Stuart Trier: Hey guys, Stuart Trier here form SEO Cheat Guides. Today I have with me Kasem Bajwa from IFlexStudios. He also runs a Facebook group called Digital Gladiator. He is 19 years old. Started in high school in his digital marketing career. He is currently making a full time income two years out of high school, and he’s here today to share his story, and hopefully we’ll all grab a little bit of information to help along our journey.
So thanks a lot for joining us here today.
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, no problem.
Stuart Trier: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself. Background, how you got started in the business, and we’ll go from there.
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah sure. So started off a couple years ago actually, late 2015, in SEO. I started streaming SEO, nothing else, then that went on to any other type of internet marketing. When I actually started funnily enough, in high school, while I was senior in high school. So … try to do homework and do SEO at the same time, but that was interesting. I started out and had some success with client. I actually, the first client I closed, was a tutoring center that I actually was tutored by.
So I talked to an owner, and I said, “Hey, I think you guys can get more business through SEO.” And I showed him actually key words an stuff, so it was all in person. And then, yeah I closed him, and the rest is history.
Stuart Trier: Nice. So who got you into the whole SEO world? Was it Alex Becker, is that the draw?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, it was Becker to start with, and then just a bunch of others. I just went into learning mode. I learned from everyone I could, and took the nuggets that I thought were useful, and you know, a lot of misinformation out there. It’s hard to navigate through that, but once you find a few people to learn under, then you just got to go under those people, in my opinion.
Stuart Trier: Okay, so when you first started, obviously, you learned SEO. So is that really the background? Did you have any interest in graphic design, copy, or anything else? Or it was purely, you found some SEO videos, seemed like an interesting kind of thing to pursue, and decided you wanted to do that after high school?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, I mean I’ve heard about it in the past, because I was always on the computer, as a kid playing video games, and I wanted to make money online and that always have intrigued me. And actually, initially even a couple years before that when I was even a freshman in high school, I had made some money with Facebook pages by posting links on the pages, growing community, and making money with clicks. Things like that. So I had a small taste of internet marketing, so I went to that because as I was graduating high school I didn’t want to … didn’t fell like college was for me. So to justify it to my parents I had to make some money, and, yeah, I went and found SEO, looked for those, How to Make Money Online, all the cliché searches, and I found SEO after that.
Stuart Trier: Awesome. So I probably should ask, because I’m sure there’s a bunch of high school kids out there watching there today who want to follow in your footsteps. How’d you convince your parents this was the right next step?
Kasem Bajwa: Well, first I convinced them through saying like, “I want to take a gap year.” Which is … that’s commonplace these days. And then I told them … they knew I was into business and internet marketing, and as I got results, it kind of just … it was kind of unspoken after that. You know as I’m making money, they see that, and they see, you know, he moves out and everything. After that it was just, you know, they were totally fine with it at that point.
Stuart Trier: Awesome. So you landed the first tutor client. How did you land future clients?
Kasem Bajwa: After that I didn’t do any more in-person meetings. I started with … I tried cold calling, I tried cold email, and then I landed on cold email as being the tactic that worked. Cold calling, I mean I never had a sales background or anything, so that’s different, at least for me. But cold email, all you do is you work … you can either send a really personalized emails, or more mass emails with templates.
The templates worked for me, to where you [inaudible 00:04:24] just put it in an automated program of software, and you can send out hundreds, if not thousands, a day, and scrape the leads and all that. That worked. Pulled some clients with that, and just doubled down on it, and then closed more and more on top.
Stuart Trier: Nice. So what were some of the earlier challenges you faced in growing your business. [inaudible 00:04:44] When you first started out you had your clients, you were managing your high school workload and doing SEO at the same time, but what were some of the business challenges you ran into as you were trying to scale up?
Kasem Bajwa: Fulfillment was tough at the start especially, because when you haven’t really done it … at that time I had a test site or two, but with my first client or two my SEO knowledge wasn’t that great, so figuring out what to do to fulfill, and also to save time, because like you said, I’m in high school, don’t have all the time in the world.
So figuring out what to do, services to outsource to, reliable services, that’s hard to find. And then, yeah, fulfillment, making sure that the clients, they have proper expectations. Some want to be ranked by the next week, so you have to make sure you set proper expectations, and fulfill them.
Stuart Trier: So were you able to overcome those challenges in terms of just experience and then setting proper expectations? Did you get better at the client fulfillment side of the business?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, after a few roadblocks it was fine. Just figuring which services to outsource to, because for the first client especially, I pretty much did everything, and I just realized pretty much immediately that it’s not scalable, you can’t do that. Maybe you’ll max out at four or five clients, and you’ll be working 10 hours a day. Definitely learned my lesson there.
Stuart Trier: Awesome. So the company grew. You grew more clients. You mentioned, I think prior to us jumping on, you had a business partner. Do you still work with him?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, I still work to fulfill my current clients, and taking on referrals. We don’t actively bring on new business, we do outreach at the moment, because I’m moving to affiliate. But if a referral comes our way, we’ll take that on.
Stuart Trier: Do you have employees or VAs that work for you today, or are you guys predominantly doing the fulfillment yourself, or outsourcing most of the work?
Kasem Bajwa: We have some VAs and employees, mainly VAs for manual labor tasks, especially when we were doing cold email, we had a lot of VAs for scraping and getting the leads. And then we brought on a sales manager, or the, yeah, more a sales manager than e-business sales person, because what they did was, we trained on how to sell SEO services, so that we could save time. So we would automate to cold email, and then have them … we would automate the sales process through him, and then he would also manage the clients and we gave him a recurring fee for that. So pretty much had no client interaction unless there was an emergency or some tactical issues, then we’d get on the phone with them, but for the most part, that’s a way we found to scale pretty easily.
Stuart Trier: Nice. So did you guys focus on a certain type of business, or did you focus in a certain geography?
Kasem Bajwa: No, actually we targeted every business under the sun. And then we would … what we’d do was we would have certain weeks where we targeted a certain niche, and that email, just cold email, that whole niche, every single one. [inaudible 00:08:07] thousands of [inaudible 00:08:08] lawyers, and we did that and found out it worked.
Stuart Trier: Cool. So looking back now, you’ve come a couple years in this business, so if you were to give yourself advice if you were looking at someone that’s two years younger than you, when you were just starting out, what are some lessons you’ve learned that you’d share with the younger version of yourself?
Kasem Bajwa: First off, I’d say, “Take more action.” Because that’s something that I struggled with initially. I know a lot of people do. You dabble, and then you learn a little bit here and there, and then you don’t really just dive in and take action. That’s number one.
Number two, I would probably say to outsource things a little quicker and automate things as quickly as you can. Once you have your first client or two, you’re going to find quickly, like I said, that you can’t do it all yourself if you want to scale. So you might as well figure out how to put processes in place to outsourcing or to bring on VAs, whatever it may be, to automate things through software that cold email. Do that pretty quickly on.
Stuart Trier: All right. So how do you currently divide your time? What are you spending your time on? I know you mentioned you’re going to be going into affiliate. You have your client business. You mentioned you run a Facebook group, so how do you currently divide your time?
Kasem Bajwa: A lot of VAs, for … especially the affiliate business has the most VAs now, because I learned me lessons early on. But making sure that my time’s dedicated to high level tasks is really the main thing that saves my time, because most everything, if not almost everything can be outsourced, and like I mentioned, I have a partner, so having a partner really saves you a lot of time, because then they can do half of the high level tasks that you would have had to do all of them prior to the partnership.
And having partners, I have a partner in the affiliate, and with the client side of things, so having two partners is great.
Stuart Trier: Nice. So what made you decide to go away from client, more towards affiliate?
Kasem Bajwa: When I was more client side of things, like I said, a lot of them, even if you set expectations, they can still have unrealistic expectations, and you don’t have control of their website for the most part. They might go in and make changes or not want you to make changes that will actually benefit the SEO. So, just not having full control of something, I wasn’t a huge fan of.
I know a lot of people can do it, and do it really well, but for me personally, I figured to go into affiliate. Also just to diversify things, and just have another stream of income coming in.
Stuart Trier: Nice. So is that, the next step is going to be to build out affiliate, do you see yourself doing any other kind of an internet marketing, or are you going to divide you time kind of in those two arenas?
Kasem Bajwa: For at least the short term, I see just affiliate and also on the teaching side of things, in the Vista Group YouTube channel that I have with Digital Gladiator, that I’m kind of kicking back and trying to teach people and hopefully giving them a reliable source, because when I started out there were so many other sources and misinformation, so I figure help them a little bit [inaudible 00:11:46].
But yeah, mostly affiliate.
Stuart Trier: In terms of landing new clients. So, you mentioned that you go back to SEO, so definitely I think a lot of our viewership, they’re … probably not as struggling, but definitely the first challenge most business owners have is landing clients, attracting in, so doing the lead gen, and then conversion, doing sales. Any tips, tricks, tactics that you’d be willing to share with the audience?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, and I don’t want to give an impression that it was easy for me, because it definitely wasn’t. It was a lot of work, and I had a lot of failures. Number one, I would say, “Once you find something that works, and once you get one client on board, go with that strategy, at least initially to start with. So if you find that cold calling works out for you, then keep on cold calling, and then you can train people to cold call.”
Maybe you can use sites like, Indeed, or Craigslist. I’d probably prefer Indeed to hire the sales people, and then have training for them. And then same with cold email. Cold email is something you can pretty much do all on your own, and you then you can use … to send out email, you can use something with Mailshake, which is a pretty affordable software to use to send out emails, to send out hundreds a day.
You can use G Sweep to be, use a domain email, to do a little more professional there. And then you can target certain niches, you can have a niche agency. That I would recommend. If I were a seller, I would do that as well, because with a general agency a lot of times when I was first trying to close clients, they would ask me for, if I focused in that niche, or do I have other clients in that niche, but if you’re already a niche agency, they’re going to think you’re the expert and you’re the specialist for them. You know also, you can charge more too. You’re not going to be able to be [inaudible 00:13:41].
Stuart Trier: Awesome. Cool. So, what would you think would be a realistic expectation for somebody coming out of high school, for them to earn, let’s say in their first year? What would you say they should be targeting that would be a fair. You know, obviously you’re ambitious, so giving people, similar to yourself, a kind of ballpark that they should be hoping to achieve. I mean, the internet’s full of people who are overnight millionaires in theory, but I like to give people realistic expectations. So what would you say would be realistic if somebody was putting in the time, practicing their trade, and learning at 18, 19, 20; what’s a realistic expectation?
Kasem Bajwa: Within their first year, I’d say five or $10,000 can be realistic in terms of just profit, not sales. So if you bring on seven-eight clients at $1000 a month, in your first year, that’s easily $5000 profit right there, because the margins are so great. Then you can, obviously $10,000 I think’s achievable. It’s possible to go over, obviously, as you and I know, but realistically, probably 80% of people fit the five to $10,000 is completely doable.
Stuart Trier: Per month, right?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, yeah. Per month.
Stuart Trier: Just clarifying. Just want to make sure we’re clarified.
Yeah, I mean that’s great. It’s interesting to hear the different perspective of you. You know, I got into this business, obviously, a lot later than you did. There’s definitely a lot more younger, 18, 19, 20 year olds that are opting not to go into college, get into this business, and realistically they’re probably ending up with the same income at five to seven or $8000 a month. Do you have friends who went on to college and now are finishing? Or I guess they’re not out yet, so you wouldn’t know what their starting salaries are?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, I wouldn’t know what their starting salaries are. I mean, most aren’t working. Most of them … I’m just seeing, like, partying stuff, so it makes me feel great, but yeah, I think I chose the right option.
Stuart Trier: Perfect. So off topic, what have you spend $100 on, what’s the last $100 you spent on something, either marketing related or not marketing related that you’re enjoying?
Kasem Bajwa: I’ll do non-marketing related, because that’s more fun. I’d probably say the last $100 I spent, I think new headphones.
Stuart Trier: New headphones? Nice. Cool.
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah. Not these ones, but [inaudible 00:16:22].
Stuart Trier: Hey I’m an Apple shareholder. As an Apple shareholder, keep spending your money. I’m very happy to see it.
Great, so what’s the five year plan for you? You see yourself staying in this arena, or do you see yourself moving into different entrepreneurial ventures?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, I see myself staying here for sure. I think SEO is going to be around in five years, it should be, so why not just keep going at it, I’m good at it. But also I do want to go into other ventures, like stock market is something I’m potentially looking at in a year or two. Real estate’s a little bit farther than that, but I’m looking at that as well, real estate investing. So those are the two things I’m most looking at in the near future.
Stuart Trier: Fantastic. Kasem, it was great to have you on the show. Thanks for taking the time, and I’ll drop a link to your Facebook group, which you said was, Digital Gladiator?
Kasem Bajwa: Yup.
Stuart Trier: I’m assuming they’ll find you on Facebook is they just type in Digital Gladiator?
Kasem Bajwa: Yeah, yeah.
Stuart Trier: And Iflexstudios.com, and for those of you that are watching this, if you got something out of this definitely hit the Subscribe button. Give us a Thumb’s Up. Leave any questions or comments below. We’ll make sure to engage on the channel, and I’ll see you in the next video.
That was awesome!