The Ultimate Guide To Starting A Freelance Marketing Career
What is freelance marketing?
Freelance marketing is when a marketer works on a contract/freelance basis instead of being employed at one company. This way of working is preferable to many marketing professionals because it gives them the ability to work remotely, choose clients and set their rates.
Freelance marketing is a broad umbrella term for any marketer that does freelance work. Examples of freelance marketers include:
- Freelance writers
- Freelance graphic designers
- Freelance SEO specialists
- Freelance email marketers
- Freelance social media managers
These different roles vary, but they are all group under the freelance marketer definition. A freelance marketer does the exact same type of work a normal marketer does; they are just contract workers instead of full-time employees.
Although freelance marketing sounds like a dream career, the freelance marketer is fully responsible for basically every aspect of their job. This includes actually finding clients, doing the work, getting paid, etc.
Freelance work can be very volatile at times and can lead to unpredictable income until a freelance marketer establishes their business. Many freelance marketers choose to build their freelance business on the side and quit their 9 to 5 job once their business makes enough revenue each month.
How I started freelance marketing
I fumbled into freelance marketing a couple of years ago when I wanted to figure out how to make money online. I tried a bunch of things like selling products on eBay, doing transcriptions and a bunch of random stuff.
I came across a blog where people were claiming to make money by writing for companies online. I’m a pretty good writer and decided I’d give it a shot. I had 0 background in marketing, writing or any other similar discipline.
I started following freelance writing blogs and decided to give freelance writing a real effort. I set up a website in a day, did a few free blogs as samples for clients and started emailing (more like spamming) companies asking them if they needed writers.
After several months of hard work, I landed my first client and got paid.
Fast forward two years later, I’m a full-time freelance writer and blogger. Of course it wasn’t all roses and sunshine, but the ability of being able to work remotely on my terms makes it worth it.
The point of sharing this is to show you it’s possible to make a living freelance marketing if you put in the work over a period of time. You can go through my income reports, I’m very transparent with how I make money freelance marketing.
You will see over time, my skills with freelance marketing improve and so does my income. If you start today and apply yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t be a full-time freelance marketer in a few years. As long as you don’t quit, you will get there eventually.
What do you actually do in freelance marketing?
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of how freelance marketing, let’s actually cover what do you do. The short answer is the day to day activities you are paid for will vary based on your freelance marketing career.
For example, I’m a freelance writer. What I do is very different from what a freelance graphic designer or any other freelance marketer might do.
As a freelance writer, here’s what I actually do on a daily basis:
- Write content for clients
- This includes blogs, case studies, white papers, etc (this is what I’m paid to do)
- Edit content based on client feedback
- Email companies to look for new work
- Send invoices periodically for the work I do
- Very, very occasional zoom calls when meeting some new clients (once per 2 months)
Another freelance marketer’s schedule may differ, but it’s likely very similar. For the most part you’re either doing the marketing work (writing, graphic design, etc) or you’re communicating with clients via email.
Can you make a full-time income with freelance marketing?
Yes, but it takes work and time. Most people find out about freelance marketing by seeing someone else do it. This can be a YouTube video, a blog post, etc. The truth is anyone can make a full-time income with freelance marketing, but it will likely take some time.
Here’s what my trajectory looked like, I’m in my 3rd year of freelance writing:
- Year 1: $10,000
- Year 2: $29,000
- Year 3: $45,000-50,000 (projected, based on the first 6 months of 2021)
As you can see, it takes time to build any meaningful business. When I first started freelance writing, I thought I was going to make $5,000 a month within 6 months. Although that’s possible, it’s not likely.
What actually happened was I built my client base slowly and continued to market myself as a freelance writer. I typically earn anywhere between $3,000-$6,000 (mostly around $4,000) per month depending on how much client work I get.
In the early days, I was still in college and still had a night time job. These were critical because my business was super unreliable. Now that I’ve improved my skills and experience, I can do this full-time.
To make a full-time income with freelance marketing, it comes down to a few things:
- How well can you find quality clients
- How good are you at your specific skill
That’s it. If you can market yourself well and do a good job for clients, you’ll make a full-time income in likely two years.
How can you get started in freelance marketing?
Getting started is pretty simple, but you have to focus. It’s very easy to get distracted early on and focus on shiny things instead of doing the real work. Here’s a blueprint you can use to launch your freelance marketing career.
Find your skill:
This is probably the most important thing you can take from this blog. A freelance marketer isn’t just some random person who gets paid to do some online work, you actually need to find and learn a skill.
In my case, it’s writing. I picked writing because I already had a good writing foundation and I could pick up on the freelance skills when I got my first client.
You have to narrow down what you are good or what you want to learn. It can be writing, graphic design, email marketing, etc.
If you take anything from this blog, it’s to find and learn a skill you are interested in. This is what will actually get you paid. If you’re already in a marketing job, you can offer what you do as a freelancer.
Get a website
Once you’ve picked your skill, get a website to show your portfolio/work samples. When you talk with clients over email, they may request samples of work, your LinkedIn or your website.
Getting a website is the first step for you to establish your online presence. If someone looks you up right now, they might see your LinkedIn page, Twitter or a similar result on Google.
Your website will be where you can establish your new identity as a professional freelance marketer. Do you need a website to do freelance work? No, but it helps establish your authority as a professional marketer and companies will take you more seriously.
With a website, you can also have a professional email address that your clients will see. (Ex. email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org)
Find how to get clients and repeat
Depending on the type of freelance marketer you decide to be, different marketing strategies will work better than others.
For example, I’m a writer that writers for small to medium sized IT/tech companies. I won’t find my clients on Instagram.
I use LinkedIn to find emails of contacts at the companies I want to work for then I send them emails asking if they need writing services.
To land clients, your success will depend on how much outreach you do. The more people you call/email, the better your chances are of getting clients.
You need to figure out where your ideal clients are and reach out to them. For example, emailing will work for me while sending Instagram DMs will work better for a graphic designer.
Get any certifications needed
Although many freelance marketing paths don’t need a formal training program or certification, it definitely helps with landing some clients.
Getting the relevant Google or other marketing certifications will definitely help you in establishing your skill and credibility as a marketer.
For example, you can get a free Google certification if you take a course in the Google Digital Marketing program. This will show clients you are competent at using Google tools like Google Analytics and other programs.
Additionally, you will get a certification for completing it that you can use to sell clients on your credibility. Make sure to explore the different types of certifications your marketing role demands and try to get certified.
Tips to help you get started in freelance marketing
Hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back after spending a few years doing freelance work, I would definitely do several things differently that would improve my success dramatically. These tips include:
As cliché as it sounds, focus is the primary factor in determining how successful you’ll be at anything. More specifically, you will need to focus on what actually gets you result instead of doing “busy work”. Let’s go through my freelance business to illustrate this.
For my freelance writing business, I get 99% of my clients through email marketing. This means if I’m not sending emails, replying to emails or actually doing client work, I’m wasting my time.
All of the other things like reading articles, watching YouTube videos, etc, are all “feel good” activities that don’t actually impact how much money I make.
This was my work schedule that I used to become a full-time freelance writer.
- 6 hours a day sending emails (Yes, 6 hours)
- 2 hours a day doing client work
I set my rate to at least $100 per blog or content piece I wrote for clients. At that rate if I just did one piece of work each day, I’d earn $3,000 per month.
I chose to not work with clients who offered less than that rate because I could be using that time to find clients that fit my desired budget.
You can use this same approach in your freelance marketing career. Find exactly how you find clients (emailing, DMs, calling, etc) and double down on what works until you’re fully booked.
Join an online community
Joining an online community is the right personal development and business decision if you’re serious about freelance marketing. The truth is freelance marketing can be very lonely because it’s a self-paced career where you’re fully responsible for your failures and successes. 90% of the people I know have no clue what I do for a living, so it’s hard to relate to others.
Finding an online community where you can share your progress is monumental. I’d personally recommend joining Twitter if you already haven’t and start following freelance marketers. Marketing Twitter is pretty fun and they’re generally very helpful.
I’ve even landed a $7,500 gig directly from interacting with marketing people on Twitter. If you haven’t already, you should make a Twitter account, search for freelance marketers and follow a few of them.
Have an online presence:
As someone who’s very introverted, the last thing I wanted was to get on social media and advertise myself. Prior to starting freelance marketing, I had virtually zero social media presence.
What I quickly realized was the most successful freelance marketers build audiences and work comes to them organically. Obviously this takes time; if you start a blog, YouTube, Twitter account, etc., it will take time before clients actually start reaching out to you.
Having a website/blog/Twitter where you talk about your specific freelance marketing career once a week will put you ahead of 99% of other freelance marketers. Not only does it makes it you look professional to clients, it helps establish you as an authority in your field.