4 Steps To Build Your Career As A Freelance Digital Marketer

Digital marketing is one of the top paying remote work niches right now. The compensation will likely remain high as companies keep ramping up their digital marketing spending. This year worldwide digital ad spending is expected to rise by 17.6% to $333.25 billion and reach an astonishing $517.51 billion by 2023. A fair share of those budgets will go into hiring top digital marketers, both in-house and on an ad hoc, freelance basis.

So how do you become one of the top digital marketers for hire? Below are several helpful steps that should help you steer your career in the right direction. 

1. Give your mindset a quick check

As an employee, you are probably used to getting things done as per your boss’s requests. Typically, you are given a general direction for a project and you move on from there. As a freelancer, you will often need to become more proactive and actively take initiative yourself. Some clients will come to you with a solid action plan in mind. Others, on the contrary, may seek your expertise to help them devise a successful digital marketing strategy from scratch, or suggest what’s the best growth strategy for their business. You’ll have to jump into new situations all the time – deal with the potential mess left over by the past manager, research and test new tactics, suggest experiments and persuade the client why your advice will work better than what they originally had in mind. 

This also means that you’ll need to work on your self-confidence and assertiveness to some extent. Imposter syndrome will be your close companion in the early stages, so make sure that you are not caving to it. You will have to always keep in mind that your success is not defined by what others are saying or some other outside factors. It’s directly attributed to your internal competency. Hence, focus on great execution, not reaching some mythical perfection. 

2. Choose the right direction 

Digital marketing is a broad niche, encompassing loads of sub-disciplines – search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), conversion rate optimization (CRO), content marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) and so on. Perhaps, you’ve already worn several hats during your in-office tenure and juggled several things at once. 

But as a freelance ‘gun for hire’, it’s best if you pick one core specialty and stick to it. This way you can avoid spreading yourself too thin on surface-level tasks in multiple practice areas and develop real mastery in one core area. So rather than being a generalist social media influencer, be an Instagram personality for high end clothing brands, for instance.

“Being a specialist rather than a generalist will allow you to build your personal brand and authority faster, attract a better cohort of clients and command higher rates,” said Dani Owens, CEO of Pigzilla. “Folks who grow to become t-shaped marketers with general knowledge in a broad array of skills and deep knowledge in a few or even a single one command much higher rates and deliver more bang for the client’s buck.”

3. Set up your website and publish a “signature offer” 

Having a portfolio or personal website for digital marketers is non-optional. After all, how you can sell your marketing expertise without actually showing what you can do? So invest in a quick website early on, gather some testimonials and feedback from your past employers or colleagues and set up your social media presence.  This way you’ll have several avenues for attracting leads and a quick reference board for prospects who are considering you against others.

Here’s one other savvy trick you can do: create and publish a “signature offer” on your website – a value-packed, yet easy-to-do service that you can pitch to potential customers. For instance, it could be something as simple as “Discounted 2-hour SEO audit for $150. Available to new clients only”. Your goal is to brainstorm some important, but non-critical task a client can feel comfortable with entrusting to a stranger on the other side of the screen. 

Ultimately, such an offer can become your foot in the door and help you start a relationship with a new client and grow it from there. 

4. Network a lot 

Securing those first few gigs will be the toughest. So get proactive early on and start putting your name out there before you leave your day job. More specifically, you should:

  • Join and participate in niche marketing communities. The popular ones among the marketing crowd are Growth.org (former Inbound.org) and Moz
  • Later, send out quick LOIs (letter of introduction) to the people you’ve engaged with online. Explain what you are doing and ask if you can be of any help to their company. 
  • You can also reach out to your past colleagues and friends, asking them to make some intros or provide referrals within their organization. 
  • Finally, don’t discard offline networking. Mingle with the crowd at your local co-working space and attend workshops and local business events that may help you connect with new prospects. 

Most importantly, use all your digital marketing expertise towards promoting yourself (just as you did with your clients’ businesses) and building a buzz around your name. 

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