Freelancing Vs. Employment
Before you begin your freelancing journey, make sure you understand the key differences between being a freelancer and an employee. Becoming a freelancer is in essence starting a business. You are responsible for submitting proposals to clients, setting your prices, managing your expenses, marketing yourself, and handling your own taxes and healthcare.
The primary benefit of freelancing is flexibility. You can decide when, where, and how you’d like to work. You are not beholden to a set 9-5 schedule, have the opportunity to work on different projects to add variety to your day, and don’t need to stay in a set location to work.
The tradeoff is that you lose the stability offered by traditional employment. There is not a guaranteed salary so you need to hustle to gain clients and put in enough billable hours to earn a decent salary. The earning potential can be very high, but you need to lay a strong groundwork and work hard to succeed.
Picking a Specialty
While you may have experience in several areas of marketing, it’s usually best to focus your portfolio on one niche or skillset. This makes your profile, portfolio, and resume more focused. This sometimes throws off new freelancers as companies hiring for full-time roles frequently advertise generalist positions such as a Digital Marketing Manager position or simply a Marketing Manager position, but freelancers are most often hired to address a specific project or ongoing need.
Another option is to create separate portfolios for different skill sets. This allows you to have focused portfolios but still apply to projects in multiple categories. Some freelancing sites like UpWork will allow you to have multiple portfolios linked to one account, allowing you to submit the one that best fits each project you apply for. If you want to pursue multiple avenues try this route.
Building your LinkedIn profile and personal website can help you get your name out there and connect with prospective clients, but most freelancers will need to use freelancing websites to connect with clients. Some of the most common freelancing websites are Fiverr, UpWork, and Freelancer. We also have two features on Online Geniuses to help you find work; our Job Board and our Talent Network.
See our blog on the best freelancing websites for a detailed look at each website. If you are just starting out, set up profiles on several of the major freelancing websites and see what works best for you and your business.
Freelance Digital Marketing Salaries
When you’re a digital marketing freelancer, you are in control of your salary. How much you should charge per hour or project will depend on your specialty, experience level, and in some specialties education level. Some consultants will further specialize and focus on clients in a particular industry, this can be limiting at first but over time will earn freelance digital marketers a higher salary.
For example, SEO freelancers will average $50-$75. Junior SEO freelancers will generally land in the $25-$40 range. Meanwhile, seasoned SEO freelancers can charge well over $100-$150, or much more if they’ve built their personal brand up significantly and have had notable successes in their past endeavors.
Meanwhile, Social Media Freelancers rates vary even more widely. Junior freelance social media managers can expect $15-$35, while experienced social media freelancers can charge $50-$100. Expert social media managers can earn $100+ per hour. However many will do flat weekly or monthly rates as keeping track of the time needed to publish a post or respond to a direct message can be cumbersome.
As you can see there is a lot of variance between specialties and experience levels. It’s also important to decide whether your service is best offered at a fixed-rate or by the hour.
Setting Your Price
Setting your prices is usually a two-part process. Most freelancing sites such as UpWork or Online Geniuses will give you the option to list your rate on your profile. You can search through the freelancer listings on the website to get an idea of what rates to offer if you are unsure. If you are making public profiles on multiple sites for the same specialty try to be consistent with your pricing.
You’ll also set a rate when submitting proposals and speaking with prospective clients. There’s a good chance you’ll have some clients try to negotiate your rate down.
Make sure that you are factoring any fees from the freelancing platforms. Many take a percentage of your earnings, so be sure to calculate what your earnings will be after the fees to make sure that it is acceptable to you. Also, don’t forget to set aside some of your earnings for taxes. Self-employed individuals do not have taxes taken out of each of their paychecks like W2 employees, so you’ll need to set aside money on your own and calculate your quarterly estimated tax payments to the federal government and your state (if applicable).
How to Earn More
The ultimate goal of freelancing is to make money, so naturally, you should always be building your brand and looking for ways to improve your earnings.
As a freelancer, you are responsible for your own training and development. Make sure to keep up on the latest industry trends and pursue continuing education as needed. There are a lot of certificate programs online to help you learn new digital marketing skills or expand your technical abilities.
You should also stay on top of improving your freelancing profiles. Ask clients for reviews and recommendations on the freelancing platform you use and/or on LinkedIn. Positive reviews will give you greater credibility and help you secure more clients. Once your profile is very strong and competitive, you should consider raising your rates. Make sure to keep your freelancing profiles up-to-date with notable projects that you complete and examples of your work. If you find yourself in high demand and struggling to keep up with all the offers, it may be time to reevaluate your pricing structure.