freelance digital marketing ultimate guide

Freelance Digital Marketing - The Ultimate Guide 

What do you get when you put together two of the decade's biggest buzzwords?

‘Freelance’ + ‘Digital Marketing’…

An exciting new industry with an abundance of untapped career potential... that’s what!

And because Thrive Themes is uniquely suited to help both freelancers and marketers build their businesses and create awesome marketing campaigns for their websites (and their client’s websites), we’re bringing the goods in this mega guide on freelance digital marketing.

This 7 part guide will give you everything you need to start your career, succeed, and grow as a freelance marketer.

This guide is so in-depth, we’ve separated it into 6 chapters, each designed to help you with a critical aspect of your new career: 

So where do you even start? Good news... You already have!

This is Chapter 0.


Continue reading below and you’re going to learn everything you need to know before throwing caution to the wind, quitting your job, and planting your flag as a freelance marketer.

How does this industry work?

What are you getting yourself into?

What would you be doing, and how much can you get paid?

All these important head-scratching questions we’ll answer before you even get to chapter 1.

By the end of this introduction, we’ll make sure you’re on the right page to devour the rest of this ultimate guide and make take some huge steps forward into a new freelance career.

Here’s what we’re going to cover today:


But why choose this particular freelance career over all the others?

Why not be a freelance graphic designer, or a ghost writer?

Let’s explore the potential of this amazing career path.

Why Become A Freelance Marketer In The First Place?

IBISWorld reports that the Internet Publishing and Broadcasting Industry - including digital marketing and advertising - is the third fastest growing industry in 2019 in terms of revenue. 

That means businesses are spending bucket loads of cash on digital marketing...

And there’s a TON of opportunity for freelance digital marketing specialists to grab their piece of the pie.

Money being spent on online marketing is increasing - faster than the normal growth rate of other industries.

This means by becoming a freelance digital marketer, you’re going where the demand is and positioning yourself in a fast growing industry with a ton of opportunity for career growth and financial growth.

Even industries not connected to digital marketing are growing because of digital marketing and improved online connectivity:

“Internet publishing and broadcasting, e-commerce and online auctions, dating services, database, storage and backup software publishing, data processing and hosting services and taxi and limousine services are all tied to the continued expansion of internet connectivity and the saturation of online services.”

If you’re thinking this sounds like a promising area to get into, you’d be right!

Whether you are already a career digital marketer looking to become a freelancer, or looking for a career change in a growing industry, this complete guide to freelance digital marketing will become your go-to resource.

But before you go chasing the digital marketing cash-cow, let’s take a look at what digital marketing actually is, where it’s going and the best ways for you to get involved.

What Is Freelance Digital Marketing?

what is freelance digital marketing

Image source: Wikimedia

Let’s break it down.

“What is a freelancer?”

A Freelancer is someone working on a per project or contract basis, usually for a variety of different companies. A freelancer is responsible for getting clients, setting their own rates, billing their clients, and paying their own taxes. In the US, you’re typically a 10-99 contractor.

“What is digital marketing?”

Digital Marketing refers to any sort of marketing done online or through electronic devices, for example creating and managing a Facebook ads campaign.

Freelance digital marketing refers to someone (the freelancer) offering a service(s) that helps a company to market its brand, product or service - online.

Sound broad? That’s because it is.

This term ‘digital marketing’ covers an ever expanding scope of strategies - meaning the services you can offer as a freelancer in the field are expanding too.

Now we promised this would be a complete guide - so you know we can’t just leave it at, “yeah, it’s pretty broad...”.

We’ll be going over exactly how you can get involved in this expanding digital marketing trend.

Let’s go over the main types of digital marketing that freelancers are specializing in.

The Different Types of Digital Marketing

Types of digital marketing vary depending on how you choose to categorize them.

For example, you can categorize by platform (social media marketing, search engine marketing etc.), by strategy (disruption marketing, relationship marketing), or even by where you market to the customer (outbound vs. inbound).

types of digital marketing

Don’t worry. We’ll cover how to choose your digital marketing speciality within the ‘What You Should Specialize In’ chapter of this guide.

But for now, here’s a quick outline of the 6 most common types of digital marketing:


  • Paid Advertising: Paying to display an ad on a platform. Examples include: Facebook ads, Google Ads, Quora and Reddit ads, Amazon PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads and Google AdSense
  • Social Media Marketing: Utilizing social platforms to organically reach new customers and nurture existing fans. Examples are Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
  • Content Marketing: Creating valuable content in a way that draws search traffic and adds value to a brand, website or chosen platform (YouTube, Instagram etc.). This can be done through blog posts, videos, images, or any other form of ‘content’.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Optimizing content, websites and/or other platforms to increase the chances of showing up at the top of a search result page from a search engine (e.g. Google) query. 
  • Conversion Marketing: Digital marketing doesn’t just stop when people arrive to a website or online platform. Conversion Marketing takes the wheel at this point, optimizing everything from what a visitor first sees to encouraging a specific conversion goal, with the end goal of improving conversion rates (the percentage of visitors that take a valuable action) throughout the marketing funnel. Usually conversion marketing focuses on lead generation (i.e. email list building) and product sales. Conversion marketers specialize in creating landing pages, opt-in forms, sales pages, email marketing campaigns and webinars. 
  • Affiliate and Influencer Marketing: Refers to putting a reward system in place for those who refer or recommend a certain brand or product. Affiliates usually get a percentage of the sale, while influencers usually get a once off-payment or free product.

Within these different types of marketing, there are different experts and specialists.

Digital marketing freelancers can specialize in any number of fields within those broad marketing categories.

Examples of digital marketing specialties are:


  • Copywriters: Persuasive writing specialists that craft text (also referred to as ‘copy’) to get readers to carry out a desired action or conversion goal.
  • Paid Ads Experts: Paid advertising campaign experts that usually specialize on crafting & monitoring ads for specific platforms (e.g. Facebook ads, Google Adwords, Amazon Ads, etc.). 
  • Affiliate Marketing Managers: Experts that manage affiliate marketing programs for brands, products or services. These managers focus on signing up new and influential affiliate partners who have large audiences, handling current affiliates and keeping them happy, as well as managing the platforms that track affiliate sales and pay out affiliate commissions. 
  • Email Marketing Specialists: Email marketing specialists that create email campaigns and sales funnels. The campaigns are focused around a series of persuasive emails designed to achieve a specific conversion goal, usually a product purchase.

And we’re just getting started! The specialist roles above are just a drop in the ocean compared to the full range of digital marketing specialties you can get into. 

Digital Marketing Trends - How It Affects Your Freelancing Business

The constant advancements in digital technologies are rapidly influencing the digital marketing space.

Two of the main factors leading these changes are the level of automation possible and new developments in AI.

To give you a taste of what’s going on, here are some of the biggest trends in digital marketing:

VR & Augmented Reality:

Giving customers a ‘try before you buy’ experience that allows retailers to tackle their customer’s fear of the unknown. This trend is especially useful for fashion, makeup and homewares.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

Advances in the capabilities and accessibility of artificial intelligence means even everyday businesses have the chance to include this technology in their marketing strategies. AI can be used for a variety of tasks, from instant computer-written blog posts to full on sales conversations with prospective clients.

Personalization

It’s not enough to send one email to your list of 5000 people. Those 5000 people most likely have different interests, pain points and buy triggers. Nowadays, if you are not personalizing your content and emails based on the abundance of customer data available - you’re leaving money on the table.

Chatbots

This technology allows businesses to have one-on-one conversations with prospects at scale. Automation and AI mean one-on-one interactions are possible without a real customer service employee behind every chat.

Live Video

As customer desire for more authentic sales interactions and conversations grows, live video has been pushed into the spotlight. It’s a way to show a more human side to a brand, and give consumers an almost behind the scenes look at the product or service they’re considering. Used correctly it can help form a lasting relationship between consumers and brands.

User-generated Content

Consumers no longer look towards heavily filtered brand generated content to make their buying decisions. With ever increasing access to user generated content - through social media posts, blog articles and customer reviews - consumers can make a buying decision without seeing anything released by the brand itself. Therefore, encouraging positive user generated content - through influencer marketing, affiliate channels and various other strategies - is becoming a very lucrative niche. This field will only grow as UGC becomes the trusted source of buying information.

Mobile Focused Content

It’s not about ‘optimizing for mobile’ anymore - it’s about building specifically for mobile. Smartphones have overtaken computers as the primary device used to access the internet in most countries. This means mobiles should no longer be an afterthought when creating digital campaigns - they should be the primary focus. If you can position yourself as a specialist in mobile content creation, your demand is only going to grow.

Knowing which way the wind blows in the marketing landscape will help you make better decisions on skills to learn, clients to engage, and where to invest your hard earned time and money. 

Should You Become a Freelance Digital Marketer?

So let’s review what we’ve covered so far, and see if becoming a freelance digital marketer makes sense for you:

  • Digital marketing is a growing industry 
  • There’s an abundance of opportunity

But is this career the right move for you?

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and downsides of a freelance digital marketing business. 

The Benefits of Freelance Digital Marketing

With the low barrier for entry, it’s easy to get started as a freelance digital marketer, and comes with some awesome benefits.

For those just starting out: 

  • You can start a freelance career with little to no experience. 
  • No capital is required, you can get started as long as you have a working laptop to deliver your digital products with.

One of the biggest benefits of this field - often cited by freelancers - is the ability to work from home or from anywhere in the world. 

digital nomad

Image source: Marco Verch

With the Digital Nomad movement at its peak, location freedom is a massively sought after lifestyle perk that more and more people are aspiring to. Eliminating commutes, being present when your kids get home from school, or working from a coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Along with location freedom comes the ability to set your own hours. Want to work only in the mornings or weekends and free up other blocks of time for other pursuits? You can do that as a freelancer.

Another often cited benefit of freelancing is being able to set your own rates and choose how you get paid. Common freelance payment structures include hourly rates, retainer fees, payment on deliverable or revenue sharing. We’ll get more into what the best model for you is in the Pricing Chapter.

Flexibility in who you work with also comes with another massive benefit: the ability to have a variety of clients let’s you work on multiple projects and decreases your reliance on one employer or income stream.

Freelancers that successfully manage multiple clients (more on that in the scaling chapter) and multiple revenue sources are able to decrease financial risk.

Being a freelancer is essentially being your own boss, so suits entrepreneurial types well, and they often mention this as one of the greatest benefits of freelancing. You run the show. You get to decide your business culture, principles, working hours, and even who you work with. 

The Downsides of Being a Freelance Digital Marketer

Along with the benefits of freelancing, there’s also some very real downsides that should be taken into account before starting your digital marketing career.

Creating stable month-to-month income that’s reliable can be difficult and leads to income insecurity. It can often be difficult to scale your freelancing business to multiple clients, and having only one client or project you’re working on puts you at financial risk.

Since you’re basically a business owner, you’re ultimately the one responsible for everything. Everything is on your shoulders. No boss to tell you what to do, no company to absorb any mistakes. It’s all on you.

That means you’re also on the hook for managing everything on the financial side, including taxes, benefits, health insurance, and other necessities.

Unless you’re awesome at managing your own finances and taxes, you’re best off outsourcing some of this work to a CPA or bookkeeper.

You’re also on the hook for finding and retaining your own clients (more of that covered in our client retention and client acquisition chapters), which can put a huge financial and time burden on the freelancer.

Unlike in a company, you're no longer part of a well oiled system that delivers work straight to your doorstep. You need to learn how to market yourself in order to get clients. No matter what specialty you decide on, self-marketing your services is one skill every freelancer has to master.

However, many of the downsides to working as a freelance marketer can be avoided with the right planning and execution.

Use this guide and subsequent chapters to navigate and avoid the most common pitfalls freelance digital marketers face.

What Does the Day-to-Day Life of a Digital Marketing Freelancer Look Like?​

As a freelancer, you get to choose how you spend your time.

However, there are some tasks that all digital marketers will have to perform regularly to keep their businesses running smoothly.

Here's a few examples:


  • Generating New Clients: You will need to implement and maintain strategies to consistently find new clients.
  • Calls with Clients: Communicating regularly with clients to get the specs of a project, talk about changes, give updates on your progress and demonstrate your measurables are all part of the job description.
  • Reviewing Your Campaigns: Analysing and reporting on the success of your campaigns is critical to conveying the impact your work is having.
  • Implementing Campaigns and Projects: (A.K.A doing the actual work!) No matter what you specialize in, most of your time will be taken up delivering on your speciality, whether it be setting up ad campaigns, writing copy, contacting influencers, etc.

Freelance Digital Marketing Salary

As a digital marketing freelancer, you don’t get a salary.

There are many different ways to get paid as a freelancer, but ultimately it’s you (and the market) who establishes your rate, not any one company.

Rates for digital marketing freelancers can range from $5/hr to over $500/hr. It really depends on what you provide and how you offer it.

freelance social media manager job

UpWork.com is a great place to find freelance marketing jobs.

In fact, each digital marketing freelancer gets to decide how lucrative their business is.

Now, this is not to say you can just throw out a number and companies will pay up. You need to do some number crunching to establish your desired income - and then make sure that number fits with what the market you want to serve will pay.

We’ll cover how to find this ‘deserved income’ + ‘market you want to serve’ match in the What to Specialize In chapter of this guide.

But on top of what you want to earn, there are many different ways to charge for your services - which we’ll get into in-depth in the pricing chapter.

How To Become a Freelance Digital Marketer

If you’re wondering how to become a freelancer and specifically considering a digital marketing freelancing career... then you’ve found the best guide on the internet for getting started.

Given the low barrier to entry to starting a freelancing career, with the right intent and planning, there’s little keeping you from launching a savvy side-hustle as soon as today.

Read through each chapter in this guide and take notes as we cover in-depth every single aspect to starting a freelance marketing career. 

Do You Need Skills or Experience to Become a Digital Freelancer?

One of the main benefits of choosing this career path is that you can start with little or no experience.

Depending on the complexity of the service you offer, you can either:


  • Start offering the service straight away and learn as you go - suitable for low complexity offerings such as social media management.
  • Or, train yourself to become an expert in a topic/subject/service, then start taking clients - suitable for high complexity offerings such as customer attribution management.

Training yourself can be as simple as going through some online courses on a given topic.

For example, if you want to become a freelance SEO, there are courses that will get you up and running with the fundamentals of SEO so you can start selling your services.

There are advanced courses available online for all sorts of digital marketing specialities, and many are very affordable.

digital marketing courses

Udemy.com is a great place to find affordable digital marketing courses.

We will cover how to evaluate whether a course is good or not in the Day-to-Day Running Chapter.

Another strategy for building up your skills once you’ve chosen a specialty is to do an apprenticeship.

Find agencies or people who are offering the service you want to specialize in and offer to work for them (usually for free) for a set amount of time to learn the ropes and build up a portfolio. In exchange, they’ll give you real world experience doing the work of a digital marketing specialist.

Yet another great way to polish up your skills once you start taking your own clients is to take on testimonial clients at a free or discounted rate.

They engage in your services and under the agreement they’ll give you a testimonial at the end. Typically you would do a small project in return for a testimonial.

This gives you a low-pressure way to craft your skills, plus… you get testimonials, and a potential client to upsell into other services!

The Right Mindset

It can be a very rough transition coming from the security of a full-time job into freelance based work.

Maintaining the right mindset will not only make the journey as painless as possible - it’s essential for building a sustainable and fruitful freelance business.

Here are the 6 most important mindset shifts you’ll need when starting a freelancing career:


  1. Be prepared for hardship and setbacks - they’re how you learn and grow. Taking it personally and beating yourself up doesn’t help the situation. Instead, figure out what you can learn and put systems and solutions in place to prevent the issue from happening in the future. Doing this means you’re leveling up your freelance business each time you make a mistake.
  2. Choose your mentors and sources of information carefully. Your inputs, who you listen to and who you learn from will determine your outputs. A lot of online courses out there are over hyped and designed to sell the course, not get results for its students. We’ll go through how to choose your sources of information in the What to Specialize In chapter.
  3. Take a long term approach. You must be willing to grow slow. This is not going to be a cash-cow from day one. You’ll need to spend countless unpaid hours creating systems for yourself and experimenting. You’ll also lose money on mistakes such as misjudging the scope of work and promising too much for too low a price. You must see these costly missteps as investments in your freelance business, rather than confidence shattering roadblocks.
  4. Accept that it’s not going to be easy. Any niche, field, or business model that has a low barrier to entry has cut-throat competition because everyone and their dog is setting up their own freelance business in that field. Set yourself apart by investing the time necessary to learn and master your niche. Engage in research, free work, courses and peer learning to ensure you’re the best you can be in our given niche.
  5. Focus on building systems. This is the key to growing and scaling your freelance business. Optimizing everything from invoices to client updates will ensure you have more time to deliver more work to more clients. Systems, systems, and systems are the only way to scale.
  6. Overdeliver: It’s essential that you focus on not only providing value to your clients, but over-delivering compared to the final product they expect. This will not only get you rehired, but will amass you raving testimonials and word-of-mouth referrals that will skyrocket your business.

The Complete Digital Marketing Freelancer Guide - Chapter Breakdown

Overwhelmed yet?

While this may seem like a big undertaking, with the right mindset, guidance and a lot of hard work, you can have your own successful freelance career.

Whether you are just starting out or are already a digital marketing freelancer looking to grow your business, this guide will be useful for you.

There are 6 chapters in total in this guide: 

Here’s an overview of each chapter in this guide:

chapter 1 what to specialize in

Chapter 1: What to Specialize In As A Freelance Digital Marketer

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:

  1. The different types of freelance digital marketing 
  2. How to decide what you should offer - with a step-by-step guide
  3. How to choose your niche and who you should work with
  4. How to set your service up in a way that can be productized and scaled in the future

CHAPTER 1 MILESTONE:

Choose your freelance digital marketing niche.

Choosing the right service to offer in a profitable niche at the very start of your freelance journey will save you countless trips back to the drawing board.

If you already have a digital marketing freelance service and find you’re aren’t gaining traction, or you’re just getting started and not sure which niche you should focus on, then this is the chapter for you.

By clearly defining your niche, deciding on the exact services you offer and identifying who you are offering them to, you’ll find that your workflow, marketing, and systems will build on themselves. Offering the same thing to the same people also means you can make use of the work you have done in the past to get new client work done faster.

Although it can be tempting to offer everything under the sun, you’ll end up doing a disservice to both yourself and your clients. Avoid falling into the jack of all trades - master of none - trap.

Rather than reinventing the wheel every time you take on a new client, sticking with one service for one niche allows you to:

  • Become an expert and authority in your niche
  • Find clients more easily since your services are so targeted
  • Systematize your services since you’re focusing on delivering the same offerings to multiple people, rather than doing something new for each and every new client
chapter 2 - freelance pricing strategy

​Chapter 2: Pricing Strategy - How To Price Your Freelance Marketing Business

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN :

  • How to figure out your pricing model (per project, hourly, etc.)
  • How to get paid as a freelancer. 
  • How to create a freelance invoice and the best invoicing apps for freelancers. 
  • How to protect yourself from clients that don’t pay. 

CHAPTER 2 MILESTONE:

Figure out the perfect pricing model for your services and set up your pricing infrastructure.

Pricing is one of the most complex parts of a freelance business, so if you’re wondering how much do digital marketers make, this chapter will answer every question you have around pricing your freelance services.

Working out which pricing model to choose for yourself, how much to charge and how to quote accurately can be a huge source of anxiety for even the most experienced freelancers.

This chapter is going to be your go to guide on everything freelance pricing.

chapter 3 - client acquisition

​Chapter 3: Client Acquisition - How To Get Freelance Marketing Clients

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:

  • The best way to find and approach freelance clients.
  • How to overcome objections with game-changing proposals (plus our favorite freelance proposal template).
  • How to pitch clients, win their trust, and get clients FAST.
  • How - and why - you should create a one-page Freelance website. 

CHAPTER 3 MILESTONE:

Figure out your perfect client acquisition strategy for your digital marketing business.

So you’ve chosen your niche and are raring to go… but there’s one small detail missing.

Clients!

In this chapter we will show you how to get freelance clients.

We’ll also take you through how to win a client once you’ve gotten their attention, by creating can’t-say-no proposals. 

​Chapter 4: Operations - How To Manage Your Freelance Marketing Business Like A Pro

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:

  • How to create a freelancer routine that works for you, not against you. 
  • How to manage your time like a pro; time is money, especially when you’re billing for it.
  • The best freelancer software tools to manage your operations and time. 
  • The top 3 mistakes freelancers (especially beginners) make, and how to avoid these common business-killing missteps.

CHAPTER 4 MILESTONE:

Create a game-changing operations strategy to turn your freelance business into a smooth running machine.

Does ‘haphazard’ come to mind when you think about the way you’re running your freelance business?

It can be so easy to get stuck in putting out day to day fires that you never establish the systems needed to run your freelance business efficiently (let alone in a way that’s possible to scale and grow).

In this chapter, you’ll learn best practices for running the day-to-day operations of your freelance business.

We’ll cover task and time management, important rules to remember, and the best apps and tools for your day-to-day operations.

Get ready to finally experience a little order in your freelance business. 

chpater 5 - client retention

​Chapter 5: Client Retention - How To Keep Your Clients Happy

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:

  • How to track and show results/the effectiveness of your services to current clients.
  • How to keep the scope of the project in check.
  • How to send deliverables to clients.
  • How to make your service recurring and remove any friction to getting paid.

CHAPTER 5 MILESTONE:

Create a plan to keep your best clients around so they keep paying you month after month.

One of the best things you can do to grow your freelance business is to keep your clients happy, and that requires a strategic focus on client retention.

Operating a steady and successful freelance digital marketing business is a lot easier if you have two things: long term clients and happy customers leaving you both testimonials and referrals.

Keeping your clients happy and keeping them informed of the results you have delivered will ensure you always have a steady stream of work.

The Client Retention chapter is all about retaining clients and keeping them happy. 

​Chapter 6: Scaling - How To Grow Your Freelance Marketing Business

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:

  • The different ways you can grow your digital freelance marketing business.
  • How and when to hire subcontractors.
  • How to move from ‘you’ as the brand to an agency as the brand (and manage clients who will pay a premium for you to do the work personally).

CHAPTER 6 MILESTONE:

Position yourself to take your solo freelance business to the next level, or even turn it into a growing agency.

Let’s imagine the best case scenario and your freelance business is growing by leaps and bounds...

Eventually there will be a point where you hit a ceiling.

Essentially, your schedule is so full you start turning new clients away. From here you can raise your rates, get super picky about who you work with, or move into an agency model - allowing you to provide the same service to even more clients.

We’ll take you through how to know when it’s time to scale your services, and what steps to take in order to move forward and grow your business.

Conclusion - Ready For Your Freelancer Career?

“Going freelance,” is a big decision, and working alone comes with its own challenges and benefits, but ultimately can be one of the most rewarding experiences of anyone's career.

Whether you’re just starting out, looking for ways to scale or fix client retention, this ultimate guide has something for every freelance marketer.

While you’re here, scroll down to the comments and leave us your feedback and tell us exactly where you are in your freelance career, or one BIG thing you could use help with in as a freelance digital marketer.

P.S.: If you’re the type to skip to the end of a post looking for the TLDR; here it is:

In this mega-guide on freelance digital marketing we’re going to show you everything you need to know about starting, running, growing, and scaling a freelance digital marketing business. Now scroll back up and dive in!

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