There’s something about search engine optimization (SEO) that attracts people to become consultants, even though they have no experience. It's definitely not rocket science, but if SEO was so easy, then every webmaster and company owner could easily learn it and start a successful SEO company overnight.
This would be okay if they were just dabbling and not getting paid for their services, but apparently many are. While you can learn by reading about SEO, this alone won’t provide you with the knowledge you need to do it professionally for other companies.
Part of why reading about SEO is not the way to learn it is that a lot of the information on SEO is simply wrong. For instance, I still see articles written today that discuss submitting to search engines -- a process that hasn’t been necessary or helpful since before the turn of the century.
Unfortunately, inexperienced search engine optimizers don't know what works and what doesn’t, so they can’t discriminate between good and bad information. I'm not suggesting you can't learn SEO on your own. In fact, I think it's one of the best ways to get started, but that means doing it for your own sites or for free until you learn more about it.
The only way to really know what works is to try, try, and try again. When you find something that works once, don't assume that it will always work for every site. It might, or it might not. You have to be able to duplicate the results many times to be sure. The more sites of your own you practice on, the more you’ll learn.
You should never be doing SEO for others (for a fee) until you have the knowledge that only comes from many years of experience. The more you learn and practice, the more you won't waste other's time and money.
If you’d like to become an SEO consultant, that’s great. I certainly don’t want to discourage new search engine optimizers from entering the industry. In fact, you may be interested in my article discussing where one can learn SEO. You can read it here.
It would also be helpful to work for a professional SEO agency for at least a year. Then you’ll be able to start diagnosing Web site problems and understanding those elements that need to be fixed.
Just make sure you’re absolutely positive you can help anyone's Web site obtain more targeted search engine traffic before you take any money for it.