Ep: 182: How this self taught designer has been able to work remotely as an SEO strategist with Galen Mooney
In this episode, I speak with Galen who is an online educator and SEO strategist helping creative business owners attract ideal clients online.
She is a self-taught web designer and photographer who fell in-love with simplifying the technical side of SEO.
Listen on to find out how Galen has been able to work remotely as an SEO strategist.
Hey everyone! Thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to be here with Galen.
Hey gallon, how are you?
Good. How are you?
I am wonderful. Can you tell us about you and why you live an offbeat life?
Sure, I’m Galen Mooney and I run a business called Local Creative Co and I help small business owners build a better website with Squarespace. I also helped them with search engine optimization and I work with business owners from all over the world.
So it’s really neat. I get to work remotely and get to help all these different types of business owners grow their business through their website and through search engine optimization. So it allows me, again, to work from wherever.
I’m currently located in Rhode Island. But as I’ve moved over the years, I’ve kind of got to, like, nothing has changed me. Everyone’s like, “Oh, when you move to a new city, do you have to find all new clients?” Or things like that.
Working remotely and working with clients from all over the world has really made it so much easier for me to grow my business consistently regardless of where I’m living at that time.
That’s one of the best things with what we do as online entrepreneurs. Like you said, we can work from anywhere and especially right now with this chaotic time in our world. So it’s not even just like one space in our country, it’s like everywhere.
And it’s so interesting what you do is so much more prevalent. So much more important now because we pretty much showed people that what we do is actually sustainable.
Yes, definitely. It’s been a journey to get to this point of being able to work remotely, I wouldn’t trade it for the world as of right now.
So let’s get to when you first started, have you always known that you wanted to work remotely? I mean was this always your dream come true or did it just happen? How did that go?
Yeah. So thinking back to when I was really little, I’m talking middle school, I was starting businesses left and right. Like, little fun businesses whether it was like my parents’ yard sale or just making up like I think at one point, I went door-to-door in my neighborhood and sold hand-drawn portraits for like a quarter to my neighbors.
So I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial but when I first went to college, I was actually an animal science major and I wanted to run a horse farm. That was my dream. I’ve been a horseback rider my entire life and that was like what I wanted to do and so like travel wasn’t really in my future. Like I didn’t care that much about travel.
I wanted to stay in one place. I was pretty sure of that when I started college. And then. I think it was halfway through sophomore year, I just sort of realized that my passion and what I did for work did not necessarily have to be one and the same as what I love doing.
Horseback riding, being around horses kind of got ruined when I started to get paid to do it. Just sort of ruined the positive experience that I have and I wanted to keep it as something I really loved and something I could do for the rest of my life.
And the other side of me was really technical. I loved technology, web design, and like trying to DIY things for myself. So after looking at a couple of different career paths, they started looking at technology and actually for a while wanted to climb the corporate ladder.
That became my new thing. I was going to be a lawyer or working at a marketing agency and I ended up graduating from college and working for a marketing agency. I got a job, moving sites on the scene all the way to Seattle. I grew up in New England so I’ve been all across the country for a job in Seattle.
And while I loved it and it was such a great experience working with large corporations and getting put together really detailed marketing strategies for different companies and getting to work on SEO and just all sorts of marketing and social media and things like that, I just realized that I didn’t want to be my boss or my boss’ boss and I didn’t want to climb the corporate ladder anymore.
My entrepreneurial roots kind of came out and travel became more important to me as I explored more of the country and things. So after about a year-and-a-half of that, I was like, “Okay, I am going to take the money that I have saved up. I’m going to move back across the country,” ‘cause, again, I was starting from scratch.
I didn’t have any clients. I didn’t have a business yet. I just knew what I wanted to try to do. And so I moved across the country, rented a cheap apartment, and started my web design and photography business locally back in the state that I grew up in.
So, kind of a long process.
It’s so interesting when you talk about not wanting to pursue what you’re passionate about because it really ruined what it was for you. And I think what a lot of people want to do is make money from their passions and then you did the total opposite.
But you were still interested in what you’re doing online being an online entrepreneur and its amazing that you were able to figure that out because now you can do both but still enjoy all of that without it ruining it for you.
Yeah, definitely. I started to get burned out on horseback riding and everything ‘cause it was just something I had done six days a week for like 10 years. And so, I just needed to channel that energy elsewhere and I actually remember senior year of college while I was gearing up to take a job in marketing. I taught myself to code from scratch.
So I just sort of got myself everything about HTML and CSS and a little bit of PHP. There are things like that and I like totally geeked out and I just drove in head first.
And it was really amazing how much I learned in that 3 to 6 months period was more than I had learned, almost I feel like, in my entire life up until that point ‘cause I just dove in head first and wanted this really strong background in this. ]
And so I kind of became like a jack of all trades in the marketing world. Being able to work with development teams, being able to build websites, being able to create graphics, and things like that.
So I’m pretty self-taught from that perspective. But it was a really interesting phase in my life just being inundated with all these different opportunities and just new things to learn.
It’s also great to point out that there has to be a balance with a passion that you have in creating income from it and also understanding what’s going to make you money.
So was there a point in your life when you were trying to decide what you were going to do? Whether to pursue your passion with animals and horses and really leading you to the path of learning more about online work, computers, coding, and all of that stuff and realizing one was going to be as may be fulfilling and also going to create a more sustainable income for you in the future.
Yeah. I think there was a time somewhere between like senior year of college and my first year of working a job where I just started reading all these blogs, just watching videos, and listening to podcasts from people who had this amazing work-life balance.
Where they were able to be passionate about what they did, work on a business they really cared about, build something from scratch, build out a team, but at the same time it wasn’t their entire life.
Like, it was a big part of their life, there were seasons of hustle and things like that. But they also had this freedom and I became really attracted to building this life or I could do other things that I’m passionate about.
I could travel, I love to hike and be outside. So I could do all those things. I could spend time with my dog, with my family, with my horse – things like that, but not have to sacrifice financially.
So it was like this interesting time where I was just being inundated. Like, once you’re in that online business world, you’re like following all these podcasts and blogs. Then it just becomes like everything you consume.
And so, one side is like surrounded you, you’re like, “I want that. I want to be a part of that. I want to have that energy in my life, too.
I love that. And there are so many different people who are going to be able to give you that type of information that you need and it can become a black hole, honestly.
But once you find your favorite few people, I think it’ll be good. You’ll be good to go.
Yeah. Just quickly, I actually like to think about it as I have seasons of learning and then I have seasons of doing. And if I catch myself spending too much time in a season of learning, I have to remember that like, “Okay, it’s time to shut off the faucet of information and start putting one thing at a time into practice.”
And that has helped me grow so much ‘cause for a long time, I was just consuming and like you said, it becomes overwhelming and there’s so much information. It’s hard to decide what direction you want to go in.
So I definitely struggled with that but now I can catch myself if I find, “Okay. I’m just learning too much and I’m not actually doing, I got to turn off that information faucet and go straight into the action phase.”
There’s only so much that you can learn before you actually have to do it, right?
And I think we always have that time or we are just paralyzed with all the information and it gets too overwhelming like you’d mentioned. And just start taking action if you’re at that point right now.
We’re telling you just do it. Just take that first step.
When you were preparing for this journey and you finally realized that having your own online business is what you really wanted to do, did you have a what now moment after finally realizing, “Okay, I’m going to step back with this and pursue this full-time.”?
What was that like?
Yeah. So it was a really interesting time. I was just out of college at this point like a year-and-a-half and I was pretty open with my family. I remember talking to my dad and saying, “I want to start my own business. Here’s what I want it to look like,” and I still don’t think my parents totally understand what I do but like they knew.
My parents are entrepreneurs. And so I knew that I wanted to start my own business and I was talking to them and they were like, “You should really stick it out for another year at your job. Get some more experience, save a little bit more money, and then go do your own thing.”
And I remember saying I’m about to have a review with my boss. I know that I’m going to get some sort of raise. I had a great relationship with my boss. Like it’s just that time of the year where you start to get your annual review. They’re going to give you a raise – whatever.
And I didn’t want to hear what the new amount of money was going to be because I knew the longer I stayed at my corporate job with that paycheck, with that cozy reliable income, the harder it was going to be to leave.
And so, I remember taking that advice for my parents into consideration and just saying, “You know what? I have a very low overhead right now. I have a little bit of savings. I am going to just do this. I’m going to leap and hope that the net appears.” Because I just didn’t really know what it was going to turn into, what it was going to look like.
In reality, I didn’t have a great plan for what it was going to look like but I had built a website at that point. I kind of knew my brand was and it has morphed a lot since then, but I just sort of leaped into the unknown hoping that it would work out.
I always think about it this way, especially for people like us who have no children yet, who have not really a huge responsibility in our hands, if you’re not going to do it now when are you ever going to do it, right?
Because the responsibility just keeps building and building as time passes. And if you want to have a family or if you want to start doing more things with your life and just become more things to take care of and that was such a great decision that you made because look where it led you.
I’m amazed when people take that step and there’s a lot of pushback even from themselves. It’s such a great thing when you actually do it for yourself.
Yeah. It was definitely scary but my parents were extremely supportive, my friends were supportive so it ended up working out pretty well.
I definitely stumbled a lot in that first year or two. There were some lows for sure as I was figuring out what direction to go in. I swear I switched directions probably like five different times. I just kept pivoting until I finally found something that stuck and something that felt good to hold onto for the long-term.
So let’s dig deeper into that because there are a lot of setbacks especially in the beginning and you don’t know what you’re doing yet, especially if you are not an entrepreneur, you haven’t done it yet, what has been the biggest setbacks that you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you handle it?
Yeah. So I kind of always consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. So I’m a self-taught web designer, I’m self-taught in terms of SEO. And yes, I had some like work experience in Corporate America doing that but I loved so many aspects of technology.
I love coding, I love personal branding, I love design, I loved SEO. Like, I liked all these different things so I kept getting the advice niche down. And it was so hard for me to pick one direction and run with it.
I just kept picking a direction and saying, “This doesn’t feel good, I need to pivot.” And then, I wouldn’t ever really let it set in and I had this habit of constantly like tweaking my brand. It wasn’t quite right yet.
Because I could, I felt like I just had to keep going until it was right. And if I had to go back in time and do it all over again, I would have just said, “Galen, pick one route forward. Pick one niche you want to focus on. Own it, crush it. Learn as much as you can about it. Focus on that one hundred percent. Give it six months to a year and then look at how you might want to broaden that. What you might want to add to that. How you can move forward.”
And part of that means choosing a brand name or choosing a brand that can expand as you grow. But at the same time being really specific to start with who you target and where you’re focusing. And then you have the option later on.
And not like a month later which is what I was doing like 6 months to a year, maybe even two years later to think about how you can broaden that a little bit.
Having shiny object syndrome is the worst. And it doesn’t get any better as you grow your business. Even now it’s like, “Oh my goodness. What should I do first?” With the products that you’re trying to put out to your clients and services, there are so many ideas running through your head and it’s so hard to choose it.
Oh my goodness. It’s always there. I know. I have to talk myself out of so many things sometimes because there’s just too many things.
When you’re a business owner, there are a million decisions that you make in a day and it is so easy to get decision fatigue. I have found that sometimes some decisions, obviously, need to be thought through and you need to look at the pros and cons.
Decide something one way or the other but 90% of those decisions, if you just pick something and go with it, it’s going to be fine. If you pick a color and you go with that color for your brand it’s going to be fine. If you would like to change that color later, that’s okay. If you pick a logo and it’s not the best logo ever, you can change it later on.
And I think that’s something that took me so long to realize. I wanted everything to be perfect out of the gate. And instead of just being like let’s get that minimum viable product out there and now I very much live by that. Like MVP mentality of like what is the easiest most straightforward thing that I can put out into the world and where is that going to take me.
And then once I see the results of that thing that I put out then I can pivot. Then I can add on to it to make it more complex as I go.
We often think that has to be the most complicated thing or if it’s too easy, no one will want it. But for the most part, I think the easier it is the easier your client and your services are also being understood.
So in a lot of ways, I think simpler is better and we often think, “Oh my goodness. This is too simple,” and sometimes it’s not, it’s actually perfect. Redirecting that is really hard too.
Yes. I always like to say I don’t know, I don’t take credit from this, I don’t know where it came from but clear is better than clever.
Like, the more clear you can be in your messaging, in your branding and almost minimalist, right? Like, you can always make it more complex later but the more clear you are the easier it’s going to be for people to relate to you and for people to connect with you and they really see your messaging stand out.
Yeah, absolutely. And I love that. I love that quote too, such a great quote.
Now, Galen, how did you land your first client? ‘Cause this is one of the things that we all wanted when we first started our business. How did you do it?
So in the very early stages, I would have considered myself a fairly local business. So I didn’t necessarily ever say that I was local ‘cause I couldn’t even do web design for clients anywhere. But when I first started as a web designer, I was going through my personal network and I’m not a good salesperson, I’m a terrible salesperson.
I hate sales but it was referrals from people that I knew or friends of friends who would just say, “Hey, this person needs a website,” and they would start talking to me. And that was like the very first step ‘cause I kind of quit my job without a ton of plans. I had a website and that was about it but at the same time, I started blogging.
So I started building up a blog and that started to bring in traffic and that’s where people started to find me that I have never met before. Had no personal connection to me, but they found me through my blog, would fill out my contact form, and turned into clients from there.
And that was a really cool experience. For the first time, somebody who wasn’t my family friend reached out to me and like a stranger from the internet. That’s a moment where you feel like, “Wow, I’ve really hit a milestone here.”
Every time I get an email from a stranger, I always feel so good about myself. I’m like, “Yey!”
Yeah. It’s funny. So now I have a Facebook group, I have an email list, I have a blog, and I will get people who schedule like a consulting call, like an intro call just to chat about a new project or something like that. And they go, “I’ve been following you for years and I’ve been reading your content for years and you’ve helped me so much,” and I’ll be like, “Who is this person?”
Like they were a silent follower. Like I never really saw them post in the Facebook group, I never saw them liking posts, engaging on Instagram, or anything like that. But I’ve still been helping those people.
So that really helps sometimes where you feel like the silence as a business owner and you’re just getting started and you feel like, “Is anyone even listening?” Like there are silent followers out there and you are helping those people.
Because they come out of the woodwork at some point and they send you really nice emails or you talk to them on the phone and they’re like, “You helped me so much,” and that is the best feeling of all time when you’re like, “I’ve helped a stranger. I didn’t even know I was helping this person and then they came out years later.”
Yeah. It’s so true because we always have this thing where maybe you’ve been doing it for 6 months or a year, maybe even two years and you feel like maybe you’re not making an impact. And then, all of a sudden, you realize that one person, even just that one email, changes your whole perspective on what you’re doing because you’re actually helping somebody out.
I mean, I still do a dance whenever I get an email from a listener, reader, or a follower because it really gives you that joy. Because it feels like you’re actually making an impact and really doing what your purpose is.
Yeah. It’s like a motivational currency. When somebody gives you praise it really just like keeps fueling the fire to keep going.
Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Yeah. It definitely helps to hear from people. The only thing I’ve really learned is the more you show up and the more you put yourself out there whether it’s on Instagram stories, through video, just through posting on social media, or sending emails.
Like the more you show up, not only are you serving people like you’re staying top-of-mind and people follow you for a longer period of time. And they really start to build that connection, that trust factor.
And once you have those relationships that always leads to new clients and customers. People know they can trust you. That connection is what makes it so that people are comfortable handing over money on the internet to a total stranger which is amazing.
Yeah, absolutely. And of course, they see you as an expert now because you have a ton of content and you’re constantly showing up and you’re consistent and that’s really important in this type of business.
So, Galen, let’s go back to when you first started and you took that leap to make the change to start your online business, how much did you save before setting off and how are you able to continue to budget it to make it last?
Yes. I think when I first quit my job, I maybe had about $5,000 in my bank account saved so not a ton, just enough to cover a few months. I went from living in Seattle which has a pretty high cost of living to moving back to a very small town in Vermont which had a really low cost of living and I moved in with a couple of friends.
It made it so much easier because I wasn’t burning through cash on expenses that weren’t super important. I invested a little bit and some education, I invested in some different online marketing apps and things like that. Like different things that basically make it possible to run an online business.
Things like your website hosting, a payment processor, and then things like that. So that was in a very early stage but I remember about a year into my business, I made the move to Boston. And Boston was a big leap for me financially. Having just been in business for a little under a year at that point.
And that first year in Boston was definitely a struggle. Like there were months where I was like I’m barely breaking even and I just need to push through.
But at the end of that first year in Boston, I remember feeling so proud of myself that I was able to afford to live in Boston for a whole year purely on my own business income which was like one of the biggest accomplishments I remember at that point in time for me and my business.
And that’s really one of the great ways. Like the benchmark for you is you can actually support yourself with the money that you create from your company – such a huge deal. So congratulations on that. That’s a huge milestone.
Yeah. I just remember that being like a really special moment and it’s only gotten better from there.
Yeah, that first year that you’re like, “I made it. I did it. It’s over,” and “I am not bankrupt in my business.” is still going, you’re like, “This is great” And then, you obviously keep growing it from there to a point where life gets a little more comfortable and you don’t feel as much.
So, Galen, let’s fast-forward to 40 to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?
Yeah. So I really want to build or focus on continuing to build a community out. And right now I’m pretty focused on Squarespace, SEO, and like teaching different elements of running a business and marketing your business.
But as I grow and as I expand, like I mentioned, starting really niche down and kind of opening up over time, I want to have a community of just business owners in general.
Small business owners who want to create an independent living for themselves, who want to have a really strong work-life balance and be able to foster and create that community in that conversation, that support for business owners who want to achieve that same lifestyle.
So that’s what I would love to, at some point, continue to build that and just get that to a point where it feels like I’m able to help thousands of people around the world, create that lifestyle that they really want.
And then, I also want to be able to just enjoy life as I get older too. I don’t want to wait ’til I retire to do all these things that I’ve dreamed of doing. I want to be able to do them as I live throughout my life instead of saving all the good stuff for once I turn 65.
So at the same time, I want to be able to create a lifestyle that allows me to do that thing and then help other small business owners achieve out as well through different marketing strategies.
I really love your niche, Galen, and we are also going to be talking about that for your extended interview and how others can attract their clients using SEO and also how to use Squarespace to be able to do that. So that’s going to be really great.
Are you currently working on anything that is really exciting for you?
Yeah. So I have my signature course. I’ll share a little bit of my business model. Basically right now it’s sort of split half and half. I work one-on-one with clients – not all the time. Like I have a pretty limited selection of clients but I do web design and I also do some SEO Consulting as well.
And then the other half of my business is online education. So I have online courses. My signature course is called Creative SEO and that is all about SEO specifically for Squarespace ‘cause I found that was a huge gap in the market and something a lot of people really wanted to be able to learn step-by-step and do it themselves.
Squarespace is a great DIY platform. So people want to be able to DIY the SEO for their site as well.
So that’s what I’m really passionate about: growing that online education piece of my business and that is the most scalable part of my business too. And it’s just so rewarding to get to work with business owners and to see them get results in my programs.
And that’s what really makes my heart sing. So that’s what I want to focus on more and grow that. I launch about twice a year and then I also have an evergreen panel in the works as well.
Perfect. That’s so exciting and I’m so excited for you and to see where it’s going to lead to further out in the road as well.
So if our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?
Sure. So at LocalCreative.co that’s our website. We have a ton of free resources. I have a free SEO checklist there. As well as some other SEO templates and things that you can download.
And on Instagram, we’re also @localcreative.co. That’s a really fun place to come. Say hi, I’m on stories all the time. And we also have a Facebook group. which you can find on our website and that’s just our community. That’s where we really build the community. That’s where we offer support. We do lots of fun educational videos and things like that.
So, yeah, that’s where you can find me.
Awesome. Thank you so much, Galen, for being here with us. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for having me. This was fun.
Audio Engineer: Ben Smith