If you’re new to the freelance digital marketing world, welcome! You’re joining ranks with 45% of the freelance population who deal in “skilled services,” and as you refine your offerings, you may be wondering how best to stand out from the pack. Succeeding as a freelancer boils down to three things: what services you offer, how much they cost, and how well you do what you say you can do.
Brainstorming your service list is a great place to start, and one of the many perks of working for yourself is that you can widen or narrow the scope of your services as you spend more time freelancing in the digital marketing industry.
Some freelancers specialize in one particular offering and source niche clientele; others take a generalist approach and fill their toolbox with a range of experience. Either way, the secret sauce is this: offer digital marketing services that are highly desired by your ideal client.
What generates demand in the digital marketing industry?
Perhaps more than any other industry, change is the one constant in the world of digital marketing. New social media networks pop up every few months (hello, TikTok!), algorithms switch, keyword bids fluctuate, and in response, best practices get rewritten. For your client, the result can be like trying to chart a course when the ground is moving below. And that’s where nimble freelance digital marketers come in.
Clients benefit from the expertise and guidance of a marketing partner who thrives in a constantly-shifting field. So, where can businesses use the most help? Let’s dive into some of the most in-demand freelance digital marketing skills you can add to your roster to gain clients.
Most In-demand digital marketing skills
Facebook + Instagram Ads
According to end-of-year reports, 6 million accounts paid for ads across Facebook and Instagram in 2019. With 83% of Instagram users sharing that they discover new products and services on the platform, it’s likely those numbers will continue to grow in 2020-2021, especially with the surge of online shopping as a result of COVID-19.
Social ads are popular because they unlock targeted audiences for brand awareness and enable streamlined retargeting for campaigns. But as any digital marketer knows, it’s an art and a science to do it well. Facebook’s myriad options for setting up ads (boosting, Ads Manager, plus in-app setup for Instagram, just to name a few) can be hard to wrap your head around if you’re not super familiar with the tools.
Marketers who run social ads on their clients’ behalf should be prepared to manage and advise on every element of the campaign, from setup to reporting the aftermath. Depending on your clients’ familiarity with advertising on Facebook and Instagram, they may need help with only a few components or the whole nine yards.
Full service advertising partners design the campaign strategy, choose an audience, develop the ad creative, pitch a budget, launch and manage the campaign, report on results, and recommend follow-up actions to their clients.
Social Media Management
In 2021, there’s no question that a social media presence is essential for brands to make an impact online. But for smaller brands without a dedicated marketing department, planning content, posting, and responding to fans can quickly escalate into a drain on time and resources. It’s often more economical simply to outsource to an expert.
That sparks an interesting question — what makes a social media expert? Nearly everyone has social accounts these days, and you can’t scroll through your feed without passing a handful of influencers with huge followings.
The difference between a casual social media user and a digital marketer is brand strategy, consistency, and execution. Clients who outsource their social media will be looking to gain a following, post on-brand content, and engage authentically with their audience online.
This may or may not be in addition to running contests, influencer campaigns, or customer support through messaging. Expertise in social media comes from juggling all these different elements simultaneously, and then reporting on your results!
Brands who send emails to their customers regularly recoup $38 for every dollar spent — an astounding 3,800% ROI! It pays (literally) to have an airtight email marketing strategy, and freelance digital marketers can be a huge asset to brands seeking advice on how to improve their existing automations or to build a campaign from scratch.
Similar to ads management tools, email clients offer innumerable customizations and can be intimidating products to learn on the fly. Hiring a digital marketing freelancer with specialization in email design saves time, money, and ensures their audience will receive a higher-quality send in their inbox.
To offer email marketing as one of your services, you should be familiar with popular email clients like Mailchimp, Marketo, and Constant Contact; experienced in copywriting for email marketing; and familiar with managing contact lists and A/B tests.
SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
While channels like social media and email marketing focus on engaging with existing audiences, search engine marketing (SEM) pairs with search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure discoverability. If a business isn’t ranking in search results, they’re dead in the water — almost 32% of people click the first result on Google, and less than 1% of people ever choose an option on the second page.
SEO is obviously critical, but many teams are stumped on how to improve their results. A digital marketer who clarifies the path to higher rankings is worth their weight in gold. Depending on your clients’ budget, you may need to adjust the ratio of paid and organic efforts in your strategy.
Organic efforts might include keyword research and on-page content recommendations, implementing site changes, and a content marketing strategy. Strength in copywriting will serve you well here; many freelance digital marketers secure ongoing contracts producing regular SEO-rich articles for their clients’ websites.
SEM layers atop an SEO strategy, and most search engine marketing requests will focus on paid media through pay-per-click Google advertising. SEO and SEM marketers should plan on providing monthly performance metrics in addition to campaign metrics.
How to grow your digital marketing skills
As you outline your ideal service list for providing freelance digital marketing, take note of areas where you could deepen your knowledge and expertise. You don’t have to invest in pricey certificates to become a stronger marketer — this is one industry where there are dozens of affordable (or free), reputable resources online to help you design your own curriculum.
Practice by running ads for your own business, designing content calendars, testing your engagement, and honing content marketing strategies. Industry leaders like Buffer, Later, Neil Patel, HubSpot, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite all manage blogs and courses to help you stay abreast of current trends in the market, too.
If a classroom environment works better for your learning style, companies like General Assembly offer a range of courses at varying skill levels; some are as short as 2-3 hours and others last several weeks. Don’t forget about platform certifications, too — Google’s certification program and Facebook’s Blueprint eLearning library are just two examples of knowledge bases offered by native platforms.
Getting started with freelance digital marketing can be overwhelming, but it’s a rich and adaptable skill set that can be applied to a wide range of clientele. Focus on strengthening your abilities in a few key areas and then test the waters to see where you can continue to improve. The digital landscape may always be evolving, but your clients will turn to you again and again if you’re able to anticipate their needs in the marketplace.