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You don’t have to be an industry pro to know that digital marketing is growing. In fact, researchers expect it to reach $146 billion by 2023. How do you get a slice of that pie?

Sure, there’s the option of putting life on hold, hitting the books for four years, earning a degree, and starting from scratch with entry-level jobs. Or, just become a digital marketing freelancer.

All freelance digital marketing specialists have to start somewhere. If this is where you see your future heading, follow these steps to dive in.

Identify Your Specialty

The digital marketing world is huge, with so many specialties or paths to take. Figure out your role or specialty within the landscape of digital marketers working around the world.

Are you best suited to be a marketing strategist or marketing manager? What about a social media marketer? Content Strategist? Social engine optimization expert?

Your options are nearly endless. Figure out what you most enjoy, where your experience lies, and what you’d consider yourself to be a true expert in.

Develop Your Portfolio

A portfolio is any freelancer’s golden goose. It’s a key criterion that clients will use to evaluate your marketing skills and decide who to hire. It’s never too early to start building one.

Think back to all your digital marketing experience. Pull as many key projects or campaigns as possible with as much data as you can find. Then, start creating individual case studies.

Each case study should highlight a particular campaign or project, detailing your contributions and the concrete results you achieved. For example, perhaps your job was to market a particular client’s event. Include the project budget, all the strategies you used like email marketing or social media marketing, and success data like event attendance, event revenue, email open rates, social media engagement rates, and so on.

Invent Your Brand

Every freelancer needs their own personal brand. It’s the idea and atmosphere clients will associate with you, and it’s how you get remembered month after month.

Define that brand for your freelance work. Make sure it feels natural, sustainable, and genuine to your personality while also appealing to your targeted audience.

From there, develop brand identity materials that match. Create a website, business cards, and social media profiles for example. That website is a perfect home for your portfolio too.

Establish a Target Audience

One amazing advantage of freelancing is choosing who you want to work for. Is there a particular industry that sparks your interest? Perhaps you have experience in a certain niche or prefer working with specific types of businesses like small businesses, startups, or nonprofit organizations.

Have multiple areas of interest? Don’t worry! You can be an expert in multiple areas, so long as you choose a few and make them clear in any marketing materials, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Start Networking

With an established portfolio, brand identity, and target audience, it’s time to get out there and socialize. Networking has multiple purposes for freelancers. First, it’s a terrific way to connect with potential clients. In fact, that’s how I’ve connected with most of my clients.

Second, it’s an opportunity to get hugely helpful advice. Launching a freelance career is tough. After all, you’re building a business from the ground up. A freelancing Facebook group or entrepreneurship networking group is perfect for learning from others who have built their careers so you can find the same success.

Launch Your Own Marketing

What better way to build your reputation as a digital marketer than to digitally market yourself? This is what you do best, so have at it!

For new freelancers, marketing budgets tend to be tight. Choose low-cost options like social media marketing and emailing: strategies that rely more on skills than on finances. Use these strategies to build your personal brand for the freelance business, offer your services, and reach your target audience.

Develop an Expert Reputation

On top of traditional digital marketing, you have a reputation for building. Reputation is more critical for freelancers than for many other businesses because the only product you’re selling is you.

Find ways to spread your name in a professional context. Put content marketing to good use, for example, by finding guest post opportunities. If those are too hard to come by, self-publishing on sites like LinkedIn and Medium could be a great start.

Another way to build your reputation is through reviews and testimonials. Contact every freelance client for a review moving forward. Depending on your past professional work, consider asking previous employers, clients, and coworkers for reviews or recommendations too.

Keep Building

Whether you’re one month or one decade into a freelance career, always take steps toward future business development. Set appointments in your task list for each week or month to spend your time on business growth, whether that means taking business or skill enhancement courses, adding networking opportunities, or other strategies.

Your portfolio of case studies should continue growing too. Track every project you complete, including performance data. Create these case studies as you go rather than waiting until the business is slow.

Building Your Freelance Digital Marketing Business

Digital marketing careers always have something new in store for the day. Between that excitement and the industry’s healthy growth rate, it’s no wonder why so many people choose this path. With the steps above, you can flourish in the digital marketing world while being your own boss too.

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