Taking a leap of faith into a freelance marketing career can be a scary endeavor. Luckily, we’re here to help explain what it takes to transition to freelancing and how you can set yourself up for success.
Maybe you’ve been working for a marketing agency for a while and are in dire need of a change. Or perhaps you just want to see what you’re made of, write your own rules, and start your own freelance career. There are many upsides to pursuing freelance marketing work, but you should educate yourself before deciding to go all in.
In this article, we’ll give you a step-by-step process you can follow to get your freelancing career off the ground and start getting clients in no time.
1. Weigh the Pros and Cons
It’s important to manage your expectations and understand the pros and cons before you even think about entering the freelance marketing space. While there are many perks to being a freelance marketer, there are still some downsides you should know about.
Pros of Freelance Marketing
A huge draw for those who contemplate freelancing is that you are your own boss. It can provide an excellent work-life balance. You can decide when you want to work, where you work from, and how much work you take on.
It’s also quite exciting. You will have a wide variety of projects and clients, so you’ll never get bored with your job.
You even have quite a bit of control over how much money you can make. You’ll be setting your own rates and choosing how many projects you have on your plate.
Cons of Freelance Marketing
Freelance marketing is an ultra-competitive space. There will be thousands of other freelancers competing for the same projects. This can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re trying to land your first clients.
Your income will also vary from month to month. You may have some really great months when you pull in thousands of dollars, while other months may only bring in a few hundred. Freelance marketing may not be the right choice if you can’t come to terms with having a fluctuating income.
You should also realize that you won’t have the safety net that a full-time marketing role offers. We’re talking about things like 401(k), health insurance, or company-sponsored professional development.
The next step is defining your marketing services if you think freelancing is the right fit for you.
2. Define Your Services
The services you offer will depend on which digital marketing skills you have and what areas you specialize in. Take a look at your professional experience to figure out what your strong suits are. Freelance marketing services typically fall within the following buckets.
Content marketing consists of creating organic content that drives traffic to your client’s website. This can include content creation, copywriting, optimizing content marketing strategies, or distributing content across marketing channels.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing entails managing clients’ social media properties. You’ll be creating social media strategies and executing your plan. This will involve posting on a variety of platforms and engaging with the community across all social media channels.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO specialists help clients rank on the first page of Google. To do so, you’ll need to conduct keyword research, competitive analysis, and optimize web properties to include the appropriate search terms that people may be searching for.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing can sometimes be confused with SEO. Search engine marketing includes running ads on search engines to get your clients noticed when potential customers are searching for certain terms.
What’s the point of throwing money at marketing efforts if you can’t measure the success or optimize processes? That’s where digital analytics come into play. Analytics specialists help companies understand their data and find opportunities to improve their business.
Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
PPC ads are those you would see on social media channels or anywhere else across the web. These can include Google Ads or Facebook Ads. PPC specialists who can optimize clients’ spending and increase engagement rates are in high demand.
Email marketing consists of handling a company’s email list and communicating with their current customers and potential clients. You’ll be refining email messaging, managing drip email campaigns, and finding ways to improve email engagement rates.
Once you decide which type of service aligns with your skillset, it’s time to choose your marketing niche.
3. Choose Your Marketing Niche
It will be an uphill battle if you claim to be an expert in all areas and try to find clients across a wide range of industries. It’s important that you stay focused and find your own little marketing niche.
Being more focused on a certain niche will make landing clients much easier. That’s because you can approach clients for which you have relevant experience that aligns with their business model.
You’ve already decided which services you want to offer — that’s the first step of finding your niche. There are a few more ways you can carve out your own freelance marketing niche.
One way is to focus on certain types of companies. For example, let’s say you’re a content marketer. You can narrow your focus by managing content for only restaurants and cafes. This will show that you’re an expert in this area and other food-related companies will be lining up to do business with you.
You can also decide to narrow your focus by working with companies of certain sizes and in different markets. For instance, you could specialize in working with small businesses in the e-commerce space or companies that cater a German-speaking audience.
4. Set Your Price
This may be one of the trickier parts of becoming a freelance marketer. How in the world can you know how much to charge if you’ve never freelanced before?
An easy way to get a baseline is to do a quick Google search and find out what other freelance marketers might be charging. You can scour through forums or look at freelance websites like Upwork to get a good idea.
You can also come up with an appropriate figure by comparing what you made at your previous marketing gig. Determine what your hourly wage was and use that as a starting point. Be sure to not set your rates below this number.
The next thing you need to decide is how you’ll charge clients. You have three options — hourly rates, fixed project rates, or a retainer.
Hourly rates are self-explanatory. You charge clients for every hour of work you dedicate to their project.
A fixed project price means your clients will pay you one lump sum for the entire project. This will reward you for the value you provide rather than the sheer amount of hours you put in.
The last option is a project retainer. This is a set monthly payment that you’ll decide on with your client. You will receive the same amount of money each month, but the amount of work and deliverables could fluctuate.
Your rates are set. Now let’s find you some clients.
5. Find Your First Clients
Using freelance websites and networking will help you land your first freelance project. You can then start to receive referral business once you’re up and running and your freelance business is more established.
Freelance websites may be the easiest way to find new clients. Companies will post their projects, giving you an all-in-one place to find work. There are endless jobs you can try to win, however, there can be immense competition. Many freelance websites will also require payment to join and may take a cut of your profits from the work you complete.
Here are some freelance websites you can look into if you want to go that route:
You can also start networking within your professional communities. One way to get the word out is through your LinkedIn profile.
Make sure your LinkedIn is polished and up to date, and get more active on the platform. You can start posting thought leadership content that shows your expertise in the field. You can then describe your offerings and hope that you can find some marketing jobs through the platform.
After you’ve established yourself, you can then lean on referrals to obtain more business. When you knock a project out of the park with high-quality work, ask your clients for feedback and encourage them to pass your name along to any other customers in need. You can even incentivize them by giving them a reduced rate on future projects if they send a new client your way.
Putting in the Work
We’re not going to lie — transitioning into a freelance career will take time, dedication, and effort. It won’t be easy at first, but if you stick with it and do great work, you’ll continue to land more and more clients. You can start off slow by doing it part-time until you think you have enough business to pursue it as a full-time endeavor.
If you’re interested in polishing up on your digital marketing skills before making the transition, then be sure to check out our guide to growth hacking.