Hi readers, Michelle here (owner/founder of Pulley Media). Can you believe it’s been 7 years? This blog is probably long overdue, but to be honest, I’ve shied away from the human element of business since Day 1… and I’m coming to realize that this was a wrong decision.

7 years ago, I was working at a trendy agency in Miami Beach, and finding that people really wanted to give me money.

… What?

I know. That was my reaction, too.

My clients liked me, and they’d send their friends over, requesting that I help them “outside of work hours”. I declined. Repeatedly. Then one day, I stopped declining. Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided it wouldn’t hurt to send out a proposal or two.

What should we call ourselves? Naming our little marketing agency

Two friends joined me, and we brainstormed on Skype for weeks about the name of our new “agency”. We liked an industrial aesthetic. We all gravitated towards images of machinery and the idea of our company as the workhorse that pushed companies into success.

Pulley Media was born, out of the idea that pulleys lift things up.

Our initial version of the logo was cartoonish and Halloween-y, but we loved it.

We filed for our EIN, and it came along on March 11th, 2013. We were “official”!


But then I got fired

Yup. My day job fired me. The reason was basically – you can’t just start a new agency while working at an agency. The idea didn’t sit well with management. I protested – arguing that our target markets weren’t the same and they weren’t competing businesses (spoiler alert: they didn’t care). Lesson learned.

What was I going to do now?

Remember those two partners? I thought we’d continue to build our newfound brand, but my firing left them spooked. Both ended up finding new jobs, at new agencies, and leaving our little venture.

Pulley Media remained stagnant, dumped on my lap like an abandoned puppy. I continued to help our two little clients, while searching for a new job myself. I found one, at another digital agency.

This was where I learned just how sleazy marketing agencies can be. This agency did nothing themselves. They received email requests from clients, and forwarded them on to a team in India, without even reading them. The India team did the work, and nobody in-house cared if it was botched. With just four people on their team, this agency had hundreds of clients. They lost clients constantly, but their volume was so huge that they didn’t care. Their reputation was horrible.


I spent about 2 months there, before I couldn’t handle it. Marketing, for me, is a passion. It’s something I do because I get to be creative. Passing emails back and forth to India wasn’t my cup of tea.

Filing for Unemployment

On my last day at that agency, I knew it was a turning point for me. I would never work for somebody else again. I was going to be a good marketer, and it was up to me to define what that meant.

But first… what about money? Miami wasn’t exactly a cheap place to live, and my husband couldn’t afford things on his own. I filed for unemployment, and that was enough to keep the bills paid for the time being. I felt pretty pathetic those first few months.

Somehow though, referrals kept rolling in. “Hi Michelle, I got your number from ___”. Those words became music to my ears. I began closing deals. I decided my clients wouldn’t be on long-term contracts. They’d stay with me because they wanted to, and if I couldn’t earn that privilege… maybe I wasn’t that great.

Self Doubt


Digital marketers often suffer from imposter syndrome – which is the feeling that maybe we can’t do everything we set out to do. That’s because a lot of our day-to-day is invisible on the front end. We build links, edit schemas, change H2 tags, all in the hope of creating a bigger picture that looks great to search engines, and that clients respond to. These little edits are not things that a client will notice. It also takes some time to rank for big sought-after keywords. Though I tried to be upfront and transparent, I kept finding:

  • Startups would spend tons of money developing a website, then pass it over to me for SEO, but ask me not to change anything on-site (on-site SEO is part of the process)
  • Companies expected huge results, in high-competition markets, almost immediately
  • Clients had bounce-around syndrome. They’d sign on with me, then get a pitch from a larger company, bounce over to them, then come back to me.
  • The worst – when a client was doing particularly well in search results, they attributed it to their own efforts. When they were doing badly though, that was always my fault.

While my company grew, I began to lose that personal connection to my accounts. Maybe they didn’t want creativity, maybe they all just wanted somebody to do exactly as they asked and not change a thing. Could I even do my job if that was the case?

Pregnancy doesn’t sit well

In 2015, two years in, I was pregnant. I didn’t know how to address it with clients. Though I had established a team of helpers – a designer, a developer, and a content writer… I was the face of the company. My clients expected emails and phone calls from me. I didn’t mention it to any of my clients personally, but instead added a small line of text to my signature: “Pulley Media will be welcoming our new arrival in April 2016!”

One client fired me immediately. Remember how I had decided to work without contracts? That was the result – a quick, one sentence email cutting all ties.

I worried that more would follow. What if they all left, and I was left as a new mom with absolutely no income? I panicked.


The rise of the sweetheart deal

I became desperately afraid of the unknown. A single account manager can usually handle 10-15 clients at a maximum. I had 10 at the time, and feared that losing one meant that the other 9 would follow. They didn’t want me because I was pregnant, and they certainly didn’t want a new mom who would be preoccupied with a baby. They all wanted to feel like the center of my universe. I second-guessed telling anybody about my son.

I also began doing what I’d never done before – advertising myself. I onboarded any client that I could find, at really low rates.

The average cost of monthly SEO is between $500 to $2000, and I think my lowest-paying account at the time was just $285. I was also including more than just SEO services for this price. Clients were getting graphic design, development, Adwords management, email marketing… you name it, I basically gave it away.

I really do not recommend doing this.

Then came Mason

Labor was unexpected, an emergency induction that took place over 72 hours. I begged for my husband to bring my iPad to the hospital, and I worked instead of sleeping while being actively induced. Then I had a c-section. That same night, after a brief nap, I kept working. I thought more about my clients than I did about my newborn son.

We brought him home, and overnight, when he would keep me up all night… my only thought was “I need to sleep so I can work!” There was no maternity leave. One particularly cold email from a client that is no longer with me, said:

“I know you are having a baby, but how long does that really take?”

Yikes. Again, I felt like a machine. A machine that had no battery left and was about ready to be discarded.

Bonding with a new baby is tough when they’re the reason you’re losing clients. I felt like I was a horrible mom, and a horrible business owner.

Time, Money, Time, Money

Eventually, I snapped out of my bad case of workhorse syndrome. My “no contract” policy seemed to make people feel like they could “test things out” and then leave without giving their sites ample opportunity to rank.

I wanted to produce work that I would be proud of. I wanted to keep clients that I would be proud to have. I wanted to charge for the time I was spending, and really focus on growing brands I believed in.

So, I began to client-fire. I politely informed several businesses that I would not be working with them anymore, and we went our separate ways. This left me with time to be the digital marketer that I wanted to be – attentive, and available to spend the time on strategy. I stopped answering non-urgent emails in the middle of the night, simply because I was awake. Even though I loved being able to give people that personalized attention, I realized it created an expectation – email me at midnight, get a response by 4am.

2020 and beyond

In the last four years, I’ve trimmed services down, and I’ve created a robust client list of brands that I’m proud to work with. I’m pregnant again, and this time, I’m going to take time off. When I’m in the hospital, I’m going to be thinking about my family.

In SEO, everybody says “Content Is King”, but you know what? Confidence is King. When you know what you’re capable of, and you see results coming in, it’s OK to show your human side. It’s ok to be a female in tech, to continue living your life, growing your family, and also rocking at your job without doing it at the expense of your sanity.

I’m scouting locations for my first official office space. I have big plans, and finally, a new brand name for the grand re-opening. If all goes well, the agency space will be my second baby of the year.