So, you’re interested in becoming a digital marketing consultant? Perhaps you’re looking for a more flexible schedule, the chance to be your own boss, or you’ve heard the estimated spend of the US digital marketing industry will hit $120 billion by 2021 – not a bad career choice, is it?
Those were my thoughts when I decided to change my career. Naturally, I took to the internet to discover exactly how. What I found was a million resources, training courses, and varying advice from just about everyone.
All I wanted was one credible, well organized guide that gave me the answers I needed. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of information overload.
I had no idea where to begin.
This ultimate guide has been created to not only define what exactly it takes to be a successful digital marketing consultant, but to give you actionable resources and recommendations on how to build your business.
What is Digital Marketing?
To sum it up in one sentence:
Digital marketing helps connect companies to potential customers using digital channels such as search engines, websites, email, and social media.
According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans are online on a daily basis. With internet usage still increasing, 5% in the last 3 years, traditional offline marketing just isn’t as effective anymore.
So, if 77% are online daily, where are they going and how can we connect to them? This is where digital marketers come in.
What is a Digital Marketing Consultant?
While there are many marketers in search of full-time jobs, those tired of climbing the corporate ladder turn to self-employment: consulting.
The market for digital consultants is growing due to many companies’ hesitation in hiring large, expensive marketing agencies. Hiring one highly-skilled person to train a team or manage the work themselves is more cost effective.
The exact role of a digital marketing consultant varies depending upon the company and product, but essentially a digital marketer advises a company on the best way to reach their customers.
Below is a list of some of the common responsibilities of a digital marketing consultant:
- Evaluate the current marketing strategy and suggest or implement improvements in areas such as social media, website design, SEO, and email marketing.
- Discover new opportunities for companies to connect with their current customer base and attract new ones.
- Develop company branding and voice to better connect with customers. May be responsible for designing creative pieces for website and social media.
- Improve a site’s Google ranking by analyzing and adding relevant keywords and optimizing all web pages. Implement strategic content development throughout the website and blog platforms.
- Increase customer communication and engagement through promotion and social media campaigns (both paid and organic).
- Manage marketing campaigns run via email, social media, mobile marketing, and local marketing.
- Use Google Analytics, Google search console, and Heat map user tracking and recording to analyze a company’s performance and success of marketing strategies.
The Benefits of Being a Digital Marketing Consultant
I am a traveler at heart and have been living abroad for the past 2 years so working in an office wasn’t an option for me. While self-employment isn’t for everyone, those able to grow a successful digital marketing consulting career reap many benefits.
- Flexibility: Aside from meetings and deadlines, most work can be completed on a very flexible schedule. As long as it gets done, you make your own hours.
- Work from home: If you have solid wifi and a quiet work space, you can literally work from anywhere in the world. Digital Marketing is a perfect job for burnt out commuters, stay-at-home parents, or travelers and expats living abroad.
- Low Costs: With the amount of free and low-cost training courses and business development resources, the startup and maintenance costs of becoming a consultant are very low compared to other industries. The majority of work is done online, so with the exception of home office supplies, overhead is very low.
- Global Supply of Job Opportunities: The internet has no boundaries, and because the majority of digital marketing work is flexible, your client base is worldwide. Many consultants have a variety of clients spanning multiple continents and time zones.
- Unlimited Resources: There’s nothing you can’t learn from the internet. There’s an infinite amount of resources and training courses available. Staying up to date with the latest skills is only a matter of paying attention.
- Well Paid: Successful digital marketing consultants can earn top dollar for their skills. Those with high demand specialty areas can charge even more. Take a look at what the average digital marketing consultant salary is a year.
What Skills Does a Digital Marketing Consultant Need?
The best internet marketing consultants have a strong knowledge base of the following skills:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Email Marketing
- Paid Marketing (Google Adwords, Twitter, Facebook)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Content Marketing Strategy
- Youtube & Video Marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Local & International Marketing
- Branding & Reputation management
- Digital Display Marketing (Ad Ops)
- Web Analytics and Reporting
- Conversion Rate Optimization
- Basic HTML and CSS
- Mobile Marketing (App store optimization)
- Website Platform Management (WordPress or WIX)
How to Build Digital Marketing Consulting Skills
Choosing your niche
It’s vital to be well-versed and have a basic knowledge of all of the skills mentioned above. However, it’s nearly impossible to be an expert at all of them. I recommend choosing a niche and becoming an expert in that specialty.
What skills appeal to you the most? Do you like writing and managing content? Are you a social media butterfly and have a knack for connecting with bloggers and influencers? Or maybe you enjoy the more technical aspects of analytics and optimizations. Whatever you decide, play to your strengths and fully develop yourself within your niche.
If you have more than one strength, search around online and check various job sites to see which skills are most in demand. Then, niche down and focus on that skill set.
Free/Paid training courses
While having an undergraduate degree in business or marketing is great, there are many skills you can acquire for free or at a very low cost. The following list is a recommendation of excellent training and resources based on skill set.
- Content Marketing Certification: HubSpot Academy
- Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content: Coursera
- The Strategy of Content Marketing: Coursera
- Copywriting Blunders: Do You Make these 10 Common Mistakes? Udemy
- Content Marketing for B2B Enterprises : Udemy
- Content Marketing: QuickSprout
- Blogging: Generate 100s of Blog Topics and Headlines: Udemy
2018 Blog Blueprint: Udemy
- Portent Title Generator: Portent
- Social Media: QuickSprout
- Free Social Media Certification: HubSpot Academy
- Social Media Marketing: edX
- Diploma in Social Media Marketing: ALISON
- Social Marketing Training: Hootsuite
- Blueprint: Facebook
- Email Marketing Certification: HubSpot Academy
- Email Marketing: QuickSprout
- The Complete MailChimp Email Marketing Course: Udemy
Build a Website
- Canva Design Courses: Canva
- Photoshop Training from Beginner to Pro: Udemy
- Consulting Report Templates: Venngage
- HTML & CSS: Codeacademy
- Ruby: Codeacademy
- Python: Codeacademy
- Additional Coding Options: Freecodecamp
Digital Marketing Overview Courses
- The Complete Digital Marketing Course: Udemy
- Digital Marketing Course: Google
- Learn Marketing on the Go! Google Primer App: Google
Build a website
In the past, if you wanted to showcase your services and validate your company, you would hand a client a business card and a brochure. In the marketing world, a well-established website is about as important as a birth certificate. Without it, you don’t exist.
Luckily today, for those less technologically savvy individuals, there are options like WordPress and WIX with drag and drop plugins. With so many resources at your fingertips, you don’t need months to design a clean, professional website.
Tips for building a website
- Develop a clean, well organized, professional site
- Be sure it’s well optimized for SEO. We recommend using SEO tools from CaniRank or Moz to properly analyze keywords and identify opportunities
- Content is king: Having a relevant blog to support SEO and user engagement is key
- Feature services, portfolio, and client testimonials if you have them
- Be sure contact information is easy to find so clients can get in touch with you
One of the best ways to solidify yourself as a subject matter expert is to start blogging. Write about your specialty and other areas of online marketing. Share valuable experiences, tips, and tricks to grow readership and establish your expertise. Not only does this attract visitors to your website, it helps enrich relevant content to boost your ranking on search engines.
Some important tips for blogging:
- Make sure your blog is SEO focused
- Research and include keywords and related terms for services you want to rank for
- Stay away from too much self-promotion
- Always write with your target audience in mind. Keep posts relevant and useful
- Promote your posts! Get the word out by sharing your article links to boost traffic and Google rankings.
Someone brilliant once said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Building a strong network is vital to getting the word out about your business.
Tips for building a strong network
- Who do you know? Contact your immediate network— friends, family, bosses, former colleagues—and ask them for referrals or to share your website.
- Reach out to industry experts, build relationships with influencers and bloggers via LinkedIn, and ask them for some advice or feedback. This is a great way to make connections and build relationships within the industry.
- If you don’t have any experience, offer your services for free in exchange for testimonials until you build your portfolio. Start with companies you know. Maybe your favorite restaurant needs some help with their social media, or your local florist could really benefit from a blog. Not only does it build your portfolio, but also your confidence as well.
- Attend business networking events and seminars to broaden your connections and meet potential clients in person. We recommend using sites like MeetUp and Eventbrite to see what’s going on in your city.
Follow Industry Experts
The world of digital marketing is an ever evolving learning process. The same strategies that worked a year ago, won’t necessarily apply today. Google and social media algorithms are constantly changing, so you need to stay up-to-date on marketing best practices.
Choose a few industry experts and follow them. While you may be starting out, they have a team of qualified professionals, more resources, and years of experience. They are your best source for ongoing education.
Some industry influencers to keep an eye for are Neil Patel, Barry Schwartz, Ann Handley, and Aleyda Solis.
How to Find Work
You’ve defined your niche, improved your skills, and created a fantastic website. It’s time to find clients.
Digital Marketing Consultant Job Sites
Aside from reaching out to your network and referrals from others, here are some great places to find freelance digital marketing work.
With FlexJobs, you can access hand-screened remote, part-time, freelance, and flexible jobs. FlexJobs is particularly popular because it screens the jobs advertised on the site to flush out scams. They guarantee that any job available on the site is genuine. FlexJobs does charge for their premium services. You can either pay subscriptions monthly ($14.95), quarterly ($29.95), or yearly ($49.95). They also offer a money-back guarantee on your first month, making this one a no brainer.
Upwork is one of the biggest freelance job sites. The site has jobs for every type of freelancer. There are thousands of digital marketing jobs such as social media management, blogging, email marketing, PPC jobs, content writing, online community management, and more. Upwork does take a percentage of freelance earnings.
Indeed is like the Google of job listings. With 100 million visitors per month, they are claimed as the #1 job site on the market. Jobs are aggregated and posted from all over the web. It is easy to search their site using their filters for job title, type, salary, and location.
This site allows you to compete with other freelancers in contests to prove your skills. If you’re competitive and confident in your expertise, it’s a great way to showcase your abilities and attract more clients.
Guru attracts freelancers from around the world, all with various skills. As a freelance digital marketer, you can find various jobs suitable for your skill sets and experience level. There aren’t as many job offers on this site compared to the others, but the ones you find are of higher quality and better pay.
People Per Hour
People Per Hour has a myriad of freelance jobs that contractors can bid on. However, bidding for jobs isn’t easy since most clients will pick freelancers with the lowest rates. This is a good site for beginners to find digital marketing jobs and gain experience, but of little interest to those with more experience.
Simply Hired curates thousands of freelance jobs and constantly updates them. One benefit of this site is that you don’t have to create an account to search job postings. You can simply browse until you find some leads and then create an account if you want to move forward.
Marketing Consulting Agencies
In addition to working directly with clients, another great way to source yourself as a consultant and get experience, is to join a consulting agency that gives you client work. However, not all agencies are created equal.
When looking for an agency, you will want to consider the following:
- What is their client base and how much work can they provide?
- Who have they worked with? Do they have client testimonials? What is their customer success rate?
- Do they provide any training or promote skill building initiatives?
- How is the work structured? Are you in direct contact with the client or working for a team?
- What is their pay structure?
- Do they provide equipment, or is it a case of using your own device?
At CanIRank, our customer base is quickly growing and our need to hire new consultants has become more frequent over the last year. Our consultants are required to pass a (paid) four-week intensive training program before they’re able to work directly with clients.
It is our belief that agencies that invest in the ongoing training and progression of their consultants have not only the best consultant, but also the best client retention.
From a 30k foot view, becoming a digital marketing consultant may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is that everyday someone is making it their reality. The fact that digital marketing is one of the most in demand jobs today means the need for skilled digital marketers isn’t going away anytime soon.
Now is the time to build your business and stake your claim in the industry.