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Talk Time: Meet Branko Ilishev, Co-Founder & Head of SEO at SmartClick

It’s Talk Time! In this series of interviews, you get to meet and learn more about the journey of some successful and inspirational people from the tech, finance and marketing industries.

Today we talked to Branko Ilishev, co-founder and Head of SEO at a Web & SEO agency SmartClick. He comes from North Macedonia, and before he started SmartClick, he was one of the top-rated SEO freelancers on Upwork

We wanted to get to know him a bit better, so we decided to ask him a few questions about his freelancing days, SEO, SmartClick and much more. Check it out!

Meet Branko Ilishev from SmartClick!

branko ilishev smartclick

Hi Branko! Thanks for taking some time for an interview with Native Teams. How has your day been so far?

Hi, thank you for inviting me, it’s my pleasure to be a part of the Native Teams interviews. The day so far it’s pretty good 🙂 .

What can you tell us about yourself?

I am 30 years old, and I live in Strumica, Macedonia. I have over 11 years of experience with SEO, but professionally I’ve been working for around 7 years. Behind my success as an SEO freelancer are hiding 170 completed SEO-related projects. 

How did you get started with SEO?

During the summer in 2011, thanks to a friend of mine who started reading about “SEO” told me to start a project (build a website) on my own. So I created a website for flash games and followed all the recommendations that were written in a SEO e-book without knowing what am I doing. At that time I had no idea about the term SEO or Search Engine Optimization, so I was doing everything without a clue what was going on or what results I should expect.  Since then I started learning more about “SEO” and after 3 years of working on my own projects, I decided to join a local company and test my skills on their projects. 

How did you land your first clients when you decided you wanted to give freelancing a try?

I started working as a freelancer back in 2015. The main thing that made me switch from a job to freelancing was that I had bigger goals and I really wanted to challenge myself. I must say that I had luck with my first client on Upwork because I didn’t find the job; the job found me 🙂 I was invited directly for an interview without even sending a proposal. I carefully read the description and did some analysis on the client’s website. I believe that the key point was that I’ve shared a lot of information and tips on how to improve their website.

branko ilishev smartclick

In your freelancing days, you were listed as one of the best freelancers on Upwork, and got to work on many exciting projects. What were some of your favorite and most important projects?

My favorite and most important projects were:
Squadhelp – World’s #1 naming platform which was rewarded 3 times by INC as the most innovative & fastest growing companies

Luxtripper – Luxtripper was the only travel brand to be featured in a list of the best 100 British-based entrepreneurial companies

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of freelancing?

The pros of freelancing are:

– You have a flexible time to work

– You can easily manage your time and decide how much you want to work per day/week

– You are the one who decides how much to earn 

– You can easily find clients

– The clients can easily find you

– You can work for multiple clients

– You can work from anywhere in the world

The cons of freelancing are:

– You don’t have paid vacations or days off

– You don’t have a retirement insurance

In 2018 you wanted to switch from freelancing, so you created an agency SmartClick and started offering fully optimized websites to your clients. Can you tell us more about this, how did you start and where is the agency now?

To continuously improve the quality of the SEO service that I was offering as a freelancer, I needed to do something, and I connected with another freelancer (Milan) who was a top-rated web developer. He had the same problem, he wanted to provide websites that were fully optimized for the Search Engines. So after having a couple of meetings, we decided that we can offer the businesses something different, and that was: building fully optimized websites. So we decided to crown our collaboration by starting a Web and SEO agency, so we created SmartClick.  Currently, we are a team of 12 people, and because of our freelance background, we have lots of contacts and the demand for our service is growing. There are huge opportunities to scale the business and increase the team capacity.

branko ilishev smartclick

Where do your clients come from?

Most of the clients are businesses from Europe – UK, US and Canada.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Basically, I wake up every day at 7:00 am and prepare myself for work. I start with work at 8:00 am and from 8:00 – 11:00 am I focus on the most important tasks. From 11:00 – 11:30 am, I take a breakfast pause. From 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, I prefer to have internal team meetings or meetings with the clients. From 1 to 4 pm I work on tasks that are less important but still would make changes for better tomorrow once I finish them. 

This year (2022) you were rewarded by Clutch for being one of the best B2B service providers in North Macedonia. Congratulations! What are your plans for the future?

The credits goes to the whole team. Our plans are to get even better every day, providing exceptional services to our clients ensuring their online success, while at the same time enabling our staff to grow and develop creatively and professionally.

Your days definitely sound busy, but diverse and interesting. And what do you like to do when you’re not working? Do you have any specific hobbies?

When I am not at work, I often catch up with my friends or have a sports activity, i.e. I play Tennis or Table Tennis, or have a walk in nature. My hobbies are travelling and skiing.

branko ilishev smart click

What would you recommend to anyone who wants to become an SEO specialist?

SEO is like auto mechanics, if you don’t diagnose the car, you won’t know what’s the issue with it. If you want to become an SEO specialist, you need to go above and beyond. If you want to improve your SEO skills, you should constantly test new things and techniques.

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