Interview with Joseph Ho, Founder at E-Alchemists
Joseph Ho is an SEO Specialist and Blogger at E-Alchemists, a Digital Marketing Agency based in Singapore. He runs a few websites on the side like food blog: ieatandeat.com that has thousands of monthly visitors. He started out his career in network marketing and subsequently moved into doing Search Engine Optimisation.
1. What were you doing before you decided to start your business?
When I was 18, my parents started a business. Being exposed to this really got me interested in being in a business owner and finding my calling in life.
In 2006, on impulse, I decided to join a Networking Marketing company and by 2007 i quit my full-time job to do it full-time. Unfortunately, the network marketing business collapsed in 2008 and the company had to be shut down.
This setback really hit me hard and I felt extremely downtrodden. I became depressed and anxious with the prospect of an uncertain future and financial security. Eventually, I decided to go back into employment. I was working two different jobs, one in the day and one in the evening just to make ends meet.
I tried starting a few more different enterprises, but none of them really took off. I decided to really reflect and focus on a specific area where I could add value to people on an ongoing basis.
That’s when I started offering Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services as a freelancer. Three years later, I started: E-Alchemists.com, an online marketing firm that helps startups and small and medium businesses with their digital marketing solution, such as web development and SEO.
2. How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?
Honestly, it was sort of out of necessity. I needed to have more control of my income after being badly burnt from previous employers and failed partnerships. I knew that SEO Specialist services were in demand, but I could not find the right partner to commit to running this with me.
Sometimes it can feel daunting to start freelancing or a business on your own. Unfortunately, you may not always find the right partners and if things don’t work out you might only be able to count on yourself.
As doubtful as I felt at the time, I knew that digital marketing as a skill set would only become more valuable as the years went by. I hunkered down and decided to get into E-Alchemists anyway.
3. What would you say was your greatest difficulty getting into it? Did you have to make any sacrifices?
I started E-Alchemists when my elder daughter was born. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t have enough time to spend with her during her first year. To me, those years are something I can never get back and I consider that to be more precious that growing the business.
However, if I’m practical about it, now that I’ve build E-Alchemists to a certain level, I’m able to be more flexible with my schedule to allow more family time as well. Balance is something that is hard to attain when you’re freelancing or run a organization. Something’s got to give, but you need to be strict with yourself when you commit to others like your family.
I used to work from 9pm onwards till the wee hours of the night, but now I avoid the evenings and nights when working. Once my kids get home, I shut off all my digital devices including smart phones.
4. How are you marketing your business/getting, clients for your company?
Referrals – I always try to establish good relationship with existing clients, for example, I’ll drop them regular emails and messages to check-in as well as ask for referrals. I also make it a point to reach out to other agencies that provide web services but not SEO specialist services which I offer. Most of the times they’re happy to work out a mutually agreeable deal that would deliver value on both ends.
Facebook – I post regularly on Facebook on my profile and Facebook groups. I noticed that if you only share an article link, people tend to forget about you but only remember the article. However, if you post highly useful and actionable content like: How-tos, case studies, insider tips, or something related to their businesses with your own commentary, they’ll tend to remember you as a source of expert advice. My strategy has been to push my own personal brand rather than my agency as both as synonymous to each other.
Organic traffic – I own a couple of sites that see thousands of visitors via organic traffic. I placed a banner to my agency site on these sites and sometimes get leads from there as well. I also optimize all my sites for effectively rankings on search. A simple thing that most people miss out is to optimize your title tag of your page – don’t put only your brand name, but also include keywords that audiences will search for (i.e. instead of: E-Alchemists, try: Digital Marketing Agency). Also remember to change the meta tags of your page.
5. What has been your greatest lesson so far since starting your business?
I made a big mistake last year while running the business. I got complacent and didn’t keep up-to-date with industry trends to stay relevant. The methods you use now might work great, but you should never assume that the same approach will continue to work as the years go by.
No matter what stage you’re at in your freelancing career or business, you have only grazed the surface of the wealth of knowledge in the world and your industry. If you decide to falter and slack off, your competitors will overtake you by learning quicker and upgrading consistently. My goal this year is to continue to learn from other industry experts and always be at the forefront of industry trends.
6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A decade ago, the network marketing company that had me try to sell a product priced at $10,000. First thought that came to me was : “This is ridiculously impossible”.
A mentor at the time told me this: “It’s not because it’s difficult, therefore we don’t dare. It is because we don’t dare, therefore it is difficult.”
After roughing it out for a few months, I finally sold the product at that price point. It was no easy feat, but the struggle was well worth the lesson. You’ll realize that most times, it’s not that the obstacle in front of you is insurmountable, it might just feel that way right now. Once you get into the right state of mind, you can overcome most setbacks.
7. If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone that had zero experience or connections getting into the business, what would you say?
Throughout my entrepreneurship, I’m always learning, adapting and experimenting with new ideas. There will never be an end of things you can learn to expand the confines of your knowledge. Always be hungry and endeavor for more. Closed a $1,000 deal? Great, shoot for $10,000 next.
Don’t harp on your mistakes in business, instead learn to adapt and don’t repeat the same mistake again. Never be afraid to try new things, try a new way of marketing your business, try selling a different way.
To sum things up: Don’t be afraid to try, if you don’t venture, you won’t gain anything.
8. What have you started trying this year that has been working well for your business?
The Miracle Morning : The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life. Using these 6 habits silence, affirmations, visualization, scribing, reading and exercise i managed to maintain my momentum in my personal goals and business.
Go to sleep at a designated time to have enough rest is another important step for me because you can’t be working 18 hours a day without having a proper rest.
9. What is one book you would recommend that every new business owner or freelancer be reading?
How To Sell Yourself by Joe Girard. It doesn’t matter what product or service you sell, people buy you as much or even more as they buy your company. Once you master the ability to sell yourself, selling different products won’t be too difficult. Girard is great at what he does and provides plenty of actionable advice in the book, I highly recommend you check it out.
10. Share with us something you learned recently that changed how you intend to run your business.
Always invest in your business and prepare for the future, don’t get too carried away with the amount of money you’ve made thus far. There will always be setbacks waiting for you, you need to be ready for rainy days when they come.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll have clients three months from now, don’t spend as though you are certain. Budget for contingencies and reduce the stress on you and your family.
11. What are 3-4 tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?
Evernote – for notes, project management, CRM and archiving
Nozbe – for task management
Franz – for instant messaging through whatsapp, skype and facebook messaging
12. How can people connect with you?
Through my facebook profile:
My Blog: Joseph-ho.com
My company website: E-Alchemists.com
This interview is part of our Expert Interview series where we endeavor to interview entrepreneurs or successful freelancers with interesting and useful stories/lessons on starting and running a business.