Consulting vs Building An Agency: How I Made My Choice

Author: Gab Goldenberg

My friend Andrew Breem of Outshine Online Marketing asked:

“As far as I can tell, you’ve built your business as a sole consultant as opposed to say building out a big team. Was this a conscious decision or did it just evolve? I’m at a cross roads now where I’m trying to decide exactly what route to take and I’m considering both approaches. I’d love to hear your opinion on why you made the choice you did, if you don’t mind sharing. ”

A: It’s not been my conscious decision, it’s just been a product of circumstances, really. I started consulting when I was turning 19 (started SEO 6 months before 😉 ) and I couldn’t build an agency while being in university. So that was 2006-2010.

I moved to Israel December 30 2010 and then was back in school studying Hebrew for 5 hours/day for the next 5 months. Then I got engaged and was busy planning the wedding with my then-fiance (now wife). Around the same time I also finally launched my book and obviously that took a fair amount of effort.

The closest I came to running an agency was doing a decent volume of guest posting where I subcontracted with up to 12 bloggers at a time. Problem was that with monthly-renewal contracts you don’t have the stability to hire people full time so you’re limited in what you can build.

That’s for circumstances.

For my personal intentions, I did want to build a shiny big agency when I was new and starting out. SEOmoz’s high rates and cool work really motivated me to imitate them … until, like them, I realized that SEO services have limited scale.

I’m pretty ambitious in terms of the size of the business I want to build. When I see brilliant SEOs like my friends at NVI, Distilled, SEER Interactive, Portent and elsewhere “only” growing organically as opposed to the growth of a Facebook or a Twitter, it just makes it painfully obvious to me that the way to go for mega-success is to be the market owner – the Walmart, eBay, Odesk – instead of the guy owning a stall in the market. I have some ideas on that and hopefully I’ll get around to building a startup eventually.

For the time being, circumstances are such that am going to continue offering consulting services for the foreseeable future. I’m still having fun with SEO, with my book, and I’ve also got a stint in the Israeli army coming up – I just got my first summons as a draft-eligible 24 year old. Consulting and book sales give me the flexibility I need in my work.

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  1. First off, congrats on your marriage! You've had a busy few years and I see why consulting has been the ideal choice for you. Secondly, thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. I love talking to people about the BUSINESS of SEO. "The Marketing Agency Blueprint" was a decent read, and there is some great stuff on SEOmoz and around various blogs, but I've learned the most from actually interacting with other SEO's. It's great that the willingness to share and help exists in the industry.

    Comment by Andrew Breen - March 27, 2012 @ 8:25pm
  2. Haven't heard of that, though I have seen the Web Design Business Kit and maybe a similar Kit for SEO from Sitepoint. What I recall from the Web Design Kit (bought it years ago I think) is basically to build relationships and a list. Smart advice then and today.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 2, 2012 @ 4:18am

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