Freelance Marketing Guide For Experienced & Beginner Marketers
Combine having a career where you could be either creative or data-obsessed (or both!), with the freedom and income possibilities of being your own boss… and you get the dream job that is freelance marketing.
But with everything that sounds so good comes a catch. In this case, it’s having a powerful marketing portfolio website and being exceptionally great at not only marketing but also selling yourself and your services. In this post, we’ll talk about how you can nail that, whether you’re an experienced marketer currently working full-time —or a complete beginner in marketing.
Here’s a little rundown of the article, to help you find the part that’s most relevant to you:
- Briefly about freelance marketing: the good, the bad, and the salary
- How to start freelancing: steps for experienced marketers
- How to start freelance marketing: tips for complete beginners
- The business side of freelance marketing: finances and client management
Briefly about freelance marketing: the good, the bad, and the salary
You need to be informed before you jump into a big decision like switching to freelance marketing. So let’s start out with a little more info on it, alongside the pros, cons, and earning potentials.
What is freelance marketing and how is it different?
Freelance marketing is the practice of helping individuals, small businesses, and agencies with promoting their products, services, or brand in general. Contrary to a traditional employed position, a freelance marketer works as a contractor or business partner, collaborating either on a project-by-project or a retainer basis.
It’s different for freelance marketers, as they not only need to work on marketing projects but also take care of the business side of things. That means they need to promote their own services, get and handle clients, deal with contracts, file taxes, and so on.
What skills do you need to be a successful freelance marketer?
It probably comes as no surprise that you’ll need two types of skills in this role: marketing and business skills.
The marketing skills you’ll need as a freelancer will actually depend on the specialization you choose. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, just remember that you need to hone the skills for your chosen area of marketing to an advanced level.
If you go with freelance marketing, you’ll become the owner of your own business and therefore need to be on top of the business aspects too. For that you’ll need skills like:
- Exceptional time management
- Business planning and strategic thinking
- Cash flow management and financial planning
- Accounting and tax management
- Market research and data analysis, including qualitative data
- Great communication and potentially sales skills
What are the pros and cons of doing marketing freelance?
So you need to be great at business and even better at marketing. But is all the effort worth it? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this career.
The pros of being a freelance marketer
- You can do only the type of marketing you actually want. When you work for a company or agency full-time, you don’t get to choose what exactly you have to do. But when you do marketing freelance, if there’s any area of marketing you prefer to stay away from, you can simply say it’s not a service you offer.
- You also get the choose the specific projects you want to work on. Similarly to that, you don’t get to choose the projects you work on either when you’re employed full-time. But as a freelancer, you can decide what job sounds interesting and exciting for you and skip the ones you don’t like.
- No bottlenecks to wait for. You probably know the frustration of not getting to go to the next step or finish a project, because you’re waiting on someone else’s input or approval. When you work for yourself, the only one you’ll be waiting for is you.
- You decide where to work from and when. Ah, one of the biggest reasons for people going freelance. In this career, you don’t have to commute to an office every day. You can work from home, a cafe, a beach… from wherever your heart desires, really. If you’re an early bird you can start work at 7 am —or sleep in until lunchtime and sit down to get work done in the afternoon if you’re not. You can take a day (or week, or month) off any time you want, there won’t be anyone rejecting your holiday requests.
- Higher earning potentials, your salary depends on you. No more yearly performance reviews, trying (and failing) to negotiate a salary raise. Or seeing the money the company earns from the project and realizing what a small slice of that you get from that. As a freelancer, you get to keep all of the profit and can raise your salary (aka prices) whenever you see fit.
The cons of freelance marketing
Working in freelance marketing is not all rainbows and sunshine though. You’ll find that most of these cons can be paired with the pros above. So read through them carefully to make an informed decision in the end.
- The need to hustle and get clients/work yourself. Yes, you can choose what projects to work on and what type of marketing work to take. But you need to find them yourself. Vetting promising potential clients, reaching out, and convincing them to hire you will be hard work. Be prepared that it might take up a lot of your time.
- You also have to deal with taxes, contracts, and all the like. It’s only the first step to agree on a project, you’ll have to be the one drafting the contract, issuing the invoices, and filing the taxes afterward. This is the part where you become a lawyer, accountant, salesperson, and marketer all in one.
- There are no benefits or paid leave. With the freedom of taking time off whenever you’d like comes the drawback that you won’t be paid for it. It might be a cliché, but as a freelancer, your time is money. So to make a living, you might end up working more instead of working less than in a full-time job. Especially at the beginning.
- You have to find or create a workspace for yourself. With no compulsory commute and office to go to, you’ll have to find somewhere to work. If you already have a dedicated home office space, then great! But if not, you’ll have to create one yourself or invest in renting a spot in a co-working space. You won’t be able to sit in cafes all day every day, and you’ll need a quiet and professional space for taking client calls.
How much can you earn as a freelance marketer?
Firstly, let’s talk about what your earnings depend on before getting to actual numbers.
In freelance marketing, the amount of money you take home changes based on:
- The experience and authority you have and the niches you target
- Your rates, aka how much you charge either per hour or for specific services
- The number of projects of clients you have at the moment,
- Your expenses, as they will be deducted from your earnings
As you can probably guess, how much a freelance marketer earns also changes based on their location and even the economy. There will be fluctuations in income even for the same person, so fair warning: there’s no set amount of money that we could promise you’ll earn in this field.
Here’s some data about the freelance marketing earnings in 2023:
- According to Salary.com, freelance marketers earn around $84,169 to $111,166 a year in the United States.
- Glassdoor data shows an average yearly income of $57,229 in the US.
- Based on Talent.com’s data, the average in the States is $78,000 per year or $37.50 per hour.
- And on Upwork, working with freelance digital marketers cost $15–$45 per hour.
How to start freelancing: steps for experienced marketers
If you already work in marketing, except currently in-house or at an agency, you’ve already done half the work to become a freelance marketer. You’ve got skills and experience, and know what you’re doing when it comes to marketing.
So what’s left to figure out is related to leaving your 9-5, setting up your business, and getting your first clients to get started. Let’s see how you can do that in 4 steps.
Step 1: Assess your skills and decide on a specialization
The very first step will be taking an honest look at your skills and experience and deciding on a specialization. Assess what type of tasks and projects you’re the best at and enjoy the most —or if there’s any other area you’re interested in and would like to learn.
You don’t have to strictly stick to one thing, but it’ll be easier to market yourself and your services if you have at least a few that you focus on. To give you some ideas, you could specialize in:
- Content marketing, doing SEO, writing, and content management
- Growth marketing, doing PPC, copywriting, and social campaigns
- Branding, doing market research, brand guides, and design
- Social media marketing, establishing strategies, and creating content
- Lead capturing, writing landing pages, and setting up email funnels
Alongside the types of marketing services to offer, you should also think about the industries you’d like to work for. You don’t necessarily need to choose one or a few —but yet again, having a focus in this regard would also help find ideal clients and market yourself to them.
Step 2: Create your marketing portfolio website
Once you know who to target and what to offer them, it’s time to create your marketing materials, starting with your portfolio website. It will act as your business front online: both as a way for people to find you (if you nail your SEO) and for you to convince them that you’re their best bet.
Here are the essentials for a powerful freelance marketer website:
- A catchy tagline at the top that tells them they’re at the right place. People should know right away that they’re on the site of a marketer open for business.
- Your top services displayed on your homepage. No need to go into details here, but introduce your most popular services to show what you bring to the table.
- A dedicated services page. It’ll give you space to write all there is to know about each of your services, optionally including prices and packages here too.
- A portfolio page with samples of your best projects. Show, don’t tell. Dig up the data from your most impressive projects, write up short but informative case studies, and showcase them in a marketing portfolio.
- Your contact information. Whether it’s a button with a mailto: link, your email address in your footer, or a form on your contact page, you need to make sure people can easily get in touch. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.
Not essentials, but you can always add an about me page or a blog to your site too. And later on, as you start to get clients, don’t forget to come back to your website and start adding their testimonials too.
Need some inspiration? Check out some impressive marketing portfolio examples here!
How to create a freelance marketing website
The key to having a great experience building a portfolio website is choosing the right tool. For marketers, Copyfolio is a great choice, as it was specifically designed for writers and marketing professionals.
Signing up is super easy. You just:
- Enter your email address,
- Choose your profession,
- Select your goal(s) of the site (portfolio, blog, and/or showcasing services), and
- Pick a template.
It takes about 3 minutes, and you end up with a starter website, with content customized personally for you. (Based on your profession and website goals.) You can then rewrite the content, or delete and add new sections with our visual editor.
Uploading projects will also be super easy: you can choose to add case study pages, upload PDF files, or include external links. Copyfolio will create nice clickable thumbnails for each in a grid that you can then customize.
Sounds like something you’d like to try? Click here and get started for free!
Step 3: Deal with the business basics, get an accountant
Now you’ll be able to convince your potential clients to hire you as their next marketer, but there’s one more thing you need to do before you can start closing deals. And that is establishing your business.
Whether you’re going to operate as a solo entrepreneur or create an LLC, it’s important to have some sort of official entity. It’ll be crucial for signing contracts, filing taxes, and issuing invoices.
Technically, you could do all that alone, but to make your life easier (and ensure everything is filed and handed in correctly), we recommend you work with a lawyer and an accountant on this part.
Step 4: Reach out to your network and start promoting yourself
With all of that done, you’re ready to start searching for clients. The first and most convenient step to that would be reaching out to your existing network. Chat with previous colleagues and bosses, clients of your former companies, and people you know from college. Tell everyone about your new business and ask if they know anyone looking for a freelance marketer.
You can also post about it on your LinkedIn profile, sharing your shiny new website too, of course. Try asking a few people personally to like and engage with the post, so that the algorithm would show it to their connections as well.
Pro tip: create an elevator pitch. It should be only a couple of sentences long, explaining whom you could help and how. Your unique selling point or USP, essentially. Use that when networking or sharing your freelance business online for the best results.
How to start freelance marketing: tips for complete beginners
When you’re not only jumping into freelancing but also marketing as a whole new field, you’ll have a little bit more to do to prepare.
But don’t worry, it’s absolutely doable. If you have an affinity for writing, being creative, and making data-based decisions, you’ll get the hang of it easily and can do well in freelance marketing. Let’s see what steps you need to take to get there!
Learn and improve your marketing skills
We’ve all seen this one coming, right? If you have no experience with marketing, the first thing you need to do is learn. If you’re fresh out of high school, you could definitely consider going for a university degree in marketing. But if you’re switching from another career and don’t have the time, you could also do lots of research and complete a few online courses.
Google for example has a great selection of free online courses. They teach you everything from the basics of marketing to using their tools (think Google Analytics or Tag Manager), which have become industry standards by now.
Alternatively, you can also check the courses offered on Coursera or LinkedIn, where you can get certificates you can then showcase on your LinkedIn profile or website. Take them seriously, schedule in time to watch the lessons, and complete all assignments.
If you have questions after reviewing all materials, join a few online marketing communities (like Facebook or LinkedIn groups) and ask for help. More experienced marketers were also beginners at one point and probably had others help them out too. So you’ll likely find that there will be a lot of them happy to help and answer your questions.
Practice and take a few free projects
After inhaling so much knowledge, it’s time to put it all into practice. Even if you’re not launching your marketing business just yet, try taking on a few projects.
You can ask around in your friend group or professional circle to see if anyone could use a little marketing help. If someone says yes, offer your services for free (or for a token amount) and ask for their permission to include it in your portfolio later.
This will not only give you experience with different types of projects, but also pieces to showcase on your website, and potentially even some referrals. You might be a beginner, but if you do a good job and people see results, they will recommend you to others in their network.
Build a basic marketing portfolio
As you might suspect from the previous paragraphs, the next step will be putting together a marketing portfolio. When you start looking for real, paying clients, you’ll have to be able to show them what you can do. Saying you’ve completed a couple of courses probably won’t convince them to hand over their hard-earned money for your services.
You won’t need a ton of projects for this first portfolio —showcasing 3 or 4 would do. For the best results, make sure to write short case studies, ideally including visuals and numbers on how the work performed.
Get the business basics done
With everything prepared, it’s time to make it official! To become a legitimate freelancer and start taking clients, you’ll have to:
- Buy a custom domain name for your website if you haven’t done so already
- Register a business entity, either as a solo entrepreneur or an LLC
- Get an accountant and learn about your business taxes
- Prepare templates for contracts and invoices
Join freelancer sites and start networking
The last step is getting yourself out there and finding your first clients. When you’re new to marketing and don’t have much of a network, joining groups and freelancer sites can be a good start.
The former will help you build that network of freelance marketers to lean on and get referrals from, while the latter connects you directly with potential clients.
Just be ready to present yourself and your portfolio convincingly. Think about and emphasize what your strengths are when it comes to marketing and what results you’ve brought to others so far.
The business side of freelance marketing: finances and client management
We’ve touched on this part earlier, but as it’s an essential part of freelancing, let’s talk a little more about finances and client management.
Regarding the finances of a freelance marketing business, you need to prepare for the following:
- You will need a business bank account. Especially if you plan on tracking and deducting expenses, it’s important to separate your business cash flow from the personal.
- Find an invoicing software that works for you. Sure, you can create your invoices manually too, but in business, time is money. Having specialized accounting software can not only keep you organized and make your life easier, but also save you a lot of time, and thus, money.
- Set your prices based on market research and financial goals. Get familiar with how much similar freelancers charge, and calculate how much you want to earn in a month or per hour. Then set your pricing accordingly.
- Get an accountant and make sure to file taxes correctly. Some things are better to be in professional hands —tax is one of them. So hire a reliable accountant and get your documents, invoices, and expense receipts organized from day one.
Another non-marketing-related aspect of being a freelance marketer is dealing with clients. As your income literally depends on your relationship with them, it’s important to keep on top of everything related to them. The most important aspects are…
- Client communication. Create a dedicated email address that you only use for your marketing business. Make sure no promotions or personal messages distract you from your work emails here.
- Keeping track of all clients. As you start getting more and more work, having a simple note or the emails in your inbox won’t be enough to keep track of everyone. You’ll need some sort of database or CRM. A great tool for that would be Notion, but there are also dedicated tools for client management out there.
- Tracking project and payment progress. If you have more than one project running at once, it can get hard to oversee the status of each project and the related payments. So try to incorporate tracking these into your CRM, and make sure to update your clients at each step of the way.
- Post-project nurturing and asking for testimonials. When the project is done, you’re paid and the client’s happy, you still have work to do. Invest some time and effort into connecting with the client even after wrapping up: ask for a testimonial for your website, and nurture a good relationship in hopes of future referrals.