Dan Shure, owner of Evolving SEO, has had a unique entrepreneurial experience. He grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father, a professional sculptor, owns two businesses. Shure started his first business as a teenager and has created several other successful businesses along the way. Now, he runs a small SEO company that provides search engine marketing services to clients, from site audits to content strategy to best practices training. Additionally, Shure is a MOZ associate and hosts the “Experts on the Wire” SEO podcast.
A Musical Start
Way back in my late teens and early 20s I did a lot of performing. Specifically, I was in a bucket band performance group. Though it sounds kind of funny, it actually was a serious business between myself and some friends from high school. We were registered as a business in our town. We had an LLC. It taught me a lot about the paperwork and those aspects of business. We performed professionally for a few years on school breaks.
I went to school for music. I have a degree in piano performance. After that, I started my own music teaching business, teaching lessons privately and working for schools. One thing lead to another … I was making websites for myself and my band and my dad’s companies. Through making websites, I learned the part I loved the most was getting traffic. Around 2010, I decided to completely stop music and stop working for my dad and transition into my own SEO company. A few years later, my wife got a degree in business and joined me in the company. Now, she runs all the business aspects like taxes and accounting.
Financing the Business
The business has been self-funded by profit. The luxury of running an Internet-based business is all you need is a laptop and an Internet connection. I would make profits from clients and use that to buy the next thing, whether that was a new laptop or an SEO tool. Eventually, I got office space, which is one of our biggest overhead expenses.
We’ve done a pretty good job of saving profits to have one to three months’ buffer to handle payroll. We use an American Express business card to handle expenses. The reason I chose it was because of the perks and benefits that come along with it.
We have a contractor who works for us. We can scale up and down on those services as needed to help with cash flow. We have a number of SEO tools that we pay a monthly licensing fee for rather than paying a large sum to purchase outright, which also helps cash flow.
Business Challenges and Rewards
Time management is the most challenging thing about running the company. In a service-based business, time is money. If I do a project for someone, they might still have questions and problems after it is complete. The more clients that I have, the more random questions I get. It’s a challenge to make time to respond to those questions, because they sometimes take hours of my time and research. Dealing with those are hard because they’re not something I’ve allocated time for, but I feel a responsibility to help out.
There are many challenges to running a profitable freelance consulting business. I’ve definitely had a learning curve.
The lifestyle benefits that come along with running a company are rewarding. I can work remotely. There are no bosses telling us when we can and cannot work. The flexibility to design my own work schedule is great. Also, I’ve seen the ability to earn a good living that’s probably a little bit better than a comparable full-time job.
Business Lessons Learned
I tried setting up QuickBooks and all the accounting before my wife got her degree. I would say that spending the nominal fee on an accountant would have been worth it. It’s important to get your accounting set up correctly from the beginning. Everything I did was miscategorized and mislabeled. It was a real headache later on.
I am naturally good at marketing. At the beginning, I had a real knack for getting clients. One way I did that was to provide a little work for free without anybody asking me to. For example, I wrote a blog post about how I would do SEO for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, which is a brand my wife and I really like. A year later, the ecommerce manager emailed me and said, “Hey, we found your post. Would you like to help us with SEO?” They became a client off and on for a few years.
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
Make your business in an area of something you really love. Building a small business is really hard, so question if that’s really for you. Some people think they’re just going to make more money at it or have a better lifestyle. It has to be something that you get an intrinsic fulfillment from. It’s not going to be glamorous for the first few years.
What’s Next for Evolving SEO
Ninety-five percent of our revenue comes from the consulting work we do. In the future, I would like to balance that out with sponsorships for the podcast, content creation with video, and speaking engagements and appearances. I think rounding out revenue sources is good for any business.
This article was originally written on August 10, 2017 and updated on February 1, 2021.