How to become a freelance digital marketer

7 Min Read

If you want to be a digital marketing freelancer, there are a number of things you need to know, and have ready, before you take the leap.

In this article, we cover the key questions to ask yourself before starting to build your freelance digital marketing career. See it as a sort of checklist to come back to again and again.

How to be a freelance digital marketer in 6 steps

There are over 2 million freelancers in the UK, contributing £125 billion annually to the British economy.

This figure is expected to rise over the years – not surprising considering freelancers have higher levels of satisfaction and wellbeing.

What’s more, almost 80% say they enjoy a better work-life balance than before.

If you’re a digital marketing specialist wanting to join the freelance tribe, you’ve come to the right place.

Below, we’ve listed out the 6 most important questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

1.) Do you have the experience?

A no brainer, but the first question should cover whether you have the right digital marketing skills.

While anyone can become a freelancer (including those straight out of university), it’s important that your skillset matches the demand.

If you consider the monthly search volumes for related keywords, you get an idea of the type of freelance work clients need.

Search term Average monthly search volume (UK)
Freelance Copywriter 5,400
Freelance Writing 1,900
Freelance Digital Marketing 730
Freelance SEO Consultant 590
Freelance Social Media Manager 590
PPC Freelancer 320
Freelance email writer 50

If you’re well versed in content marketing,  search engine optimisation, social media marketing, pay per click and email marketing, you’re good to go.

And as digital marketing is constantly changing, you’ll be forever learning new tricks of the trade. Getting certified is a great way to show you’re up to speed.

There are a number of free and paid certifications out there. We suggest starting with those offered by the tools themselves, such as Google’s Digital Garage.

And while it’s good to be an all-rounder, the search volumes show that specific skills are more in demand. Consider becoming specialised in one particular part of digital marketing you enjoy the most.

It’ll set you apart from jacks of all trades and statistics show that 86% of British adults that started a hobby-based freelancing business enjoy greater job satisfaction.

2.) Do you have the network?

When starting out, your network is your most important channel for finding work.

Most freelancers win their previous employer as their first client – they already know the quality of your work and you know the business well.

It’s also easier for them as finding a replacement employee can take months and cost up to £30,000.

What’s more, 64% of freelancers find word-of-mouth from within their network to be one of the most common ways to find work.

Really leveraging your network by making people aware you’ve gone freelance and offering your services is your best bet.

If you’re keen on learning more about building up your network, have a read of How to get clients as a freelancer.

3.) Do you have past projects?

Past projects show the quality of your work and help build up trust in your capabilities, which plays a huge role in establishing a good freelance reputation.

And research has shown that potential clients are much more likely to hire you if they see how you’ve helped someone like them.

Your best bet is to pick out past work that’s most relevant to the work you want to offer and highlight them on your website or social media profile.

If you don’t have past projects to show yet, offer your services to a friend at a discount or for free.

The time invested initially will be worth it: the more experienced you are as a freelancer, the higher your income will be.

For the best tips on promoting your past projects, have a read of How to market my freelance business.

4.) Do you have people who can vouch for your work?

Some clients may want to speak to a past client of yours, especially if they’ve got a bigger project.

In those cases, it’s good to have a list of referrals that would be willing to take a quick call. You’ll also find that including testimonials in your past projects will be a huge help.

88% of people tend to trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% state that testimonials help to build their trust in your business.

The best part is that getting testimonials is no hard job: 70% of people will happily review you if you ask them.

We’ll also let you in on a little secret: video testimonials are more effective. Almost 60% of clients would rather watch a testimonial than read one, and 37% believe they’re more authentic than your sales pitch.

Luckily, speaking often comes easier than writing. Next time you approach someone for a testimonial, don’t be scared to ask if they’d record it instead.

5.) Do you have the time?

Not everyone becomes a full-time freelancer straight away, and that’s fine. It’s very common to dabble with it part-time first to see how it works out.

If that’s the case, be realistic about the time you can offer. Deadlines are important and potential clients will want to know you can stick to them.

Clients often also want to understand your current workload. As they’ll want to be a priority, seeing they’re just one of many projects may put them off.

Finally, you’ll also need to factor in the time to do your own digital marketing: there’s no better way to show off your skills.

If you show up top of Google when people search for a freelancer digital marketing specialist, you’ve got their attention.

6.) Do you come across as professional?

Before choosing to work with you, it’s not uncommon for clients to look you up on social media.

In fact, a study analysing the effects of social media on freelance work found that clients use LinkedIn as a platform to ‘window shop’ freelancers.

And surveyed respondents agreed that if clients can’t find you on social media, they won’t hire you.

So make sure your social media profiles look professional. On LinkedIn, a professional headshot increases your chances of getting your profile viewed 14 times

Considering people subconsciously make their mind up within 1/10th of a second, coming across as professional will go a long way.

What’s more, some clients may want to have a conversation before they hire you. If you come across as friendly, honest and professional, chances are they’ll like you as a person. 

And research shows that people tend to hire people they like, so that’s a win-win for you.

Taking the leap

If you’re serious about freelancing, you’re going to have to take the plunge at some point. And it’s a scary thought: how do you know you’re 100% ready?

The truth is you’ll never feel 100% ready because of how our brains are wired.

Our brains are programmed to protect us and to keep us alive, and they’ve evolved to be cautious about all things unknown.

Whenever our brains register a perceived absence of information, like when we find ourselves in a new situation, they sound the alarm.

In other words, your brain automatically treats all unknown situations as potential threats, which is why you feel anxious just thinking about it. And it can make you doubt yourself.

But you’re not alone: research shows 62% of UK workers want to change their careers, but 19% admit they don’t know how to go about it.

And a whopping 70% of freelancers said they made no plans of how they’d win work before starting.

So don’t worry too much – if you can confidently say you’re 80% ready, you’re ready.

Plus, to quote co-founder of a PR & Comms agency Ella McWilliam, a bit of naivety can be a good thing to get you started as it almost takes away any fear. 

Find out how Ella took the leap.

Three actionable tips

  • Write, write, write: Remember the point about doing digital marketing well yourself? Creating content is the best way to showcase your know-how. You don’t need to have your own website just yet: use microblogging sites like Medium or LinkedIn Publishing.

  • Share, share, share: The best way to inform your network about having gone freelance is to share posts on your social media. There are also many relevant LinkedIn or Facebook groups that connect freelancers with clients, so don’t hesitate to share some of your own content.

  • Build, build, build: Reputation is key, and you’ll want to spend time building your own personal brand. Interestingly, research has found that showing flaws makes you more likeable, and admitting weakness demonstrates honesty. So don’t be afraid of sharing the challenges you’ve overcome – chances are clients will appreciate that a lot more.

The best way to get started

And there you have it – the main things you need to know before setting up a freelance business.

If you’re a marketing manager looking to take the leap to digital freelancing, we’ve got both a course and a freelance starter pack with all the information you need to begin earning what you’re worth

Good luck on your journey to becoming a marketing freelancer!