The Complete Newbie’s Guide to Freelance Digital Marketing
So you want to venture into the exciting world of freelance digital marketing?
For many people in the U. S – about 56.7 million, freelancing is fast becoming the favorite means of trading their skills for extra cash. And it’s easy to see why: unlike your typical 9 to 5, freelancing affords you a certain degree of work flexibility and freedom. Who wouldn’t want to make money while chilling in a tropical paradise?
But as a newbie, you hardly know where to start.
You’re in luck. For we have the answers to your most pressing questions about cutting your teeth in freelance marketing.
But First, What Exactly is Freelance Digital Marketing?
Companies and businesses have an overarching need to promote their products and services. You can’t buy a game of thrones themed socks you’ve never heard of. Therefore, there is a constant demand for marketers – people whose job is to bring the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread right under your nose. And lead you on till you have no choice than to sink your teeth in a loaf (after handing over your cash, of course).
Digital Marketers using several channels seek first to grab your attention, drive you to a website or landing page and ultimately persuade you to buy.
Businesses especially newer ones will never survive without a steady stream of newly converted prospects. But your average founder hardly has time to find clients.
Therefore, they would instead hire full-time or freelance marketers to help them handle the sales part of the business.
And that’s what you are here for.
Maybe you’re hoping to make some money on the side while toiling at a 9 to 5, or you want to make money from the comfort of your own home while changing diapers occasionally.
Whichever the case may be, here are some proven ways to get you up and running in no time as a freelance digital marketer.
Find a (Profitable) Niche
In a world increasingly digitalized, marketing offers up a whole lot of roles. Deciding whether to focus on content writing, copywriting, social media management or Search Engine Optimization depends on your skills, interest, and talents.
You may be tempted to claim your expertise in all aspects of marketing (and maybe rightly too). But what will your prospective clients think?
Who would you go to for brain surgery? A General Practioner or a neurosurgeon?
Clients will trust you more if they believe you’re an expert in a particular field.
At this point, you’ll likely be worried about which niche you should focus on. Maybe, as a beginner, you have not really identified where your strength lies. Don’t fret. It’s never easy to niche down, but here are some questions that could help:
- What are you good at? What aspects of marketing do you feel you have innate skills? Maybe you have talked your way into a night club at 15? Persuading with words, that is copywriting, might just be the thing for you.
- What activities do you spend your spare time? Do you rule the social media platforms like a feudal lord? Posting viral content after viral content and getting a dopamine boost off the thousands of likes and retweets? You could do really well as a social media manager.
- What skills do others hail you for? Many people suffer from impostor syndrome. And feel they are never good at what they do. While others envy their skills and wish they have that ability. Acknowledging well-deserved accolades from your peers over your achievements will enable you to recognize the talents you have but usually overlooked. Do you get people hooked with your stories which you never took seriously? Maybe you should consider being a content writer.
Whatever niche you chose, just know that you don’t have to do that all your life. If after some time, you feel it’s not for you, you can always explore other niches.
Update Your Skill Set
Once you have sorted out the issue of specialization, it’s time you work on the required skills and hone them to perfection. There are a million ways you can learn to be excellent at whatever marketing role you chose. You can pay for courses online, read blogs from experts in your field, and join relevant Facebook groups.
You can also attend workshops and other relevant conferences throughout the year. If you want to polish your skills using specific software, you should attend their workshops and online tutorials. Also, check if they have free or low-cost classes available.
With more knowledge, your confidence climbs, and you come off as an authority in your chosen role. Nothing beats that when it comes to attracting well-paying clients.
Build an Impressive Portfolio
As a beginner, you are likely to not have a portfolio. But you can find your way around this. Why is having a portfolio so important? Because showing is better than telling when it comes to letting people know what you are capable of. A portfolio is a showcase for your glowing past achievements.
Since you are just starting with nothing yet to show, create an imaginary marketing campaign aimed at solving the likely problems your prospective clients might have in attracting new customers.
Now you have something to brag about, how do you show it?
The best way to display your portfolio (even if make belief) is through a website. And they’re so easy and inexpensive to set-up these days. A simple website lends an air of credibility to your fledgling venture.
Furthermore, you can show off as an expert in your field by blogging about relevant topics.
You have opened up shop, and hung up your neon sign, the next thing is filling it with a steady stream of customers. Now, this is where the heavy lifting starts. For a beginner, you may find it difficult knowing where to start.
Don’t be daunted.
A good start will be to practice your communication or people skills. A good interpersonal skill is sometimes as good as technical skills and plays an important role in any freelancer’s success. Listen to webinars and attend seminars on personal development. Read relevant books and attend meetups.
Reach out to smaller businesses in your area. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that many of them are willing to try out a new freelance marketer.
Another way of getting clients as a freelance marketer is by registering on job sites. Freelance job site like Upwork.com, Freelancer.com, Guru.com, etc. has a large variety of available jobs. This is a quick way to get your first clients and build confidence and portfolio. The downside with such job sites is the competitive bidding. This usually ensures that rates are somewhat low. But that is just for starters. As your skill and portfolio grow, you can embrace other ways of finding better-paying clients.
LinkedIn is another great tool for getting freelance clients. Optimize your profile by including “freelance” and keywords about your niche as much as you can. Sell your services in the summary section and ensure to update your skills, endorsement, and certifications. Then make out time to join relevant groups and stay active on the platform.
Start looking for clients in places where they are likely to be found. Forums, message boards, and other relevant websites are a rich source of premium clients. Make sure to be active in relevant groups by commenting, sharing and publishing meaningful content. Such communities of people with similar interests also allow you to build valuable networks.
However, you don’t have to wait for the clients to refer you. Politely ask them to introduce you to their associates who may need your services – and watch your freelance marketing business take off.
Even if you’re just freelancing on the sides, always be at your best. Produce quality work all the time. And to further optimize your business ensure you meet every single deadline.
This will place you head and shoulders above the competition.
Clients will see you as a professional who always delivers. They will always want to work with you because you don’t waste their time. They will also tell their associates.
A Typical Day for a Freelance Marketer
For a beginner, the freedom that comes with freelancing sounds like a dream come true. You only get to work on projects you love and whenever you feel like. And with no boss to breath down your neck, what is not there to love about freelance marketing?
Well, it turns out that reality is a little bit different. To succeed as a freelance marketer and make a decent living, you have to set up a schedule to plan your workday. You may need a lot of self-discipline to stick to your program, or you’ll end up lounging around your home all day in pajamas.
Of course, it won’t be easy – without a boss or supervisor tracking your every move, you’ll be strongly tempted to check out a few cat videos on youtube or follow the latest controversy brewing on tweeter.
Your schedule doesn’t have to be too complicated or too rigid. After all, you’re the boss. Find out the time of the day in which your energy peaks and you can do your best work. As you go along, tweak your freelance routine till you have the one that works for you.
A typical day for a freelance digital marketing professional should be structured such that the following activities are included:
- Exercise: With a 9-to-5 you may find it challenging to carve out time for exercise. As a freelancer, you don’t have any such excuse. Exercising regularly keeps you fit and healthy. You stay energized and focused for much longer which gives you the stamina to produce quality work that clients will love. You can schedule a workout session first thing in the morning or maybe sometime during the day. You can also split your exercise time in too. However you want it, ensure you put in at least an hour of exercise every day.
- Email: Email for all its usefulness can be a distraction if not handled properly. From experience, you must have observed that most of the emails you read and respond to aren’t of much use to you anyway. An email was designed to be a way of communicating that doesn’t require an instant reply. So keep it that way. Carve out time – maybe in the morning and at the end of the day to check and respond to emails. Apart from those times, never look at your inbox again. Disable any alert on your devices to minimize distractions.
- Client Work: This is the reason why you’re a Digital Marketer in the first place. Schedule work for periods when you are at your peak in terms of mental energy and focus. Prioritize your tasks in order of importance (higher pay, fast approaching deadline) and knock them off one after the other.
- Take a Break: Breaks help you to regain your focus and balance. Work with all intensity on a task and then take a break. You may use the Pomodoro technique in the form of Pomodoro apps to help you manage your work/rest times efficiently. Walk around a bit, stretch, play with your kids or watch silly videos on youtube. When you return to work, you’ll be much more rejuvenated and energized, and ready to tackle the next task with fresh eyes and vigor. You may be in danger of suffering a burnout if you work for long periods without breaks. No matter how much you love what you do, you are likely to become fed up at some point. So do not take the issue of frequent breaks lightly: it’s a sure way to become the best freelance marketer around.
- Self Development: Continuous learning is the key to a successful freelance digital marketing career. Being up to date with the latest development in the industry will set you apart from the rest. Schedule in a minimum of 30 minutes daily to learn something new. Quality knowledge is in abundance and could come in the form of paid and free courses, podcasts, blog posts or newsletters.
You need to structure your day to get things done in a professional manner. Without a structure, you tend to lack motivation, suffer burnout or fail outrightly. Freelance marketing is a business; treat it that way.
Freelance Marketers’ Day-to-Day to-do List
Digital marketing freelancing is a broad field with so many activities and tasks. These tasks vary from day to day and depend on your area of specialization and your clients’ needs.
Here are some of the activities and tasks that fill up a typical freelance marketer’s to-do list.
- Developing a digital marketing strategy
- Sending reports to the clients
- Writing newsletters
- Writing case studies
- Writing blog posts
- Creating promotional materials – eBooks, PDFs, presentations, etc.
- Creating a podcast or webinar
- Designing an infographic
- Writing copy for websites
- Building a marketing funnel
- Improving conversions and CTAs
- Creating social media calendars
- Designing a website
- Staying active in relevant online communities
- Meeting with clients
- Creating Facebook or Google Ads
- Search Engine Optimization or SEO
- Building backlinks for the website
- Developing and managing marketing campaigns
- Branding and enhancing brand recognition
- Managing social media accounts
- Content marketing
- PPC (Pay-per-click) campaigns
- Customer acquisition
This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of what is expected from a freelance marketer.
The Pros and Cons of Freelance Digital Marketing
The primary attraction to freelance digital marketing is the fact that you get to work for yourself. You don’t have to face the stress and hassles of a daily commute, and you may even travel around the world while working.
However, working alone seems like a downer for some freelancers.
- You can work from anywhere on earth. Some freelancers migrate to countries with a lower cost of living. Others prefer the nomadic lifestyle, shuttling from one exotic location to the other.
- You keep all your earnings. When working for a company, you are paid a fixed amount no matter the size of the project you just completed. But now, you get to stash away your complete cash from all your completed projects.
- There is no ceiling on your income. You can earn as much as you wish to be depending on your skills and hard work.
- You work at your pace and create your schedule. You don’t have to do work that you don’t like. Being your own boss is really cool.
- You don’t have to go through the grueling daily commute. Thereby avoiding stress and saving time and money.
- You can work from different coffee shops each day or coworking offices or even the park. Anywhere can be an office.
- You don’t earn a fixed salary and may go through lean times sometimes.
- You don’t get company benefits such as health insurance, paid gym membership, 401k, etc. Sorry, but you’ll have to go it alone for this one.
- You play all the roles – founder, accountant, editor, designer, and writer. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when the responsibility for everything lies on your shoulders.
- You may have to contend with distractions. And in the modern world, distractions are rife. The ubiquitous smartphone, TV, Netflix, energetic toddlers and your bed are a few of the distractions that may lay claim to your focus. Naturally, this affects your productivity and also the quality of your work.
- Unlike your typical 9-to-5, freelancing is often a lonely job. You won’t have any colleagues to share ideas, problems or office gossips.
How Much Can You Make?
Data from Glassdoor.com suggests that the average freelance marketer’s salary is $47,682 a year. The hourly rates range from $50 to $150, and this depends on your experience, the market, and the scope. Marketers may earn up to $100 to $125 per hour in larger markets or with higher experience.
You may use this simple formula to arrive at your hourly rate: Annual income/Hours worked in a year = hourly rate.
According to LinkedIn, freelance marketers earn up to $80,000 annually on average. This is from their newly developed salary tool which helps members and recruiters with the recruitment process by showing salaries across cities, countries, and positions. These data were obtained from employers and members.
Freelance Digital Marketing Growth Trend
With the rise in corporate profitability and increased spending on advertising, freelance marketing is in high demand. Encouraged by the rising adoption of technology, companies are spending more money on advertising through numerous digital channels. Therefore, they have the need to hire digital marketing experts to help them play successfully in the rapidly evolving world of online marketing and sales. The demand for a freelance marketer is projected to grow at a rapid rate over the next five years.
It can be scary when you decide to finally take action and start a business (after buying tons of courses and following so many “gurus”). When it comes to starting a freelance marketing business, it gets even more daunting. In between choosing a niche out of the hundreds of possibilities, improving your skills and getting your first paying clients, you may wonder if you are up to the task.
But the millions of successful freelance marketers out there is proof that you can do it. Just follows these baby steps and see your business soar in no time.