Not every client is right for my business. I’ve had a number of potential clients reach out to me that I have had moral and ethical issues with the subject matter of their websites/businesses. From content creators on manipulation tactics to products of unproven medical “wonder drugs”. I never expected to turn down work that I had moral issues with, but I’m glad that I have the understanding that I am able to make those decisions.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben McLaughlan.
Ben is an Australian, living in Canada, who loves exploring the world (when he can). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he swapped his decade-long electrical career for an online business focusing on Search Engine Optimization.
When he isn’t at the computer, you’ll likely find him over-eating a bowl of ramen, talking about travel or petting a kitten.
A travel blogger that developed a love for understanding everything SEO related, Ben decided to put his skills to use and help other businesses grow during these uncertain times.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My name is Ben, I grew up as an only child in Australia with my single mother. For most of my childhood I lived in Booragul, a small town outside Newcastle around 2 hours north of Sydney.
In 2013 I left Australia for the first time at age 25 with a one-way ticket to Europe. During the 12 months I was backpacking, I met my Canadian partner Melanie. Instead of returning home when my money ran out, I found myself in Canada, where I’ve lived since.
Since moving to Canada, my partner and I travel for extended periods of time as often as we can. Every year or two, I like to swap the snow for sun and return home, but COVID-19 paused those plans, at least for this year.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I face the horizon, the horizon is my home”
Back in 2013 when I left home to travel, I usually found myself exploring a new city with music playing through headphones.
Frank Turner, an English folk singer-songwriter was often the voice I heard as I wandered around Europe. This quote is a line from a song called “The Road” and it stuck with me. I tend to travel fast and hop from city to city, always chasing the horizon.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ve always looked up to anything David Attenborough had been involved in. I recently watched A Life on Our Planet and it put into perspective how fragile and beautiful our planet is.
I love to travel and explore the globe, but seeing the destruction of the natural environment on such a large scale has changed certain aspects of my life almost immediately.
While I’ve been slowly adapting to ways to limit climate change on a personal level, the raw facts and emotion this documentary stirred up inside me have already changed my diet, with more changes to come.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Having worked in 5 different countries, I’ve had a wide range of jobs from working in bars to courier driving, but my career has actually been as an electrician.
I first started my electrical apprenticeship back in 2006 in Australia. Working in a wide range of industries, I was promoted to eventually run a multi-million dollar project in the summer heat of the Australian outback.
When I moved to Canada in late 2013 I began studying to sit the nationally recognized Red Seal exam to become a qualified electrician here. Around a year later, I passed and began working as a journeyman electrician in Alberta.
After a year-long adventure through Asia in 2017, I started a travel blog where I began to develop skills around creating a website, content and understanding the processes of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short.
A few frustrating but beneficial years later, my website grew to tens of thousands of monthly visitors and taught me the skills I would need to pivot my focus to SEO during the 2020 pandemic.
With the onset of the pandemic I found myself with plenty of time on my hands. I reached out to a few business owners on a local Facebook group to see if they would be interested in any SEO work and received very positive feedback on the results I was able to obtain for them. This led to freelancing SEO work on Fiverr and eventually creating a new website to draw potential clients to.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
I was working as an industrial electrician at the beginning of 2020 as the pandemic began to spread around the world. As it infiltrated Canada and things began to shut down, the company I worked for was forced to halt work indefinitely and issue mass lay-offs.
It was one of those shocking experiences where my plans of working and saving to travel back home to see family and friends changed. All of a sudden, like many others, I was unemployed and sitting at home.
With no timeline on returning to work, I looked for other ways to make income. In April, I tried freelancing on Fiverr for SEO services, such as website audits and page optimizations. My prices were incredibly cheap to begin with to get my foot in the door.
That initial boost of confidence led me to going all in on the idea of starting an SEO service business for Edmonton, Canada and around the globe. Easy Mode Media was started in April and has been growing steadily throughout 2020.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
It would have to be my very first client. With no experience in business or performing SEO for others, it was daunting. I knew SEO, but my instinct was that no one would pay an unknown freelancer for this type of work.
I look back on that and shake my head, after all everyone starts from the bottom at some stage.
That first sale of a website audit for a random client from Fiverr solidified that this was a viable opportunity and with the COVID-19 pandemic lasting who knows how long, I decided to take a chance and go all in on Easy Mode Media.
The confidence of my first ever 5-star review was a close second ‘Aha!’ moment. Seeing that someone valued my service and effort was energizing.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Since I had no background in running a service-based business, there have been frustrating days. Allocating my time effectively has been a skill I’ve had to greatly improve on.
In saying that, I’m loving the challenge. Most of the time at least.
My business keeps growing steadily, with 11 clients and an income on par with my pay when I was an electrician. At this time, I don’t see myself picking up a pair of pliers to get paid anytime soon.
One of the most rewarding things is seeing improvements I’ve made to a website and for that business. I know SEO and my personal results, but logging on to a new website in a strange niche and seeing gradual improvements month after month, is more rewarding to me than flicking on a newly installed light fixture, that’s for sure!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been a few, but one in particular would have to be my partner Melanie.
Getting laid off early in 2020 was stressful. Even though my partner and I live quite frugally, I have bills to pay and aspirations of travel whenever that is possible again.
It was a stressful time due to the unknown, but I’ve never felt more supported than I did this year.
When I put forward my idea to create a business she backed me 100%. With Melanie’s support through the year I was able to grow my business, both financially and mentally.
She often reminds me I haven’t been outside for who knows how long. Having someone looking out for you on the good, and the frustrating days, helps a lot.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A past client of mine had a website that would not rank on Google, no matter what he did. He had created a massive catalog of online reading material that had done well, until one day, it all disappeared.
Months of frustration almost led to a change in his career path and having to shut the entire website and business down. Then, he reached out to me at Easy Mode Media.
I started my process to assess his website from an SEO perspective, and it turns out the site wasn’t being crawled or indexed correctly. After a relatively simple fix, traffic and sales shot up for him. His online business was saved due to a few lines of text being removed. For me, that felt pretty incredible to be able to help someone succeed in their business and livelihood. (if livelihood deleted up top like my suggestion)
I’ve helped many websites gain targeted traffic and conversions through organic search, but this story is the one I always think of when I’m having a bad day at “the office”.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- My time and expertise is worth more than I thought. I lacked confidence in my ability when I first started. This led to underpricing my expertise to the point I was working ~40 hour weeks and not seeing much income. It has taken me a few months to really understand how much my time is worth.
- Not every client is right for my business. I’ve had a number of potential clients reach out to me that I have had moral and ethical issues with the subject matter of their websites/businesses. From content creators on manipulation tactics to products of unproven medical “wonder drugs”. I never expected to turn down work that I had moral issues with, but I’m glad that I have the understanding that I am able to make those decisions.
- Results showcase your value better than anything. Convincing clients you’re great at what you do without results is difficult. Those initial wins are important for confidence as well as showing a prospective client the value of investing in what you have to offer.
- Outsourcing is an important skill in itself. There are plenty of self-proclaimed “experts” in whatever field you’re involved in. Giving up some control and hiring a freelancer to do a task can be stressful and nerve-wracking. But I’ve come to understand that knowing when to delegate certain smaller tasks of your business in order for your clients to still receive optimal services from you is extremely valuable. It’s also important not to underestimate the value of the interview stage to vet potential outsourced hires effectively.
- Done is better than perfection. Perfection is something I always work towards for in my business. How can I do things better, give more value to my clients and do it efficiently. The problem I faced was that perfection isn’t something you can obtain. There’s always some better version of copywriting or an image you can swap out. If I chased that perfection, I wouldn’t get anything done. There’s always more that can be optimized
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I’ve been putting a lot of effort into Easy Mode Media and it’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole and lose hours or entire days to a new business, let alone the news of what’s happening around the world right now.
Staying in contact with friends and family has been huge for my mental health. I’m thankful that technology is advanced enough that I can jump on a call with my mum back home in Australia or catch up with friends and play a video game online while chatting through a microphone as if we were just in separate neighborhoods, let alone separate countries.
On top of that, getting outside for some fresh air, especially those rough days is important. Upcoming winter is dropping temperatures very fast in Canada, it will hit -30 degrees celsius soon enough where I live, so getting out whenever I can is important for my mental health.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This is a tough question as there are many movements around the globe worthy of recognition. But the one that I would choose right now is climate change.
It’s one of, if not the greatest threat to life on this planet. Not just humanity, but every being we share our world with is impacted by our decisions that we make on a daily basis. We also have the power to change the course of climate change to improve the world for future generations.
Small personal changes are the first step into reducing the effects humanity is having on the planet and life in general.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would have to say David Attenborough. From travel to not taking this planet for granted, I have enormous respect for this man.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve watched so many documentaries where his narrated voice evokes such a passion and emotion for what every inch of this world has to offer and how to leave a positive impact on the planet.
His passion for life and the preservation of the wild is inspirational.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me easily at Easy Mode Media, my Edmonton based SEO agency.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!