The digital economy in the US has been growing three times faster than the national GDP. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the average annual salary for digital marketers in the country stands at $114,275 – that is 72% higher than the national average. We have gone into details of that in our previous publications and now, let us talk about how to get started in the digital marketing career.
First of all, you need to be a fast learner and always up for learning new things. This industry demands it since it is riding on technology. Something that keeps changing every day. What works today may not work tomorrow, simply because of the fast-paced nature of technology development.
Next, you want to answer the question, which digital marketing field are you interested in? The industry has a wide variety of specialized fields. There is SEO, SEM, PPC, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Videography, etc. Though you can also go for a general role, whatever you choose, there is a process that starts with training, networking, then becoming a professional. Below we have highlighted this process, and it is as follows:
Starting Your Career as a Digital Marketer
Know Your Strengths
Digital marketing has so many fields, some more related, while others are worlds apart. Depending on your core strengths, you will find some of these fields quite daunting and outright boring. Or super thrilling and rewarding; it all depends on your strengths, passions, and capacity.
For instance, digital marketing may entail copywriting or coding. These two fields are worlds apart, and it might be hard for someone doing one to switch to the other. At the same time, social media postings and copywriting are closely related, and one who does one can easily handle the other.
For instance, digital marketing may entail coding or copywriting, two fields that are worlds apart. Then there is copywriting and social media marketing, which are closely related. Before you jump in with both feet into the digital marketing waters, you should try to understand your strengths and where it will be put in best use.
Select Your Appropriate Field
You know what they say, a jack of all trade is hardly a master of anything. No business worth its salt will risk its money paying a marketer to execute a specific field of digital marketing, but is not a specialist within that field. When they can get other professionals out there who have mastered that particular field.
From point #1 above, you must have now discovered what field of marketing best suits your strengths. It is now time to pick the field that would put to best use those strengths. You need to be careful not to fall into the trap of ranking a field based on the pay. Sure some fields have higher average pay than others.
However, remember, all fields pay well, and if you do something you are passionate about and good in, you will definitely have higher job satisfaction. Pick a field that you know you will enjoy working in, and you will find it easy to specialize, thus become a professional with authority. Thus getting higher pay based on the quality of work you put out.
Know the Skills Needed for the Given Field
So you know your key competencies and which field you are likely to flourish. It is now time to arm yourself with the prerequisite skills for that field. For that, you will still need to do further research and get to know the skills currently in demand. The recruiters and HR managers may have different expectations of skills for a given job title.
Pro tip – create a spreadsheet with the title of the job position, followed by expected skills for the given title. To know the expected skills for a given field of marketing, you can research hiring companies and check out the skills they have listed down.
Different companies may be looking for varying skillsets for the given job title. You must arm yourself with a wide array of skill sets to increase your odds of getting hired.
Learn the Skills
Knowing what you want and the skills the recruiters are looking for, it is time you get to learning. Sometimes that means going to class or doing online courses. The exciting thing with digital marketing, although the industry pays the professionals high salaries. The entry requirements are quite affordable, as you can take online tutorials and be on your way.
Some of these tutorials are entirely free or very subsidized. Online learning platforms like Udemy are often recommended. If you have the free version of LinkedIn, you can upgrade to premium, and during the initial free trial 30-days program, access Lynda.com courses. You can then cancel your premium LinkedIn subscription at, say, and the 29th day revert to the basic.
During the trial period, you will have gotten quite some useful online tutorials on various digital marketing fields. The following are other recommended websites to learn some of the highly demanded digital marketing skills:
- Social Media Marketing – Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Search Engine Land, Distilled, Moz, SEOGadget
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing – Search Engine Land, PPC Hero
- Content – Hubspot
Become T-Shaped Skilled
When you visit the site Moz listed above, you will read the guide by Rand Fishkin, who likes using the term T-shaped marketer. Now, look at the letter ‘T’; it extends narrowly horizontally but goes deeply vertically.
In marketing, you need to have some basic skills across the fields but become a specialist in one or two fields. Hence the term ‘T-Shaped Skills’ means broad digital marketing skills, but a master in one or two specific areas.
Being T-shaped skilled will also help you to know exactly which field is best suited for you depending on your passion and capacity. Also most small to medium-sized businesses like hiring digital marketers endowed with the core digital marketing skill they are looking for, plus additional skills in other fields. That way, it ends up being cost-efficient if you have an in-house marketer who is somewhat flexible on what they can do, as opposed to hiring a new marketer for the various fields of marketing.
Know the Technical Stuff
The ideal marketer knows more than just copywriting, social media posting, and creating engaging content. You also need analytical skills to understand the engagement of the content you are churning out. Using analytics, you can gauge whether your marketing efforts are bearing fruits and or not. Think of data analytics skills as a way to quantify your marketing efforts.
Knowing how to read and interpret the metrics of your previous marketing campaigns can help, especially when being interviewed by a prospective client or employer. For instance, you can say in this particular campaign we had this given budget; these were the deliverable, and thanks to my strategies, we achieved these many clicks, purchases, subscriptions, etc.
It also helps if you can create superior multimedia content using graphic design and video editing skills. Rich multimedia content are far more engaging compared to plain text and unflattering pictures. You also need to have some level of understanding of web development and design.
You might not necessarily be the one designing the site or applications, but having some knowledge makes it easy for you as the marketer to describe what you want to the developers. You can also see mistakes done in the coding by the developer and ask for rectification.
Network with Seasoned Marketers
Networking cannot be overemphasized enough and not just in the marketing industry. It applies across all industries and professions. You need to have a support base, and the only way to get it is by mingling with experts and establishing professional relationships.
One way to achieve that is by attending local events, meet-ups, boot camps, and hackathons, bringing together professionals from various digital marketing backgrounds. It is understandable if, at first, you feel uncomfortable being in the same room and in the presence of authoritative figures in the industry. It’s a natural feeling, but remember your dreams can only be achieved outside your comfort zone.
Get a Mentor and Establish a Relationship
As you network with professionals in the industry. Establish a close relationship with one or two professionals and have them be your mentor. They will give you insider knowledge and fast track your learning curve. You also improve your chances of landing a job or scoring an internship position.
It will also help you put into practice and improve your people’s skills, something very critical in this line of work. So is communication and the ability to be a team player, all of which will be put into use when you reach out to someone to become a mentor.
You will then be able to tell where you fall short and hopefully take action to remedy the situation. Digital marketing is anchored on the ability to influence people and establish trust. Marketers are naturally drawn to people that have ambition and always on the hunt for their goals. If an established marketer sees those traits in you as a newbie, they would likely take you under their wings so you could, in the future, join their team.
Showcase Your Ability in Your Personal Projects
You can imagine how many people approach seasoned marketers for a mentorship opportunity. The more seasoned the marketer, the more requests they get, so much so that they feel harassed by it. So you need to be creative about how you approach them.
If you were to approach such a person with a portfolio showcasing your ability, already in hand. You are likely to gain their attention and make it easy for them to peruse your work. That way, they could see quickly gauge how much of their time and effort you are going to need to improve to where the industry demands.
As opposed to when you have nothing to show, thus your conversation begins from scratch, and the marketer thinks you will be a lot of work to mentor.
It is advisable that while you wait for your big breaks, test out your knowledge on blogs, vlogs, and content creation. Through what you create, the world will know your tone of voice, your creativity, and technical abilities. Any digital marketer worth their salt will have a personal project ready to showcase to any would-be clients.
It also serves as a ground to sharpen your skills by putting into practice the new things you are learning about the industry. Don’t fall into the same pitfalls newbie bloggers fall into; grammar and spelling mistakes. Some reports indicate search engines don’t take too kindly to web pages with bad grammar, and it is certainly a turn off to your target audience. Always double check your writings before publications, though ideally, you could have someone recheck it for you.
When starting, you might be intimidated that there are already some big shots in the blogosphere, but you need not be afraid. The internet is humongous, and you can pick a niche where you are passionate about and have authoritative content. If you blog consistently and be engaging, you might make it as a big shot blogger and not in need of a job offer in digital marketing. Instead, you can start your firm and do marketing for your clients.
Do Some Work Pro Bono
This part will suck for most people, but sometimes to get yourself through the door, you don’t have to wait for the door to be opened, you need to push your way through. The best way to do that is to find out who might need your service and do some free work. While at it, do such an excellent job that when you stop, they will realize how much their business needs your services.
The reason why you need to do that is because the average John and Jane Doe running a business do not know the value of digital marketing. Most small businesses don’t, and that is why they are small and outrun by the big companies that hire skilled digital marketers.
Since you are starting small and would probably not be on the radar of the big companies. Go for these small businesses who either don’t do much marketing of the owner becomes a jack of it all doing everything from accounting to marketing. The following are steps on how you can embark on that:
- Write a list of family, friends, and acquaintances who are running their businesses and are in executive positions. That is they can make important decisions, such as outsourcing some tasks in the business.
- Reach out to them and explain what you do and your career goals. More importantly, tell them how what you have been doing can help their business and offer free services to their business. Be careful not to come off ‘salesy’ and, most importantly, show them your portfolio (here’s where your blog will come in handy). Make sure they know the work will be free; most people won’t pass on the opportunity.
- Do a kickass job. You might be feeling demotivated, putting your best out, and you won’t end up being paid. Well, just like your blog did a lot in creating your portfolio, this pro bono work you will be doing will enrich your portfolio. You will end up getting paid one way or the other. The person to which you are doing the free may be impressed with the result that they decide to hire your service going forward, or the work itself will sell your name to other companies looking for digital marketing services.
Rejuvenate Your Motivation
There is bound to be some low times in your career; time when you feel unmotivated and just tired of it all. Especially if things are not working out as you had expected. The good news is, it happens to most of us, and when it happens to you (as it will happen often), it is a good idea to motivate yourself.
Some marketing experts recommend reading and learning new stuff within your industry. You just might get some insight into why your efforts are hitting a brick wall. Perhaps even come across a personal story of another marketer who at one time was struggling to gain traction like you, and how things started looking up for them.
Charge a Premium for Your Service
After you gave someone some advice for free or did a pro bono job for them and it turns things around for their business. They are more likely to come back to you for another marketing campaign or refer you to someone else. At that point, you can ask them to pay for your time and effort.
You need to be passionate about your work, as it radiates from you to people around you, convincing them you know your trade. You also need to charge the right amount; undercharging or continuing to do it for free will make people lose respect for your work and advice thinking it is not valuable.
Asking for the right amount, you give your prospective client confidence in your work. Always remember, asking too little draws a picture of low quality in the clients’ minds. That leads us to a very important question, how do you know the correct amount to charge?
How to Arrive on How Much to Charge
Compare notes with your network. Ask other professionals in the field how much they charge for the given service. You need to ask several digital marketers and write them down. You can then come up with the right gauge for how much you should charge; you could charge the median, average, upper percentile, or the lower percentile.
Do online research. You can go to Google and search for digital marketers within the given region. Some might have prices for the various services they offer right there on their websites. If not, you can take to emailing them and ask for a quotation for a given service. Armed with that information, you can now gauge how much you should charge for your service.
PS – If the price you have arrived at is equal to, exceeds, or close to that charged by the very best in the market. You have overpriced your services, and likely no one will want to pay a newbie that high; they might as well go for the very best in the business.
You are better off sticking near the average; I would say some figures less than the industry average. Whatever you do, don’t go for the bare minimum, as it will create the wrong perception in the mind of your prospective clients about the quality of your work.
Time to Reposition Yourself in the Market
So you have closed a deal with a client, created the deliverables, they were content with your work, and you got paid. It is now time to re-look at the market position you want to occupy. The work you did was freelancing, and although there is a good number of freelancers out there who make a better income than the marketing executives hired full time. You need to decide whether you want to continue with freelancing, or it’s time to apply for digital marketing jobs around.
The main drive behind your work should not be just about the money, but if you achieve your clients’ targets. Naturally, that will come along with commensurate effort for your time and effort.
By repositioning yourself in the market, I mean, would you like continuing being your own boss. That would mean you get to do all the heavy lifting in your business, reap all the profits (perhaps bare all the losses), and enjoy the freedom of work as you like. Or are you looking to get hired and enjoy the security of a paycheck at the end of the month, enjoy interacting with colleagues, and also having to live by someone else’s timeframe.
If you know what you want, then chose appropriately between getting hired or continuing as an entrepreneur. Please note that digital marketing is one of those industries that has seen a ballooning number of entrepreneurs, and all indications point towards it not stopping any time soon.
We are not trying to sound like a broken record – we have repeated this point several times here – you need to continue learning. Technology is the skeleton of digital marketing, the platform without which it will be nonexistent. The good and yet a bad thing, with technology, is that it is evolving very fast.
What works today may not work tomorrow. This month you might have adhered to all the rules set by search engine algorithm in indexing web pages. The next month, an executive at Google wakes up with a new update, which completely scrambles the previous rules. You must learn these new rules pronto as such changes will move your digital assets such as website some ranks lower. Translating to low traffic to your site.
Marketing experts who have managed to stay afloat as new changes come and go in the digital marketing world do some learning at least one morning or two every week. Where they dedicate a few hours to reading about new developments in the industry and see how they work, perhaps even implement a few of the changes in your work and see how much of an impact they will have on your viewership.
If you want to begin a career in digital marketing, you need to figure out which field of marketing you are best suited for; your interest and passion determine much of that. Once you have that figured out, start learning and mastering all there is to that field.
Start attending related events, reading-related news, and networking with people within that field. Showcase your ability through a blog and offer up free services to small businesses, you know. Once you start receiving potential clients asking for your service, charge them the fair market price. Take extreme caution not to under- or over-charge.
Reposition yourself in the market and establish where you are going with your business. Always keep learning and experimenting with new things in your market. That will keep you ahead of the competition and avoid your market leadership being disrupted by changes in technology.
Article provided by, The Digital Marketing Recruiter – a recruiting firm focused exclusively on filling digital marketing positions throughout the USA
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