How Khalid Farhan Built His $300k/Year Agency on SPP
This is an interview with one of our long time users – Khalid Farhan of Passive Journal. He shares how he started and grew his agency, his move to Service Provider Pro, and some hard truths about acquiring SEO clients and starting a productized service in 2020.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to start Passive Journal?
I am Khalid, born and raised in a beautiful country in South Asia called Bangladesh. It is a very non-entrepreneurial country (things are now changing though). Have you heard the joke that if you are born in Asia, your only career options are to be a doctor, an engineer or a failure?
Anyway, I started Passive Journal, which is now moved to KhalidFarhan.com as we offer our services from my own domain now, back in mid 2016. Initially, we were a content provider for internet marketers, and later we ventured into building ready websites and a few other services.
At this moment, we don’t do much of those and the business is solely focused on offering SEO service to businesses around the world. We still have a small side wing called Content Manager Pro where we offer content services to bloggers and affiliate marketers, but I would probably call us a SEO first company now.
Can you give us some idea of the scale of your business today?
Sure. We are not a huge business (yet). We do roughly around 300k – half a million USD/year if I combine all our services and a course that we sell in Bangladesh (the course is in Bengali language for my native audience).
The business now has 14 full time employees, along with a bunch of freelancers and vendors who we work with.
Further reading: How to Onboard Freelancers & Independent Contractors as an Agency
As an SEO provider, how did you settle on the self-service model when many agencies do custom quotes for every client?
We actually don’t do a full self-service model, though it seems like we do. We offer a few starting packages to businesses as we have a clear idea of how things work in different regions (most of our local business clients are from the USA or UK & Ireland). Then we have our top end custom deals that we do separately for bigger businesses that have more authority and needs a global reach.
To anyone starting out as a new SEO provider, I would actually recommend going for the self-service model instead of doing custom quotes for every client, specially if you are targeting small businesses and blogs like we do. It helps with your conversion.
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What made you decide to try SPP?
Alright, so here’s the thing. As a company that sells content & SEO services, we always needed a platform where our clients can deliver us instructions and we can reach out to them without the hassle of finding their emails, looking at previous conversation history, start date & etc.
SPP seemed like the only solution that matched our needs (trust me, I searched enough). Before using SPP, we were dealing with all our customers over email chains. We had multiple email threads for every client (one among employees, one with the client, one for extra difficulties that we are facing with clients and so on).
We implemented SPP and pretty much all of it were gone. It was a smooth transition.
Was it a big decision to change software?
I will be honest here. It was not a big decision for us to change software because we were not using any before implementing SPP in our business. It was a very easy transition. The only thing that we were worried about is how SPP would integrate with our existing email provider, existing payment gateways, but those didn’t become an issue either as SPP had modules for everything we needed.
Did your customers notice it?
Well, I am pretty sure they did, but we haven’t specifically asked them. Most of our growth has actually come after implementing SPP to our company, so a majority of our clients don’t know how things were before we had SPP.
What does your business look like these days?
I try to live a digital nomad lifestyle (though I am not very good at it). I am almost always traveling around Europe, lying around doing nothing back at home in Bangladesh or living an exciting life in Dublin. Furthermore, I have a great project manager who actually does most of the communications and service management for our clients.
On top of that, we have a few great line managers to manage the content flow.
Any parts of SPP you appreciate the most?
What do I like most about SPP? Sometimes, it is difficult to point to one thing when you get too used to the whole ecosystem. The thing that I like most would maybe be the invoice reminder that SPP sends out? The ability to message clients or have their data in a nicely organized portal? The ability to get last 6-12 month’s order data with all details?
I don’t know, really. I kind of like everything.
Obviously, software is just one part of your business. Can you share some other strategies which helped you grow your agency?
One strategy that really helped our agency to grow is being personal. Let me explain. We were initially using Passive Journal, as our agency website (which is still the official name of our business) but later decided to move to a personal domain to bring authenticity.
When we reach out to a client, he/she knows that we are legit and not another one person agency operating in a bedroom (which we initially were).
Another strategy that has worked really well for us is our confidence in ranking clients. We are so confident in our work that we even offer rank or refund guarantee deals to our clients.
If you are trying to get SEO clients, the usual methods still work just fine. Cold emailing, cold calling & targeted ads have worked and are still working really well for us even in 2020.
Any words of wisdom for other people looking to sell their own productized services?
I am not great when it comes to offering advice, but I will give you this.
Starting and testing is a lot better than learning and planning.
I know people who are planning to start their own websites for the past year, I know people who have always wanted to start their business but never did. They did a lot ‘in their head’ but they actually did nothing.
Whenever I think of a business idea, I try to go live with the idea within the next 48 hours. Now, it is easier for me as I have the resources, but anybody should be able to create a front end for their business within 7 days.
If you are spending more than 7 days to create a basic MVP for a digital service based business, I think you are not doing it right.
Thanks, Khalid. Where can people learn more about you?
Check out my blog and our services at KhalidFarhan.com.