have died down by 75% (still do it – will stop once I get busier – but her I enjoy sales) with there now being a dedicated sales team

(although Upwork did go well >>>)

Deepak Shukla

And as you can imagine – when you deliver, referrals do come in dribs and drabs and the longer you simply spend in an industry and you’re ‘active’ the more people tend to think of you and sometimes introduce business.

P.S Project delivery and project management are handled by my remote teams in India (office of 6), USA (3 marketers) and Pakistan (development team)

Deepak Shukla

re: saving time also. In general, if you implement ‘no-meetings’ rules, use Whatsapp voice notes religiously to communicate, and send video-based feedback and aim for 15-min meeting times – it’s amazing how much time that gives you back.

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Here’s a LinkedIn post I wrote about how I organise my day which might help

We use a combo of Slack (well the team does I’m useless – I live on WhatsApp voice notes) & Gsheets and Gdocs to work.

In parallel, I’m building out the other agency websites as a means of passively generating leads for design/lead generation and CRO services in the next 6-9 months.

Pearl Lemon Blog

Pearl Lemon never tends to dip below £25k (ish) and goes up to £40k in some months. There is a broad ambition to consistently get to £40k a month.

I think we will get there as retention is good (enough). Clients with budgets tend to stay 6-months, and we’re still spending to grow our SEO leads as well as cross-selling lead-generation leads.

…talking of lead-generation leads

Pearl Lemon Leads (my 2nd agency) did around £10k a month from M1 in Feb 2019 to Nov 2019 over 8 months.

I’ve recently stopped working with my business partner on that side of the agency, unfortunately (I wish you well Kaz!) but it was a good experience working together.

Moving forward I’ll find someone to run the firm (relationship manager), a copywriter (cold email), and a delivery team (remote in India – maybe alongside my SEO guys).

Over time, I’d love to build this into a 7-figure agency. The SEO side should in time get to £40-50k a month if we just keep getting leads coming in and the guys keep improving.

Pearl Lemon Leads should hit £15k a month (won’t project beyond that for now).

Totally that would equal – £620k.

And right now I offer content upsells and am building a couple of websites – so assuming I can get my act together and formalise those pieces…7-figures don’t seem too crazy.

However, it all needs to happen whilst maintaining my 10-hour workweek.

Although realistically in the initial 3-6 months of building the web development team (which I’ll help me win more SEO work of course) and teams in general – there’ll definitely be more time invested until I can nail that down.

I want to now talk a little brief about how I actually keep my ‘work-week’ hours down in general

As I’m sure 10 hours sounds like a load of sh*t.

So let’s get into it

  • My entire team is remote
  • We sell SEO – the nature of it is NOT day-to-day (clients take a long-term view)
  • I have a dedicated remote office that put in all the working hours in India (office of 6)
  • I meet my clients <10% of the time (or if I do its the start of the project/end of the project)
  • Client communication is typically voice notes/video so can be done very quickly
  • I’m very big on producing FAQs via documents and videos answering typical questions that come up and integrating them into our reporting
  • I allow my India office to do most of the day-to-day email communication (I demand a < 24-hour response and solution time often)
  • There are processes set up to send clients regular communication so they feel ‘loved’
  • We have standard ‘reporting’ updates that go out weekly (SEMRush report), bi-weekly (Google Search Console impressions report and a link-building report) and an automated monthly email I’ve written
  • I make use of college interns from US universities – they work 10-20 hours at university, want experience and $300-750 a month is awesome side money for them to work on what they love from home.

I hope that gives you guys some insights into how I’m growing my agency in the time that I have.

Continued reinvestment into our own SEO helps build the number of leads; referrals come naturally over time; My India team do most of the ongoing comms and I probably do need a client relationship manager at some point but I enjoy talking to clients still lol.

Of course, writing 52k words like this helps (I hope) with the growth.

BTW get yourself a PA (personal assistant) – Lydia is mine; she’s one of the interns and is an absolute beast – my workflow is having an idea in my head and then giving it to Lydia via voice note to which she responds ‘got it

WhatsApp Messages

And then it gets done…

It’s created (and continues to) HUGE leverage of time for me.

My agency is my cash cow as it funds all of the other ventures I’m getting involved in and so one of the important things to remember will all of this is to determine what you’re trying to achieve with your business.

Two brands are here that I hope to keep growing over time – Pearl Lemon and Deepak Shukla. Growing the strength of the Pearl Lemon brand will definitely ensure over time I can remove myself from running the agency.

So that’s why those business development parts are critical. e.g the podcasts I spent some time getting on – I’m confident close to none of you have ever listened to one. But it’s a small competitive advantage that a company potentially hiring Pearl Lemon will see we have.

And I didn’t know it then – but building an agency in this manner was going to change my life irrevocably as I started gathering capital and ultimately end up putting £35,000 into something I would never see again.

In the next email, I’ll tell you about this very first investment that took me down roads unexpected