Building a Digital Business Whilst Working in an Agency ( Podcast )

The next guest on my podcast is Khalid Farhan. many of you may not know who Khalid is. He remains off radar, has a day job building up a content marketing agency on the side and does a bit of affiliate marketing. So welcome, Khalid. Thanks for joining me.

No problem, man. It’s good to be here and good to be your guest. It’s funny because I interviewed you on my podcast a couple of weeks ago and now I’m in your show. So yeah, full circle.

Yeah, definitely. It’s good for you to finally be on the receiving end of some questions, rather than setting the… asking them. I think it’s good for you to demonstrate who you are, what you do, and share your good story with everyone, so it should be a good one.

Yeah, hopefully.

You’re an Indian guy based in Dublin, is that correct?

That’s correct.

 

Getting a Masters Degree in Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing

When did you relocate to Dublin?

I came to Dublin in 2017, in September, 2017. I’m originally from Bangladesh, a small country in South Asia, right beside India, for those who don’t know. Yeah. I came here in 2017 to do my master’s and funny enough it was in digital marketing. The way it works in South Asia, there is a thing called Asian mentality with education. The thing is you’ve got to get your Bachelor and it’s good if you’re getting your master’s, too.

I had my agency right when I was doing my bachelor’s in marketing in Bangladesh and when my mom basically wanted me to do a master’s and then I thought, “If I have to do a master’s, let’s do it on digital marketing.” Then I started Googling around which countries offer digital marketing masters, and funny enough, not a lot of universities offer digital marketing masters because I don’t really think it’s a master’s that you can teach because by the time you finish one year, everything basically changed. There’s no point in doing a master’s in digital marketing. I actually found a university called Trinity College Dublin, in here, Dublin. Yeah. Came here in 2017 and have been living here since then.

When you say that you went there, and would you say for anyone who’s considering a master’s or something like that, that it’s a good foundation or would you say, “Forget about it and try and get self-taught?”

Is getting a Digital Masters Degree Worth It?

Education vs Experience

That’s a good question. If you’re interested in learning digital marketing, digital marketing is so broad that it’s not possible for a master’s to teach you everything about digital marketing in one year. If you’re interested in learning digital marketing, my recommendation would be not to go for a master’s. Find out which segment of digital marketing that you’re interested in. It might be SEO, it might be social, it might be paid ads, it might be PPC or whatever. Then try to get either self-taught or find a good course and just browse around the internet and find your solution from there. Because I don’t think I’ve learned a lot in my master’s about digital marketing. Yeah, there are other benefits, like if you already in a good college, you get the branding benefit, it’s easier for you to network around. Trinity has a great entrepreneurial culture so it’s easier to meet other startup founders and stuff. But the actual thing that you learn, you wouldn’t learn a lot in a digital marketing master’s.

Would you agree… I do some work with some local universities and what they do is tend to get people like me in to someone who’s currently working in digital marketing to try and give their input because the teachers are so far out of date, it’s like guys who are doing digital five, 10 years ago, would that be the same at the place you were attending?

It’s a mix. The guy who did our Google PPC, there was training about Google AdWords. I mean there is a course about Google AdWords and the guy who did that is a famous guy in Dublin here. He runs his own agency and stuff, so he knew what he was teaching. Most of the other ones actually were base level people. They were more interested in teaching you the four P’s of marketing than actual tactical stuff. The course actually revolved around more theory than practical stuff, if that makes sense.

Interesting. No, I think it’s great for people to hear that someone who has done a masters is potentially saying it was a waste of time. I think especially in digital marketing, as you say, there’s so much to learn and so many changes that I would think it would be very difficult to educate anyone as a university. I think just definitely people get going than being self-taught is definitely the way forward. From there I take it your plans are to stay in Ireland now? Or what’s the plan with yourself?

I actually don’t know. After I finished my master’s I got a job offer from… I first got an internship offer from Google, which I didn’t do because it was in a sales role and I was not interested in sales. Then I moved in up in the small county in Ireland to do a digital marketing manager’s role in a cell phone company. Did that for about two months and then moved back to Dublin and joined the ACO agency and started managing clients for them. So have been doing that. I don’t really know if I’ll stay in Dublin. My girlfriend is now doing her master’s at Nottingham University, so she is pretty much close by.

It’s a good place to be in than being in Bangladesh because I can just meet her every weekend, every other weekend. Also when you’re in Ireland or when you’re anywhere in Europe, you’ll get access to 28, 29 countries to be around. Yeah, it’s a great place. Europe is a great place to be and if you’re interested in history, travelling, and stuff. So yeah, my plan is probably just here for a few years, see how things go and then decide if you want to settle in Europe or just go back home. Or maybe go to a third country and be a digital nomad. Who knows?

Yeah. Go to America and crack that, and I think it’s great, especially in this industry, you get the opportunity to be able to do that as well. It’s amazing. You mentioned there that you’re working and you’re still in that small digital marketing agency. That’s great, isn’t it?
That’s correct. Yeah.

Obviously prior to speaking to you on this podcast, you were dug about a bit and tracing things a bit about your story and what I found really interesting as while you have obviously learned in digital marketing and then went on to get some experience in an agency, you also have our a sideline gig that does reasonably well for you in a content marketing agency for people looking for Amazon content and stuff that. Is that correct?

Building a Business on the side

Building A Business

That’s correct. I’ll give you a back story. I built my first affiliate website back in 2016 when I was still in Bangladesh. I built that, first run failed, then I built a second one. That one did quite well. Then I sold it for about $6,000 then built a third one and kept on building a few and then realized that there is a need for people. There is a need among affiliate marketers to get good content and good content was expensive and still is. Then we launched this company called Passive Journal, the URL is passivejournal.io and we started offering content service. We started doing the HP human proof designs route a little. We started offering content, started offering ready-made sites, a field of services. Then after a year or so I basically cancelled everything and only kept content there.

Local SEO in Dublin

 

Then since I moved to Ireland in 2017 I started also doing SEO because I saw there’s a market for SEO services in Dublin in Ireland. People were interested, local businesses were interested in getting ranked on the first page of Google, and I had this company that was only offering content marketing, so I wouldn’t say content marketing, basically, the content services do affiliate marketers. Then I thought, let’s start a second service offering SEO services to local businesses. Then we started doing that too. Now that business offers, field content for affiliate marketers and also SEO services for local businesses.

Yeah, no, I think it’s amazing. Obviously you’ve felt the journey and I’m assuming the web design side of things, was that just too stressful, too many changes? What was the reason for cutting that?

I didn’t really have great success with the authority site-building service. That’s one of the main reasons. It was just… The client pressure was too much for me as a one-person team to basically manage. Then I thought it will probably be easier on me if I just cut down that, only offer content because I have these content writers who can do the content. I just have to manage the whole thing. Basically take the order from clients, pass it to the writers, get the ready content from the writers, check it, pass it to the client. I thought that’ll be easier for my sanity than just doing everything. But now that the company has grown a little and also I have grown in the last three, four years, I sometimes think about relaunching those services and I probably will relaunch some of the services again.

Yeah. I think it’s important you find your feet and find your niche and then probably expand out a little bit. I’ve done something similar when I had an agency and I was taking on way more than I could and probably should have all at one spot. Yes, at least you recognize that and reverting back to whatever service that you feel was working well. So on that service, you mentioned beer and it’s for Amazon affiliate websites and stuff. Do you guys also add the links and everything else or does it purely, someone says to you, here’s the product, I want you to review. Going rates 2,000 words or whatever it is, what’s the process there?

Amazon Content Services

Amazon Content Services

The process is we don’t actually upload the content for our clients. The process is you go to the website, you order the number of words you need, so 1,000 words, 2,000 words or 20,000 words, up to you. Once you order, you go to a client portal where our client manager will send you a basically a format that you fill up, so you put your keywords, you put your instruction, you put your product links if it is a product review and then you stand that back within that client portal and then our client manager will basically take that, see which writers are available and they then basically pass it to that writer. We sometimes try to do internal outbound linking, so natural authority outbound linking, but we don’t really… It’s basically a word document that you’ll get as an end result.

We don’t really upload it to your website or add images or anything like that because the price is also pretty low. It’s $23 at this point for every 1,000 words. The way we manage to keep the price low is because we hire all of our writers on a full time, monthly payroll. All writers work for us full time on a monthly basis. They work seven to eight hours a day, 20 to 25 days a month. That way we get to play with the pricing. That’s about it.

How much did you say for 1,000 words?

It’s $23 right now.

Well that’s a decent price there. Obviously prior to the podcast, I was talking to you about pricing and all that stuff. Some of the prices can vary wildly. I think most guys doing Amazon want to get an element of quality whilst paying an arm and a leg. I think the key, you see some content writers who… For me as an Amazon affiliate, I don’t really care if the content is perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect because no one probably reads it, but it’s got to be good enough to rank well. I think some content writers don’t see that part in they’re charging premium places for something you probably don’t have to and they can do volume and still make a lot of money. I take it you don’t do any of the writing, everything’s just outsourced?

That’s correct. I wouldn’t call it to outsource because all these writers are full time. Basically they’re full-time employees of our company Passive Journal. That’s not technically outsourcing, but I don’t do the writing. There’s a writing team of about eight people, nine people now I think.

Cool. In terms of volume, what sort of customers are you looking for? Are you looking for guys who looking for one or two pages or can you cope with tons and tons and tons of pages? I’m always asked by people, “Tell me a good content writing service.” Everyone just goes to take textbroker because they can get what they want. You don’t get the ability to order 50 articles or whatever. Do you have a specific volume? Can you totally scale this up if someone wanted to do 150 articles?

Currently, we do approximately about 400,000 to 600,000 words a month. We can, of course, scale up or scale down depending on the situation. For example, in November we will get a black Friday hit. That always happens. Last year we had a massive spike of orders. We know that sort of planning accordingly. Generally how it works is when we know that we will get a hit with a massive order in a black Friday or in a cyber Monday, we generally pre-prepared and other than our regular writers we’re working full time.

We also have a bunch of freelancers who we have worked with in the past who we are in connection with and basically we then reach out to them and say, “Hey, we have some additional projects. Would you be interested in filling those?” Because time is crazy. Generally, we manage to do about, I’d say about 800,000 words a month on a good month. Without any issues.

You need to break the 1 million barriers, just being able to promote that. That would be quite a good thing.

The problem, Craig, the problem is I always try to… So I have my own affiliate sites too and I always try to basically find the writer of our agency who is free enough so that I can give him some of my own work. What happens is I keep on pushing my own articles. I have websites, which I start at five months ago and they only have two articles now because I actually couldn’t find a free writer on our own agency who will be able to do my own stuff. That’s a good thing probably.

Yeah. Well, good and bad I think. You always do have to make sure that your own assets and stuff do get serviced properly. Rather than service making everyone else millions of pounds basically. And you’re doing the leg work there for that. How many affiliate websites do you actually have personally?

I actually don’t have much. I only have two now. I had about five or six last year but then I ended up selling most of it by mid 2018. Now I only have two and both of them are fresh, so I’m not making much money from affiliate stuff these days.

Yeah. Is that something, obviously you would like to scale up going forward or what’s your plans with that?

Amazon Courses in Bengali

Amazon Courses

To be honest, Craig, I don’t really know. Probably I will. Generally I build affiliate sites, so I have a course for my Bangladeshi audience. It’s in Bengali, so if you want, you can’t buy it unless you speak Bengali. In that course what I do is I try to start one site every year, build it from the ground up, make it reach up to $1,000 a month or $500 a month and show the whole process to my students. That’s basically my motivation to start new sites. When I do a new site, I try to document everything so that I can show it to my students. The new two sites that I’m building right now, both of those are getting documented every step of the way so that I can show my students what I’m doing.

Yeah, that’s pretty much, that’s one of the main goals of me starting new sites. I’m not in the authority website game that strongly because the ACO agency site and the content site is doing well. Hopefully, once these two sites start doing well, I’ll probably invest more time. It’s just I’m also doing a full-time job Monday to Friday. It’s very difficult for me to manage enough time to juggle everything. Yeah, things get tough.

No, I think it’s a remarkable achievement to hold down a full-time job and even just do the kind of content for the affiliate agency. I feel like there’s enough work there to probably kill most other people off, nevermind launching big authority websites and stuff. On that subject, obviously you hold down a full-time job and what are your plans just getting more experience and the agency for a while and just slowly build things up? Or do you have plans to scale up massively on your own projects? What’s going on in your head with that?

When is the right time to leave your agency job?

Leaving Your Job

Your listeners might have this question that I get quite a lot of times that if you’re making good money with your agency side of things, if you’re making good money with your affiliate websites, what’s the point in having a job? Why do you have a job? I agree, I totally agree that the job does not pay even remotely enough to the amount that I make with the Passive Journal agency and with the affiliate site stuff. But the issue here is that I’m on a visa immigration issue in Ireland, so if I want to stay in Ireland I’ll have to be in a job and that basically keeps me in that job. It’s not like I hate the job, I like the job.

The job is also about SEO managing, SEO clients and stuff, which I like. The office is great too, but I have to be in a job deal I’d say at the end of 2021 or I think September, 2021 before I move to the next visa program, which basically will allow me to just do the business and do nothing else. That’s the reason why I’m still doing the job.

Right, I’ve never been aware of that. Obviously I’m a UK citizen so I’ve never had that problem. I’ve never really moved around or anything, so it’s interesting to hear that. Because I know your content side of things does very well and it’s a question I was asking myself. I’m like if he is doing well on that why the hell would he go to work Monday to Friday and until 5:00. It’s good to hear the reason for that.

Sometimes people may just think, “Oh he just wants more money or he’s lazy and doesn’t want to scale up.” But it’s interesting to hear that those legal reasons that you have to do it. You have to do it.

Let the Brexit hit and you will now too.

Yeah, I’m not looking forward to that and hopefully it all pans out. I’m sure it will. But I think what a lot of us are are right now even in the UK, we don’t move to other countries or it’s amazing to hear a man from India coming here and how the face that you would have to set up a business and obviously you will have to do your education and everything else or… It’s interesting and stuff. When September, 2021 comes, I take it the plan is to then just do your own stuff, start up your own business properly and to concentrate fully on that?

That’s correct. Yeah. That’s my plan for now. Once September, 2021 hits, I’ll basically quit the job and then do a full time on the affiliate sites and or the content. If I still have Passive Journal, until then I’ll probably invest more time on the agency and also more on some affiliate sites and probably start some new ventures, new projects and stuff.

Is it easy for People from Asia to get  Digital Marketing work in the UK?

Yeah. For anyone listening abroad, I’ve got a fairly big Indian audience, for example. It’s almost like a lot of hard work to then come and study here and get a job and then build up your own stuff. Is it really that hard or is it plain seal? What would your advice to someone else in that position? Would you say it’s definitely worth it or would you advise on something else now feeling all the pain you have doing what you’ve done? Would you recommend something else?

I’ve a lot of Indian friends who studied the same master’s that I did, the digital marketing master’s and a lot of them went back. See you and me, the internet marketing community, we are in a weird situation where we know how to make our own money. We don’t really need a job but the situation, the legality, the immigration stuff actually makes us. The immigration laws are not built in a way so that you can basically get done with your master’s and then start your own business up. I think you could probably still allows it if you have a lot of money and if you can invest a lot of money, you can immediately start your own business after you’re done with your master’s. In Ireland and in the rest of the Europe, I think, don’t quote me on it, but I think you can’t. You’ll have to work in a company for a certain period of time.

That company will sponsor your visa for up to two years in Ireland. I don’t know what the year phase would be in other European countries, but it would probably be the same. In Ireland, how it works is you get your master’s, you get a two year visa and then you work somewhere for two years and then basically you get a permanent residency which allows you to work whatever you want. It allows you to basically do whatever you want in Ireland. It is not that difficult.

Finding SEO Jobs in Ireland

If you’re looking to get a job, especially in the SEO or in the marketing or digital marketing’s base in Ireland, it is not that difficult to get a job. Ireland is doing pretty well economically. The big tech companies are all here. If you’re from India, if you’re from Bangladesh or from that part of the world, and if you want to come and settle in Europe and basically want to get a job and settle in, I would say yeah, doing a master’s might be a good move for you. Just make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It might be a lot of hard work, but yeah, you’ll probably end up being just fine.

Then I’ve got a tough question. I’m not sure… It’s not that tough, but you come to Ireland, you really do need a job. I’m an agency owner in Ireland. Just this is just hypothetically. Do you find that maybe there’s a potential there for people to use and abuse the fact that you’re so desperate and you need that job to get your visa that they give you bad wages or do you still get a standard wage? How does that work?

Are Digital Marketing Jobs in Ireland well paid?

There’s minimum wage laws that’ll protect you, but if you’re good, if you know what your worth, if you have stuff to show, I don’t think… Because see Ireland is now in a full employment, so companies are looking for people and they’re not being able to find good people. Especially in the SEO space or in the digital marketing space, it’s very difficult to find good people who actually know.

Everyone reads a brand in blog posts and think that they’re good at SEO. But people who actually did stuff, people who actually ranked websites, they’re still a rare breed to find. If you’re good at SEO, I’m pretty sure that you will not have a salary issue in Ireland or in anywhere in the world.

Just interested, I’ve never heard of anyone having a salary issue. Just I know that some people try and exploit people when their back’s against the wall or whatever it may be. I didn’t know if that was potentially a problem that you had found, but good to hear that it’s not and your value is always.

I think you’re totally right or in terms of you’re building up an agency and I always struggled to find good people, good, honest, liable people and everything else can be trained in terms of skills. But I think there’s a big, big, big lack of an work ethic, especially where I’m based in the UK, some people just don’t want to come to work Monday through Friday 9:00 to 5:00 and develop those.

Finding Good Digital Marketing Employees

Finding Employees

I think that there’s a massive, lack of good, solid, honest people and I think for me I source a lot of work to all over the place to people with different skills. I’ve got to take advantage of that purely because the locals don’t seem to want to work. It’s great to hear that there are opportunities regardless. Obviously you’re newish to the digital marketing game with obviously your master’s and learning and the agency that you run and stuff like that. What other things are you doing to keep in top of the game or continue to develop? Is it blogs? Is it meetups, conferences? How do you continue to grow?

That’s a very good question. Let me think what we do to grow, my knowledge and stuff. The agency actually really helps in this case, they actually force you to do stuff that you wouldn’t on your own probably do. For example, the agency recently is forcing me to do all the SEM rush, basic courses, all the master’s courses. I think we also have your course on our agency, so I’ll probably go through that at some point. The agency forces you to go to events like I think we will go to Brighton next year, April so that way you stay connected to the world and in general just if you’re connected in the SEO community, I know a lot of people in the SEO community by now I’m doing a podcast on my website where I’m talking with SEO’s like yourself, like Matt Diggity and others and you get to learn a lot from them.

SEO Podcasts to Listen Too

SEO Podcast

I’m listening to podcasts pretty much every day religiously and not because I want to make money, not because I need to know something very specific for that particular week or month, just because I like it. I like the world. I like the digital marketing and the SEO world and yeah, if you build a few sites on the side, and also I work for about 40 clients for our agency, the agency that I work full time for. I manage about 40 clients for them and 40 clients of 40 different verticals have 40 different issues every day. When you solve those issues, you’ll get to learn so much. Getting onto calls with those clients, with their marketing team, finding weird Russian back links and disavowing them. Finding a solution of what will happen when Google’s new search console basically removes that is about tool. Yeah, you’ll get to learn a lot if you’re in the industry, if you’re just aware about things that are happening around you.

I don’t have a specific solution to how you can stay updated. But just these are the methods that I use to learn. Just keep your senses open, listen to a lot of podcasts, see what smart people like Craig are doing and just try to get inspired or maybe sometimes copy what they’re doing.

That said, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. If something works really well then just add it to your own strategy. I think it’s great that your agency are pushing you to learn other people’s courses rather than their own. Because I think it’s always nice for people to learn from out with the agency. For example, any of my staff, I regularly get other people in to train them, just to get them a different perspective. I take them to Brighton SEO and various other things so that it’s not the same old rubbish that I’m talking, just to hear other people’s ideas, other people’s ways of working. I think for me, and your agency do seem to be very on the ball in that respect and obviously going to Brighton and whatnot.

Digital Marketing Networking

Digital Marketing Networking

I think networking is a big one for me. When you go to events and just meeting up with other people is an important one as well. But with regards to your podcast and stuff like that, again,  remarkable and a guy who is fairly early on in his digital marketing career is running a podcast. What was it just to… What was the thought process behind that? I know you said that it’s not money, it’s not anything like that. You enjoy it and stuff like that but is that it? Just pure enjoyment, you want to give back to the community or is there something longer term you want to gain from the podcast?

Of course there is stuff that I want from the podcast to happen, but I’m not looking for sponsorship or monetary gains from the podcast at this point. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for about 1.52 years now, but never really got the courage to start a podcast. Being a non-native English speaker, it takes a lot to basically start speaking and I am an introvert. I used to be a lot… I used to not talk to anyone but since I came to Ireland in 2017 things started changing. I started to talking to people, but when I was home in Bangladesh, all I was doing was in my bedroom building sites, replying to emails of clients. Never used to pick up phone calls, but things are changing. About the podcast, my goal right now is just to interview good people.

Biggest YouTube Channel in Bangladesh for SEO

Youtube Channel

I have a fairly big enough audience size in Bangladesh, the people in the internet marketing space, in the digital marketing space know me. I have a YouTube channel also in Bengali, which has about 35,000 subscribers at this point. The website gets distant physic from Bangladesh to and that community didn’t really have access to someone who would be good enough to talk to people who are in the international space doing well in the marketing and SEO industry. I wanted to be that person for them. That’s one. The second one is, of course when you interview someone like Craig Campbell, maybe down the line in five, six years, I’ll need a job and I’ll hit you up. Maybe I’ll… You don’t know what you don’t know. You might need something from them at some point in the future and then you will thank that previous version of yourself that well done for that podcast that opened up that door for you.

Yeah, just networking, just meeting new people. Of course, the third one would be, there’s so much to learn from these people. There’s so much to learn from you and everyone that I’m interviewing, I’m interviewing a lot of SAS founders these days too because I have a SAS product idea that I’m developing, so I thought to interview SAS founders and trying to know what they’re doing, how they marketed their product and stuff. That is really helping me too, it’s purely… If I just give you the simpler version of it, that’d be just gain knowledge from smarter people. Try to give back to the Bengal, Bangladeshi community that I have and just make sure that your network and keep the doors open for future opportunities for a rainy day.

Yeah. No, I think it’s smart and as I said your podcast actually gave me the kick in the ass to do my own. It’s actually something I have actually set up Podbean and everything else that is going to host my podcast. I’ve done that in April it’s actually taken until now. When I recall to the point I’ve recalled lots of podcasts for lots of different people. Then when I was doing your podcast and I was just looking at Zencastr and stuff. I’m like I saw easy in that chat. So much garbage that everyone, every day that people, me, find interest. I thought just get Zencastr interested, just start booking people in and my reasons are not for monetary gain. I think for me, I’ve got the experience and knowledge to be able to ask questions to smart people and find out how they do things or what the thought process is. Where or… And that’s what I want to give back to the community.

Just better knowledge and better fun as well along the way. Just stuff that maybe some other people wouldn’t ask and offer value that way. Because I think we all want to hear real stories in your view. The real way things of what rather than the fancied up version, the fancied up version’s always very boring. It was good to hear that people do have problems and stuff like that so that’s math rule behind it. But for anyone looking to have a listen to your podcast, you’re to find it.

You’ll find me on khalidfarhan.com, that’s my website. That’s where the podcasts get published. They’ll be able to find those there and then from there they’ll also get the links of ID on Spotify, Apple, wherever you listen to your podcasts, you’ll be able to find all the links from that website.

Cool. Khalid, that sounds pretty much of time for today, but I do want to thank you again for taking the time to come on and share about your story and how you got there and everything else. I think a lot of people take a lot from it, and hopefully as I said, we can maybe get you on in the future for an update, find out how the podcast gone, and how everything else has gone and content site. Yeah. I appreciate you taking the time to come on.

No problem, man. It’s been a pleasure. That’s one of the best ways to spend your Sunday. Just chat with Craig.

seo profile image

Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 17 years.

  • social media icon
  • social media icon
  • social media icon

Online Courses