The allure of setting your own hours and rates, working from anywhere in the world, and getting started with little formal education draw many people to pursue a career in freelance digital marketing.
But is this career path lucrative? What does it take to become a freelance digital marketer?
Let’s help you figure it out.
Table of Contents
- What Is Freelance Digital Marketing?
- What Does a Freelance Digital Marketer Do? [Potential Roles]
- Pros and Cons of Being a Freelance Digital Marketer
- Tips for Becoming a Freelance Digital Marketer – Getting Started
- Tips for Success as Freelance Digital Marketer
- How Much Do Digital Marketing Freelancers Make?
- What Skills Does a Freelance Digital Marketer Need?
- Best Places to Start Freelance Digital Marketing
- Looking to Hire a Freelancer?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Freelance Digital Marketing?
Freelance digital marketing is a self-employed position. The marketer uses marketing strategies and tech skills to create effective digital marketing campaigns and content for clients. They do so on a contractual basis.
This career may include many different forms of digital marketing. But the key distinction among these roles is that they are performed by a contractor rather than an employee.
What Does a Freelance Digital Marketer Do? [Potential Roles]
There’s a pretty long list of possible freelance digital marketing specialties, but here are some of the most popular ones:
- Search Engine Optimization- Also known as SEO, search engine optimization specialists help clients improve their website’s visibility on search engines. It involves building authority links, optimizing meta titles, and other strategies. (Learn how to hire an SEO expert.)
- Content Creation/Copywriting- A digital marketing freelancer specializes in content creation or copywriting. They create product pages and promote their clients’ offerings. They also write other types of pages to improve clients’ websites, including about pages, service pages, and blog articles.
- Social Media Marketing- Social media marketing specialists create unique content for clients’ social media accounts. Their goal is generate leads, increase exposure, and help clients develop loyal audiences. (Learn how to hire a social media manager.)
- Paid Advertising- Paid advertising includes both pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and paid social media advertising. These specialists make paid ads as effective as possible. They establish a budget and incorporate proven keywords and compelling headlines to drive traffic to clients’ sites. (Learn how to hire a Google Ads specialist, PPC specialist, or a Facebook ads specialist.)
- Video Marketing- A bit different from the other specialties, a video marketing specialist comes up with, and creates, unique video content for a client to post on their site or social media.
Check out our more comprehensive guide to freelance digital marketing to learn about more specialties.
Pros and Cons of Being a Freelance Digital Marketer
There are reasons that so many new folks have entered the field of digital marketing in recent years. At the same time, there are also some drawbacks to the job.
- Flexible schedule; you set your own hours.
- Freedom to travel: you can do freelance digital marketing from anywhere in the world.
- Set your own rates and pick your own clients/what type of work you want to do.
- You own all of the profit of your business and get all of the credit for your work.
- Unlimited earning potential.
- You must run every aspect of your business.
- Unpredictable and inconsistent income.
- No employee benefits like health insurance, 401k, etc.
- Loneliness- you often work from home, maybe even as a team of one.
Tips for Becoming a Freelance Digital Marketer – Getting Started
Here’s how you can break out into the freelance digital marketing industry.
1. Find Your Niche
Since digital marketing is such a large field, the first thing you need to do is find your niche.
Are you a strong writer? Content marketing or copywriting might be right for you. Enjoy making short films? Video marketing may be a better fit. More of an analytical, number-crunching type of person? SEO or paid advertising is worth a look.
2. Build Your Skillset
Now that you’ve figured out what you want to do in the world of digital marketing, you need to get good at it.
Build your skillset through online courses, an entry-level position at a company, or even interning at an agency. There’s no replacement for hands-on training! You must actively work on the specialty you want to do.
Check out our posts for the must-have skills for:
3. Create and Build Your Portfolio
While you’re sharpening your skills, start creating a work portfolio.
This could include any projects you did for an online certification class, sample posts with engagement metrics, or a short marketing video.
This is also a good time to get any clients or supervisors involved. Ask them for reviews, feedback, referrals, and quotes for your website. Gather anything that helps potential clients see that you’re a good fit for their company.
4. Find a Network
As a freelancer myself, I wouldn’t be here today without the mentors and peers that I’ve met in this industry.
Finding a network can be as easy as setting up a profile on Fiverr or Upwork and meeting other freelancers in the industry through forums.
A strong network includes creating a network of clients. My most lucrative gigs (like this one) haven’t come from freelancing platforms like Upwork. Instead, they’ve come from personal referrals where previous clients suggested me to their business partners and friends.
5. Set Flexible Rates
Not all jobs are the same, so your rates should be flexible.
I would charge less for a fun sustainable goods roundup that has a deadline a month away than I would for a long, detailed review of a SaaS service that a client needs done yesterday.
You may find a project that you’ve been really wanting to work on and be willing to negotiate a slightly lower rate. You may then prove yourself to be an exceptional freelancer and charge a higher fee on your next project with the client.
Flexibility is one of the best parts of being a freelancer, so take advantage of that.
6. Set Up Your Site
Lastly, set up your own site where you showcase your work, tell clients (current and future) a bit about yourself, list contact info, and keep people up to date with what you’re currently working on.
You should also have a blog where you share your case studies and even help other freelancers out in the process.
Tips for Success as Freelance Digital Marketer
There’s being a freelancer and then there’s being a Freelancer. The latter makes more money.
Here’s how you can make freelancing more a career instead of just a series of gigs and side hustles.
1. Treat It Like a Business
First and foremost, remember you are running a business. Businesses write off supplies for taxes. Businesses have dedicated accounts to keep track of finances. Businesses are registered with the state.
And businesses have hours of operation.
Consider getting a business license or making yourself an LLC. This creates a separation between you as a person and you as a solo business owner. It’s great for liability reasons.
Open a business checking account and get a business credit card. This makes tax season much easier. Remember that you will have to file taxes quarterly and are unlikely to see a return.
Please, please, don’t work yourself to death. I thought I could do every gig that ever existed at the same time with the same deadline. I couldn’t. And I got burnt out.
Set up a dedicated workspace and dedicated work hours. You can always change those hours if you go out of town or have errands to run. But don’t let the line between work and personal life fall by the wayside.
2. Stay Up to Date – Keep Learning
Digital marketing is an ever-evolving field with new innovations launching every single day (Lord knows Google loves changing that algorithm just for funsies), and your competition is keeping up. So should you.
There are so many free resources available (YouTube, free courses, even Reddit). So, there’s hardly a reason to be out of the loop on the newest marketing trends.
3. Treat Yourself – Give Raises
When you’re just starting out, the money is going to be… far from great. As you get better, so should your pay.
Raise your rates accordingly as you gain more experience and confidence. After years of doing this, there’s no way you’ll catch me doing 1,000 words for $5 anymore. Know your worth.
4. Take a Break
One of the BEST things about being a digital marketing freelancer is that you can pick when you go on vacation.
After hours of sitting on your butt at the computer all day, every day, you’re bound to get restless. I don’t care how much lumbar support your fancy chair offers, you need to get out and see the sunlight every once in a while.
Take an afternoon walk if you feel like you’re drowning. Do some yoga. Take a long weekend and go camping if that’s what you’re into (go to a cute Airbnb next to a winery if it’s not.)
You can’t pour from an empty cup and you can’t work from an empty… brain? Sounds like I may need a break myself.
How Much Do Digital Marketing Freelancers Make?
As I’ve said many a time, digital marketing freelance is a broad term that includes many different specialties and levels of experience.
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a “digital marketing specialist” is $53,133 per year.
Here are some estimates for some of the most popular digital marketing specialties:
- Copywriter: $55,238/year
- Social media marketing specialist: $50,000 to $65,000/year
- SEO freelancer: $63,930/year
- Paid advertising specialist: $53,152/year
- Video marketing specialist: $62,150/year
What Skills Does a Freelance Digital Marketer Need?
All freelance digital marketers need to have some general skills and also some more specific, niche-related skills.
These are some skills that any and every digital marketing freelancer needs.
- Time-management skills
- Networking skills
- Ability to work on a team
- Analytical skills
- Research skills
- Communication skills
- Ability to set deadlines for themselves
- Marketing and sales skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Negotiation skills
- Customer service skills
These skills are only necessary for certain niche positions within the digital marketing world.
- SEO & SEM
- Video editing
- Artistic skills
- Marketing analytics
- Social media skills
- Design skills
- CRM skills
- Content creation
- Google Ads skills and knowledge of Google algorithms
Best Places to Start Freelance Digital Marketing
Where do you start? You can check out our list of the best places to find work as a digital marketer.
Looking to Hire a Freelancer?
Are you looking to hire a freelance digital marketer or any freelancer at all?
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do freelance digital marketers make?
Freelance digital marketers make an average of $53,133 per year.
How do I start freelance digital marketing with no experience?
To start freelance digital marketing with no experience, pick a niche that interests you and begin building your skillset by taking online courses.
What skills are required for freelance digital marketing?
Analytical skills, time management, communication, teamwork, marketing, networking, negotiation, SEO, writing, design skills, and content creation skills are all examples of skills required for freelance digital marketing.
How do I become a freelance digital marketer?
To become a freelance digital marketer, choose a niche, build a skillset and a portfolio, network, set your rates, and create a brand and website for your business.
What digital marketing job is the highest-paid digital marketing job?
The highest paying freelance digital marketing job is a Digital Strategy Manager with a salary range of $75,500-$118,000 per year.
Which is the best freelance digital marketing role to get started?
Social media marketing is the best freelance digital marketing role to get started in as many of us already use social media daily.