Freelance marketing is frequently listed as one of those professions that pays well and allows you to work freelance, from home, with flexibility. It’s claimed the amount of free online training makes it an easy career to enter, and the growing demand for digital marketing professionals and SEO specialists means there’s plenty of work. But in the claim is a contradiction, how can a career with a low barrier to entry provide good pay and good working conditions?
Is marketing worth it, or is it more difficult to break into than people think?
Is marketing worth it?
In every profession you have high earners and low earners, I know barmen who earn more than lawyers and I know marketers who earn less than cleaners. You can earn a lot in marketing, but you’ll have to really develop your skills, delight clients and produce a long list of case studies and success stories to be able to earn a reasonable income. Marketing can be flexible but it’s a serious business, if someone gives you, a marketing professional, money to grow their business, they may not be that flexible.
If you’re looking for flexibility it can exist in marketing, but it will be secondary to your client’s needs (otherwise you won’t have clients for long) so if flexibility is what’s most important to you, perhaps marketing isn’t the best because campaigns need to be launched on time to achieve goals on time. The role is deadline based so it has the potential to give a free afternoon here and there, but it also has the potential to take an evening or weekend at short notice.
Working for wedding venues can be a really great job for flexibility because weddings are always planned in advance and most venues only hold a few every week.
Marketing is a global business and there are plenty of sites like Fivver or People Per Hour where you will find marketing professionals going for as little as $2 an hour. It’s a lot cheaper to live in some places that others. You’ll be competing on the global stage so it’s important to determine how you will justify the income you want. Will it be because of rare expertise you possess, because of trust built up within a certain industry or because you are local to your clients? An hourly rate for a marketer can range from $2 to more than $2000 so a good income isn’t guaranteed, but it’s possible. Before you start you should consider how you will add value to your proposition to justify the hourly rate you want.
Long term prospects
As a profession marketing has good long-term prospects as long as you continue to develop your skills and your network. As you get more and more experienced, you’re more likely to be able to demand the flexibility and hourly rate you want and walk away if you don’t get it.
Is there lots of work?
In marketing, work comes, and work goes so it’s important to keep networking and keep building your pipeline. There is lots of work, but there are lots of competitors too. It’s not easy but if you have good skills, and charge a fair price, there is a good chance you’ll consistently find work.
Is it easy to get into marketing?
A typical career path for a marketing professional is to start as an Intern and to work through the marketing ranks as an Assistant, Executive, Specialist, Campaign Manager and Director but it’s also possible to develop skills in a certain area and start out as a freelance specialist (e.g., social media specialist) and build a career around that.
Marketing is all about experience so it is easy to get into provided you can get your first bit of experience and build on it. It could be useful to offer free advice or assistance to a small charity or small business in exchange for being able to make a case study of what you do for them. Quite often the first piece of work is the most difficult to win and this approach means you will build a portfolio and network of brand advocates that will support you winning fee paying clients.
Are sales skills required?
It helps to be good at networking and sales because you’ve got to win clients but as a marketing freelancer it’s possible to establish relationships with a few marketing agencies or develop a good portfolio on some marketplace websites. If you do that, you will develop a steady flow of regular work and focus less on selling your services.
How to get started?
There are lots of sub-specialities of marketing, some people start out providing social media marketing because they have skills from their personal life that can be applied to business, other people are naturally great writers and can quickly establish themselves as a copywriter, or with a bit of training an SEO writer.
If you’re thinking of starting out in marketing first, consider your skills and the things you like doing and then pursue training and development in that area.
Here are a few examples:
- SEO specialist
- Copy and content writer
- Search Engine Marketer
- Digital Advertising Specialist
- Social Media Manager
- PR specialist
- Marketing analyst
Each area has sub-disciplines so as you learn more about a particular discipline you may decide to specialist in a certain area of SEO or become a specialist who produces a certain type of copy.
Consider transferable skills
It may be something you did on your personal social media, a great piece of writing, attention to detail or great project management skills. The chances are you will already have skills that are required for a career in marketing so when deciding what area of marketing you want to specialise in also consider what skills you already have that could be applied.
Marketing requires a good understanding of the industry you’re working in. A lot of professionals have techniques to research an industry and get to know it inside and out but if you already have a good understanding on an industry, you could leverage that to win clients. If you know the industry you will probably know the marketing challenges your potential clients face and how best to offer your services. Your knowledge of the industry will also help you stand out and help you compete against more established freelancers and agencies who don’t have the same insight.