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I’ve been asked so many times how I can afford to work and travel, so I’ve decided to put together a guide to Working Abroad, with all the different opportunities out there for you to make money while you see the world. This current post is one I have personal experience with: working remotely as a freelance digital marketer!
When I was first starting out, I reached out to other marketers with questions and for advice, but I was always rebuffed. They told me to pay for a consult, to buy their ebook or training course, or just ignored me completely. So, I did it on my own.
I’ve noticed whenever I post about working remotely or freelance digital marketing, I ALWAYS get flooded with requests about how I got started and how I do what I do. I promised myself I would never turn away someone asking for help, and so this blog series was born.
This is exactly how to start a freelance digital marketing business while traveling, with a step by step guide so you can do it as well!
Freelance Digital Marketing Salary: $2,000 month to $5,000 month
Taxes: You’ll pay taxes to your home country, or if you establish an LLC, the country the LLC is declared in.
Healthcare: Not included.
Vacation Days: Kind of? You can take time off work whenever you want, but won’t be paid for it.
Certifications needed? Nope. I’m completely self-taught, but I have a steady stream of clients and income.
Where to find work: I use many different websites to apply for freelance marketing work, but the one that I use the most is Upwork. Freelancer is also a common choice. Both of these sites are for contract/hourly work. Other sites I have profiles on include Cloud Peeps and Angel List, although the latter is more focused toward finding full-time remote work with a company, rather than contract freelance work. You can also check out remote-focused job boards like:
I also recommend building a simple website, promoting yourself through social media and LinkedIn, and spreading the word to your friends and family to send more business your way.
7 Steps to Become a Freelance Digital Marketer
My passion for travel has made my goal in life to be able to work from home, wherever that home may be. After teaching and living around the world, I began to brainstorm what skills and passions I have that would allow me to maintain my dream of remaining mobile indefinitely.
This dream came to fruition as a boutique digital marketing agency that specializes in social media management, content creation, web development, and branding for small business. I partner with clients that have amazing products, ideas, and energy to help them realize their dream of growing their businesses.
Does that sound too salesy?
If so, it’s because I copied it from my LinkedIn profile because I’m lazy! But, it’s the truth. I decided to start a freelance digital marketing business while traveling for the sole purpose of being able to work remotely, and the fact that I enjoy it and am maybe even a little bit good at it is just a bonus!
Let me be clear, I have no marketing background. Not a single college class, nothing for a side job or internship, nada. So, I went into this totally blind.
These are the steps I took to go from unemployed to successful freelance digital marketer in only two months.
1. Read. A lot.
I didn’t sign up for many of the webinars or social media courses that are sold at the end of every marketing post and in every email, but I did read a lot of blogs. Some great bloggers in the social media world are Neil Patel, Kissmetrics, Amy Porterfield, Rick Mulready, and others.
If you do want a more guided course, you can check out some of the top rated digital marketing courses on Udemy (most are only $9.99!) like The Modern Digital Marketing Master Course or the Ultimate Guide to Strategic Marketing. Additionally, Seth Goodin’s Freelancer Course is also popular if you want something more focused on freelancing as a whole rather than just digital marketing skills.
Whether you use online courses or teach yourself, make sure you thoroughly understand the best practices for each social media platform and learn how to run Facebook ads. Facebook advertising in particular is one of the most profitable things that you can offer because it’s technical, confusing, and people just don’t want to deal with it.
Once you get the hang of Facebook ads and can start taking people’s campaigns down from 50 cents a click to 4 or 5 cents a click, I promise you’ll be in high demand. Learn about targeting audiences, writing copy, and even practice building campaigns, ad sets, and ads in your own Facebook account to begin to understand the layout.
2. Find a Test Subject
I know that I’m lucky in this regard, but my mom and aunts run a small business and let me take over their social media accounts for a few weeks. They even let me run a week long ad campaign. This taught me so much about how to find and create content, and it gave me practice with tools like Buffer, Canva, and Buzzsumo. Now, I repay them by giving my mom all the new tips and tricks that I learn to use on their accounts 🙂
3. Begin Applying For Jobs.
Once you feel ready to launch your freelance digital marketing services, it’s time to find your first clients.
Like I mentioned above, I use Upwork to find about 95% of my clients. You build out your profile and then can search for any kind of work you want – in this case, social media management. You are restricted to applying for only 30 or so jobs per month, so you have to be smart about choosing ones that look like they have a good budget, are newly posted, and are work that you can do (or think you can learn to do fast!).
Some tips on proposals – keep them short and sweet. I was applying with huge long paragraphs about what I could do for the companies, and my response rate wasn’t great. Now I have a go-to proposal that almost never fails.
My advice? Keep the focus on them. Mention their name and their specific requests to show that you read it, and then ask a couple questions about how you can help them and their business. People feel obligated to respond to questions but will probably skim if you spend three paragraphs talking about why you’re qualified for the job. Save that for a later conversation once you already have them engaged.
4. Accept a Job (And Freak Out Internally)
Ok, I still can’t believe that I landed two large freelance digital marketing jobs in my first two weeks of applying. I had zero experience, and even worse, zero reviews on my profile! It thought it was a miracle, but now I understand how I got them.
If you came to this article looking for freelance marketing secrets, this is my biggest tip and one that I think is often overlooked in other articles and blogs talking about the industry: Your quality of work is far outweighed by your customer service.
Once you have your first clients on board, keep them happy. That means putting in extra hours and effort to make sure that your work is creative and represents their brand well. Go the extra mile for them, and most importantly, just be available. Someone who is attentive and responds promptly and politely to emails automatically jumps into the top 10% of freelancers just for that alone.
5. Learn A Lot
Man, when I think about what I know now and what I knew then, it’s crazy that people were even paying me. You will learn SO MUCH as you go. I recommend, once you’re a few months in, to start leaning towards a niche category if possible.
I had a large client in politics and by running their ads and working with their in-house advertising team, I learned a lot about targeting and writing copy for political news sources. When I picked up a second political client, I had experience in the field already and could jump right in to giving them great results.
6. Get Reviews
Any time a client ends a contract, chase them down for a review. Even if it takes two or three emails, these reviews will change your life.
Now that I’ve been on Upwork for months and have plenty of positive reviews, I don’t apply for jobs anymore. I have a “Top Rated” badge which tells clients that I’m a good pick for the job. Once I got one I started to get invited to jobs who want to work with me rather than the other way around. It’s an ego boost and a time saver.
Reviews are everything. Get them.
7. Build Your Online Presence
Now that you’re a master freelance digital marketer, you should be able to jump from freelancer to business owner and market your own business, right?
First, you’ll need to file your business as an LLC with the state you’re located in. It costs about $100, but it protects you from being sued to a certain extent, so it’s worth the money. It can also make your taxes easier depending on your situation.
Then, I bought a domain name and built a basic WordPress site. Daniel has since updated it, but mine was entirely passable without knowing an ounce of coding.
Get a Gmail address with the domain name and you will look like a true professional. Trust me, it goes a long way (and helps you stay organized).
Next, jump to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and start growing your accounts and your followers. Write interesting and informative blog posts to draw traffic in, and bam, you’re now a business owner. Congrats!
I don’t want to make it look like starting a freelance digital marketing business was a walk in the park because it definitely wasn’t.
However, I do want to show you that it’s possible and not as daunting as you may think. If you dream about leaving your desk job, use these tips to get started learning about social media and land your first marketing clients in your spare time without any risk!
Ok, the most important part. How much money do I make?!?
Here’s the breakdown. I started researching social media management and building my website in August. By the beginning of September, I had my first two clients and was making $2400 a month. Since then, my client base and jobs have fluctuated, but my average freelance digital marketing salary is usually between $2000 and $3000 per month. This work is done in about 20 to 25 hours a week.
I could (and probably should) bump it up more, but I like to spend my free time on Slight North. If you worked a full 40 hour week every week and had clients paying you for it, I think you could pull in $5,000 or $6,000 a month.
The main problem you’ll face with freelance digital marketing is client turnover. I work with a lot of small businesses who just opened a website and think that once their social media is up, they will immediately begin selling hundreds of products a week. When a month passes and their growth is steady, instead of explosive, they usually take social media into their own hands or abandon their business all together. This means that taking on new clients is a never ending process for me and leads to the fluctuation in income mentioned above.
The cons of freelance digital marketing include:
- My taxes went up and got more complicated, plus I have to pay them four times a year.
- I am responsible for providing my own health insurance.
- I have no paid vacations.
- There’s pressure not to take time off so as not to lose a client.
However, the pros list seems to even them out:
- I live in South America where the cost of living is low. $3000 here goes A LOT farther than it would in the US.
- Travel health insurance is also a lot cheaper than US health insurance.
- I can travel and take half days whenever I want to, or work from a remote island, new city, or hut in the mountains. Lifting the location restriction from work has been the greatest move of my life.
My Freelance Digital Marketing Experience
If you start a digital marketing business or do anything in the freelance world, you need to have thick skin. If you don’t, I promise that you will soon. One month you may be celebrating record high profits, and the next you’ll be threatening legal action against a client trying to ghost you while owing money.
Be ready to be looked down upon and outright disregarded. That 40-minute phone conversation you had? Yeah, they probably won’t even bother to answer a quick follow up email asking if they still want to work together. It’s easy to be blown off in a digital relationship.
Another difficult aspect of running my own business that I didn’t expect was the burden of bearing the sole responsibility of a project and not having any one else to look up to or get advice from. Everything that I manage and produce is attached to my name alone, and it’s a lot of responsibility to make sure that my work always reflects well on me. No tasks will be handed up or down the chain of command here.
Freelance digital marketing is definitely not the walk in the park some bloggers make it out to be, but it may be a good choice for you. My advice would be to always be paid upfront, never turn down an interview or invitation, and not to take yourself, or your work, too seriously.
For me, freelance digital marketing is a means to an end: travel. While working, I’ve been able to live in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Eastern Europe.
The money is good, and the hours are flexible. Don’t undercut your worth, but don’t overcharge. Work hard when you do, and keep your clients happy. Just like anything, there’s a work life balance and the stresses that come with it. In the end, I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. At least, not until something better comes along 🙂
Are you interested in working remotely or breaking into the digital marketing scene? Leave a comment below or shoot me a message, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have! Good luck!
PS still exploring your options? Visit the Working Abroad Series to learn more ways to make money while you travel and find in-depth guide to teaching online ESL classes, working as an au pair, getting a job as a flight attendant, finding work as a translator, landing a full-time position teaching in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, breaking into freelance writing, or even working on a yacht!