The SEO Freelancer
The SEO Freelancer
Kristine Schachinger: My freelance client SUED ME!?

Kristine Schachinger: My freelance client SUED ME!?

Developer turned SEO, Kristine joins Nick to discuss her career. They cover the concept of "F U money" and a story where Kristine had to deal with a legal dispute with one of her freelance clients.

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Introducing Kristine Schachinger

Kristine Schachinger is a veteran of the SEO industry that has talked at numerous conferences and written for many of the top industry websites.

In today’s podcast episode, Kristine and I talk about her career starting in front-end dev/design and transitioning into SEO.

Kristine further shares a story where her freelance client took her to the district court attempting to sue her for $10,000.00. You’ll have to listen to the full episode to hear what happened!

Kristine’s Resource Recommendations

  • find smart people to network with - ask questions and seek advice!

How to connect with Kristine Schachinger online

Connect with Kristine on LinkedIn

Connect with Kristine on Twitter

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Podcast Transcription

Nick LeRoy  00:14

welcome to the SEO Freelancer podcast. I'm your host, Nick LeRoy. Today I sit down and talk with Kristine check injure to discuss her freelance SEO journey, as well as a unique situation she was in, in which one of her freelance clients had attempted to sue her for $10,000. She'll discuss this in more detail as well as what her actual out of pocket expenses were at the end. Before we jump into this conversation, let's have a quick note from our sponsor, Seo Do you want to jump into SEO freelancing, but not sure you're good enough to make it work? At Seo You can get the extra training you need to succeed for free. SEO Chatter is one of the fastest growing sites in our industry that teaches every aspect of SEO, you'll find hundreds of free guides on keyword research on page optimization, link building, and more to help you maximize your website's rankings and traffic. Visit Seo to see for yourself and click subscribe button to get your free SEO Training gift. Go to SEO today. Thanks again to our sponsor, Seo And now let's jump into this month's conversation. Hey, Kristine, thanks again for joining me today. Thank you for having me. So for those that don't know, Kristine, she has been in the SEO industry what feels like forever, you know, probably before I had joined, and I've been around forever, as well. But she's spoken at most, if not all of the large conferences, any conferences that she hasn't spoken for, she's probably read articles that you've read. And you know, she's definitely a fan favorite on Twitter and the rest of the social media. So, again, thanks for joining. And Kristine would love for you to just give a quick introduction on top of what I had just shared.

Kristine Schachinger  02:10

Sure, that was very nice. I didn't know I was a Twitter fan favorite. I started longer than I care to remember actually, as a front end designer developer, before I got into SEO, and I was working for a company in Vegas, and I was bored with my skill set. So I had read about this SEO thing is like 2004 2005. And we were spending two or 3 million a year on Google clicks for you know, ads, and we weren't doing anything with SEO. So I asked my boss if I could do it. And she said, sure. But this new agency we've been using is doing it right now. But they've made some sort of error. If you can figure out the error, I'll let you do it. And I figured out the error. And so she let me do it. So that's how I got into SEO. So and then I went word SEO work all the skill sets until about 2008. Nine when I went out on my own. So and then I still did front end development and design and stuff too. But WordPress kind of killed anyone wanting to pay me to code their website. So so I just went full, almost full time SEO, I still do some of the other things in small amounts, you know, for small clients, but it's primarily us you.

Nick LeRoy  03:24

Well, and that's awesome. So you had mentioned previously working for a company and kind of taking on the SEO before then. So was it literally one company one role that included SEO? And then you went out to freelance or did you have other like full time SEO roles in between?

Kristine Schachinger  03:41

You know what, before I went out to freelance, I didn't start freelancing as an SEO. So I started freelancing as a as just whatever projects that my skill set and they paid me for, like my first recoating, the front end of So I recoated their HTML from like, 50,000 lines to like 2000 lines, and yeah, so that was like my first freelance project. So but I think as a freelancer, often if you're a generalist, it's good because you can take on projects based on the market. You know, so at the, at the time, SEO wasn't something that a lot of companies were paying people to do. And I wasn't like a rock star, you know, like some of the guys like Bowser and, you know, Sugar Ray who do like affiliate marketing and like Blackhat and stuff, it was just like, hey, I do this for you. But I can also do SEO and they're like, cool, so. So I was actually so I was actually working at a company when I went freelance. So I started in adding SEO as a skill set in 2004 2005. And I cut my teeth on the Vegas, hospitality industry. So it was a pretty aggressive place to start, which was good. So I learned a lot. But then I became the director or where it was a startup so I had like, multiple titles. But for the bill Have a startup's website. So she included everything from SEO to accessibility to, you know, proper development requirements, things like that. And then that environment burnt me out, because I was working 100 hours a week, like sleeping in my chair and getting up at 6am. I'm starting to work again at the office. Like, that's crazy. It was. So So I had gotten the superpages dot job. And they, when they went to pay me, sorry, I'm probably elaborating too much here. But just real quick, so and then when to pay me. I quoted like 70 an hour, and they're like, the person I knew the person there who wanted to premium for it. And he's like, they're never hire you at that. And I'm like, what that's like the standard rate for, you know, a contract, you get a company that goes, No, it's too cheap. I'll trust you put a one in front of that. And I'm like, what? A one, right? Why would you charge? Why?

Nick LeRoy  05:50

hourly rate? No way?

Kristine Schachinger  05:54

No, it's normal, right. But back then I was like, what? So I did. And we settled around 135 an hour, and my boss was burnt out from that company. And he was not pleasant to work for anymore. And he was just really ugly one day and, and I really liked the guy, but it was just the environment was just killing me. So I wrote my mentor and SEO and I said, Hey, should I jump ship? And they're like, I can't tell you what to do. But you have that 135 hour job right now. So it'd be really good time to do it. So I just jumped. So

Nick LeRoy  06:22

I love it. So at that point, was it was that jumping to was that when you start doing that additional freelance work? Or were you just taking an hourly gig, but with the expectation that you're working 40 hours for that? No, I,

Kristine Schachinger  06:35

I took it to jump. Yeah, I took the gig. And then I knew that would give me like six months of money I put in the bank, because living in Vegas at the time was pretty inexpensive. And, and so I could use that to launch I was not one who ever thought they would do consulting. Sure, or freelance, I thought I'd always work for a company. But when I had that opportunity, I was like, you know, maybe we should try this for a little while.

Nick LeRoy  07:00

It's fine that you say that because little quick story about myself when I was in college, I remember they had just opened up like a new entrepreneurship like degree that you could get within the business school. And I remember walking by and like sticking my head in and just being like, these guys that do fusses like, we're gonna start a company and do this, I'm gonna go work for some company for 30 years and cash my check. So the fact that turned around, and now I'm a pretty big proponent of working by yourself. Those are probably the classes that I should have been in, who knows what they were learning or what value they were, it's gonna be kind of like taking SEO courses in college, it's only going to add so much value. A tangent there, but just very appropriate, given what you're saying. But Christina, you know, so you've had this, all these experiences, you truly were a Jill of all trades, you know, you had been able to do everything from the coding to SEO when it first started. But can you tell us, you know, what precautions did you take once you were making that decision to become a consultant? Or freelance? And were you saving in advance for that? Or did you kind of just jump into it and go crazy.

Kristine Schachinger  08:16

Contrary to my contradictory to my entire personality, I just jumped into it and tried to swim. So I wouldn't advise do I go defensive?

Nick LeRoy  08:27

On my approach, I was I mean, I ended up getting canned. And that's why I had to do it on my own. But I've been very defensive and building up those savings blocks. So as I keep talking to more and more people, I love hearing just the guts that these people have to choose, you know, people sometimes will say, Nick, I can't believe you did it. It's like, well, Whoa, let's be clear, I kind of got pushed out of a window. And then I landed in like the freelance world. But there are people like Kristine, that are saying, To heck with you, I'm gonna do this on my own. So

Kristine Schachinger  08:57

if I didn't have that contract, I never would have done it. So it was a six week, 135 40 hours a week contract, which meant I knew I was covered at least for three to six months. If I didn't get anything else, right. I knew my bills were covered. So I do always tell people when people ask like, what's the number one thing I need to know about going out on my own? And people give them all sorts of learning advice and stuff like that. And I'm saying no. I won't say the swear word, because I don't know where this is shown. But the old Howard Stern, have your fu money? Yep. Because you have to be able to choose your clients. And if you don't have that money in the bank, and you know, your bills are covered for the next at least two or three months, then you take clients that you shouldn't take because you're desperate. And those are the worst clients always to have they use up all your time and your resources and stuff like that.

Nick LeRoy  09:46

I love that. You said that. I've had a blog post that's three quarters of the way done and I'll just say it's called like the benefits of fuck you money. And as you know, it's not about millions of dollars in the bank. What it Is is enough to where you can say no to somebody, because it's gonna be a beneficial or an add to your life versus subtracting. And, you know, the first probably year and a half I didn't have I didn't say yes to a lot of things. I even had my own story, you know about a bad experience because I told someone No. And they convinced me to say yes, and end up being very much not worth my time, and I gave him half his money back. I only experienced so far freelancing. But honestly, like now, you know, when you have that fu money, the ability to say no, really just empowers you to take the best clients, and you're not competing on dollars. Because once you start competing on dollars, you've lost the race as well, my opinion. So thank

Kristine Schachinger  10:45

you, I agree, you can, you can charge what you're worth and not and have to, to take some job for half of what you know, you should be paying that you're resenting by the end, because, you know, you never should have chicken in the first place.

Nick LeRoy  10:56

Absolutely, if you're gonna ever cut costs, do it, because you really are just like, you know, super into a particular company or a nonprofit, you know, where you're gonna be able to do some good for this world, it's like, don't do it just because someone else is being cheap and wants to make more money off of your services.

Kristine Schachinger  11:13

Also, something else boss told me at the time, which I ignored, my first couple years in which I do not anymore, is never do work for free. Because if you want to give somebody your work, because you believe in the nonprofit or something great at the very end when you give them the bill, and then you say I take up 100% He's like, but never give it for free. And I ignored that as a new I was like, oh, you know, I can do this for free, I'll do this little extra work for free, which always turned into a disaster because it was never properly vetted out or, you know, requirements weren't done well or whatever. But never give work for free. Just don't do. It's not an easy way into clients and easy way into a bad client or a bad client relationship. Because even the nicest people in the world when they don't pay for the work or something psychologically, that makes the value of the work seem lower. So

Nick LeRoy  12:01

I don't know if you've read the book, because have you by chance read million dollar consulting by Alan Weiss?

Kristine Schachinger  12:07

I haven't? Um, sounds like, well, so that's one

Nick LeRoy  12:10

of his things as well. And honestly, it was Eli Schwartz who had told me to read that book. And yeah, I know, it's not his book, but his book is great, too. But that was like the one thing when I talked to I'm not a huge reader, myself, but he said, if you're going to be freelance for any period of time, make sure you read it. And that's one thing that Allen says he's like, it's okay to give your skill set away and write certain circumstances, but like, don't do it for free as and you're not showing the value or heavily discount, you know, your offerings is like, make the scope proportionate to where they want to reduce spend. And it's fair because yeah, it's like, if let's just say, hypothetically, you're charging $1,000 per project, and they say their budget is 500, don't just say you'll do it and do the full scope, have them better understand what half the scope actually looks like. And then at that point, make them make the decision because more times than not, they're gonna go back and pay the original fee. But a lot of people don't say that. So I think that's just another one of those things. Like if you want to talk about like some some mantras, or opportunities just to be like, more powerful from a consulting standpoint, you know, it's like, don't don't work for free. Or if you do make sure that you are communicating the value and don't take like a partial payment, either take, make it like a donation, you know, or charge full. And then that after you fund it truly is the most powerful thing. And I don't I can't speak for you, Kristine, but I don't have a gold mine and I my backpack, I just, you know, have enough to be able to say no, which is incredibly powerful.

Kristine Schachinger  13:49

Yeah. And then just one last thing I would suggest, before we move on is years ago, it's a very long, detailed, funky story on why I got stiffed on $13,000. But and included the criminal history of the person paying me which I didn't know about. And anyway, they I talked to my friend who worked at Cisco as a manager, you know, as a director. She's like, why are you getting postpaid? And I go, Well, that's how you always get paid, right? She's like, No, she says, You don't post pay, you get prepaid. And then like, prepaid, like, people are gonna pay me ahead. She goes, yes. If they're not willing to pay you ahead, you do not want them as a client. And I said, okay, and I've done that ever since. And now there's some things like an audit, I might do half upfront and a half. I think it's very short time period. But there's no postepay there's no pay me 90 days ahead away. Like if companies like we have a 90 day pay for him, I'm like, well, then I'll start in 90 days because I'm not waiting for somebody to pay me because sometimes you think like, it's a big company, so you're safe. I worked with one of the biggest companies in the world. And it was a $2,000 payment and it took me 10 months of chasing it down to get the payment. So So, so some people like hourly, I don't. But there are ways to do hourly on a prepaid like maximum hours if we don't use them all roll them over for one month or something. But prepaid retainers are really the way to go.

Nick LeRoy  15:13

Yeah. And Chris, yeah, I'm glad you brought that up, too, because that's just another topic that we have yet to cover yet, either on the blog or this podcast. But, you know, the idea of just like, how do you charge you know, there's obviously the hourly, there's retainer, and then there's like value based pricing to, you know, everybody obviously wants to get as close to value based and as far away from hourly as humanly possible. But I think what you're mentioning, the pre pay, post pay is a big conversation, I've even found myself getting stuck kind of in the middle, you all do a lot of Bill halfway through the month. And if I don't get paid by the end of the month, I don't start the next month. But that still allows myself that's what I personally am okay, with potentially, and I'm giving air quotes right now, you know, losing. It's what I feel comfortable doing it. And, Christina, as you have alluded to, I know you've worked with large brands too. But I tend to focus more on enterprise level clients, and a lot of them have a lot of net payments that are just crazy. And by the way, those are totally negotiable. So always push those. But but you know, so there are times, you know, I've had that 45, but says I'm going to, I told I'm going to bill, you know, day one. So I'm going to invoice you in advance. So even if I don't necessarily get paid before day one, you know, there's just my point being is that there's a lot of ways to

Kristine Schachinger  16:31

do it. Yeah. And I will do like if they say we're net 45, and they can't get accounting to change that, then we'll go ahead. And we may start some of the preliminary stuff that doesn't take a lot of time and effort. But it's still I still won't start without the payment of at least at least out of new clients 70% down or on a existing client 50% down.

Nick LeRoy  16:51

Yep, no, I like it. I think that's a really important, Christina walked out. Have you on the show again to talk about that? It's no, no, I love that conversation. I'd love to dive more into it. But I think we have an equally as exciting conversation today, because Christina is here. But for everybody who's listening, I reached out to Kristine based off of some recommendations she had given me that I flat out ignored if I'm being completely honest, I had just started out as a freelancer. And Christina and I happened to be in a group of individuals talking together, I can't remember exactly what it was, I think was one of those like COVID happy hours, you know, back when people used to actually do it. And everybody, including Kristine has been super nice talking to me about how freelance slack was going, you know, you know, how's everything going, you know, what questions do they have anything that can do to be helpful? And what are for some reason we got into the conversation and Christina das Hey, do you have like errors and omissions insurance or any business insurance? And I said, No, and I'm kind of smug and thinking to myself, I only do good work, and my clients love me. It's not going to be an issue. And I don't think Christina even told me the story at this point, but had mentioned, you know, that's just something you might really want to consider. I personally ran into a situation where, if I remember correctly, errors and omissions were not necessarily solved this one, but it was a legal issue that has popped up. And I when I wanted to talk more about this topic, I naturally went to Kristine to see if she'd be willing to one so I could publicly kind of flogged myself for being arrogant, smug, because I really went and got insurance shortly after she had told me back in the day. But I think there's a big story here to be able to share with the listeners here. So Christina, if you don't mind, I'll hand it over to you share us a little bit of what clients do. Did they really sue you? How did this work? Yeah.

Kristine Schachinger  18:50

Now, this wasn't an SEO con. This was a website, build client design and build. And I had gotten that company I left you know, with jumped into freelance. It was not it was probably about a year after that. So I had a super duper $600 An hour contract that he had given me if I ever needed it. And so I use that superduper 600 hours super contract like 30 pages. And in that contract, it said if you were not giving me what I needed to complete the project, and I made excommunications over x time, then I could walk away from the project. And this was someone who was just extremely difficult to work with. And they were totally that organized. They didn't know what they wanted. They weren't giving me the things I needed and I had waited 45 or 60 days. For the next part. Remember back then I wasn't doing prepay. So I was doing paid on completion of sections of the site. I couldn't get the payment because we weren't completing if she wasn't giving me the stuff I needed to do

Nick LeRoy  19:51

for one second regardless whether you do the pre pay or post pay, never have it be tied to anything where it's completion on a a customer's action. Yeah, whether it be immigration or an audit or anything like this, because I think where you're going at is.

Kristine Schachinger  20:08

It's really true. All my audits are due on five days after delivery. Delivery up. Yeah, nothing else. Yeah. So yeah, so I was new, I didn't understand all those things that people will do, because I'm like a decent person think people be decent. And you know, of course, always case. So the original contract was like, for 7500, or something, and I dropped her. And she didn't have a website, because I dropped her. And I couldn't keep waiting for payment, I needed to get new work. And so when I did that, I think she was afraid I was going to sue her for the remaining payment. Because I had done all that work up to that point, I was just waiting for her for the payment. And so she sued me for $10,000 in district court. And so in small claims, you don't need a lawyer, that small claims is basically just a magistrate, you go in front of them, you present both sides of the case, and they make a determination. When you go over 10,000. In my state, every state is different. Now you're in district court, and you can represent yourself, but you're stupid if you do, and you have to get a lawyer. So I got a lawyer, and the fee was going to be about $10,000, by the time we were done. And if I lost, I could also the person $10,000. And so fortunately for me, I keep excessive documentation. Something I learned about back when I worked in corporations, and a friend always told me make sure you document everything. So if you ever have a problem with HR, or VP, or somebody who never deals with you, that you can produce everything you need related to a project. So I brought in the documentation lawyers like oh, my gosh, she worked with her, what three months? How do you have this much documentation, but I had every thing we communicated, I summarized every phone call we had and send it back to her. I had every email, you know, and it's really important. That's the biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is have that documentation and when things are done in phone calls, not recorded, summarize what you said and send it back to them and ask them to like reply that they received it so that that way you can prove in court, you did tell them this, they did get that information. So So anyway, so I wind up in district court. And I'm like I wasn't an original quote from the lawyer of 10,000. It just was kept going. And unfortunately, all my documentation, I had the effects of the contract and effects and the contract had the dates on the headers on the printout, right? Well, she had four should probably change the contract after sending it to her. And they could, yeah, and because hers didn't have the effect setters, they knew that it wasn't the real contract. So I got very fortunate that the lawyer took that to the judge, and he dismissed the entire case, because you can't base the case on a fraudulent piece of evidence. And that's what she was doing. Unfortunately, in the state of Nevada, the only way to get your money back is to go into court and have it heard. And the lawyers like I would probably win, but we could get a bad judge and you may not win, do you have another $10,000? Because that's what's going to cost? You know, and I can charge your my fees if we win, but if not, you're out 10 $20,000

Nick LeRoy  23:15

Right. So regardless, yeah. Kristine

Kristine Schachinger  23:21

said she was really honest with me, you know, and I made the decision, I would eat the $10,000. But that $10,000 Remember that contract I had and I put all that money away. That was my, that was my fu money. She took all my fu money. So after, after that happened, I had to take whatever client I could get. And there were some really not good clients and they're really stressing me out and were very difficult to work with. And but but the point about that is what I learned from it was one documentation is awesome. Because had I not had that documentation. Had I not used effects had I not made sure there was something with timestamps on it with the important pieces of information, then I would have lost right because she had a lawyer that she was her boyfriend was a lawyer by the way.

Nick LeRoy  24:05

Yeah, actually paying for her legal fees like you are

Kristine Schachinger  24:10

so she wanted to charge me the money to pay somebody else to build a new website.

Nick LeRoy  24:13

Yeah. Clarification I was gonna ask so she was basically claiming that probably because of the not deliverable because you dropped her as a client given your contract and what was stipulated in there you could do she basically was saying because she was out of that time you know, website it was gonna cost her 10 grand to build the website and now this is your cost for dropper

Kristine Schachinger  24:37

exactly but on the other thing my lawyer told me to at the end of this was no that contract I said this $600 An hour lawyer contract 30 pages. She's like Don't ever do this again. Like why she goes everything in here something to see on every single thing. So she's like, she's like, make sure you have like in a statement of work like You know, do dates, things like that, as attached to a contract, make your contract as simple as possible. If it's more than two or three pages, it's too long. You don't want to give them things to sue on. And if they write it, then it benefits you. Because there's a thing in law about whoever writes the contract, obviously, he's writing it in their benefit, right. So there's a, there's a little bit of leeway for you in there for there to be error. But so that was the other big thing I learned. So I have never had a contract that I've written since then it's more than like two pages, and then a statement of work that's attached to it, that tells them what's going to be done.

Nick LeRoy  25:31

And Christy, I love that because, you know, this is shows again, someone on my audio, I've been doing SEO for a long time, but I've done the business, the freelance side of it for going on three years now, because I literally just got done talking with my lawyer, that's like $450 an hour. And I sent him my two page agreement, which is basically a a scope, plus a small standard used an SLA service level agreement. And I told him, I was like, you're probably gonna laugh at this, it's kind of a hodgepodge of some agreements, I found online and some other friends that I have, but look at it, like, tell me where I am causing issues. And he literally responded and said, This is fine. He goes, this is what you need to do. He goes, whenever you create your scope, your goal is to make sure that you have the least amount of requirements and like deadlines. And your customers should always be going for an extensive list. And that's where you're gonna win or lose, quote, unquote, you know, within your agreement. So it's really interesting how that works. Because I think a lot of us coming from the business side, you know, we see the $600 an hour contracts, the other 800 pages in length, and we assume that that's what you need. And you're kind of, you know, you're pretending and you're fake it till you make it, you know, as a freelancer or consultant. So, you know, that was a very interesting experience Amaya. That's great to hear, Kristine, you have.

Kristine Schachinger  27:01

She's like, No, the other thing I tell anybody, especially if you're new and you don't have much money, is you can go to a lawyer and ask for a consulting hour. So you can go to them and lay out your issue. And they will give you advice as whether you know what you need to do? Do you need them what your next steps are, things like that without fully hiring them with a retainer. So in this case, I needed to fully hire because we went to district but if this was in small claims, I might have just paid her, you know, 250 an hour, one or two hours to get her legal advice on what I needed to do in court. And the other thing I tell people is laws, your friend, if you know what it is, law is not your friend, if you don't. So if you're in a situation where someone is suing you, like I was, do not attempt to do it yourself. There were things that she told me that I didn't know I needed to do. And I can't remember all the details right now. But I know there are certain things like the emails and things I had to produce that the courts will accept. And it's usually not common sense. So like, oh, I can do it. It's not that big a deal. You know, I have my emails, whatever. But if you don't have that lawyer saying, No, this is how you have to present it, this is what they need to see, this is what they need to know, this is what the judge will listen to. And you can get that from a consultation, if it's not a big deal case, you're in small claims or something. If you're a district, like I was in every state, it's different. What's in small claims, what's in District, it's usually $1 amount. You can also go to the lawyer though and get a consultation. And they can tell you whether you really need to retain them or not. Usually they make enough money that they're not like, Hey, I'm gonna get this freelancers, cash, right. So usually be pretty honest with you and say, you know, you really don't need me, you can review your contract, and you know, you can't be reviewed this or I'll advise you. Or they'll say, you know, we're gonna have to go to court, so you're probably gonna want a lawyer.

Nick LeRoy  28:43

Right. But and that's amazing advice. And, Kristine, you might agree with me here. I think as a service provider, especially on the SEO side of things, we know that those details are so important, you know, even things like an XML sitemap, you know, we think it's pretty straightforward that every page should go in there until it's, you know, doesn't include a canonical tag or it's, you know, but things that, you know, we as practitioners and people who are even listening, you know, they're pretty obvious, but I assume that's kind of how it is on the legal side, and pretty much any other niche that we are experts in. So if there's one thing that I've learned to appreciate, as I've been going out and charging for my skill set is making sure that I'm not trying to do things that, you know, I'm just not, you know, have any expertise in and legal would be one of those.

Kristine Schachinger  29:33

Yeah, and then the other thing, like you said, is to get omissions, insurance errors and omissions. So it's a little hard to sue in our industry based on you made an SEO error because it's a black box, and they're never gonna be able to get Google to tell them what that is. But you could let's say I did an audit for a very large investment firm in the country and they wanted to see about acquiring a site and that's They decided not to. And six months later, that's like I've hit by a core update. That was one of the ones that were talked about. And I had said that they could be in the audit. But let's say I didn't catch that, and they purchased it. And then they come back on me and say, part of what we purchased. This one is your audit, and you did not tell us they were subjected to a core update issue. And that can be made a case of import, because core update issues are talked about by Google, right, and there's analysis of them. And so if I missed obvious things, so errors and omissions insurance will help cover any chances someone can lean back on you for something like that.

Nick LeRoy  30:40

But and this in itself could be a whole nother topic. And I never thought about till now is like when you are doing an audit or an assessment of a type of site, you know, what kind of things you should be in there just to kind of protect us as SEOs, because like you said, we can't do anything about algorithm updates. I mean, even core updates, you know, we kind of have an idea at the highest level, you know, what could or could not be impacted? But really, it's just until that next component that we're not yet thinking about? Part of it. So that'd be interesting. But I won't go into that today. Again, you know, we'll have to have you on for a third time to talk about that.

Kristine Schachinger  31:19

Yeah, I want to I do put this at the end of all my documentation, all my audits is a disclaimer, that basically, I can only know as much as we know, this is my best, basically educated guess. And Google's a black box. So it is incorrect. You cannot blame me. I mean, basically,

Nick LeRoy  31:35

nope. So I'm super glad, because my next question was going to be basically, from all this experience, you know, how has it impacted your affiliate freelance work, legal contracts, insurance, yada, yada. And you kind of stole the one that I have, you know, within my two page agreement, I do have a line item. And that's the only thing I told my, my lawyer, I said, you can change anything in here, but I will not have anybody sign this or I will not work towards a loss, this is involved. And it's more or less what you would secrecy and basically says, You cannot hold me accountable for organic search performance based on the fact that it's a proprietary algorithm that Google or other search engines will not display or disclose. So it's a little bit of a burden, but more so on the people signing the contract to the customers, because they're basically saying we're gonna pay you regardless whether you do a good job or not. But from our perspective, always, like in our job to kind of like the the weather people, you know, she could be talking about how it's gonna be raining tomorrow. And we all know, at least here in Minnesota, if they say it's going to rain, it, it's not going to rain, if they say it's going to be a sunny, beautiful day, it's going to be a hot, muggy, you know, with with rain, there's just no way that you can guarantee those type of recommendations. So just kind of building off of that tangent, Christina, I'm just curious, again, with all these experiences, and appreciate you sharing your story, you know, what type of things would you do? What have you done now to kind of protect yourself? And what would you recommend to other individuals that either are freelancing or would want to freelance in the future.

Kristine Schachinger  33:17

And back to the original thing, make sure you have your fu money because one if you ever need a lawyer, and you have money to pay one, but also because then you choose your clients. And one of the ways I vet clients is I don't do any SEO long term work without an audit first. Now this won't work for everybody. That's how I do it. And that audit time, I determined whether they're a difficult client, whether the litigious client, whether they're easy to work with hard to work with clear on communication, you know, are they sticklers for what they said and ignoring maybe they didn't, whatever it happens to be. So it gives me really good feel for the client. And if I don't feel that the client is a good fit, and when they could cause me trouble is just in general, you know, bad headaches every day because of the way they handle things. I just don't take them on as a full time client. So we do the audit and that everyone I haven't taken on as a full time client is for that reason, a lot of clients so there's just not a fit for me and the work that they need. But that being said, it's a really good way if you can find something you can do a preliminary effort that you can get paid for don't do it for free. That allows you to assess the client relationship with the client themselves, then that helps because then you don't get in a situation with someone who's likely to see you alright, because that's a big part of it is people who are likely to see you most people aren't litigious in nature. But there are people that are and so you'll know from working with that client are they really just a we call I call it a PETA pain in the arse. There's a PETA fee if you're going to be difficult client you're gonna cost more because you're gonna make me do a lot more work for the same result.

Nick LeRoy  34:53

And KristineI will speak for myself but I bet I can almost guarantee this will be a true for you. It's always the client that you You make an exception or cut your rate or do something as a favor every single time. It's like without a doubt that I have paid with the highest retainers the things that are probably even though I'm just the highest, like the highest of high, I've never had anyone ever be at that level. Worked on the minimum

Kristine Schachinger  35:22

is very true. And I had a, I've had that issue. Yeah, it's like the stuff I did for free, extra stuff to help to be a good resource for them. It always blew up in my face, always love them as

Nick LeRoy  35:34

well. And I think like you said, it's really tied to, you know, that perceived value, I think you and I think logically, if I'm doing this for free, or very discounted, that your expectations should be really low, therefore, you almost can't be unhappy. And what I've tried to explain to a lot of people, at least in the freelance world, too, is like, you also very likely don't want to work with people where your SEO investment is like their entire marketing investment, because they simply just can't wait for SEO to work. And those are the people that are gonna get really upset about their two 300 bucks a month or 500 bucks a month. It just SEO is not the right solution for them at that time. And a lot of SEOs, whether it be agencies or consultants are really bad, and they'll continue to sell that. And that's just a really bad relationship for both sides, it's going to be a lose lose for everyone.

Kristine Schachinger  36:27

It is another type of people, you just can't please You know, I'm, I tried to be as frictionless as possible for clients, I work with them on all sorts of levels, and I need to change engagement, we change it, I mean, don't even have long term contracts. And most of them, they can get out at most months, and with 30 days notice, you know, and so I don't have much friction with clients, it's very rare. But when I do, it's always that kind of situation.

Nick LeRoy  36:49

Because he I do love that you brought out like the out clause, because that was the other the only other thing that was contentious with my lawyer, I literally don't have to change it, this is fine. Make sure you keep your scope as limited as possible. And he also says you need to remove this out clause, like 30 to 60 days, he's like you want people to get you to sign this contract, and they owe you legally the money. And I said I clearly understand what you're saying. And if I was probably a better quote unquote, businessman to maximize dollars, that'd be the case. But I have no interest in working with individuals that don't want to work with me. So I do the same thing. I do require a contract most the time, I'll do like six months at a pop. But I think only for like one client and I put them at like 60 days, but most of them I have it 30 days, just because simply if this isn't working, you know, I? I don't want to work for you if you don't want to work with me and vice versa. That's just Yeah,

Kristine Schachinger  37:45

exactly. And I do have some longer term contracts with like the migration project, I say, because that's going to take six months to a year and actually turned into almost two years. So if dropping me in the middle would cause a bad result for them and for for, you know them ever working with me again, because it wouldn't go the way this thought it should. So I do have some like three months or six months, but there are SEO companies, like I've met some of their clients not knowing I was an SEO and they're like, we're stuck in this two year relationship. We hate these people, we want to work with them, but we can't get out of the contract. Like I said, I don't want to be that person. Why do I want to work with you if you hate working with me, but I do need notice that you're leaving so I can replace you. So 30 days 60 days notice is fine. So I find it makes the relationship easier, because I just know they can get out if the things don't work. But if it is something like I'm doing off site recovery, well then there might be a six month contract because we know the update has to run again before you know before they will see any results. So there are there are some time limits but I'm trying not to trap anybody into it and like you said all those also have like 30 or 60 days outs after an initial period of like three months or something.

Nick LeRoy  38:51

Yeah, I mean, it's just like I think education is one of the biggest opportunities we have just on this SEO space. I think there's a lot of agencies and you know freelancers that make their money by quote unquote trapping people and you know, it sounds like for you that's not really how you want to be known. That's not how I want to be known. So I think that's just one way from the legal side again, you know, it goes away a little bit that's more us trying to be good people and protecting what the best interests for our clients. But going back to the other side when it comes to protecting a freelancer or even say an agency owner you know, we talked about the the fu money you know from the legal side is making sure that we have the bases down you know if you can get a simple scope great. But let's touch base real quick just on the the insurance again, because I think this goes full circle from you know, here's Nick thinking he's doing pretty good on his own year one, rolling his eyes, Christina and one other woman that was kind enough to help me was saying do you might want to just invest in this. Curious on your perspective, is there any sort would have insurance or business coverage that you typically invest in would recommend for somebody that's realizing,

Kristine Schachinger  40:06

no, but just because I carry a lightweight of overhead, so the omissions and errors really covered, because of what we do, if I was doing website builds, that might be different, because there's whole sorts of like, my dad helps design hospitals. And there's all sorts of things he can be sued on based on a design error, right. So that would be different. If I was still building websites would be different. With SEO, you know, it's a black box, there's limited things that they can sue on. So as long as you didn't make an error or an omit something that needed to be done, then there's really not much ground legal ground unless it's just failure to perform. But there's your business covered for that

Nick LeRoy  40:46

kind of goes hand in hand with people that want to see what they want to see at that point.

Kristine Schachinger  40:50

Yeah, exactly. If people are litigious and coming after you they're litigious and coming after you, there's not not a whole lot you can do there's just limited insurance. And the question is, the clients you have or that type. Now, if I was dealing with like, the massive, whatever fund manager had none of their hedge funds, I forget. But anyway, they're very big name, buying companies. And I was doing that all the time, that I would probably have much heftier insurance because I have a lot of lawyers, and they're very wealthy, and they can see me out of existence. So I always carry more weight. But generally, the clients I'm dealing with, they're not interested in suing, they would just fire me if they didn't like me, let alone, you know. So I think it also depends on the type of client you're working with.

Nick LeRoy  41:29

Yeah, and I think you did nail it, you know, I, in a previous full time job worked for a marketing company that did SEO exclusively for lawyers. And so I've spent many, many, many, many hours talking to lawyers, and legal and Sue is their middle name, and people. So it's like, for me personally, I know a lot of great lawyers and a lot of agencies that do great work for lawyers. I don't take them. And just that's not worth it, you know, when you want to tell them bad information or be controversial? Or say, No, I'm just not interested in the back pocket card being I'm going to sue you. Yeah. I do think on the insurance side, from my perspective, my personal insurance, I get like $500,000 of coverage for like 60 bucks a month or 49 bucks, whatever it is. And I think it's just more of I can't recall if we talked about this in the interview, or if we talked about offline, but just even with audits, you know, if somebody were to ever say that something were omitted, or they decide that something should have been in there that isn't, and now they're hit by a penalty. Again, I think, really back to what you had said, Christy, I think it's talking about the type of clients and people that you're working with, they aren't going to sue you or not so you because you have it. But I do think it's worthwhile. And I will say I do actually have one client. And it wasn't a big deal for me because I had it but they stipulated that the only way they would work with me is if I had an errors and omissions coverage. And we kind of went back and forth because actually they asked for a lot of money in that coverage. And I kind of just said, this is what I got take or leave it. And we settled. But you know, it may also just open up some opportunities for some larger companies if they are truly looking to provide themselves as much safety as possible as well.

Kristine Schachinger  43:20

That touches on a point to that. I don't know any personally, I don't know, personally, anyone who's had this happen, but I did do some reading on it. Like what amount do you get? Well, you think I should get the most possible, right? No, because like let's say that hedge fund bought this company and they went down and they want to recoup some of their loss. They know you have this insurance, they'll come after you right. So there's a balance between like coverage and target coverage, where if you have too much coverage, the company may decide they want to recoup some of their loss for you. So, so generally, they advise 1 million or less in errors and omissions for for the kind of stuff we do like, like for my dad, I think his policies in the millions, but he's helping to build hospitals. That's a different story.

Nick LeRoy  44:07

And that would make perfect, because I think the company that I am currently working with when we were doing that they were asking for 2 million, and I had 500 But I thought I only had 250. So I went back and said I'm willing to walk away from this deal. I have 250 which should be more than enough to account for anything I would possibly happen, especially since you have like an in house SEO team. I said however, I understand that I am willing to amend this to have that be a requirement. But I literally did say for me personally it was that was kind of my fu part. It's like I didn't need to take that I didn't have to go back and for x my my errors and omissions, and they came back and said okay, we can make that work. So I guess it's just something to talk about, you know, Kristine, you're saying maybe you don't need to errors, omissions, I'm saying it's kind of a cheap, you know background, you

Kristine Schachinger  45:00

know, you should have it, you shouldn't have it. I'm just saying that you don't necessarily want to have the most coverage possible. Make your target, you should definitely have it. I'm just saying that outside of Arizona mission, you probably don't need a lot of other business insurances. Unless it's like, based on you having people in your office. Right?

Nick LeRoy  45:18

Yeah. Fantastic. So two more questions, just to wrap this up. We've already talked and you gave a lot of good information for individuals that want to become like aspiring freelancers, or people that are maybe even freelancing part time. But are there any specific like books, courses newsletters that you would recommend people checking out?

Kristine Schachinger  45:37

No, actually, I don't have any good information on that what I would say would be find leaders in the industry and see who they have recommended. You know, as far as freelancing, I don't mean Yes, yes. But unfortunately, most of us just I learned along the way by asking people, so like I went, and that's a really good way to is ask other people who've been in it longer than you. So I was at a conference, we were at the Google dance back when they had those. And I told a friend, I was really having a hard time I had all these clients that really difficult and, and he's like, you're working with small businesses, right? And I go, Yeah, how'd you know, I guess, I've seen they pay it out of their bank accounts, every dollar they give you. They want a slim and young for hamburger price. No, there's not any, because we want to help small businesses, we want to help good people, we all know how it is. But you have to pick your small business clients is really carefully. And he was right like not that you shouldn't help small businesses, you should, if that's what you love to do, but just make sure you pick them. Pick those carefully, because the big company is just coming out of account that they're given. And they give you the money, right? So that's why like the big ones you said, are so easy. Like we hired you to do something, you did it, here's the money, what is a small business, you have to educate them a lot, there's a lot of things you have to do so. So just I would talk to people, because once he told me that, and I realized that was my big problem, I started being much more careful about the small businesses, and I started adding larger clients to balance out and having problems with the smaller businesses.

Nick LeRoy  47:01

Really good advice. And just to kind of wrap up what you had said, I think just reaching out and talking to people, most people are willing to jump on even if it's just 1015 minutes of your time, if you have just enough time to ask two or three pointed questions. And maybe one of those is like Who else do you know, that you think might help me? I mean, that's basically how I built my entire SEO career might not work. It was trying to beg, it was just like, Hey, can I openly ask you for some advice? No judgment one way or another? And who else do you think I should know, and especially in our industry is so nice, and so kind, like, you can go very far, if you're willing to pick up the phone or write an email,

Kristine Schachinger  47:46

I totally agree. And that's why conferences are so great when they're gonna have them in person again, now, if you can get to a conference in two, three days, you can talk to so many different people. And you can even find maybe a mentor for yourself, definitely ask a lot of questions at the bar at night when everyone's having a drink or something, you know, drink soda or have to drink beer. But you know, when everyone's there socializing. But that's how I'm the same way, I found out everything by talking to other SEOs who are more experienced than me, and listening to what they had to tell me.

Nick LeRoy  48:14

And it might sound silly, but the amount of people that I've ended up having like great conversations with and maybe hadn't talked to, or known in advance, I'll pull up my phone and just make sure like, hey, is this you on LinkedIn, and I'll follow up. Just because it's people that I want to make sure that I'm connected with, you know, even if it's just in six months ago, you know, you never know sometimes it's liking a couple tweets, or, you know, making a comment on LinkedIn. And you never know, when they go to a new company, or they have a new boss. It's like, those are the people that are gonna come around, and they're gonna send you some of the best business to your SEO rankings.

Kristine Schachinger  48:51

No, it's not actually confession, don't have a website, all my businesses.

Nick LeRoy  48:57

See, it's all referral. But no, I spent a lot of time on my website. And I would say 2% of the value of it is when someone is googling my name and tries to. But yeah, I agree with you. It's funny, given what we are selling as a service and the

Kristine Schachinger  49:15

reward, right? Yeah, I like well, the website's another client, and I'd rather work with ones that definitely pay

Nick LeRoy  49:22

a fee. Yeah. You never know if your self is going to actually pay. Those are the words your boss.

Kristine Schachinger  49:26

Exactly. We're terrible.

Nick LeRoy  49:29

Okay, see, thank you so much for joining us today. For everyone who is listening today? How can they best get in touch with you, whether it be LinkedIn or Twitter or email?

Kristine Schachinger  49:37

LinkedIn is probably the best way? Yeah, I don't have like, I don't have enough that. I'm actually going to put one up this year. But the big disclaimer that this isn't meant for SEO, just just so you can land on it the discard. But yeah, it's probably the best way is LinkedIn is the best way or you can contact me on Twitter. My LinkedIn is on Twitter. So but I'm the only me on the internet so I'm really not hard to find no other me

Nick LeRoy  50:02

and I'll make sure to include both of those links and we'll come back and update it when she gets that website or landing page even live. Okay. Thank you again so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

The SEO Freelancer
The SEO Freelancer
Each month Nick LeRoy interviews a freelance consultant about their experience generating over six figures in annual income.