Becoming a full-time marketing freelancer can seem like a risky decision. Just think about how much you can lose — a well-paid job, stability, social security, and more.
Though the change can be challenging, think of it as a bridge — many more benefits are waiting for you on the other side than what a full-time position offers. You can earn much more money, become more independent, shape your brand, work from home, and arrange a workation.
Fortunately, all these benefits are within your reach. All you have to do is make a good plan of action and start with a few gigs while still working full-time in marketing. Playing safe is an option and we will show you how in this article.
Steps to Changing Your Career
Freelancing always comes with a risk of failure. Fortunately, with the right plan, you can mitigate this risk and significantly increase your chances of becoming a professional full-time freelancer.
But don’t expect overnight success. This process involves a lot of work, planning, and determination.
Are you ready to do it all? Let’s see what needs to be done.
1. Choose Your Niche
Offering all sorts of marketing services, such as copywriting, social media management, and SEO, doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd — thousands of other freelancers are offering the same.
To get more project work, define your strengths and focus on a specific niche or work for just one specific industry.
When trying to define your niche, think of what you are best at and how your skills can help clients achieve desired effects.
You have to list your clients’ jobs-to-be-done to perform this analysis. Jobs-to-be-done is a methodology that helps you understand your client’s needs, challenges, and goals.
Use the canvas below to list your clients’ jobs-to-be-done.
Understanding what your clients want to achieve is easy — if you put yourself in their boots.
Your clients will need help with various challenges. For example, if they have no incoming traffic, their key goal may be growing their traffic first instead of lead generation.
Finding out priorities is crucial for selling your services. Imagine how much easier it becomes to convince prospects when your words resonate with their needs.
As you learn about your client's goals, you can bridge this knowledge with your strengths and choose your niche.
Some examples of marketing niches:
- email outreach for B2B brands
- email automation for tech
- website optimization for local businesses
- copywriting for SaaS companies
Of course, your services can change over time — you will learn more about your ideal client and refine your offering to better meet their needs.
2. Define Your Ideal Client
The process of defining the ideal client persona is not easy for beginning freelancers. How can you know what client type is the best for you to work with if you don’t have any clients yet?
Despite the doubts, you can have initially, you should still try to picture your ideal client persona — we all have started somewhere.
All you have to do at this stage is research. You can try to deduce the profile by analyzing trends and making assumptions. For example, selling to companies that have recently received funding might make sense — they will have a bigger marketing budget than a starting business.
You can also have a few conversations with your network and ask questions about their problems and needs in marketing. You can then figure out the type of customer that can afford your services and get the most value from working with you.
Brainstorm the ideas using the value proposition canvas. This canvas helps you understand the gains, pains, and customers’ jobs to be done. Next, you can bridge this knowledge with how you can deliver — your gain creators, products, and pain relievers.
3. Places to Find Freelance Work
So, you’ve done your work on describing your client persona and your offering. While the strategy for your freelance career is crucial, you shouldn’t spend too much time there. It’s important to take the first steps to find your clients as fast as possible.
This way, you can test your assumptions in the trenches and refine your strategy. You can land your first projects through various channels. Let’s look at a few.
If you have worked on defining your ideal client profile, you should know where you want to sell and to whom. You should know what countries and positions in organizations you want to target.
Once you have this information on the table, it’s time to extend your LinkedIn network and send invitations to the people who fit the profile.
Filter by position and location first. Next, when sending an invitation to connect, you might want to add some personalized message to increase the chances of accepting your invitation.
Don’t try to sell straight away. Make sure you start by nurturing them with your LinkedIn content. For this, create educational posts that describe challenges and problems your clients face and how you deal with them.
Build your network
Using referrals is the easiest and the least expensive way to land more project work. When clients refer you to their network, you should have helped them in the past and established trust.
Delivering quality work is one way to get more referrals, but not the only one. People will also refer you to their network if they recognize your brand and believe you are a credible freelancer. That is what happens when you have built a strong brand.
Some studies, including one by Semrush, have shown that brand building can be crucial in landing more project work.
For example, companies prefer to outsource to high-end freelancers who have built their brand and whose clients refer to them — over 47% of respondents do it.
Hitting your client’s inbox is a straightforward way to offer your services. While easy to perform, outreach campaigns can seem ineffective.
So is it worth sending thousands of emails to land just one or two sales?
It can be — even if you start working with just one client. Imagine you get a lot of recurring work and dozens of referrals from that single client. The hours spent building an outreach campaign can easily pay off.
Planning an outreach campaign starts with choosing an email outreach service to automate sending emails. Then, you’ll need an email search tool to find the email addresses of decision-makers in bulk.
It’s also worth enabling email tracking to see if leads engage with your emails so that you can choose the right follow-up strategy.
4. Define Your Rates
When you reach out to a prospect on LinkedIn or by email, having a discovery call is often the next step in a conversation. After you describe your achievements and inspire a client to work with you, they usually ask you to send them your offer. Having your client accept the offer often depends on your experience and your rates.
Few clients will have unlimited budgets, so your rates should be well-thought-out and competitive. Of course, price is not the way to stand out, but it is important.
The price clients are willing to pay is connected to the value you can provide. Imagine you want to build a website for a local business that doesn’t have customers yet.
A business owner ordering website building services wouldn’t perceive the value immediately — they won’t even have traffic immediately after the website launch!
Now, think of an established business that is landing hundreds of clients on their website and you help them optimize their page. As a result, they can convert more traffic into leads and clients in just a few days. The value of your work is much higher for them.
That’s why you should be charging the latter client much more than you would the former one.
Fortunately, in the beginning, you can experiment with your rates while you are still on the payroll in your full-time work. Over time, setting up rates will become easier and more predictable.
5. Promote Yourself
Brand building is key to growing your business. Freelancers who have managed to build strong brands have hands full of work and can easily raise their rates.
When you plan your schedule, set aside time to work on marketing for your brand. Personal branding is not just about your logo, brand colors, or other brand identity elements.
To become more recognizable, you should deliver value to people who are not necessarily your clients — educate them, share some tips they can implement, and lead them to success without charging a dime.
You can use various tools and social media channels to provide value to your audience — start a TikTok or Instagram account and share your tips in the form of videos or Reels. You can also launch your podcast and invite guests who would provide value to your audience.
You can promote your brand in many ways — start with the one you are most comfortable with and test it out.
6. Deliver Value to Clients
The more value you deliver with your work, the longer clients will want to use your services. This way, they won’t consider you another expense but a valuable asset contributing to the other part of the revenue equation — income.
That’s why you should think strategically and look for quick wins. Quick wins are tactics that help deliver improvement and achieve results fast. Fixing website speed to increase traffic or setting up a simple Google Ads campaign to drive more demo calls are examples of quick wins.
Seeing the first results fast will motivate a client to spend more with you and become more patient with the outcome.
7. Save for Your Emergency Fund
You can earn much more as a freelancer if you set your rates correctly and get more clients over time. But you will quickly notice that your earnings can vary greatly month over month. This can happen as a result of a smaller workload or clients suddenly canceling cooperation.
If you work with just a couple of clients, losing even one can hit you badly. But if you prepare for these situations, growing your freelance career shouldn’t be so stressful.
Start by saving money to live without any income for at least three months. You can choose to save more if you tolerate risk poorly. Having more money in your savings account can give you more certainty during tough times and more time to find new clients.
So what is your emergency fund made of? Think of your expenses first. List them all by category and add them up. This infographic can help you define the amount of savings you should make.
8. Keep Learning New Things
If you want to earn more money as a marketing freelancer, you should keep learning new things and acquiring new skills. But it’s not only about the need for improvement.
Marketing is a fast-paced field. Old tactics and tools can stop working fast and new trends arise at the speed of light. Who would imagine AI in digital marketing would become such an important tool or Slack channels would turn into a community-building machine?
Every freelancer should follow the latest trends, test new tools and tactics, and engage in conversations with fellow marketers to remain effective.
A PHP developer would research PHP benchmarks. In the same way, a marketer would follow social media algorithms or learn TikTok tricks.
9. Work on Your Portfolio
A portfolio is a powerful tool for closing sales. Your track record can help clients imagine what results they can achieve. They also feel more confident when starting work with an experienced freelancer.
Creating a great portfolio is not only about listing all of your projects. It also involves showing your work in numbers. For example, if you have launched a lead generation campaign, count the lead volume increase, and the lead to opportunity rate. Next, present the findings together with a project description.
Even if you can’t always show your work in numbers, it’s worth trying to talk about the results, because that’s what clients always ask about during discovery calls.
Various portfolio services can help you create your portfolio in a few minutes to present your work in a visually appealing way. It’s much better than just putting a list of links in a Word document. You can check these copywriting portfolio examples to get some inspiration.
Depending on your marketing niche, you might want to do some research on the portfolio-building services or create a custom portfolio website on WordPress or Elementor. You can even create service packages offering ready-made solutions for clients with specific challenges.
When creating your service page, you can examine the websites of typical companies that sell products. Take a look at the SchoolLockers website for example. They display various product options for one category. You can use this approach as a framework for displaying different types of work you can do for your clients.
These days, the process of setting up a personal website is simple — you can choose among hundreds of portfolio templates, add new content in no time, and even pay for your hosting with Bitcoin.
10. Set Milestones
Doing everything on your own, from finding your niche to working with your first client to building your portfolio, can be overwhelming. You should keep track of your progress, meet all your deadlines, and make sure the client likes the results.
A few project management strategies can make project execution much easier. Setting project milestones is one of the most important strategies, especially for freelancers. Project milestones help define key points on the project execution timeline.
This methodology is widely used in web development, where teams deliver complex projects. One has to break them down, so it gets easier to track progress and invoice clients once a particular project stage is reached.
You can apply project milestones to your marketing projects as well. Setting milestones will make it easier for both you and your client to measure progress.
Working as a full-time freelancer comes with a lot of risks. The way to success is often unpredictable.
But the freelance lifestyle brings a lot of benefits that will make you say, “It’s worth it.” To become a successful full-time freelancer, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and quit your 9-to-5 job straight away. Instead, follow the steps we have described, and you will be able to make a smooth transition to a new life.