Looking for advice on how to get started on Upwork? Then this episode will answer some of those burning questions. Doug Shaw has made $1,000,000 on Upwork working as a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) specialist. Initially, he worked as bartender and later retrained himself to be a Google Ads specialist. Now, he is able to support his family by solely working on Upwork. He's been on the platform since Elance days, so he knows more than your average freelancer. As such, I've been lucky to interview him as he shares a lot of his insights from attracting clients, setting pricing, getting your first gigs, managing failures and handling bad reviews.
Also, I do apologize for audio problems, not much I could do in post-processing.
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Artem Daniliants 0:04
Hi, guys, it's Artem here. And it's another episode of Daniliants ventures podcast. Today I have with me Doug Shaw from ppcbuilders.com. I had to get the.com in there as well. And we have Doug here who helps clients with PPC campaigns. And he has been really successful on Upwork earning close to 1 million mark, you will you mentioned you'll hit it soon, right? And then $1 billion mark. Great. So welcome, Doug. And thank you very much for participating in the podcast.
Douglas Shaw 0:33
Artem Daniliants 0:35
So can you tell us a little bit about your company where you are based? And also, you know, how did you end up, you know, so successful on Upwork?
Douglas Shaw 0:45
Sure, I'm from originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and the East Coast, I moved out to Las Vegas, in December of 2002 is one of the best things I've ever did. Las Vegas, by the way is very underrated place to live. It is not just a strip of casinos, it's actually a pretty nice place to live. And so I settled here, back then. No, that was right after the 2001 attacks on America. And so things are things weren't as great in the economy at the at the time and you know, the the 60s back then anyway, the 60-80 thousand jobs that were around, really get you, you'd be lucky to get them through an agency as a temp for about 30 equivalent about 30,000. So I was I was struggling at that time. And I ended up bartending actually, for a while in Vegas. I had done it earlier in my life, you know, part time I did weddings for banquets at a hotel for years. So I had, you know, a really college degree and everything. But you know, when you, especially when you start now you try and pick up extra money. I did that at the beginning. But you know what, even that kind of grew old in Vegas, because it's actually a pretty, it. I think if you're in your 20s, it might be a pretty good place to do that. But, you know, I was well into my 40s at that point. And you know, was it got to a point where it was getting a little tiring for me. So I started a small business. And it was in 2007. And it was going to be a tutor matching service nationwide, I kind of had it all planned out. I'd also done tutoring for PSAT and math in my past as well, and was really set up pretty good. It was going really good. I started, you know, with my paid ads on online, I had them all set up probably not the greatest campaigns in the world. But I started up and then you know, but it was going good for six or eight months, you're actually great, better than I expected. And then we hit the 08' crash, the financial crash the housing crisis, and that really, this is like a bullet to the brain for that business. It just we always struggle. And so, you know, I was looking around for something else to do. And I had been working on the paid ads looked into SEO, as well. But right around that time with SEO, there was a big update. There was a big update. I can't really say penguin. Yeah, I think
Artem Daniliants 3:18
it's penguin. I think it's penguin. Yeah,
Douglas Shaw 3:20
And we're, you know, everybody showed up on Monday morning. And these companies that were getting a half a million dollars worth of free organic clicks on Friday, you know, that vanquished. And that got me a little scared because I was married and I you know, I've family here. So you know you when you're thinking about stuff like that, and you see the volatility that appeared to be anyway, in SEO. So I decided to just shift into paid ads, you know, the pay per click, which I kind of knew I had worked on Google ads. And it was when I first started, it was right at the onset to have Bing at which was called Bing at the time. MSN I guess is still called being on the front side. The back side is called MSN, Microsoft ads. And Yahoo kind of merged their back operations. And so, you know, they were coming on strong at the time and look like a strong competitor. So I you know, I went through the certification process. And, you know, a lot of the even though I had worked on it, a lot of the nomenclature was still foreign. So that initial certification, I worked on it for about 10 weeks, and I was, you know, is bound and determined that I was going to know it cold because there's going to be my career. And I passed it. And I and I started out that was really the foundation. And from there that's not got into the services like Upwork back then Elance was companies that did they ended up merging. And so that's kind of that was the beginning, really so it was it was a and I think for maybe for a lot of cases it might be this way for some guys. You know you start out with a business. And sometimes the business kind of goes sideways on you. But if you're a sole proprietor, you've got your hands in so many different things. Sometimes it does give you a little bit of exposure to some other skill sets. And so, you know, I decided to pick this one. It was a good idea.
Artem Daniliants 5:17
Yeah. So, you know, you were a bartender in Los Angeles, right? Las Vegas. Las Vegas. Yeah. But did you have prior experience with PPC?
Douglas Shaw 5:28
Well, I didn't I and I actually, I had prior experience with online systems, mostly journal back in the I worked for a company called Digital Equipment Corporation at the time, they were the third biggest mini computer company that was IBM, Hewlett Packard in digital equipment. Hewlett Packard ended up swallowing up digital quick, because I think after the PCs came on, this is in the mid 80s, so that business kind of dried up. But back then they had internal marketing systems very similar to the internet in terms of the distribution information, so on. So I knew about I worked with a but I mean, I, I don't have a background in library science, I ended up working with a lot of librarians who went to library school, get their masters in it, but they were the ones who are brought in to build up the facade services, build up the interfaces. So I had a, you know, I had a foundation in the theory of it. But, you know, here's the irony. I struggled at the beginning trying to understand the Google Ads interface. But you know, that's the reason why I have a job because everybody else is a small business person, their struggle is the interface, which can be really daunting. Yeah. And then the other part of it is, and this is where freelancers just kind of fit in, in general, it changes, and it doesn't change every single day. But I would say it changes every month, there's something going on, there's something getting enhanced, there's something being deprecated new strategies come online, you know, they've been, they've done that for more than a decade. That's the reason why I have a job. So one of the key things and I guess I would say one of the first components, I would recommend to anybody who's considering doing freelance work, is to understand that concept that you're filling a hole, usually in someone else's business that doesn't that can't necessarily be filled by a full time person, necessarily. And that what they're looking for is they realize they're gonna have to pay you a little bit of extra money, they're really looking for genuine expertise, you can have the foundation, but if you don't keep up, you're going to fall behind, I mean, and switch me, you got to, you know, you have to have a half a dozen blogs that you subscribe to, and you got to read them, and you got to do so every week. So it's, you know, keeping up with it, it's how you, it's kind of you get to the mountaintop and how you stay on there is to keep your skills up to date. And just to kind of keep up with what's going on in the industry.
Artem Daniliants 8:15
Very good. Very good. Do you work alone?
Douglas Shaw 8:19
I do. I've occasionally hired some contractors, but largely, it's just myself. Now that may change a little bit, because, you know, in part, you know, the, the, you know, my rates in the mid 60s, per hour right now, and I can pretty much get that I'm lucky enough to get that. But it wasn't always that way. I was, you know, especially when you're starting out. And maybe we can talk about that in a minute, too, is how do you how do you really, you know, there's a there's a catch 22 with this stuff, you know, in terms of experience, and so on, and there is a way to kind of go about that.
Douglas Shaw 8:55
But the... I have lost my train of thought.
Artem Daniliants 9:01
You're talking I think about you're working alone, but it might change in future.
Douglas Shaw 9:08
Right. That's what I wanted to get to. That's a consideration. I think when you're in freelancing, and kind of branching out when you have, you're thinking about making your business bigger. You know, you if you get certainly if you're getting paid hourly through a freelance system, you make X amount of dollars per hour, you've got to hire somebody, right? Who's going to consume some fraction of that x that you're making right? Now. If you if you're making 40 and you're paying them 20 your spread isn't 20 right now because you're paying taxes and expenses or all that stuff. But those guys have to be managed as well. It's not like you just like put a sailboat in the ocean and push it along and it just Just, you know, floats, you've got to keep up with it. So if the spread is big enough, and you know, the quality of the underlying work, I think is, is good enough, I would probably consider it and I might. However, the other part of it too is mostly when you get hired as a, as a contractor through upwork, the clients preference is to work with you. Yeah. And they want you to do what they want, you know, they look they're reviewing a profile of, of, you know, all your testimonials, your background, that's their preference. And, you know, oftentimes I'm called in on accounts, through where somebody has it set up through a small agency. And the way that, you know, there's a, when it comes to setting up campaigns, really anything to do with advertising, there's kind of an arc to the work at the beginning. The origination takes a fair amount of time, right? I always, a lot of times, I'll quote, for an average campaign setup, I'll tell somebody eight to 10 hours, if it's a lot more complicated, complicated, is just be for Google now might go to 20 hours to set it up. That's pretty rare, really. And again, it depends upon how many facets of the business they want to and how distinctive they are, you know, if it's, if you're doing keyword research for just kind of one facet, that's one thing, but multiple facets, it's like, you know, it's like a separate business. So, you know, you kind of, you kind of go through it that way, and then it's done. The maintenance of it is a lot smaller, you know, if you goes into the maintenance mode, we oftentimes you'll turn it back to the client, and they'll manage it. So the business, you know, it's not like you, the jobs you get, are these things that are going to be this recurring business all the time, I have a chunk of business that I've about 65% of what I have right now. I've had since the first year I started working. Oh, wow. Yeah, and there's another chunk, that kind of more, I would say that more into the medium term, I I their weekly, but I haven't had them forever. And then there's the churn part of it is each week, like I'm look before I get on the podcast here with you I applied for I was invited to probably five jobs today I applied to three of them. So there's that cycle that you have to go through. It's that with freelancing is not a set it and forget it, kind of thing where you all I get this business on good now, you've constantly got to be out there looking for new work. Because it's, you know, there isn't just always these, like jobs that last forever. It definitely isn't the that's definitely not freelancing, a chunk of it, maybe, but typically, no.
Artem Daniliants 13:03
Yeah. So I think that's one of the most demotivating things is that when you start freelancing on Upwork, you apply for like hundred jobs, and you get rejected, you know, or, you know, you don't get picked up or there is, you know, no interview, and you kind of like, Well, okay, I got to lower my rates, you know, or I have to be somehow appealing, I have to get few first customers, right, because I want to get those first reviews in, you know, some good feedback, and so forth, to prove that I can do what I'm actually claiming I can do. So you start competing with guys who are working for 10, you know, dollars an hour or something similar. And then you're in the end, you're like, why am I doing this? You know, this is not working out. So what would you What advice to somebody who is now getting on the platform, and doesn't have any reviews, no feedback, or any kind
Douglas Shaw 13:52
Here's what I did. I had a, I had a second income, I had money saved up. So I was able to do this not maybe not everybody's able to do it. But when I first got started, I had that dilemma. I didn't have any reviews, I didn't have any logged documented experience and Upwork. So, and I also the truth is I didn't have depth of experience. I had what I had on my business I had from what I've studied, but I hadn't worked on like I probably worked on hundreds of accounts over the years. All you know everything a lot of repeat. You always get the dentists and the plumbers and but there's all kinds of other stuff too. Right. So, at the beginning, I went to Fiverr and back then Fiverr you know Fiverr. Fiverr was actually five or then five. Yeah, Fiverr, something Fiverr like Upwork now but back then I would take five I would, I would bet them five bucks to create somebody PPC, these the same jobs, I get Upwork now. Right. And I did it. Because I wanted the experience of it, I wanted to see other stuff. And I had to, you know, I had to have the conversations with people to understand what the dilemmas were and what they were really looking for. I had to screw up a few times. And that's, you know, because you, you, these, you know, you have to make mistakes to learn. So, I did that initially, I probably got 10 or 12 accounts through Fiverr. And I figured out a few things, right. And so then I shifted over to Upwork. Let me correct them. I also took a job locally, for in Vegas for a somebody who was in the, you know, in the travel industry out here, they was a company that did buggy rides in the desert here in nearby Las Vegas. And I worked on their PPC here I drove, it was all the way all the way on the other side, that other side of town 30 miles away, and I worked on their account for six months. Here's what here's what that job got me which was key to my growth. I, I opened up an MCC, which is a Google management account, their account, which was they were spending about 35,000 a month on ads 30-35,000, I attached that to my MCC. And would in that interval of time when I was there, I achieved Google partner status. Now I wasn't making much I think I made 12-14 bucks an hour there and it cost me just a gas back and forth. You know, there wasn't a lot of real profit there. But I got my grounding. So what am I getting at here, there's no quick way to go from zero to 1000, I think you have to do your penance, you know a little bit you have to get your experience. And you should probably work for lower pay. And I would even go so far as to save this.
Douglas Shaw 17:11
Be direct and honest with the client you're signing up, tell them look, you know what I've, I want to get going in this, I'm studying really hard. And no, I don't have the top level experience, but you're not paying at that rate, you're gonna only have to pay me, you know, you'll pay me less. But here's what I'm trying to get out of it. I'm trying to learn. And I'm trying to get some good reviews. So and just be direct about it. Most people will when they hear that, well, not most but a chunk of people out. So you know, I'll help you out. I mean, you've given me a break, I'll give you a break. Now may or may not want to do that. I think the bottom line is though, you know, again, you can't go from nowhere to where I am, without passing through some interval where you have to trade away income a little bit for experience to get three or four good reviews. And then what I did over time is at different intervals, I would move up my rate over time, you know, as it matched my reviews, and I would kind of look around on the internet. And now in this, there's another bounce, you have to kind of strike with that too. At my rate, right? At my higher rate higher than average rate, I'm not offered the recurring work to manage maybe a mid size account, they they want to, because management of account is different than the strategic decisions you make when you originated, right? those choices you make at the beginning are different. Those original setups, the competitive analysis and so on, people will pay a higher rate for that. But the ongoing management of it, they know that a lot of it, you know you Yeah, there are establishing some new campaigns. A lot of it is especially with what's your campaigns, you're adding negative keywords, you're doing a B testing, there's a lot of just recurring, recurring, ordinary work that you can usually get that at a lower rate. Yeah, so this is kind of a balance, you have to strike a little bit I have, as I told you, I've got that 65% that I had at the beginning. And that's the recurring work that I get. And that's I don't get $65 an hour on that work. But it's a chunk of work that I I've known these guys for years. their businesses thrive, it's great for them, it's good for me. So I take a you know, I take a discount off of what I'm making now. As a trade off, right. That's my, that's my ballast. That's my you know, that's my foundation. And if and if stuff happens, like what happened in March, right? Where you is a shock to the system. You know, I've been through you know, we're through a shock and no one you went, I went through one in 08, wait, we went through one in 2020. So when you have a family, you have to be conscious of those things. So and that plays into the I think the freelance part of it a little bit, you know, as as you get established, you want to be mindful of trying to make some permanent relationships, trading a little bit on the rate for them, to give yourself. Again, I have to worry every week about things, but then be on the lookout to try and improve your skills, and then get another chunk of business where your, your rate is higher, and keep trying to increase your overall average. So is that clear?
Artem Daniliants 20:40
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I really appreciate I think you're really, really good storyteller, it makes a lot of sense. But how about, you know, a lot of people are moving away from Upwork as soon as they can, you know, they find a stable client. And they're like, okay, let's move off work, you know, off upwork. And let's do it just, you know, straight you pay me, you know, you already know me from previous work, and so forth. Obviously, upwork is not really cool with that. They don't want that to happen at all. But you're at some point, as a freelancer unless you have a specialty or account, you're paying quite a lot for the commission, you know, for the safety for the escrow for all the services. So you obviously, since you accumulated so much income on Upwork, you obviously don't do that, or you at least don't do a lot of it, or you don't do any of it. So how can you deal with that dilemma that you are given a pretty big chunk of money to Upwork, even though you could have worked with those customers directly?
Douglas Shaw 21:39
Yeah, I mean, look, you know, Upwork is a good company. They've, they've got a very good system. And I want them to I want them to be around. And, you know, they've been very good to me. I understand. You know, believe me, I know that people want to come off upwork, they, because they want to split the difference between what they're paying and what I'm making. And it's good for me, it's good for you. I got that. I don't really do it. Because number one, I don't want to get sued. I don't want to get caught. This is my lifeline, of course. And I think it's the you know, the downside of it. And you know what, I'll tell you, I think it's circumstances like that. Right? Let's say, let's say you take somebody off of Upwork, and you go somewhere else, and it doesn't work out. Right, and you end up getting in a beef. And let's say they really, I don't know, maybe you forget to do something, maybe you turn something on and forgot to change the budget. And you made a mistake, right? And you did and they get mad. Well, you know, what's to stop them saying, I'm going to really stick it to him, I'm going to go back upwork. And I'm going to tell you, this guy told me, he wanted to take me off of Upwork. So I did and he ended up being a jerk, I just want to let you know, this guy is and somebody should like, I mean, what's stopping somebody from doing that? I mean, there's, there's, if you balance that with the fact that how much wealth you can make from Upwork. I mean, to me, it's an easy decision. You know, this is, this is a critical part of my income, access to this great system. And it's, uh, you know, I, I, I'm a, I've been working on Google ads for since what, 2007? I am not an advocate of Google. And you know, you work intimately with this systems for a long, long time. I, you know, I would, I think I'd have a difficulty identifying my peers who have a lengthy kind of exposure to Google that don't question their ethics and morals. And the way they do business on Upwork. Upwork different story Upwork even though they merged with the Lancer, JD, like, as you know, they like the competition. Upwork is a very good company. Now, you got you talked about the share that they make? Well, I think, you know, it's a tiered system 20% at the beginning, and after 1000, it goes down to 10%. And up to 10,000. It goes down to 5%. So, look, if you're, if you're taking the strategy that I mentioned earlier, about striking a balance between mid tier rates for medium term, long term work, which gets you to eventually gets you to 10,000 bucks. I mean, if you've got a if you've got a five or eight hour, you know, a five or eight hour job, you do that for you over 10,000 bucks. So you get 95% of it. But the company got to make money to, you know, there's no, you know, the old day, I mean, you know, you could tell the guys in business who it's all about them. But the best deals you can make and look, you just kind of feel good about yourself. Somebody else is making money, you're making money. That's the best deals you can make. And it's a good feeling to have. And that kind of security. So I, you know, my advice is not to Now look, I have, I've made my door wider open on LinkedIn, LinkedIn is a much better platform right now, for a lot of standpoints. I'm much I can do the PPC over there. But they've become more of a I get increased through through LinkedIn. And, look, there are people that go up, find me and up work and then circle back through LinkedIn, and then come to me directly. I have no problem taking that business because you know what it didn't. If they come to me initially through Upwork, I keep them there. But if you know somebody got I found you on Upwork, I made that security strip through the internet to contact you. And they what they're trying to do is get a lower rate. That that's okay. I think otherwise, you know, what if, if you want to be a freelancer, you know, if you want to be an agency down the road, and that's really your goal, you want good luck to you, by the way, that's not a fun experience, either. I don't think that this, the graveyards are full of digital agencies that went belly up.
Douglas Shaw 26:31
And I get a lot of business, from agencies who, you know, they'll, you'll that the argument always is, well, yeah, they were great at the beginning, then I never hear from them again. Right, that kind of medium term type stuff, they're not taking care of you the way they used to. So I think if you want to be in the business, as a freelancer, then you have to have, you know, I would keep good relationships with primary sources like Upwork. Again, they're a good company, they really are there, they got to make money, too.
Artem Daniliants 27:03
Yeah, and 5%, you know, doesn't seem like a lot, you know, in the beginning, when you're paying 20% it, it seems like a lot, right. But then the tiered system, which kind of gives you a break after a certain point in time.
Douglas Shaw 27:16
And it listen one other thing. Don't, don't ever discount this fact. I don't have a I don't have an accounts receivables problem. Yeah, I don't have to chase it. I pretty much work hourly. So my work is guaranteed. I don't have to chase people down for money. I have my daughter. We had a he had a tutor up until Monday. And she you know, we went through a service and she begged us to come off the service and go direct. So we started doing it. And I told her I pay her weekly and my daughter gets her tutoring on Tuesday, Thursday night. Well, I I forgot to pay her on Thursday, on Friday, rather, and she texts me yesterday. All upset. I don't want that. Why do I have to keep chasing? Oh, wait a minute, this is only four days, he didn't send me a bill. And she says I don't want to do it anymore. Now she's, that's just four days. And I've been paying her for I kept begging her What? What are you gonna do for the school year. So that whole that's a time consumer. And, and, you know, measuring that keeping track of that you don't have that with the these freelance systems mostly upwork in particular, it's mostly guaranteed work. You know, there's, there's some project work you do that's a little bit different than that, once you deliver, you know, that's
Artem Daniliants 28:53
So. So basically, there is escrow, right. So when you accept a project, or you start working, you know, based on hourly rates and so forth, basically, client has to put money in the into the system, and Upwork pretty much guarantees that you will receive that money if you fulfil the obligations.
Douglas Shaw 29:12
So yeah, you have to have you finally take jobs that you know you can do. You know I in digital marketing, right. By the way, you'll hear these days, I hear references. I'm sure you've heard them to full stack marketers.
Artem Daniliants 29:27
Douglas Shaw 29:28
I think that's a joke. I don't think that really exists. There's no such thing as a full stack marketer. I can do. Um, you know, I've been doing Google ads and search ads for years. That's obviously my foundation. And I'm I but 75% of that. I'm good on Facebook. Less so but I can do them on Amazon. Less so but I can also do it on LinkedIn. So, in the problem head is to be a full stack. And then something some guys want email, by the way, email marketing, all these things requires so much, not only keeping up, but you got to go back to school, you got to get certified. And, you know, you got to get your, you know, you got to get your emblems on for your well being, you got to show people that you're keeping up, I think full stack is a myth. I think there's maybe two, top three systems you can know. And all you can really have is a peripheral understanding of those other ones. Because, and one of the main reasons why is, you know, it's not like my business is an equal amount of each one of these systems each week, so I'm getting exposure to everything each week. There might be like I somebody asked me to set up a dynamic.
Douglas Shaw 30:57
Artem Daniliants 30:57
Dynamic ads in Adwords.
Douglas Shaw 31:01
Yeah, yeah. And you know what, I haven't done one since probably February. I haven't set one up. And it's just because the way it's worked for my current customers are that they haven't needed it for whatever reason. And I certainly I have to go back and look at mean, I said, I've done them. But I gotta go back and look at this, because I don't know, really, you know, I think I've seen some things come through the wire, but I, I get to go back and relook at this. And that's part of the that's that, especially if you fold in something like Amazon, which is I mean, the, you know, the name fits it. It's, it's so complicated. And it's very, it's both rudimentary, because of the systems are still, you know, I don't know, what, where would it be for Google, you're probably going back eight or nine years, in terms of the
Artem Daniliants 31:51
features and so forth. Yeah.
Douglas Shaw 31:53
Like, but there, that's a, that's like Google Shopping. You know, but all this other complicated backend stuff. And this, I mean, you can't even call yourself, I mean, I do Amazon ads, but there's so there's so many other parts to it, especially if you're dealing with a medium sized company, with lots of skews, the feeds themselves become expertise areas, and, and ironing out the issues with feeds. So I think, you know, if I was going to give advice to anybody, you know, don't try and bite off too much either.
Douglas Shaw 32:32
Become an expert at something, what do they say, you know, do 10,000 hours, yeah, to to really an expert at something? Well, you know, I work a lot of hours, I don't work 40 hours a week, I work double that, usually, every week, sometimes more, often. More, that's, you know, just part of the way things are, you can get, you know, if you double down, you can become a true expert. It's something like Google Ads after a couple of years, I would think. And only then I mean, I, you know, I think on the periphery, you want to, you want to be able to at least get access to someone's Facebook, a lot of times I'll ask for access to somebody's Facebook, especially, they want me to do display ads for them, I say, Can I just take a look at what you're doing over there. Because that can inform me on display, you'll get a look at the systems, even though, you know, even though you might not necessarily be there to manage them, but get a look at them. You know what, one of the best ways? I mean, I learned more from doing audits. And most of that business, I get that there were the non recurring. Those are audits. And they're actually the most interesting part of what I do, because you, you know, the thing I think I'd like to do the most is figure out what's wrong. Right? You watch if you do this enough, you know that this these, you get into these complicated issues, why isn't this thing working? Right? You look at the ads, and they got the right keywords, they get the the ad copy, maybe you could change it a little bit. But you know, it's not like they're selling oranges in the ad says, you know, car covers or something. If it's, everything is lining up, they go to the website, but nobody's buying, figuring out those things. And the reasons why is that's the most interesting part of this to me. And that's what I relish. That's where you learn a lot to that you have to kind of dig in and a lot of times, you know, for mature businesses where the AdWords is they might have had a half a dozen contractors in on it. It's rare that you're going to go in and see glaring errors, you'll see some, but you're not you know, we'll go in and see everything's on broad match. They haven't updated the ads and there's no responsive ads or they don't. It's rare that you'll you'll get audited, a Google Ads account and it won't be most Modern and, and what you'll find is, these days, the challenges are really the funnel, right? It's the funnel that's wrong. Or these guys like a lot of businesses, they'll set up stuff. And they never look at their competitors. And they fall behind, I had a guy who sells his air and heating systems, residential heating systems that you plug into the window, and so on. And, you know, he ended up we ended up going our separate ways. And I told him that the problem is, it's not, you've got the right ads, your landing page, you're actually pretty good. The problem is, your, your competitors have much better landing pages, and they're beating you, they have offers that they may have in the future, I saw the rafters change on two of these competitors twice, two weeks, you just let it go. You know, so a lot of it ends up being that it's the and, you know, when you're I think when I first started off, I wanted to get to another point. And I kind of went I'm sorry, I digress a little bit more than one of the get to is when you're in digital marketing, you've got to decide upon a focus. But it's good to then also get a better than companion knowledge of other parts of it now, as a digital marketing that can do ads, what else can you do? Well, you could be a landing page designer, you don't have to be a coder, you can work with a unbounce, or any one of these systems out there, and maybe be more of a copy person, right? Or you could do what I decided to do, which is to get more into the analytics stuff. For me, measuring, like when you take on new clients, one of the biggest mistakes, you'll often see, they're not, they're not conversion tracking is set up, they're running the ads, but they're not really measuring engagement, which is really important. So make it when you first get into doing this, find a core get devoted to it. And then look at the other aspects that they're they're kind of not necessarily at the core of what you do. But on the tangent, but a big dependencies, and then diversify a little bit, you know, it took me, I took two Google Tag Manager courses.
Douglas Shaw 37:31
Artem Daniliants 38:51
Yeah, that's very good point. I think those are really good. advices one thing that I also noticed is, you know, you're not in your 20s, you know, and I think, yeah, and I think when, for example, I was browsing and I saw your profile, it also stands out, you know, because of that, it kind of gives me a feeling that I can trust you already by just looking at your picture. And because I think a lot of people, you know, well, Upwork I think mostly, it's people in their 20s and 30s, at least in the way that I saw it. And then, you know, I think you've been tremendously successful. And at your age, I'm not saying you know, anything negative about, I'm just saying that a lot of people are not starting their new careers at this age, you know, and not thriving necessarily in those new careers. So how do you feel about the age aspect of it? I think in your case, it may be even an advantage.
Douglas Shaw 39:51
Well, look, if you're doing if you've got to convert me, one of the other things I know I wouldn't call That it's probably my another companion skill I have. But it's not a core one I have to I want to work on it this year is conversion optimization. What's the main thing in conversion optimization? What's the main thing when someone comes to your website? You know, they click on an ad and they go to the website. It's all about establishing trust. Yeah. Right. And so Okay, so what is trust look like on a website? Is it a modern looking website? Does it look like it's five years old? Right? Does it look like the other websites I visited? You know, what I go to the bottom of the page is a copyrights a 2017. One, it's 2020. Trust on the web, is everything. Why is the Amazon so successful? Because if you have a beef, you can get your money back. They don't care. Sure, send it back, we're going to sell a million more of those. And give it back to you, we'll give it back to you, we'll give you money back great. When they know they're going to sell me enough. You know, my wife and daughter, my daughter, as my credit card memorized, including the three number code, okay? They're gonna get their business. So look at when you're starting out in your 20s in your 30s. Maybe I shouldn't give this away because I don't want these to be nipping at my heels. But, you know, what, if you screw it up, if you know if you're not on time, right? Make good. Eat it. Admit it. Look, listen, I'm going to need a couple more days. Or hey, listen, I you know what I could get around to it this week, my daughter gets sick. And in reality Look, when you're a freelancer, one of the things you you know a little bit is, sometimes you bite off too much. And then stuff happens at home. Right? And there's just these inevitable things that happen to look two nights ago, I don't know what I did, I was sleeping, I get this pain in my neck here. I slept the wrong way. I've been fighting this pain in my neck for two days. You know, put the I do what they write to the internet, my pal. Ice hot. Keep nice heat. Nice. So I've been doing that for two days. And but it's slowed me down. I'm behind on two projects. I just sent out two emails. I told him the truth. I said, Look, this is the way this what happened to me. And he sent a message. Now look, if something else happens to me this week, and when you have a family, right. And that happened to be at six or seven weeks ago, we i is i missed like four days of work because of the stuff that went on at home. And I had to tell the guy, look, I got it. I'm my mistake. I'll work for free next week for Yeah, that was a five hour contract. And I just did my work for him for free. The next week. And what what this does is number one, it prevents bad reviews. But number two, guys appreciate it. People appreciate it. Because they kind of figured this is this guy's going to screw me something happened. And he's trying, you know, he's not expecting me to, you know, you know, take all the bad things that flow from it. He's trying to make it good in some way. So look, if you're in your 20s and 30s Don't be so damn arrogant. Okay. You know, my parents, you know, they will, my father and my stepfather both fought in World War Two. So, and I had a grandfather who was a World War One guy, they give you one of the things they give you is that, you know, if you say you're going to do something, do it. And if you don't get it done, it's your fault. Don't blame them. This all kind of this old kind of thinking, but you know, something, it works in a lot of ways. Take your lumps, and fight the next battle. But don't, you know, do Don't try to get out of things. If you screw something up. That's how you build up trust. If you go through my reviews. You'll notice in some of my reviews, people make some references to some of these things I'm just describing, which is went the extra mile did a little bit extra, you know, it's okay to under it's also okay to under
Douglas Shaw 44:35
to over deliver, you know, that's another good thing to do. So, you know, you might contract do something and, you know, but if you notice two or three extra things like oftentimes some you'll contract with me to do something, and I'll go to this site, or I might see another, they may give me access into something else. And I've noticed things that I know are wrong. I'll tell them look, you got to fix this. You can't well go to their website. We'll come on You can't this is this is wrong, and people are people coming to your website now. And it's so like, I don't have to do I don't do SEO. So I'm not doing PageSpeed. But one of the first things I do, when I take on any account is I go to what is a GT metrics, whatever it is, and I check how fast the site is, I'll send reports total, so over deliver, I think, as well, and then be willing, when you have a mistake, if you can't get to something, make it you know, deliver a little extra to kind of cover it. People appreciate that. That's, that's a lesson from both my stuff. My dad and my father, my stepfather and my father both gave me that same advice. And I think it's, I think on something like freelance. It's worthwhile. it'll it'll come through, you know, like, I bet some of the recent ones reflected on my honesty with them. If you do, that's what people want. They just want they know why erases on the on the other end of the pencil. They know they screw up at times they've got a business. They know that they've they've said, oh, we're gonna happen to you in two days, but it doesn't it for five days. Right? What do you come on? You gotta most people are reasonable.
Artem Daniliants 46:23
Yeah, that's Yeah.
Douglas Shaw 46:25
Yeah, there's one other thing I wanted to let me just jump in with one other quick thing, I can gather advice I can give. And that's kind of related to we're just talking about. And that is learning about the best kind of client to take and avoiding the jerks. And let's face it, they're out there, there's plenty of jerks. So other people that have, like, when you're hiring through Upwork, the people that signed on that haven't put a credit card in that have no reviews that have no have no prior jobs in there, you got to look a little more carefully at those guys, especially if they haven't put a put a credit card in. But you got to be careful of the jerks and the guys, remember, I kind of talked about earlier, you know, about you know, kind of being reasonable make a deal is good for them. It's good for me and good for them, everybody's making money, kind of work with them. Not everybody has that attitude on the web. And they, you know, a lot of times, especially like if you're working it, let's say you're reporting to the marketing manager, and he reports to the vice president works to hits the CEO, and let's say things, you're going to start working for him and maybe it doesn't work out right at the beginning, or maybe you know, things don't go as good, or who they're going to blame. They're going to blame you. So be careful when it comes to the jobs you're taking. I you know, it's rare that I don't take a job that I don't get on the phone and talk to somebody and feel them out. I have my own interview process I go through with my clients, because I'm trying to find out what kind of guy they are. How many guys you know, I look at, I look at the first thing I do is look at their reviews, their reviews. And you know, if if there are these entity circumstances where that the freelances indicating, you know, dubious character a little bit didn't communicate, avoid them. So the other major part of this, you want to do a pretty good triage, and try and learn from you've never really got to get clients are going to be bad ones learn from it. So be careful what clients you take to that's an important thing avoiding the jerks is a is a big chunk of being successful.
Artem Daniliants 48:54
Sure, when it comes to reviews in general, right? I mean, when you give, you know, when you leave feedback for a client, in most cases, freelancers, just pulled five stars, you know, like whatever client amazing, you know, don't really think about it too much, especially, you know, the freelancers are just starting out, they don't want to lose potentially repeat business and so forth. So many times they don't even indicate that the client was a jerk, as you mentioned, but, you know, what would you say are indications of customer being a jerk? You know, like, what would be like for you, like, you know, like the sign that Okay, now I should maybe back off and not take this project?
Douglas Shaw 49:36
Well, I think more than one bad review. The way it works in Upwork. When a job is completed is they leave feedback, they close the job. So they leave feedback on you. It if you don't leave feedback on them. It takes two weeks for whatever feedback is going to pop up for it to manifest in the, in the system in your profile. So, so that now if you kind of get it, let's say, for instance, you weren't able to get the job done either as quickly as you want it, or again, a lot of cases, not when you take on, you know, I try and make it clear that there isn't a these days, and this wasn't always the case. But you know, when, when you're trying to set up, especially something in search, it's a zero sum game, there were two spots at the top of mobile, there were four advertising slots at the top of desktop. When you nudge in, somebody that gets nudge down, or nudged out, and there's a jockeying that goes on, I'll tell I try not everybody wants to hear that it takes about 90 days for that to shake out. And, you know, your your the people that are in search, and have been in there for a while and already optimized, and probably already have more favorable quality scores, they've got an advantage, that first time advertisers don't have to jump into these spots. So now you can have a conversation. And you can say, Look, that's why keep me around for a while, I always tell them, at least for the first month or so to write out these little differences as things kind of jockey around? Well, you know, they don't always remember it. And they always got Yeah, yeah, you're just some other guy. So they, they end up being unhappy, and they might, they might leave you bad advice, a bad review, you're not always going to know it. So you'll end up I usually, unless it's something really bad. I usually leave a pretty good review. I guess I'll probably I should actually confess my reviews of clients, other clients probably don't reflect them. Sometimes as, as the reality maybe should be. Because, again, from my standpoint, I, you know, what, you know, I think the worst thing I probably do is I won't leave a review at all. And that will be it. So that's Yeah, I think looking in for some of this stuff, right? If you got a five hour job, somebody leaves you a bad review, you always have the option to refund the money to and when you refund the money, the review, bad review goes away. I think too, you want to obviously avoid that. But that's another option, too. So I think, you know, when you're dealing with clients a little bit, I think you should be mindful of that. You know, again, this, you can't predict all of it. I guess your question more so was, how do you kind of figure out who the jerks are.
Douglas Shaw 53:07
You get to talk to them on the phone and interview them. Ask them, you know, how long is it you know, who's been who's worked on this thing? What's your role? Try to find out? What do they know about the job you're gonna do? And always frame the expectations. I'll tell guys, like when I will do audits, because this is the absolute truth. If anybody and I kind of touched on earlier, if anybody has been in on a Google Ads account, or even a Facebook account, professionals, and they've set it up, and you know, unless there's this long interval, well, it's been ignored or something, usually. And you go in on an account that's underperforming, it's not Google ads, it might, you know, if it is it's only a little bit around the edges, where there's a problem. It's much again, what they always seem to these business owners always seem to forget, is their landing pages, or their product pages are just, they never try and make them better. Or they they're sending people to product pages when they really should be going to a genuine landing page because as an interim stop, as a squeeze page, and these are often the problem so you you know I'll if I'm on the phone with them, and I'm interviewing them, I'll ask for their website and we'll kind of look it over on the phone. And you can tell it off a lot about a business by you know, if there's because if they're so dumb, to not keep their website up to date. You know, that they look at it, they're just they're looking at my you're gonna be the first person they're gonna blame their webs, the somebody's website tells you everything about them. And a lot of times where they are in their business, right, because they, they, if they've set up their website, and they did it like four years ago, and it costs them, you know, you hear all these stories that cost me $5,000. And it's all this, it's usually these giant fancy designs that are just way overboard. I mean, not completely unnecessary, like a vanity site. You look at them, and you know, they set it up in, you know, 2000. And, like, 13, and it's never been updated.
Douglas Shaw 55:44
That's a flag to me, just, you know, you. I often tell guys who have websites, good ones? I don't look at every single time you should, you should, the last thing you should do at the end of every week is look at your homepage, and think to yourself, what can I change next week? What can I tell, you just put a date on the front of it, put a blog post, that's a reference to 2020. Your last blog post is 2019 people there's a, you know, most most look, we're super user and user types. But even my wife and daughter is web savvy enough, they can look at stuff and you know, last This is 2019. This is almost it is almost into the fall now. Right? So that's one of the things when you're talking to people look at their website, does it match for you? Now look, I have a lot of experience, this sounds like you do. You know, I can tell a lot of stuff real quickly, you got to become you take a conversion optimisation course, a basic one, and learn about the fundamentals of that of trust. And what you know that when people come to a website, it's like between three and eight seconds, right? That they they decide the certain elements that have to be above the fold.
Douglas Shaw 57:11
You know, you have to have a hero image that matches the intent. The benefits have to be there, maybe the forms, you know, if it's a legion, the form should peek through the mean, there's things that have to be there. If they don't have it, that's a tell off for the client probably don't know what they're doing, if they don't know what they're doing. You don't want to know him. You know, you want to work with guys that you know that that are they're good caretakers for their business. That's better for you, not the guys that don't know anything. They're the scarier ones to me. You know, you want you want somebody who who knows what they're doing is a good business. So try and figure that out. Yeah, that's hard. Talk to everybody. Talk to everybody. I do audit sometimes where I don't, I won't have a conversation with him because I was going to be four or five hours. If they turned out to be jerks. I can refund it. I don't, again, who cares? If it's a medium term thing, you have to have a conversation and learn that talk to him and try and figure that out. It's a It's uh, you know, it's a key part to being successful as a freelancer is trying to pick the right jobs.
Artem Daniliants 58:26
Yeah, that's, I think very good advice. And when you communicate with clients, right, you try to keep it all on Upwork right. So that all the communication happens on Upwork so that there is no ability for customer to say like, Hey, you said and WhatsApp, absolutely different. You promise me this and that?
Douglas Shaw 58:45
I would say a lot of clients sometimes want to go direct with the emails, I would say as long as you're you're reporting through upwork, and you you have adequate documentation to up work. That fulfills what you're talking about, which is is a is an audit trail sort of for the work you've done you know, I've listened i've i've talked at times to people on up working they don't take your emails but they'll say it on look let's do a screen share this guy and I we've had plenty of communication and but yeah, I'll just I'll send the monthly reports through up work with a weekly reports or if it's something consequential I'll put it through upwork but some guys don't want that they think upwards a pain in the ass. They want to keep all their communications in their email because that's where everything is. So you'll get some pull on that. That's okay. Cover yourself though. That's a good point. Cover yourself with you know, especially when it comes to reporting or anything consequential and look, you tell tell the client It's saying listen, I've upwards expecting this from me, upwards my lifeline. And I know you're a good guy, but some guys aren't right. So I get a, there's a chunk of this stuff, I get a push through there. Yeah, what am I saying? Why am I ever saying, try it, you know, I might say, try and pull a fast one on somebody, that's the worst thing you can do one line, just be direct, and be honest. Take your lumps that because sometimes people take advantage of you when you're direct, and honest to who cares about them, you know, you, if you if you're direct and honest, Upwork is never going to send me an error message saying bye bye. That that's a critical thing, right? So cover those, the important part like your tone, forget to renew your, you know, get your get your Google certifications done. You know, so you can keep your part may take, you know that stuff that's important. Stick it in your calendar, like a month before I gotta get my, you know, I gotta get the critical parts your business you got to cover? And, you know, Upwork is one of them and client relations, learning how to do it really important.
Artem Daniliants 1:01:09
Did you have any, you know, situations where client reported to Upwork and said that you didn't fulfill your obligations, or did ever upwork get involved because that's the idea behind escrow. Right. If you if there is a huge misunderstanding, you can kind of ask them to get involved and investigate.
Douglas Shaw 1:01:32
Yeah, two years ago, I had a bad one. I was into this guy for, yeah, probably seven or eight grand too. And he claimed me, he put the job at 10 hours a week, and we made this agreement to work. To did I would do 10 hours of work a week, he had a lot of problems that had to be fixed. And all kinds of conversion tracking problems, SEO issues. So it's about halfway through the account, the contract, he stopped responding. But I but I'm on, but I've got these things that I'm working on for him. And like when I would say that, like weeks would go by then he would respond like a whole bunch of messages and, and so on. And I was working the 10 hours a week, and then one day I get an email from him. I just went through all my invoices, and I'm paying 8000-$9,000. You know, we're, you know, I put you on for 10 hours, but you know, I never thought it was going to be 10 hours. So he kind of, he kind of claimed this stuff. And we, we I kind of split the email and Upwork emailed Like I said before, in terms of the reporting and all this stuff. And it was a beef, I went back through them. And they, they came down on my side of it. But I knew this guy, this is like a 7 or $8,000 bill might even might have been a little bit more. That's a lot of money. And, and I knew he was going to hammer me and on the review because he's just he just the way his attitude was with me it was really like night and day. That was the very first call I have and I remember hanging up the phone and I think this is gonna be a good guy. He's got a nice little business like handle like it. I ended up giving him a refund, we worked out a deal I call if I go look, you know, you know, let's work out something. So I think I gave him back a couple of grant. And he left me a good review. I left him a good review. And we just, you know, he's been backing upwork. That was two years ago, he's been backing up or at least three times looking for PPC managers because in Upwork it It indicates that prior clients and so he's he's, that's just the kind of way the guy is probably a little bit he runs into these issues like that. So what did I do? The question is what do you do? Right? You have to kind of again, I gave him back we pick up the phone, call the guy you know he I have another guy? Similar, much lower threshold, but I've had him now for six months. He he disappeared at the beginning of COVID. You know at the beginning of COVID. I lost? Well, three or four accounts shut off. Right. So I lost a little bit of business. Fortunately, it was kind of small. I got lucky. A couple other businesses have thrived during COVID. And actually, yes, it okay. But this guy, he was small, he wouldn't answer my emails for like, eight weeks. I would send them an email every week. And so I I went back to I went to Upwork I said would you please contact him. So he came around and he he emailed me back, he's still on. I mean, I'm working for, he's still doing it to me. He's like, but he's, he just got that kind of guy, I think, you know, we got along at the beginning of a thick relationship. So I think, you know, you have to try, you know, and hear what you're talking about earlier, as far as documentation, do it, cover yourself, don't be afraid to go to Upwork, when they become non responsive, be mindful of non responsiveness, it's sometimes it can be a really bad sign. And again, they're gonna, let's say they're in financial trouble. Well, the best, what's the quickest way to pick up a grant or two, I'm going to call you no good so and so. And, you know, I'm gonna leave you bad review, that's a good way to get 1000 bucks. But I mean, guys think that way when they get desperate.
Douglas Shaw 1:05:54
So you know, be, don't let too long go by with your clients. As far as that stuff goes, you can get into a jam. If you do pick up the phone and make a deal, you know, to the old Donald Trump or to make a deal? No, something's coming, and video is going a little bit fluid. Okay, well, there's a big square in the middle of where your face is supposed to be.
Artem Daniliants 1:06:18
I see you pretty well.
Douglas Shaw 1:06:22
So anyway, keep a dialogue, definitely keep a dialogue with your clients report, often, you know, hey, listen, the best thing you do. The first thing I say to all my clients almost every week is how's business, get them to talk about what's bothering them. Because it's a good way to, you know, be mindful of the challenges they're having, and ideas, clients love it, when you give them some fresh ideas. So you may be, you know, you may be contracted to do X. But look at their competitors, you know, help them out. Listen, depending on my client, my long term clients, my wife helps me up. So we all we do. Each week, I give her a list of five competitor landing pages. We also do the same thing on SERPs. For my my these guys who I've had the 65% of my business, what we do each week on Monday morning.
Douglas Shaw 1:07:29
Mostly my wife does it.
Douglas Shaw 1:07:31
Sometimes I even have to do it, we go and take pictures of the landing pages for their biggest competitors. And we do a search on two or three keywords, and see what the search engine results pages look like. And if they're vary now we don't do them every day. It's not a scientific thing. But I keep an eye on I keep an eye out for these guys. beyond what I'm really contracted to do I keep an eye on the competitors for them. Because I know they don't they don't tend to do that. That impacts it certainly impacts my the, you know, the the effectiveness of the ads I'm setting up. But it also allows me to kind of say, Hey, listen, I just noticed this, you know, so and so over here is offering 50% off. Did you know that? And most of the time they don't know it. So look out for your clients, I think a little bit to be you know, I always when I'm talking to them about their business. It's always we. we look we're getting screwed on this. This guy's doing this to us. He's, he's, you know, this guy used to be fourth in the SERPs now he's second. And I can tell by his ads. He's attacking us. Us. And you know what? That's a good Don't be phony about a two. It's treated like treat his ads like it's your business. You know, I go in and if you've got I got accounts for I'm on for two or three hours a week, for five hours a week. I can't always go to their website every day. But I can go to my MCC. And every morning I go to my MCC. Okay, is everything. My showing impressions on every single account today? Good check. I'll go back a week getting conversions that about Canada what was okay good check. You know, be a caretaker. Don't just look at him as as revenue sources. Look at them as, as partners you're going to have for a long time. Sorry, look at them as partners, you're going to have a long time. And the way you do that is is you know, treat them the way they should be. They're your boss. Right if you got a boss at work, you don't you don't go around his back and talk a personality. You know, you don't make you know, he's the one ultimately signing your paycheck at the end of the week. So when those so the business guys, you're working treat them like that. They're the ones who have, you know, they're funding my daughter's college, they're helping pay for ice skating lessons. So they're important. Treat them with that level of respect, especially, especially the guys you have for a while they're, they're your bread and butter. And you know that we started off talking about trust me, you know, being direct and being honest. eating it when you made the mistake. When somebody goes, when you go to buy a product online, I know this way I am with the exception of Amazon, right? You go and you go, Okay, yeah, they see it. So what's the first thing you do? You go to look for the reviews? And when you go to the reviews, the first thing you do you read all the good ones, you read the bad ones? Because what is the bad ones tell you about this guy? If I have a beef? What are you going to do about it? Right? Do you answer it? do acknowledge it to you make good? And if you do? You sold me? Because I know again, why is the eraser on the back of that stuff gets screwed up? What do you do? How do you handle it to you? You kind of crawl away into the corner and not into it as somebody Oh, that guy did it? What do you eat it, be willing to eat it be willing to, you know, acknowledge the mistakes you made. That's how you build up long term relationships with people. Every, every long term account i have i've made mistakes on. And I've had to say, Listen, this, I don't know, I forgot to do what I know. I told you I was gonna do it. I forgot to do it, something came up, make good, most important thing over the long run really is.
Artem Daniliants 1:11:47
That's very good. That's very good. And Doug, on this note, I think it would be good to finish our recording because the one hour and 15 minutes just flew by. And I must admit you're really good storyteller. I really enjoyed it. And there is a lot of really good wisdom there. Especially about trust, you know, building rapport, you know, helping your customers and treating Upwork as not, you know, fly by platform where you just beat quickly get the job and forget, but as a real you know, channel for for real business and there is still relationships, there are still problems as if you were doing business face to face. I mean now, quickly. Yeah. So and I think there is a lot, a lot of good information there. I thank you very, very much. And I'll have Doug's Upwork profile link and as well his website link in the description. So please, if you want a guy you can really trust in PPC. You have Doug really good and trustworthy person. Thank you. Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Douglas Shaw 1:12:55
Anytime. Thank you.
Artem Daniliants 1:12:57
Thank you. Have a good day. Bye
Douglas Shaw 1:12:59