Should You Ever Bill Hourly for SEO Conulting? - May 2023

Here's an email discussion about me billing per hour with a potential client who just signed up for $2k/m…

Hint: Don't EVER bill by the hour unless you want to be treated like an employee and not be able to scale your business (like the Bob's in the above picture would treat you).

I dumped the cubicle a long time ago and don't plan on going back to anything like that ever.

I don't trade my time for money, but I work to build my business so it gets better, stronger, and more profitable over time.

Potential Client:

I would also like to specifically know how many hours of work we are getting, and to be able to get a cost per hour. I would also like monthly reports that show how our hours were used on each strategy.

I would like to instead, build a sustainable monthly charge that incorporates the below.

-On Page SEO

-Off Page Link Building

-Key Word Strategy

Please send me a monthly strategy with these 4 categories, with a total hours number, and if possible hours per strategy. I would also like to know the per hour metric.

Mock Proposal (20 Hours / $125 an Hour / $2,500 per Month)

-On Page SEO (7 hours).

-Off Page Link Building (7 hours).

-Key Word Strategy (6 hours).

I understand that as time goes on, the hours on certain parts like Keyword Strategy would go down, so we could just keep the hours constant and move them to On Page/Link Building.

———————— My response: ————-

Hourly doesn't make sense for SEO. There are hard costs involved. I've got long term trained contractors that I give targeted tasks. I spend a lot of time and energy on R&D that helps all my clients. Etc.

You're hiring me for SEO results.

We can measure results with 2 objective metrics you can check independently of me — organic traffic and organic rankings in Google for targeted search phrases.

————————– Potential Client Response: ———–

So do you disclose how many hours are being spent each month and where those hours are being targeted?

Most tech stuff we have done has had hourly billing.

I’d like something that is less grey than what you are proposing.

———————— My response: ————-


No, I don't discuss with you time spent. Your project will be on my agenda almost every week and get worked according to its needs by me and my team.

We discuss the data on your organic rankings and traffic in my monthly reports — not grey at all.

Furthermore, these are the real metrics that are going to determine the success or failure of any SEO project — not time spent.

Plenty of people have spent hundreds of hours on a project that failed.

I would question the honesty or skill level of anyone who would work on an hourly basis for SEO.

When I'm working on testing techniques that are relevant to your project, how would I log that time?

When I spend a lot of time and energy teaching my contractors how to do specific techniques that are relevant to your project, how would I log that time?

When I spend money, time, and energy studying data and information from other people that is relevant to your project, how would I log that time?

How would I log my contractors' time that I've spent a lot of resources training and working with?

I could go on with many more examples like this.

You're hiring me to be your expert on something where there is a lot of misinformation and confusion and misunderstanding.

And, working as if you've already hired me as your SEO expert, I am telling you that your request for time tracking is not reasonable for an SEO project with a high chance of producing real, profitable results. This is true for working with me and also likely with anyone who's really going to be able to help you.

If you are not going to take my advice on this, then I will be passing on your project.


He did not argue the point any more.

I probably didn't need to go into so much detail, but I wanted to not have to go back and forth on this anymore. So, I wanted to make a full case and let him choose yay or nay if he wanted to work with me.

Honestly, I didn't want to work with him after this exchange, but he became reasonable and was nice about it.

So, he ended up buying despite (or perhaps because of) my rebuffs.

About David
Free Training Videos
Free Training Videos
Subscribe to RSS Feed
Contact Me