Being an independent digital marketing consultant is a job that can give you many freedoms. You can work from the comfort of your home, set your own schedule, and choose who you will work with.
But this doesn’t mean it’s an easy gig. You need to master a myriad of skills, become proficient with a variety of tools, constantly keep up with marketing trends, and put yourself out there for your clients.
Your clients will count on you to help them grow their business, so it’s a job with tremendous responsibility. But do your job committedly and diligently, and you will reap many rewards. If you think this is the right career path for you, this is what you need to do.
What Does a Digital Marketing Consultant Do?
A digital marketing consultant designs well-informed digital marketing strategies for their clients and helps with their execution.
They can also evaluate the current marketing strategy of a client and suggest improvements in certain areas, instead of devising a completely new strategy.
A digital marketing consultant can either supervise the work of the client’s in-house professionals who are tasked with implementing the digital marketing strategy or they can manage the work themselves.
The exact role of a digital marketing consultant can vary depending on the client’s needs, but it all comes down to helping the client generate more leads and increase conversions. In this post, I have gone more into detail on what a digital marketing consultant does.
What Skills Do I Need to Become a Digital Marketing Consultant?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
If you want to be good at digital marketing, you must have excellent knowledge of SEO. According to HubSpot, 64% of marketers actively invest time in SEO.
The goal of search engine optimization is to drive more relevant quality organic traffic to a website. By optimising a website for search engines, you can get it to rank higher on relevant search engine result pages. Naturally, the higher the site ranks, the more clicks it will get.
SEO is a complicated discipline. You have to know how to identify and target keywords, keep up with ever-changing Google algorithms, and use a large number of tools. And clicks are not good enough on their own. They should lead to conversions.
You can learn more about SEO by enrolling in an SEO course or by working closely with an SEO coach.
Businesses allocate a large portion of their marketing budget to paid advertising. It’s often the job of the digital marketing consultant to maximise the ROI for every penny spent on ads. And to give advice on whether SEO or PPC will produce the highest ROI.
To help a client with their PPC (pay per click) advertising, you need to have a good understanding of Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and other PPC platforms.
If you don’t have success stories or case studies in your portfolio, it can be difficult to get a client to trust you with a larger paid advertising budget.
You can get the necessary experience by working for a bigger digital marketing agency or by running a campaign for one of your personal projects (such as your blog).
You can also find a non-profit organisation and offer to set up and run a Google Ad Grants account for them.
Social Media Marketing
Social media has become an important sales channel, so you should know how to design campaigns and drive targeted traffic from Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other major social networks.
You should also keep an eye on emerging social media platforms such as TikTok in order to evaluate their potential.
As a digital marketing and SEO consultant, you may spend a lot of time managing content. You should know how to design a well-planned content strategy. Any content marketing campaign needs to follow a master plan.
Content marketing encompasses social media posts, case studies, ad copies, blog posts, etc. Aside from providing value to prospects, quality content is necessary for SEO.
Being able to build a profitable email list is a very valuable skill. And, in order to build one, you need to understand how email sales funnels work and learn how to use email automation software.
The only factor that can generate more revenue for a business without increasing site traffic is conversion optimisation. You can charge more for your services if you become a conversion optimisation expert.
Let’s say you are working for an eCommerce site. They are selling a £4,000 product at a conversion rate of 1%. You will automatically generate more revenue for your client if you increase that rate to 3%. This can be your passport to a lucrative and long-lasting relationship with them.
Other skills you need to develop include:
- Web Analytics and reporting (Check out Google Analytics Academy)
- Basic CSS and HTML (Check out FreeCodeCamp’s course)
- Website Platform Management (Check out wpbeginner)
Working on your soft skills can only do you good, so be sure to pay attention to them as well.
Define Your Niche
The next step to becoming a digital marketing consultant is to define your niche.
Define Your Main Area of Expertise
You should choose one area where you will really excel, even though you need to have good knowledge of all digital marketing channels. This can be related to your past success stories and working experience.
For instance, if you have a number of good SEO case studies, you can use them to attract clients that want to grow organic traffic to their site. You can gradually introduce the full stack of your digital marketing services after you start working with them.
Define Your Target Market
When it comes to marketing, the rules of the game are different for different industries. It’s best to specialise in one or two industries instead of trying to get any type of client. For instance, you can provide services such as digital marketing for accountants, law firms or eCommerce.
You’ll be able to standardise your processes through specialisation. To become a digital marketing expert for a certain industry, you need to do your fair share of research and start building more success stories within that industry.
To target a certain industry, first you need to identify what are the pain points, problems, and opportunities within that industry. Attending industry events and connecting with people in the industry helps with this.
Digital marketing consultants that are experts in a specific niche are in higher demand than generalists. You will be able to charge way more if you specialise in one niche.
Let’s say you’re craving some really good sushi. Will you get it from a place that sells sushi, pizza, and German sausages, or will you go to a restaurant that serves nothing but fresh, traditional sushi prepared by highly-skilled Sushi chefs?
The same goes for digital marketing consulting services. A dentist looking to boost local organic traffic to their site will search for a consultant that specialises in healthcare SEO rather than a jack of all trades. And they will pay a higher price for their services.
Establish your Personal Brand
In order to market your consulting services, you need to establish your personal brand. Businesses that are looking for consultancy services will want to know your personal background and experiences. So, in this line of work, having a strong personal brand can be much more beneficial than having a business brand.
For starters, build a website. Your website shouldn’t serve just to display contact information. Many clients will judge you based on the quality of your website, so you need to make it shine.
Your website should showcase your services, client testimonials, and case studies. It should look clean and well organized. And, most importantly, you could start a blog, one of the best ways to bring in new business.
When it comes to attracting clients, your blog will be your most valuable asset. Blogging is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. For instance, if you are offering consulting services to law firms, you should blog on topics related to ‘marketing for law firms.’
Instead of promoting yourself in your blog posts, focus on providing value for the readers. Your articles should always be useful for your target audience. Try to get into the shoes of your potential clients and address their needs and problems through your blog.
Aside from writing content for your own site, you should also work on getting published on leading industry websites. Having your work published on high-authority websites is a great opportunity to:
- Demonstrate your expertise and authority
- Get precious backlinks to your website
- Get industry recognition
In order to get your content published on a high-authority site, you need to pitch them an idea for a blog.
But, before you start pitching high-authority websites, you should write a decent amount of content for your own website and get several articles published on smaller websites. You can also publish content on open-to-all platforms such as Medium.
The process is time-consuming for sure, but it will boost your personal brand as well as search engine rankings of your blog.
Instagram is great for sharing visually-interesting work, and you can also use LinkedIn and Twitter to demonstrate your expertise.
Research Each Client
You must exercise due diligence before you take on a new client. Here are a few tips for doing research on your clients:
- Study the basic financial data of your client. The key numbers you should pay attention to include market cap, gross profit, and overall revenue.
- Research the client’s competition. Figure out who are their main competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and key products and services. You should periodically review this information.
- To get the latest news about your clients and their competitors, set up Google Alerts.
- Familiarise yourself with the managing director and senior managers. You can use LinkedIn for this.
Be the Sherlock Holmes of digital marketing. Asking the right questions is key to understanding your client and their needs. It’s the best way to start a fruitful relationship with your clients. Never hesitate to ask for clarifications.
Build Your Team
When it comes to client work, you’ll have to deal with two scenarios. The first scenario is that you’ll only be providing consulting services to a business while their in-house team will implement your plans.
The second scenario? A client will hire you to do all the work from start to finish. If you don’t have someone to help you out, this can be impossible.
You may need to recruit the help of:
- Developers: Most projects require the development of new landing pages or making changes to a website.
- SEO expert: You may need someone to help you execute your SEO strategies, such as a link building outreach specialist or technical SEO assistant.
- PPC expert: The same goes for PPC. You’ll come up with a plan, and one of your team members can help you implement it.
- Social media specialist: When you are a consultant, carrying out repetitive tasks related to social media campaigns is not the best use of your time. It’s usually better to hire someone else to do it.
- Content writers: You can rest assured that you will need a lot of blog posts, case studies, and marketing copy for your campaigns.
Another big consideration is whether you should hire full-time or part-time employees. Hiring freelancers may be a better choice if you prefer to have more flexibility. Having full-time employees on your team is better if you can secure long-term projects.
In either case, it’s very important to establish long-term relationships with the people you work with. This way, you won’t have to spend time training new employees.
Choose Your Tools
When it comes to specialised marketing tools, there are countless options. But, rather than use some features of many different tools, it’s more effective to become an expert in a few tools.
You’ll use these tools to handle all of your work. You should also identify which tools are the best for your client’s team.
Some of the tools you should consider using include:
- Google Analytics: A free web analytics service that will help you track the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts.
- Google Search Console: This platform can help you understand how Google sees your client’s site. It can help you improve, maintain, troubleshoot, and monitor a website’s presence in Google search results.
- Google Data Studio: This is a reporting tool that integrates seamlessly with Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
- Google G-Suite: A tool for reporting, presentations, meetings, documentation collaboration, and email.
- SEMRush: This is one of the best all-in-one digital marketing platforms.
- Ahrefs: A professional-grade SEO tool that’s geared for experienced digital marketers. It is excellent for competitive analysis and keyword management.
- Optinmonster: A great tool for improving conversion rates for landing pages, increasing the number of email subscribers, and managing popups.
- MailChimp: The simplest and most popular tool for email marketing.
Decide on Your Pricing Structure
Setting a reasonable rate is key, but it’s easier said than done. For starters, you need to determine your overhead costs and how much money you want to be left with after you pay them.
When a client asks you how much do you charge, you should be able to answer in a clear and concise manner. You can charge them:
- Per hour
- By month
- Per project
The first method is pretty straightforward. Set a range for your hourly rate. You can set your price depending on the client and their needs.
You’ll need to prepare packages that will include a set of predefined services if you want to charge clients by the month.
If you want to charge clients per project, you will need to factor in how much time the project will take, the scope of the project, and the costs involved. Of course, you should add a profit margin on top of that.
Build Your Network
One of the best ways to get new leads is ‘word-of-mouth.’ marketing. Reach out to your immediate network—family, friends, professors, former coworkers, and ask them for referrals.
Having a LinkedIn profile is a must for every digital marketing consultant. The platform is great for networking as well as establishing your personal brand. Use it to connect with other consultants and clients.
LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements can help build your credibility. You can gradually grow your LinkedIn following by posting useful content and encouraging engagement on your posts.
Joining LinkedIn groups is a good idea, but be sure to join relevant Facebook groups as well. They are often better for networking than LinkedIn groups because they offer more opportunities for engagement.
Attending networking events is also important. On-site courses, conferences, lectures, and seminars will give you a chance to broaden your connections. You can use platforms such as Meetup.com to find relevant networking events in your area.
Never Stop Educating Yourself
If you are content with having a few marketing certifications and degrees, you won’t make it far. The best digital marketing consultants are always learning and updating their skills. It’s important to keep pace with the industry, and the world of marketing is always evolving.