Freelance digital marketing is experiencing a boom for quite some time now. It is no wonder, as the vision of being on your own, working from any part of the world is very alluring.
The situation with the 2020 pandemic has provided an additional push to already quick freelancer market growth. The barrier of entry is low and the competition is rising.
To successfully enter the digital marketing workforce, we prepared the following tips that should help you with the transition.
With introductions behind us – let’s get to it.
1. Make Sure This is What You Want
There’s this romanticized image going around, of the freelance digital marketer traveling the world and drinking cocktails on the beach or climbing mountains with their laptop in their backpack. And I won’t say that’s too far from the truth. Because the hard truth is that if I had to choose one thing that makes freelancing great it’s the ability to work from anywhere and choose when to work.
Other benefits like spending no time and money on commutes or choosing your projects go without saying.
However, there’s more to these things than meets the eye. It is highly probable that when you will be starting (and in the years to come) you will be putting more hours into your work than when you were employed.
Another very true fact is that freelancing isn’t for everyone. While some may find happiness in not having to wake up early to catch their commute or being restricted by a certain dress code, others can find this unnerving.
Then there’s also the aspect of engaging with other people. And the security of a steady paycheck. Let’s face it. Not everyone can say no to that. That’s why my first tip for freelance digital marketers is to make sure this is what you want.
Balance out the pros and cons and decide if this is the lifestyle for you before you make any drastic decisions like ditching your day job.
2. Prepare Yourself for a Different Perspective
Now that you’ve decided to become a one-man show, it’s time to learn to act like one. You have to be prepared to overcome obstacles, distractions, doubt. You’ll be faced with that sooner rather than later, so buckle up.
Having confidence that you can succeed is the best tip for freelance digital marketers I can give you. Because that’s where everything you need to become successful stems from.
You are your own person now, your own boss, and the master of your domain. Think of things from this perspective rather than letting yourself be dragged down by hesitation and the fear of uncertainty. It’s been done before so surely you can do it, too.
When you are a freelance digital marketer, you need to be switched on and on your toes almost constantly. At least in the beginning, until you make a name for yourself. You’ll need to adopt this as your new lifestyle. No more ‘I’m taking a personal day’ or ‘I’ll be 30 minutes late, I’m having a latte now’.
You can have your latte when you’re done setting up your freelancing career and you’re winning some serious business.
You are your own business when you are a freelancer. So, any corners you cut will reflect on your success. Not anyone else’s. Keep that in mind as you move forward and let this be a motivator for you to build yourself as a strong brand.
3. Find Your Niche
As romantic as the freelance digital marketing persona is, you’ll have to keep in mind that competition is tough.
Finding something that sets you apart is paramount. Start by evaluating your past work experience and your overall skills to find your niche. Finding a common thread can also help you feel more confident about pursuing a certain niche. And, already having some experience in a specific field should also come with knowing people who belong to that circle and can help you get your freelance digital marketer career off the ground.
If you have no previous experience, research different freelance digital marketing jobs and see which one appeals to you more. Is there anything in particular that grabs your attention? Something you would much rather do? Maybe you have some skills that you haven’t yet cashed in on that you could use now.
You could be very good at writing copy. You could be tech-savvy. Or, have a deeper understanding of social media marketing than others. Whatever it may be, it should be something you enjoy and something you are good at. Or a combination of both, ideally.
Now is the time to pull all your resources together and refine the ones that will get you ahead as a freelance digital marketer.
Once you’ve identified a set of skills, see how much demand there is for them. Cut the unnecessary ones out to perfect your offer even further.
4. Finding Your Target Market
On to the next tip for freelance digital marketers many don’t quite get right.
It can be tempting to throw all your skills together and try to sell yourself to everyone all at once. It may be counterintuitive but narrowing your skillset as well as your target audience is the best way to go. If there is one skill in particular that you are good at, include that in your profile to catch the attention of specific clients.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. They may not know much about digital marketing and that may be the very reason why they are looking for a specialist. So, when they are searching for one, it can be difficult to know which freelancer could do the best job for their needs. Now, on the other hand, if you market yourself as a freelance digital marketer for their niche, you’ll better your chances of getting the job.
For instance, if they are a pharmaceutical company looking for a social media marketing expert, they will be more likely to choose you if your social media profile, presentation, or website recommends you as a “freelance digital marketer specializing in social media marketing” rather than just “digital marketer”. Defining who you are well enough will increase your chances of getting jobs that are more specific instead of being lost in a sea of marketers offering general services.
You can also use location, company size, or industry to narrow down the type of clients you are targeting.
5. Market Yourself
Do you know that story about the shoemaker with no shoes? That’s exactly what you need to avoid. Being a marketer with a weak brand.
The way you market yourself will play a big role in how potential clients see you. And whether or not they want your services. I mean, if you can’t market your own brand, how can you market theirs?
Invest in making your business profiles, your website, your presentations as professional and trustworthy as you can. Do things that will improve and build your credibility.
Even if you start small and you don’t have a large portfolio, you can still do things to attract the right attention. Firstly, start with your inner circle and your professional connections. At the same time, set up your professional profile on social media websites like LinkedIn or freelancing websites like Upwork.
Next, branch out into the specific niche or industry you’ve chosen and join industry groups. Start or join in on their conversations and show that you have something to say. Give expert tips and help them understand how they can benefit from working with a freelance digital marketer such as yourself.
If you have the means to, create a professional-looking landing page design and give potential clients a taste of what you can do to set their business apart. Buy a domain that’s simple and to the point and set up your professional email. Create a blog or and use content marketing to attract traffic and get shared on social media. Post regularly and even throw in an e-book for subscribers to your email list.
Dedicate some time to perfecting your sales pitch and making some strategies for your freelance digital marketing career long-term.
6. Create a Portfolio
The first thing that you will hear from any potential client is “Can you show us examples of your previous work?”. You should be ready for that question.
We can go even so far as to say that skills matter less than the achievements that you can show. You can be a top digital marketer, but if you can not show any previous project where you managed to achieve growth or other related objectives – it is pointless.
So make sure that you already have one or more projects that you can show as you reference. It is also a good idea to first start working on a side hustle project while working full-time elsewhere. When you had completed several projects in your free time – you can move to step two which is becoming a full-time digital marketer.
When you will be pitching to clients it will be a huge boost if you can show what you did for other websites. Or it can even be your own project on which you applied various digital marketing knowledge that you gained.
Goes without saying that it is much easier to justify your high fees when you can illustrate that you already successfully did the same thing for somebody else or for yourself.
7. Learn The Right Tools
As in any line of business, you must have your tools ready. For digital marketing, the tools set will vary, but there are some basics that you must get acquainted with.
Analytics. Google Analytics if your friend here. There are other options but start with this one. It is free, easily accessible, and very popular. Install it on your site and play with it a bit until you can find all that you need with few clicks.
Paid Advertising. Google Ads, Facebook Ads Manager, Pinterest Ads – get intimate with these platforms. Try to launch an ad for your site. Making an ad once will give you a lot of insight on which you can build further.
SEO. Go through Ahrefs blog, like many posts, videos, and guides that you can into you. It will give you a great base of SEO and how to achieve results.
Web. There are many options but few basics of HTML and basic knowledge of WordPress will help you understand how all the pieces interact with each other.
Design. Photoshop, Canva, and many others – may be your tools of choice for that. You will need to edit images and create visuals from time to time, so make sure that you are familiar with at least one tool.
Task Management. Notion, Slack, Google Tasks – some are for groups and some are for personal use. No need to spend a lot of time here, just know that these tools exist.
Email Marketing. Aweber, Convertkit, GetResponse, and many more. Create a trial account, go through the interface, get acquainted with automatizations, email blasts, etc.
Depending on the niche and particular angle that you will want to take you would pay less or more attention to some of the tools that you see here. But it is of course advised to have at least an overall understanding of all of them, so you do not get caught off guard.
8. Finding Customers
Being a freelance digital marketer means you have a pretty much unlimited range of places where you can market your services. And while that is great, it can also feel daunting. Like, where do you start? What are the best places?
Let’s go through some of the most popular options. Just to give you a few ideas.
If your services serve a particular industry well, it’s best to focus your efforts on marketing them there. You can do this on LinkedIn, by using your contacts or by joining industry organizations and attending their workshops and seminars.
There are also a few freelancing websites you can use to start off your career. One popular option is Upwork, as mentioned above. You can use these sites to set up a profile and find the right jobs for you by filtering job postings out depending on your skills and other criteria. Competition may be tough as there are millions of registered users. But you can start out small, build credibility, and increase your rates and get more jobs over time.
If you’ve invested time in perfecting your pitch, this is when it will pay off. You can make your job applications stand out if you research some best practices and apply some (or most) of the tips the websites offer.
My tip is to not be afraid to show your personality and be open. Don’t make your pitch about you, but about the benefits that clients can get when they choose your services.
You can also use other social media platforms to promote yourself. Facebook is a good option. Additionally, you can make a name for yourself on websites like Quora by answering common digital marketing questions.
The last thing on this point – make sure to make that customer a repeated one. Use every customer retention strategy there is, as it is much easier to repeatedly work with the same customer (growing your base of course) than to search for new ones after each project.
9. Setting Your Rates
You should be able to find a nice balance between your level of expertise and an income that will pay your rent at the end of the month.
As a freelancer, you can get paid an hourly rate, by project, a commission, or be on a retainer fee.
Some good old-fashioned research will help you find the rates that work for your skillset and your potential clients. On Upwork, for instance, you can view profiles of freelance digital marketers such as yourself and check out their rates. Monitoring your job feed will also give you a pretty good idea of what clients are willing to pay.
You can also research competitor websites and see how they price different service packages.
No matter where you market yourself, there is one tip for freelance digital marketers you’ll have to use. Do not make the same salary negotiation mistake – be very clear about your services and the cost of each component. Clients will appreciate it and it will also help you avoid any misunderstandings. Set payment milestones to keep your cash flow going and set realistic deadlines.
10. Develop a Clear Schedule
This is where things can go wrong in two very different directions.
One is letting yourself be distracted. Working in your pajamas while your dog is sitting on your lap is fun. But, it’s also something that will send the wrong signals to your brain.
Again, my tip is to think of yourself as a business. Act professionally even when no one is around to see you. This will give you the right mindset to get things done and be efficient. On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of working around the clock just because there is no set schedule. Allow yourself time to breathe and relax to avoid burnout.
This leads me to the second wrong direction a lack of scheduling can take you. Your freelance digital marketer enthusiasm can easily get out of hand if you’re not careful. If you see that clients are lining up to get your services, don’t take all the jobs just because you think you have to. Filter them out and make sure there is enough time in the day for everything. Otherwise, you’ll end up either burnt out or messing up your work. Or both.
If there are things that need outsourcing or automation, don’t hesitate to use them to make your life easier and ensure you get the best results for your customers.
Plan out your day. Plan out your jobs. Make sure you stay organized. This is a freelancer digital marketer tip that can save your life and your career.
11. Continue to Expand Your Reach
Starting out may be rough and once you hit a certain level of success you may be tempted to rest on your laurels.
The best thing you can do for your freelance digital marketing career is to keep pushing. Trust me. There are always new ways to perfect your skills or new ways you can branch out and get more business. Digital marketing is a very dynamic niche. It would be a shame not to take advantage of that.
My advice to you is to keep learning. Stay up to date on industry news and trends. Learn from others. Get in touch and stay in touch with people who can help you identify new ways to grow.
Eventually, you will be able to maybe write an e-book or a real book on digital marketing. Or create a webinar. The more you invest in building your credibility and brand, the further you’ll be able to take your freelance digital marketing career.
Do not trust those videos where people are saying that they work for a few hours a day remotely – all thanks to freelancing. Soon you will discover that freelancing is not only a job like any other – it is much more time-consuming and stressful. There is no safety net, and nobody will be sending you a salary at the end of the month. All the success and all the failures are just yours alone.
While that may sound daunting, it is also the same reason why freelancing and digital marketing are so fulfilling. You create value just from your skills, you can see immediate results and you report only to yourself.
Take it slow, start working on portfolio projects and when all is in place – get your first clients and go at it at full speed!