I saw this question circulating on the internet: is freelance digital marketing legit?
The short answer is a resounding "yes." Freelance digital marketing is in fact legit.
I've worked as a freelance digital marketer. It's how I paid my bills while I was in grad school.
Seeing people genuinely wonder whether or not freelance digital marketing is a viable career path made me feel compelled to answer that question and see if I can help people understand how viable of an option it truly is.
To do that, I'm going to share the pros and cons of my experience as a freelance digital marketer and discuss what the opportunity for this career path looks like today.
From 2012-2014 I worked as a freelance digital marketer for a handful of different clients. Not only were these gigs my foot in the door into the marketing field, they were also my sole income stream. Here's what I was doing.
There are plenty of marketing projects and skills that fall under the freelance digital marketing umbrella. Things like:
This list is by no means comprehensive. It is meant to give you an idea of just how much opportunity there is to approach freelance digital marketing from different angles. Chances are there is a freelance digital marketing task you can already do, or one you are totally capable of learning.
For me this was blogging, SEO and social media marketing. While I was in college I was able to make connections with a few marketing agencies. Here were my three main gigs:
One agency engagement focused on SEO blog post writing and editing blog posts for other writers. I would write 20-30 or blog posts per week and usually edit 5-10 blogs from other writers.
Some weeks I'd write less if I was busy with school. Other weeks the agency had a lot of work and I'd take on 30+ posts to make some extra cash.
I had a blast because I got to create content across industries I was interested in, like technology and marketing, and also got a ton of content creation experience.
I joined a freelance copywriting network run by a company named Zerys. I'm not sure if they're still in operation, but at the time it had a marketplace-style functionality similar to that of Fiverr or Upwork. As a writer, I could make connections with clients from different industries posting jobs and select jobs to take on. I wrote everything from real estate listings to blog posts to ecommerce product landing pages. If I were to do it again today I would likely go with Upwork or Fiverr who appear to have large customer bases for freelancers to work with, but at the time this gig was great for me and I got a lot out of it.
The benefits of freelance digital marketing include a host of attractive perks that I personally enjoyed.
Anyone considering freelance digital marketing as an income stream or career path will enjoy the benefit of a flexible schedule. You can take on work when you want to and do that work where you want to.
During this time period I spent my days at home sipping coffee with Sports Center on in the background while I was banging out blog posts and product landing page copy on my laptop. Good times.
I loved the flexibility this work gave me, and it offered the opportunity to hone a variety of marketing skills while paying my bills. Being in grad school made taking on an in-office 9-5 difficult as I had to work around a school schedule.
Taking on freelance digital marketing gigs meant I could work whenever I was free and still pull in close to a 40 hr per week salary.
Freelancing offers a level of flexibility and autonomy that traditional 9-to-5 jobs often lack. You get to choose who you work with, the projects you take on, and the hours you work.
Freelance digital marketing projects are an excellent opportunity to improve your marketing skills.
Prolific content creator Eve Arnold talks about how writing 900 Medium articles is what sparked her career as a writer and entrepreneur. She credits the opportunity to hone her writing skills and build a following online as what led to the foundation of her current business as a digital product and content creator.
Working with different clients on varied projects across industries can significantly broaden your perspective and enhance your skills.
Prior to becoming a freelance marketer, I was a pretty decent writer. However, it was spending 2 years writing everyday for different clients and platforms that elevated my skills to a level where I could choose to make more money freelancing for higher paying clients, or get a full time marketing job.
This one might be obvious. Freelance digital marketing is an opportunity to increase your income.
This could look like picking up a client or two on the side and augmenting the income from your full time job or building a pool of recurring clients and becoming a full time freelance marketer.
While I did not push my freelance marketing stint further, I firmly believe it would have been possible for me to add more clients and keep going had I wanted to go that route with my career.
Like any other profession, freelance digital marketing comes with its own set of challenges. It requires a blend of marketing acumen, self-discipline, and the slightly meta challenge of needing to market your freelance marketing services.
Let's talk through the challenges of freelance digital marketing and mention at least one tip for overcoming each one.
One of the primary challenges is the unpredictability of income, especially when compared to a steady paycheck from traditional employment. Freelancers often face periods of feast or famine, where they may be overloaded with projects one month and searching for work the next.
Moreover, securing a steady stream of clients requires an impeccable portfolio, strong networking skills, and sometimes, a fair bit of luck. Additionally, the lack of job security and benefits like health insurance or paid time off can be daunting.
Having a strong personal brand following on social media can help to offset this challenge. That's because a personal brand audience on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter can serve as top of funnel lead generation channels for your freelancer business.
Tip for navigating this challenge:
Many freelance marketers start out doing it as a side hustle alongside their 9-5 job. This allows them to have predictable income and benefits like healthcare while working to get their freelance business off the ground.
The competitive nature of the digital marketing landscape further intensifies these challenges, as freelancers vie against each other and against agencies for clients.
Digital marketing freelancers need to continually upskill and reskill to stay relevant in an evolving field.
The pace at which digital platforms and tools change can be overwhelming. To keep up, the most successfull freelance digital marketing professionals maintain a state of continuous learning.
Unlike employees in a structured corporate setting, freelancers must take on the responsibility of self-training and professional development on their own dime and time in order to keep up with industry trends and match the evolving services of other freelancers.
Tip for navigating this challenge:
Dedicate time to learning new tools and skills. This will not only help you to keep up with competitors and continue offering industry leading services, but it will also improve your skills and knowledge.
AI technology is a perfect example. Learning tools like Midjourney for content creation and ChatGPT as a writing and strategic planning partner will help you save time, stay ahead and learn the newest skills emerging in the field of marketing.
As a freelance digital marketer you have to be fully accountable for yourself. No one else is going to do you work for you.
This ultimate accountability can be stressful as you balance the demands of multiple clients, each with varying expectations and deadlines, alongside the necessity of self-marketing to attract future clients.
You also may feel the isolation of freelance work, as you won't have the camaraderie of a team or the guidance of a manager. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and uncertainty. Each of these challenges requires a blend of resilience, adaptability, and self-motivation to overcome.
Tip for navigating this challenge:
Get serious about structuring your time. Creating systems that help you manage projects, set your schedule and guarantee time to unplug will make the time you spend working more efficient, while also protecting your from burnout. I would build time into this schedule for networking and community building with other freelance professionals in your niche.
Now that you have the lay of the freelance digital marketing land, let's talk about how you can get started as a freelance digital marketer.
Arnold and Kaur Sodhi both point to years of giving away content as a key part of their success.
For Kaur Sodhi, writing on LinkedIn and Medium helped her create a significant following on those platforms. Her following led to an influx of inbound freelance writing gigs that eventually made it so she didn't have to rely on freelancer market places like Fiverr or Upwork to land clients. It also helped her build relationships with higher paying and more consistent clients.
Having a personal brand audience is a key asset as a freelancer. Not only will creating content online show off your digital marketing skills, it will attract clients for your freelance business.
Pick a social media channel that best exemplifies your freelancer skills and turn that personal brand channel into an extension of your portfolio.
When I was a freelance digital marketer I maintained a simple portfolio website with links to articles and landing pages I had written for different clients. This link was basically my freelancer resume. I used it as a simple tool to share my work with potential clients.
In addition to having social media channels that are an extension of your portfolio, I would also round up your best work and put it on a simple link. There are tons of options for doing this.
Regardless of what type of service you offer as a freelance marketer, having a portfolio site that hosts examples of your work is a valuable asset to help you acquire clients.
Freelancer marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork are where many freelance marketing professionals get their first clients, myself included.
The digital marketing sector is broad and ever-evolving, including disciplines ranging from social media management to SEO and copywriting.
Freelancing within the marketing industry can indeed be legitimate and rewarding. However, the extent of its legitimacy for you will hinge on several factors:
Yes, freelance digital marketing is indeed legit. Plenty of people earn a full time income or lucrative side hustle income stream as freelance digital marketers. The key to success is finding good clients and having the skills and follow through to provide them good services.
Freelance digital marketing can certainly pay well. Finding a top tier recurring client can net you a solid income stream and there are also jobs on freelancer market places like Fiverr and Upwork that pay good rates.
$78,000 per year is the average freelance digital marketing salary in the United States. That average hourly rate for freelance digital marketing professionals is $37.50 per hour in the United States.
Digital marketing is a very real job because the digital marketing industry is projected to grow at an annual rate of 13.9% between now and 2030. This means companies are spending more on digital marketing and they need digital marketing professionals to execute the campaigns they spend on.
Freelance marketing is a viable career path or side hustle. It's how I got my start in the marketing field, and I urge anyone considering a career path in marketing to give it a shot.
The freedom and the potential for growth it offers make it a worthy consideration for anyone looking to make additional income and further sharpen their marketing skills.
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