CNN and Careerbuilder just published an article on ten jobs that pay around $80,000 per year, such as attorneys, economists, associate actuaries, marketing managers, pharmacists, and veterinarians. The trouble with all of these jobs is that with rare exceptions they require a four-year college degree or more than that. But there is an 11th job that pays in the same range, and can be had with as little as 2-3 months of free training and another few months of experience, and it is the search engine optimization expert.
Now, the last thing I need is more competition for my SEO firm, but I don’t believe many people will take me up on this anyway, and perhaps it’s not as easy or glamorous as I’m about to make it sound, although I truly believe it is a sweet job to have. With no further ado, here are the steps you can take to be making $80K within 12 months. Disclaimer: This guide assumes you already know how to read, write, and have the basic computer skills possessed by your average high school student.
|Learn HTML||You don’t need much, but you need at least some basic understanding of tags, how to access a website via FTP and open, edit, and save files, etc.||1-2 days|
|Study SEO basics||Go find beginner’s guides to SEO online. This one is almost three years old, but still highly relevant and a good place to start. Don’t get bogged down with the details, just skim everything and read those parts that sound interesting. If you feel confused, just skip that part and move on. It will all come together eventually.||1 week|
|Experiment||Start experimenting with SEO. The best way to do this is to set up a simple website and start optimizing it. Don’t set up an ecommerce site or a blog, because you’ll get hung up on the technical intricacies. Try setting up a niche business directory (like dentists in Fargo, North Dakota) that you update manually and then optimize it for terms related to that niche. Once you’re an expert you’ll realize this is an inefficient way to run a directory, but it will be good training.||1-2 months|
|Pro-bono work||In order to get new clients you’re going to need to already have existing clients you can show off. How to get around this catch-22? By doing pro-bono (i.e. free) work. Find a legitimate and respectable business that is not doing any SEO and offer to do their SEO for free for six months. What have they go to lose? Do this with a minimum of 3-4 companies, but the more the better, both in terms of getting experience and building your portfolio which will be a major sales tool.||2-4 months|
|Create your website||What kind of SEO professional would you be if you didn’t have your own website and if it weren’t optimized? If you’re a hack with design, you might want to hire a professional web designer to build your site for you, which you can then optimize.||1 month (can be done in conjunction with other tasks)|
|Start selling||Now that you’ve got experience, a client list, and your own site, you’re ready to start making money. If you optimize your own site well enough, then that’s all the sales tool you will need. But traditional methods of advertising (phone book, online directories, chambers of commerce, word of mouth, newspaper, magazine, billboard, radio, etc.) might also work if you’ve got the means.||1 month|
This is a guide to start your own freelance business. If you follow these steps you should be able to sign up 5-10 clients paying you between $1-2K apiece per month. But you could follow the same steps to land an in-house job doing SEO, and you should be able to make $70-100K with that.
Granted, there are some details I’m leaving out and there are challenges you may face. For one, you might not enjoy doing this kind of work. You might find it boring. Maybe you’re technologically challenged and hate computers. But if you’ve got basic computer skills, the ability to work on your own to train yourself, and you end up enjoying this type of work, you could be doing well within one year and at a substantially lower cost than four years of college. Oh, and if you go the freelance route you can work from home in your underwear.