Digital marketing is a booming field and has been for some time now. Agencies of all sizes have been popping up and growing over the years, and many of their employees end up heading out on their own to freelance rather than work for a boss.
While working for a company as a digital marketer can have its benefits, going out on your own can be much more rewarding in the long run.
As of 2020, freelance income made up 5% of the GDP in the US, and that number is steadily growing. If you’ve ever wanted to be your own boss and work when and how you want to, freelancing might be your dream come true.
As a successful freelancer, the world will be yours from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the gorgeous coasts of Croatia or the towering skyscrapers of New York.
However, freelancing comes with its own unique set of challenges. You’ll need to be ready for your share of heartbreak on the way to realizing your dreams, but it’s a little bit easier if you know what to expect. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for how to become a freelance digital marketer.
1. Foster An Optimistic Attitude
The hardest part of freelancing is getting started, so the most important thing you can have is a forward-thinking, can-do attitude. According to a survey that Payoneer performed, established freelancers rate their job satisfaction at an astonishing 4.1/5.
Freelancers see real value in their work, with 63% saying they look forward to going to work each day, 82% taking pride in their career, and 94% believing their work made a worthwhile contribution to the world.
This mindset is crucial to success in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to freelancing because you can’t just show up and clock in to make it. You have to put the actual work in.
We cannot stress just how important having a positive attitude can be. A positive attitude, a love of your work, and a drive to succeed will help you take your freelancing career to the next level. Without the right mindset, how are you going to take the next steps necessary in order to become a freelance digital marketer?
In order to be successful at digital marketing, especially as a freelancer, you have to be extremely organized. You need to follow deadlines, make sure you know how much money is going in and out, keep up with client information, and so much more.
If you’re not prepared for it, it can all quickly become overwhelming. So it’s best to get in the practice of staying organized from the very beginning of your freelance digital marketing career.
Here’s a general list of things you need to organize to get started:
Due to the nature of freelancing, you don’t get a lump sum check every so many weeks like most jobs do. Instead, you’re responsible for when you get paid. A lot of this is going to depend on when you send the invoice, when the client pays, and when the money finishes processing. This could mean you see your first freelance dollar anywhere between almost instantly, to over two weeks out from when you did the work. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in the middle.
Now that you’re on your own, you also have to deal with fees from whatever platform you choose to use to get paid. Some, like PayPal or Quickbooks, only take a small percentage. Others, like Upwork and Fiverr, take up to 20% of what you make. So it’s important to keep up with gross and net income.
Keeping copies of when invoices are sent and paid is also important so you always have a record of transactions. This is also true for any business expenses.
Dates and deadlines include when projects are due, and when you are meeting with clients. Just about any calendar will do ,but the key is to consistently log and check all dates, deadlines, and events.
It’s also a good idea to keep a planner or management platform so you can create a work schedule based on upcoming due dates. Asana is pretty good for both functions.
Always, always, always keep all information about the client tucked away where you can easily find it.
Write down the project agreement and the project budget/rate. Keep their account information (website logins, etc) all in the same place as well. These are all the practical things to keep, but you should take care to remember special details about them so you can maintain a positive relationship with them.
Do they have a dog that sometimes happens to come into the camera shot during a meeting? Make note that they own and love their dog. Did they mention they had a wife and kids? Write that down.
Your Personal Information
Lastly, keep up with your own personal information. This may sound silly because of course you’re not going to forget about your background or the projects you’ve done. But when put on the spot during a job interview, your mind just might blank.
So it’s helpful to write down your experiences and skills all in one place so you can easily pull them up and talk about them.
Becoming a freelance digital marketer isn’t easy, especially when you think about how much goes into it to make everything possible. But by getting organized on the front end and keeping up with it from there, you can do it just as well as any agency.
Being a jack of all trades is all well and good, but the best way to succeed as a freelancer is to pick out a niche. After all, no one can be an expert at everything. It’s better to be an expert at one single thing than to be mediocre at several things.
And, the US and other English-speaking nations such as the UK are experiencing a shortage of skilled marketers, so you can profit from this by seeking out a field where a skill gap exists.
By entering a field where marketers are in demand, you’re setting yourself up for success as a freelance digital marketer.
There are many different fields you could get into that are currently, and likely always going to be in high demand. Each is going to require a broad knowledge of marketing in general, but once you choose what you want to focus on, you can apply that broad knowledge to the specific skills required.
A few fields to choose from include:
When trying to make a decision and choose what your niche will be, ask yourself if it’s something you’re already naturally good at. And if you still can’t decide, go with what you know best. Chances are, you’re more familiar with some of these digital marketing techniques than others.
If you came from an agency, then you probably have all the online marketing skills you need to get started. But as you know, this industry is constantly changing.
Even if you already consider yourself an expert, you’ll need to stay on top of the latest trends in marketing, learn about all of the new apps and platforms coming out that offer an advantage over the competition, and more.
No matter which field you choose, there are plenty of resources to teach you the specifics of how to build your skill set, and many of these resources are completely free. Check out YouTube, read blogs, listen to podcasts, do research, interview others in your field, or even take some online courses that cover these topics.
Unlike many other career fields, this one requires a constant sharpening of knowledge. The more time you spend developing your skills, the more successful you’ll become.
Those coming from an agency will also be used to using all of the great websites, apps, and software out there that make digital marketing much easier. Programs like SEMRush, Moz, SparkToro, Asana, various CRMs, and many more can make your work easier. But you won’t have access to those tools once you go out on your own unless you have the cash to pay for them.
The best thing to do is determine which ones are absolutely necessary for your job, and which ones you can do without for the time being. You can also search for free options that are similar to what you’re looking for. Can you get by with these free options until you can upgrade? And how do you know when it’s time to upgrade?
In my experience, the best way to justify paying the monthly fee for these apps is to secure a client that will require the tool and use the funds from that first client to pay the monthly subscription fee.
As you increase your number of clients, your margins will also increase. If you need the app to perform some research to secure a client in the sales process, most of them offer a free trial. Be sure to take advantage of these.
Once you have a software stack in place, go all in and learn everything you can about them. Each of their features will provide you with the data you need to offer even more services. If you are going to pay the price for the apps, milk them for all they are worth and use their features as opportunities to up- and cross-sell to your existing clients.
Demand is high for digital marketers, so put in the effort to stick out and show your ability. Building out a portfolio will go much further than simply posting a CV to your website and hoping for the best.
If you have prior experience working in an agency, you can absolutely take advantage of that and showcase the projects you worked on in your portfolio. If you’re starting completely from scratch and don’t have much experience, this can be challenging. However, you can update your portfolio as you go.
You should also orient your portfolio around the industry you’re hoping to enter to demonstrate your area-specific expertise to potential clients.
Your portfolio of work and the case studies you build as a career freelance digital marketer are going to be some of the most important assets that you have complete control over. You should also use these projects to document your steps and approach so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you land another digital marketing client.
7. Get Started with the School for Freelancers
Consider the School for Freelancers team as your personal digital marketing freelancer guides. We’ve helped people from all walks of life learn how to be successful freelance digital marketers, and we want to help you achieve your dreams too.
We know the ins and outs of the freelancer world, so when it comes to figuring out how to be a digital marketing freelancer, we can help you avoid the biggest setbacks and ensure you stay on the right track. Check out our blogs for more tips and information, and apply today to get started with a personal freelancing coach!