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What it takes to become a marketing freelancer

Published on Thursday, July 20, 2017

Written by Alex Cadman

Becoming a marketing freelancer or consultant could be a good way to advance your career in marketing whilst also stepping away from corporate rules and 9 to 5 office restrictions. But what does it take to be a marketing freelancer?

Most businesses which hope to generate profit and create longevity for their brand need marketing. However, most are not experts in the field and so will either hire an internal marketing team, a marketing agency or freelance marketing consultants.

Whether you come from a client or agency background, becoming a marketing freelancer could be very rewarding, with self-set hours, the ability to choose roles and projects, and an increased pay potential as just some of the benefits. If you have the industry expertise and experience, you could end up being a successful and revered marketing consultant to many companies and brands. However, it’s not as easy as just quitting your office job and magically having lots of clients and high profit.

This is what it takes to be a marketing freelancer or consultant:

What type of freelancer do you want to be?

If you want to get a taste of what freelancing is like, you could try freelancing on the side whilst keeping your full-time job. Just make sure it won’t cause any conflict of interest with your employer.

If you want to freelance full-time, one option is to work informally on a project-by-project basis. In the gig economy, there are plenty of ways to advertise your marketing services online – especially if you specialise in digital marketing. Sites such as Upwork, People Per Hour, and even Indeed are great for finding one-off marketing jobs.  

Another option is to break into the corporate scene as a marketing consultant. If you’re successful, this could mean working with big brands and being a real influencer in the marketing world. However, going down this route is all well and good if you’ve just resigned as Marketing Director of Coca-Cola, but if you don’t have the contacts, you will need to establish yourself more as an expert marketer before you can get there. Which brings us to our next point:

Network, network, network

Networking is an important part of doing business in any industry, but it’s especially important in marketing, and particularly so if you’re thinking of freelancing. Marketing is a very connected industry, so if you “rub shoulders” with other professionals and even other marketing consultants, you could see some more projects coming your way as a result.

So how do you network? Start online by joining some professional groups on LinkedIn relating to your speciality, general field or particular marketing interests. Also, make sure you connect with professionals you’ve worked with in the past or attended university with. You never know what could come of it!

If you’re ready to meet other marketers in the real world, you can try joining a Meetup group for marketers, or join a professional membership body such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing and attend their events.

Your offering: specialist or generalised

Employing marketers who have a wide range of experience in marketing is valued by most businesses, as their skills are versatile and can be applied to a variety of scenarios. However, one reason that companies hire consultants is to fill gaps where there is a requirement for a specific skill, such as SEO or CRM. This is where you could come in.

If you specialise in a specific marketing field, you become much more valuable to potential clients who perhaps already have an internal marketing team but are looking for a freelancer to fill a specific skills gap. That’s not to say, however, that there’s no place for marketing consultants with general, well-rounded marketing knowledge.

Consider your business set-up

One of the less exciting things about venturing out on your own is working out the logistics of how you will operate. You can adopt the self-employed model, which essentially means you complete the work for your clients, invoice them, pay yourself, and then pay your taxes.

However, setting up your own company is another viable option as it gives you more opportunity to increase your take home and grow a business in the future. It’s also an easier way for you to grow your own personal brand as a marketer, which is very important if you wish to be competitive.

There are a few scenarios where working as a sole proprietor (a sole trader) is not possible and where having a limited company would not be appropriate. Many recruitment agencies and clients choose not to work with freelancers who have no protection against personal liability, which the sole trader option lacks. Furthermore, if you took on a project where you had someone working above you giving you instructions, this would likely place you inside what’s called IR35 legislation, which means working via an umbrella company would be the best option.

An umbrella company is easy to sign up to, and it will handle all of your invoicing, payroll, income tax and National Insurance deductions.

Churchill Knight provides all three of these types of business set-ups; contact us to find out which option might be best for you.

Prepare to expand your knowledge constantly

Marketing is an industry that is constantly evolving, especially in the digital marketing field. This is why if you hope to be respected as a marketing expert, you have to constantly expand your knowledge. The effort required of you to advance your marketing skills and knowledge ranges from taking training courses and conducting research, to attending exhibitions and reading publications such as Marketing Week.

Becoming a marketing freelancer takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but some marketers, such as Seth Godin and Tim Ferris, have made careers out of working for themselves, and have gone on to start very successful marketing businesses.

If you believe you’re ready to start a career as a marketing freelancer or consultant, get in touch with us on 01707 871622 to find out which accounting option – whether it’s sole trader, umbrella company, or limited company - is best suited to you and your business.

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