The Rise of Digital Marketing Consultants

The Rise of Digital Marketing Consultants

If you’ve ever considered ditching your 9:00-5:00 “day job” or wondered what it would be like to be your own boss, you aren’t alone. A revolution is taking place: more Americans are starting their own business.

According to the Freelancing in America: 2016 Survey, an annual report conducted by the Freelancers Union and Upwork, freelancers now make up a whopping 35% of the US workforce and contribute around $1 trillion to the economy annually. In the face of job cuts and hiring freezes, this survey underlines just how many Americans are taking matters into their own hands and creating their own full-time jobs.

If you’re a digital marketing professional thinking about creating your own business or are already in the process of setting out on your own as an independent marketing consultant, it can feel like a weight has been lifted. However, starting your own digital agency means there are a whole list of other things to think about and a ton of decisions to make. One of the most important first steps is deciding how you are going to find clients for your consultancy business and what should you charge your new-found clients.

As an independent digital marketing consultant, you’ve got a lot going on. Big to-do lists and probably even bigger ideas. This is your chance to create something independently and work on your own terms. So let’s look at what it means to be part of this new consultant revolution and how to win business as you get started.

Why do people want to be Independent Consultants?

Forbes contributor Elaine Pofeldt, who specializes in the growing solopreneur business industry and its ecosystem, says that one of the biggest perks of going it alone and setting up your own consultancy is the better work-like balance. She notes several findings from the Freelancing in America survey – namely that many independent contractors work less than a 40-hour work week, have easier access to job prospects thanks to a proliferation of platforms and technology, earning potential and the flexibility of the lifestyle.

Having chosen the digital consulting path, you’re likely already experienced in the digital marketing industry, but this is also an opportunity to add to your skill set. If you do go back to school, invest in a training course from an industry expert or take online classes, any SEO, content marketing or PPC expertise you develop will ultimately translate into tangible benefits for your fledgling business. That translates to a healthier bank balance and the credibility needed to charge higher rates.

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How should you position yourself?

In the face of an ever-competitive industry and more people making the switch to consulting, there is a knack to positioning yourself as a consultant rather than a do-er or technician. This is crucial to charging higher rates, winning better commissions and establishing stronger client relationships. It also means that to be successful as a digital marketing consultant, you have to learn to say no and be very selective about who you actually consult for.

Nela Dunato, a contributor to the Freelancers Union blog says, “The expert is the consultant who advises the client on the strategy, as well as the implementation. Strategy can bring disproportionately more value to the client than pure implementation does, so as an expert you can charge higher prices from your average technician freelancer.

“In order to keep your status as the expert, you cannot take on just any client who comes your way – you need to be discerning and selective, only taking on those clients who perceive you as an expert and are open to listening to your ideas and proposed best practices. This requires a thorough vetting process using your sales page copy, inquiry forms and questionnaires, sales conversations and proposals. Some clients don’t play well with experts and are just not worth taking on.”

How do you go about finding work?

If you come from an agency background, you might already have a strong network of contacts to tap into for your next project, but there are other ways to grow your digital consulting business, too.

Many consultants will benefit from a two-tier approach – which means creating your own job opportunities by using platforms such as Upwork, People Per Hour, LinkedIn ProFinder and SimplyHired and also nurturing relationships with agencies. As Donato observes, consultants are valued due to their expertise and strategic insight, something that not all agencies have on tap. Being able to bring your value to the table makes you a hot commodity, especially for those ambitious dynamic agencies executing their own growth strategies.

You can also just go out into your local city and find local businesses as clients. Look for companies that are running TV commercials, newspaper ads, the local phone book, local print and online directories, etc.

Starting your own agency can be challenging – but very rewarding when you’re successful. If you decide to start your own digital marketing agency, good luck!

Let us know what you think

Are you considering a move into digital marketing consulting? Have you recently made the leap and created your own job as a freelancer or independent contractor? We’d love to hear your stories about going it alone and advice you’d give to those setting out on the same path.

Sherry Bonelli
About the author
Sherry is the former Local Search Evangelist at BrightLocal. She led BrightLocal's Research and Content programs and championed the needs of their SEO Agency and SMB customers. Having worked in digital marketing since 1998, Sherry has a Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing along with numerous digital marketing certifications.