Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Here are some helpful tips to prevent you from making some of the same mistakes I made when starting out with DIY Digital Marketing.
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Diving into freelance digital marketing can feel intimidating even for those of us with extensive experience in the industry. Considering there are more than 1 billion freelancers around the world (ddiy.co), the amount of information available on the subject is staggering. It can be difficult to navigate the ins and outs of digital marketing and even more challenging to build your strategy going in. Whether you're just getting started with your business or looking for some tips to avoid common mistakes, these are 5 mistakes to avoid when starting your DIY digital marketing journey.
1. Undervaluing Your Products and Services
One of the most consistent and often frustrating issues I've run into in my experience as a freelance digital marketer is undervaluing my services. This is more common than you might think, especially when first starting out. I assumed that, as a beginner, my services couldn't compete with the well-established digital marketing agencies, so I should adjust my prices to reflect that. For those who are familiar with the digital marketing industry, however, you'll know that isn't the case. Freelance services, especially those revolving around marketing, are on the rise.
In fact, according to oberlo.com, 2.14 billion people around the world (or 27.2% of the world's population), are shopping online in 2021. In other words, the market is ripe with opportunities to offer your unique services, don't undervalue yourself.
I assumed that, as a beginner, my services couldn't compete with the well-established digital marketing agencies, so I should adjust my prices to reflect that.
If you offer your clients low prices, they will associate your quality of work accordingly. Considering the average entry-level digital marketer makes upwards of $40k/yr (reliablesoft.net), it's evident that the skills you use as a digital marketer are valuable, and freelance digital marketing is no different. So why, then, do those of us getting into the freelance digital marketing business so frequently undervalue our services?
We feel intimidated by the already well-established brands in the industry.
We think we might not be taken seriously as a freelancer vs. an agency.
Many freelancers may not be aware of what the industry standard pay is for their services.
Make sure to research the industry standards to help identify a competitive price to charge your clients. When I was starting out, I believed I was charging competitive prices, although I was legitimately shocked to learn how low I was valuing my services when compared to other freelancers. According to Forbes, almost 1/3 of freelancers make over $75k a year! It can be challenging to land on a sustainable price at first, but at the end of the day, if you undervalue your business, you won't grow your company.
2. Not Identifying Your Audience
A digital marketer can offer a wide range of services, from content creation and copywriting to search engine optimization and web design. With this in mind, however, it's vital to establish your target audience and define your customer persona. What kind of digital marketing do you do? How can you apply your skillset to a niche audience while still providing relevant services?
According to a survey from Epsilon, 80% of consumers indicate "they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences and 90% [indicate] that they find personalization appealing." With this in mind, the importance of clearly identifying your target audience is undeniable. In the long run, having a clear understanding of your target audience can help save you money. I made the mistake of not narrowing down my intended audience well enough when starting out, which resulted in wasted ad spend as I was targeting the wrong demographics. Take the extra time to identify your intended audience while also deciding what the best methods of advertising would be given your customer persona.
Once you've identified your target audience, you'll be able to create a more successful roadmap for your digital marketing strategy.
3. Not Creating a Realistic Budget
Something that surprised me when I was starting out was the initial costs. I quickly realized most things related to digital marketing (platforms, logos, hosting sites, email clients, etc.) all come at a cost. Many sites pitch low, competitive prices, however, these costs can quickly add up, and you may end up paying for services you don't need, especially when you're early in your career. Most digital marketing start-up fees don't even include advertising expenses! This is where the importance of creating a realistic budget comes into play.
Creating a detailed, comprehensive budget is one of the first steps when getting into digital marketing, yet many are guilty of overlooking this aspect, myself included.
Here are some helpful tips when creating your initial budget:
Define Your Goals - When creating your budget, you need to define clear goals and identify your overall objectives. Are you looking to focus on Paid Search? Are you investing in email campaigns? How important to your goals are the features of a website hosting platform?
Decide Which Platforms to Invest In - After establishing your goals, you should have a better idea of the different services and platforms you'll need to invest in to promote and grow your business. A word of advice, do your research. I made the mistake of jumping into signing up for every service under the sun, where I had seen it promoted in a video ad or just recognized the brand. Be thoughtful and intentional about the services you invest in, and adjust your budget accordingly.
Understand the Differences Between Monthly and Yearly Subscriptions - This may seem somewhat obvious at first glance, but software and hosting services are getting better at sneaking in confusing jargon and additional costs to their platforms.
Monthly subscriptions tend to be more expensive, but you're not locked into a full year of the software. Almost all subscription services offer both yearly and monthly subscriptions; however, they will usually heavily promote the yearly option and strategically hide the monthly plans. I've come across numerous sites that required me to locate monthly pricing tiers on a completely separate page (not nearly as accessible as the yearly subscription options). Monthly subscriptions are great if you're looking to try out some software or are unsure how long you'll be using the service. Even though the yearly option is cheaper at first glance, the cost implies that you will use the software for the majority, if not all, of the first year.
There are many services where it makes sense to opt for the Yearly subscription option. For example, most hosting or domain services are very affordable and typically offer steep discounts (and usually bonus features) for signing up for a 12-month subscription. You know you'll at least need a hosting platform and some sort of website builder to get your business going, so choosing the Yearly subscription service for those aspects of your marketing may save you money in the long run. Decide the features and services you'll need, and budget your subscription services accordingly.
4. Investing Too Heavily and Too Early in Advertising
Getting your first few visitors on your site, especially on a somewhat consistent basis, is undeniably exciting. Considering many new freelance digital marketers measure early success by visitors and overall sessions, why not invest heavily in advertising costs to reach their goals more quickly? While online advertising is a powerful and viable tool, it's a channel that should ideally scale as your business grows.
Paid Advertising can be very effective when growing your channel, but most DIY digital marketers would probably benefit by investing more conservatively to scale their business.
Growing your subscribers can often feel like a slow burn at first, but it's also something that can gain substantial momentum and grow exponentially. Further down the line, once you've established a presence in the industry amongst your audience, you can start to focus on online advertising to continue scaling your business, rather than using it to build your audience from the ground up.
When I first started with my freelance digital marketing, I was desperate to gain traffic to my site, so I almost immediately implemented Google Ads and other forms of paid search (including some Fiverr gigs). On paper, the "only being paid when someone clicks your ad" advertising model seems like a safe bet, but remember that a click on your ad doesn't always lead to a conversion. I quickly reached my allotted budget for Google Ads with my first campaign and was left with virtually nothing to show for it. I didn't have the content and services to convert the few visitors I was receiving.
Data from Example Google Ads Account
Google indicates that the "Typical Competitor Budgets" for daily ad spend range from about $7 to $39. Keep in mind that the estimate for the higher end of this budget is around 0-20 clicks per day. Meaning you could be spending $270.20 a week for a maximum of only 140 clicks (or 0 potentially). While you do have the option of adjusting your daily budget to as low as $1.70, anything below $5 per day most likely isn't worth it (as no clicks are guaranteed for this budget). The point is, Paid Advertising can be very effective when growing your channel, but most DIY digital marketers would probably benefit by investing more slowly to scale their business.
5. Setting an Unrealistic Timeline
When starting out with digital marketing, expectations around the timelines can deter many new freelancers. On more than one occasion, I've almost thrown my hands up and quit in frustration around my perceived lack of progress. At first, I was under the false assumption that I would instantly become profitable if I built a quality site and offered quality services. To become a successful freelance digital marketer, however, you have to develop a comprehensive roadmap to help determine your timeline as your business continues to grow.
Organic growth takes time, and the market is so competitive, there are pretty much no shortcuts to becoming profitable. Does this mean you shouldn't become a freelance digital marketer? Of course not! The truth is, a large part of freelancing is consistency and adapting to a dynamic market. Your successes become less tied to monetary milestones and more around consistent and exponential growth in your skills and audience.
Consider using a digital habit tracker to measure your small successes when starting out. Many are for iOS and Android devices, so you can keep track of your accomplishments wherever you go.
One of the most exciting parts of freelance digital marketing is the ability to design your strategy and identify resources that promote the growth of your business. That being said, it can be challenging to identify the most effective approaches to achieving your objectives, especially given the plethora of platforms and software available for digital marketers. Hopefully, after reading this article, you've been able to determine a starting point while avoiding some common mistakes made by freelance digital marketers just beginning their journey.
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