eBusiness Institute

How This Online Beginner Became An SEO Legend & Achieved Location Independence within 18 Months

Imagine a career that gives you not just a laptop lifestyle but complete location independence. See how Despina used her digital marketing skills to fast-track her online career in just five short years.

As experienced online investors, we teach people how to buy and sell websites for profit. We’re teaching you the digital skills to go out there and create your own business.

But what if you don’t want to create your own business? What if you want a career in digital marketing instead?

Despina has done just that! In just five years of studying with us, she has reached her career goals in digital marketing and living a life of location independence.

She recently sent us an email with some really exciting updates: 

“In the space it takes to complete a double degree at uni I have achieved the following thanks to you both:

  • Become completely location-independent within 18 months of champs
  • Scaled multiple 7- and 8-figure agencies (through consulting services)
  • Delivered over $125 million in new organic revenue to clients in FY22
  • Worked with multiple “SEO influencers”
  • Starting this week, Ahrefs has become a client where I’ll be in the role of Senior SEO Specialist and contributing to their blog as a featured author

I feel like I’ve “made it” in life, and the future for my career / life is looking pretty amazing! Next steps for me look like a personal brand, speaking at conferences and educating more people about SEO. Exciting stuff!”

Want to see how she did it and how you can too? Watch the video or read the article below…

Matt: If you’re reading this interview, I’m sure you realise that digital skills can set you free. In my opinion, there is no possible downside in this day and age to learning digital skills, particularly if you’re a younger person. And I’m sure there are some of you are wondering what to do either to create your path in business, achieve financial independence, or maybe change your career.

Today’s special guest, Despina, did our course five years ago, and her path has been quite different to most. What I want you to see in this interview is how digital skills can give you financial independence, location independence, and career independence.

Despina has done some amazing things, but like many of you reading this, she started as a complete beginner online. 

Thank you so much for coming along and sharing your story today, Despina.

Despina: Thanks for having me.

How a complete beginner created $125 million of revenue for her clients!

Matt: I’ve been excited to talk to you because you sent us this wonderful email giving us your five-year update.

What impressed me is you were a total beginner, yet you said in your email you’ve now delivered over $125 million worth of new organic revenue to clients in the last financial year. That’s a bit of a change from when you first started with us!

Despina: Yes, it’s crazy.

Matt: I’m sure you must be pinching yourself, and it started with when you first started learning digital skills with Matt and Liz Raad. What were you doing in life back then?

Despina: I was still tutoring at that time, spending about 10 years of my life teaching maths and being in the education space. I’d recently left Sydney and moved to Byron Bay, working as a customer service rep in an e-commerce business.

She wanted a career that could combine digital marketing with her educational skills

Despina: I was trying to find my feet in a new area where I didn’t have students but was still attached to the education space and what I was doing there. There was nothing technical about those roles.

I then came across the Digital Investors and Champions program through my dad. So, I knew it was there in the background, but I wasn’t doing anything with it at the time. It took me quite a few years to figure out how important those digital skills were, and it took a few experiences

You collect and experience life then realise just how important some skills are. For me, I got to the pinnacle of what I could do with teaching. I wrote a book but then didn’t know how to market it. 

That’s when I realised, “Oh, these skills are really helpful to know. I can’t avoid them if I want to do anything in life, no matter what it is.” So, for me, it was education, but for other people, it might be other stuff.

Matt: So, at the time, you were a young person starting life. You’ve got a job, and you’re living in Byron Bay. But I want to reiterate that you were studying Digital Investors and Champions as a side hustle at the time

Even though she worked for an eCommerce business, Despina didn’t have any technical skills when she joined Champions

Matt: It sounds like you worked for an e-commerce company, but could you build a website?

Despina: No, I wasn’t doing anything like that or any online tasks. I could strategically write content, but I couldn’t build a website or do anything that involved technical skills.

Matt: One of the key things you learned from us was SEO. Can you explain what that means?

Despina: Search Engine Optimization. For me, it’s my preferred type of marketing because it’s not pushy in any way. It’s not putting up ads and trying to sell something that people don’t want. And that resonated with me at the time with what I was doing, and where I was at in life. 

I didn’t know anything about the online world, and I wasn’t particularly interested in marketing or sales. I felt like that wasn’t the road I wanted to go down as a person. So it’s really interesting where I’m at right now, to be honest.

The moment Despina realised she wanted a career in digital marketing

Matt: When you took our course, you were a total beginner, just like many of our other Champions. You were working at the time, so you studied with us part-time.

Where did things start to change for you? Especially in the first year, what can people reading this expect?

Despina: I had a big breakthrough moment in the middle of the Champions program. I actually had a series of breakthroughs throughout the program. But the biggest one came from one of the closed-door Bootcamps, where you had a guest speaker on stage, Phil Ohren.

At that Bootcamp, we were also working on some mindset work that you and Liz embed so wonderfully into your program. We were doing an exercise of envisioning where we want to be and projecting to the future. 

She realised the opportunities for her own career when she saw an example of a multi-million dollar SEO agency

Despina: I really resonated with Phil, whose experiences were very inspirational to me at the time. And combined with the mindset shift, I saw a new pathway for me open up by the end of the Bootcamp.

That was a profound experience for me that knocked me off the course that I was on. I then went into the world of marketing. I decided to do this as my next step because I wanted location independence, financial independence, and career independence

That was the turning point where I saw I could have all those things if I dedicated myself to learning about SEO, marketing, and the world of digital skills.

Matt: Phil Ohren ran a very successful SEO agency. I actually remember your feedback form from the Bootcamp event saying, “Wow, Phil just changed my life.”

Phil’s gone on to become very successful with his agency in Noosa, which is the equivalent of Byron’s iconic tourist place to live in Australia and lifestyle choice. And he’s got a multimillion-dollar SEO agency now.

Rather than starting buying and selling websites, Despina chose a career to help other online marketers

Matt: What I love about your story, Despina, is that you didn’t actually do what a lot of people who come to our courses do. They typically go and start their own online business, but you didn’t go down that path.

Despina: No, I didn’t. 

Within everything you were teaching, I found what I liked, and what I didn’t like and couldn’t motivate myself to do. So, I got good at the things I liked.

If you asked me to build a website now, I still probably wouldn’t be able to build a good one. I’m not very good with design and technical hands-on skills that so many other Champions are. Instead, I’m really passionate about the marketing side and helping businesses grow. That’s what I’m good at, and the path that I now walk down.

Despina at eBusiness Institute Bootcamp
Despina was sitting in a Champions closed-door bootcamp with eBusiness Institute when she realised she wanted a career in digital marketing

Despina quit her job to become a full-time digital marketer

Matt: In that first year, how did you refine your skills on a practical level besides training with us? I noticed you mentioned working at an e-commerce store. Did you start saying to the company, “Hey, I can do some online marketing for you now?”

Despina: Yes, I did. The reason I found Phil’s presentation so helpful was that I kept getting a lot of pushback from the owners of the company who didn’t understand SEO and didn’t have a marketing brain. They were creatives and small business owners who had their own views on how they wanted to run their business. 

And so, coming in with new ideas that didn’t make sense to them and having that pushback felt quite deflating. But when Phil got on stage and talked about his experience and how he helps clients through those moments, that was really inspirational for me.

I was experiencing a new world of opportunity but couldn’t apply it. So, having someone validate this struggle and seeing how he overcame it was pivotal in my career and life, especially during the Champions program. If he hadn’t been on stage and I hadn’t heard those words, I wouldn’t have gained that insight. So yes, thanks for bringing him on!

She left the eCommerce business and her education work…

Matt: Well, here you were working in a small business, and you could see they hadn’t done any SEO (search engine optimisation), so they weren’t ranking in Google. But the more Despina had learned from us, the more she understood how to do it effectively for the business.

She could see they were leaving money on the table. She could help them but was getting pushback from them. 

What was it like for you trying to implement that for them, Despina? I’m presuming the business owners were a lot older than you and it’s their baby. It’s a small, family-run business. So, were you able to implement some of the stuff that you’d learned through us, and did it work?

Despina: I was told no, we didn’t go down that pathway because I was still attached to my career in education. But at that point, with the move to Byron Bay and becoming location-independent, education was sort of still in the picture, but not really. 

So I ended up committing to digital marketing full-time, and I left that business, the education space and the tutoring behind. I started to look for opportunities to work as a marketer, and an SEO specialist. 

…And worked as an SEO specialist for another Champion while she was still learning her skills

Despina: The next opportunity for me came through Champions, where I worked with Pete and Renee from Digital Surfer. I worked in their agency as an SEO Account Manager. We worked on projects and brought results to clients, which is what inspired me to see Phil and all the journey through Champions. 

I was still learning SEO at that time and working in it. The learning and the hands-on experience accelerated my understanding of it. So, I built up fairly decent skills quite quickly before I even graduated Champions, and I had career-ready skills as a result.

Matt: This is pretty amazing. So, for the readers out there, you need to put this in perspective. Despina is still a total beginner at this point. She’d only been training for one year and realised, “Hey, this is cool.” She got a job with Pete and Renee, who everybody in our community knows. Those guys are legends with their agency.

By the way, Pete and Renee were also total beginners once upon a time. So, this is where little things grow, and big things grow because, looking at your career now, it’s only been five years.

Through working in a Digital Agency, she found a gap in the market for other agencies

Despina saw the struggles of client retention that other agencies were going through, and understood how she could help grow their businesses…

Matt: How the heck has it gone so exponentially for you? What’s gone on since then?

Despina: I find myself in these situations in life where I can see a need that isn’t being fulfilled that I can put myself in. And so, I did that. 

When working with Pete and Renee, I learned a lot of hands-on skills about what it is like to work in an agency and clients. But I also saw the struggles that some other agencies go through. 

I started consulting with other agencies and helping them work through their clients’ issues. I was helping solve big problems like client retention and how to keep clients on board, especially after the 6-9 month mark. That’s really important because a service like SEO takes a long time. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of shady history out there, and a lot of clients aren’t 100% over the line when it comes to doing SEO.

And so even if you’ve won the deal at the start as an agency, it doesn’t mean you’ll keep them on as a long-term client. So, it’s helping them solve those challenges and training their team. 

She combined her new SEO skills with her teaching background to create an invaluable consulting service for agencies

Despina: I have a background in education, so building up skills and teams is lovely for me. 

I got into SEO because I could write content, so that was my ticket in. I leveraged those skills as best as I could in any way I could. And the combination of them now is quite a rare skill set that’s hard to hire for. 

This put me on a pathway in my career that makes my skills very valuable to agencies, businesses, and big corporations. 

People are willing to spend a fair bit of money to solve these challenges because there aren’t a lot of those specific skills out there.

A lot of people in this industry are self-taught, and it’s really difficult to overcome certain hurdles while developing skills at an expert level. So, I did my best to get past those hurdles and to essentially make my skills invaluable. 

I’ve put everything Matt and Liz Raad have taught me into practice. I’ve gone into those niche little pockets. But I’ve done it in a career sense, not a website sense, which has helped me in many ways.

Matt: So, you haven’t gone down the path of buying and selling websites or online businesses, building a portfolio, or starting your own business. Instead, you used your digital skills to consult with digital agencies. 

You’ve found you love that side and have a great skill set for it. So, you’ve gone further down the career path, even though it’s still your own business. You’re a consultant, and you’ve taken a more formal career path for this. 

Within 5 years she achieved Location Independence

Matt: I’m guessing, Despina, this isn’t about living the laptop lifestyle or anything like that. Is this a full-on career path now?

Despina: Well, it started as a laptop lifestyle. I tried it but didn’t love it, so now it’s more of a career path in doing bigger things with it. 

The reason that I switched over from tutoring to working for small businesses was to have location independence. 

For me, living the laptop lifestyle and having the freedom I didn’t love so much. I didn’t enjoy living out of suitcases. Of course, I loved the opportunities to travel. But when you work and travel simultaneously, you’re not fully experiencing either aspect.

I learned that I like to dedicate myself fully to one thing. I’m not that good at multitasking on such different things. So if I travel now, I’m 100% just travelling. Whereas, when I work, I’m 100% just working.

I balance my life that way. But because I have the goal, I now have the freedom of location independence anyway. Even if it’s not a digital nomad, I can choose to live anywhere in the world and take my career with me. It’s no problem. As long as there’s internet, where I live doesn’t matter. 

Also, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing in my personal life, I can have a career. That is why I’m building that up a bit more. I’m seeing where it can take me, and this never would have happened had I not been part of Champions.

Matt: This is so great to hear, Despina. And I’ve seen that you and your partner have often lived in another country over the last five years. So, you really have embraced the laptop lifestyle.

Now you’ve come back and settled into Byron Bay, which is a laptop lifestyle place to live anyway. It’s an iconic tourist place. I’m sure you’re just down the road from Chris Hemsworth and all the other tech entrepreneurs who live in Byron these days for lifestyle reasons. 

You’ve done this so you can focus on your career, which has gone so well in this digital space now. You and your partner have decided to zero in on your career.

How Despina’s consulting is helping businesses scale to 7-figures

Matt: What are some of the things that you’ve done lately? You’ve mentioned to me you’ve scaled multiple seven and eight-figure agencies. 

Has that been part of your journey over the last five years? Can you share your initial learnings about scaling these seven and eight-figure agencies?

Despina: It’s happened in multiple ways. I’ve been consulting with agencies and helping them build their teams. But, also, at the same time, I’ve been helping them improve their process so that they’re delivering results to clients

Many people who start SEO services can’t deliver results particularly well if they’re not doing things properly. Most people don’t go through the training that Matt and Liz Raad provide. They learn SEO on their own. There is an education crisis in the SEO space, so they think it’s an easy thing to tack onto an agency when it isn’t. Then, clients don’t get the results they need, and they spend a lot of money. 

As a consultant, I help improve the processes and then train and build the teams to solve that problem. As a result, they earn more money, have happier clients, and create more customer retention.

So, they build up their bank of clients who pay quite a lot of money in recurring income and don’t leave. Over time, the more clients they add and the more skilled their team members are, the bigger their agency can grow and the healthier it is overall as a business. 

The teaching side was the little niche I carved out for myself that was quite helpful at the start. I don’t do so much of that now. But it was really good for me to step into that earlier on. I was able to lift the hood of so many agencies to see what the problems are both the client side, agency side, and also with their teams. 

I think many teams have members who are not SEO professionals but need to implement SEO. So, teaching SEO to non-SEO’ers has become a bit of my brand. Getting them to improve their SEO skills also benefits the projects they’re working on and the agencies or businesses they’re in. 

And yes, it becomes a nice environment to succeed with this skill because, honestly, many designers out there don’t care about SEO. And a lot of writers out there know they need to do it, but they haven’t developed a formal skillset. 

When agencies hire writers and designers to work on their SEO projects, the more SEO-savvy those people are, the better it’ll be for the whole business and their clients. So, that’s where I found my niche. 

Despina with Liz Raad at eBusiness Institute

Despina is now a Senior SEO Specialist for Ahrefs!

Matt: Talking about your career, we have to celebrate who you work for now. I know you’ve worked with lots of SEO influencers over the past five years. And I should remind you that five years is not very long. 

As you said to me earlier, in the space it takes to complete a double degree at university, you’ve achieved all these amazing things. So, who are you working for now? These guys are absolute legends in our industry.

Despina: I now write for Ahrefs. My name is on their blog. I write SEO articles, and my title is technically Senior SEO Specialist. It’s that combination of the skills of knowing SEO and being able to write about it from a subject matter expert. 

It’s very difficult to hire those kinds of people. And so, these big opportunities have now opened up to me because I’ve honed in on this skill set.

Matt: That’s just mind-blowing. Within five years, you are now the Senior SEO Specialist for Ahrefs. 

For our readers who don’t know who Ahrefs are, they’re a very big, well-known player in the search engine optimisation market. They have one of the world’s leading software programs for doing all things SEO-wise. 

Ahrefs and Semrush are two key tools that we recommend here. They’re the two market leaders and probably the only industry-standard tools you would consider. Any top SEO agency would be using these tools. 

Ahrefs especially stands out as a major voice in this field, with their extensive articles, often authored by Tim Soulo. It’s remarkable, Despina, to see you now in a senior role with them, considering you started as a complete beginner just five years ago.

Congratulations, you’ve been incredibly driven and rapidly advanced your SEO skills over the years. Your achievement of working for Ahrefs is truly impressive.

She really worked on her mindset to apply for such a position…

Despina: When that opportunity landed on my doorstep, I immediately reached out to you. Reflecting on the journey that brought me here, it’s pretty cool. I recall the mindset exercises we did together, which were quite thought-provoking. 

It can be tough to truly and honestly consider what you want for yourself, and to apply that honesty within can be quite hard. So, the graceful way you and Liz get us Champions to do that exercise has been very beneficial. Not just for myself but the others I’ve seen in the program. 

But for me, I remember when I visualised my moment of success; it was to see my name on a blog like Ahrefs with the expertise that I developed. And that was such a cool moment to see that. 

Today, it’s real. When I decided to walk down this pathway of an SEO career or as a marketing or even content consultant, I very much admired what Ahrefs and Tim were doing. Josh and the rest of the team have also been there for years, building their blog and sharing valuable education. 

So, I always had a special place in my heart. I knew that’s the place I wanted to work at when I’ve made it in life and when I know I’m good at this. That’s it for me, and I’m there, and that’s super cool.

She gets to work from anywhere in the world

Matt: Yes, that is so unreal. As you said, you set a goal to be associated with Tim and Ahrefs. Do you get to work closely with Tim these days?

Despina: Yes. The whole team at Ahrefs works closely with each other because they don’t have the typical corporate structure. It doesn’t exist. 

I feel very much a part of the core team, and if I want to share an idea directly with Tim, I absolutely can. That’s just the kind of leader that he is. He’s open to everyone’s ideas and initiatives at all times, and it’s super cool.

Matt: They’re fine with you being located here in Australia in beautiful Byron Bay. Do they know how nice Byron is?

Despina: I don’t know! I think there’s only one other person located in Australia, maybe in Sydney. So we might have to teach them how great Byron Bay is!

Matt: Yes, that’s right. Well, it’s beautiful in Byron Bay. 

So obviously, career-wise, no matter what you do now, you could live wherever you want in the world?

Despina: Yes.

Matt: It has come back to your idea of location independence.

Despina: Yes. I could move to any corner of the earth and have the support I need to be able to work as long as I’ve got the internet. That’s the only thing I need with this whole lifestyle. 

For everything else, as long as I’m doing what needs to be done and submitting my deliverables, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing the rest of the time.

Advice for new students looking for a career in digital marketing

Matt: Looking at your career, you’re working with significantly sized clients. Not just seven and eight-figure digital agencies, but big clients as well. And you’ve done that in just a short period of time. I’m just reading what you’ve said in your email, it says,

“I feel like I’ve made it in life, and the future of my career looks pretty amazing.” 

You’ve achieved it. You’ve reached the dream in just five years. Your dad, Paul, must be very proud. 

From someone who’s completely achieved their career goals within five years, what advice would you give to someone your age and completely new to this?

What do you think could help them accelerate their journey to achieve what they want in their lives within five years, too? No pressure, but what are some of the key things you think have helped you be so successful here in such a short time?

Despina: There are no shortcuts to learning valuable skills. You’ve got to do the work to learn and have great mentors along the way. You can’t do it on your own. 

Matt and Liz Raad constantly draw the exponential graph, and there’s a turning point where it will eventually work. You just have to have faith that you’ll get there, and you will get there if you keep applying yourself

Keep learning the skills you need to learn, but also have the clarity of vision to know where you want to go. Without that clarity of vision, you won’t move in the direction that will ultimately benefit you, and no amount of effort will get you there. 

So, I think it’s that combination of knowing where you’re going, applying yourself, learning, and having great mentors who can help you on that journey. Also, it comes down to consistency—one rep a day. Even if you’re taking one small step, take it every single day, and you will get there at some point. 

Should you put a time limit on your goals?

Despina: When it comes to goal setting – something that didn’t work for me (but it may help other people) is putting time limits on your goals. For me, I didn’t put a time limit on it. So, you’re not pressuring yourself to get there within a certain timeframe

If I wanted this goal three years ago, I would’ve failed. But five years on, I’ve succeeded. And it’s because I didn’t pressure myself to get there within a certain time. I’m able to enjoy those successes, and they motivate me further. 

So, for me, with all the smart goals that people might find themselves applying to their lives – I relaxed on the time element. For you, it might be something else, like relaxing on a different element. That’s okay as long as it works for you and gets you where you want to go. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t strictly follow all the rules because success is success no matter what timeframe you use to achieve it.

Matt: I think that’s really good advice there. It’s not just the reps, as we teach here, to learn this stuff; it’s the journey.

At the end of the day, we can teach you the digital skills. And here’s a living, breathing example in the form of Despina who was a complete beginner. So, you too can learn the skills, but it’s going to come down to mindset and getting that clarity of vision. 

What I love about your journey, Despina, is you just got serious about it. And also, you found your passion. Listening to Phil at our Bootcamp and everything else we taught you in Champions, you found you absolutely love digital marketing. That’s been a big part of your success as well. 

Different people in our community love different aspects of this online space of making money online. 

So, a massive thank you for joining us today to share your success and your story. Your passion lies not in the conventional passive or semi-passive income from websites but in diving into marketing and elevating it to greater heights. It’s just awesome.

Despina: You’re welcome. Yes, it’s been a fun journey for sure.

Want to learn more about starting a career in digital marketing?

Matt: If you’re reading this and, for some reason, you haven’t started on this journey, and you want to learn where Despina first learned her skills in online marketing, try our free masterclass, where we go through the overall strategy. 

It gives you the basic skill sets you need if you want to, or a bit of a plan to get involved in this online business space.