• In Freelancing

    How to land your first client

    So, you’ve decided to take the plunge into your freelancing career? Congratulations, my friend. That leap takes moxie. Something you’re going to need plenty of as you charge on ahead to pitch and win that delicious first client.

    The good news is: there’s never been a better time to be a digital freelancer. Seriously.

    In the last five years, the internet’s exploded with platforms catering to freelancers of all shapes and sizes looking for online work. Through sites like Upwork and Freelancer, you now have direct access to millions of people around the world who’ll pay you money for what you love to do.

    Finding clients is no longer the riddle. But visibility is. Being a successful freelancer these days is defined by your ability to cut through the thronging pack and be seen as someone vital by the people who matter.

    I learnt this by trial and error. But who’s got time for that? If you want to know how to pitch like a seasoned pro and win clients (again and again and again), then listen closely, young Grasshopper.

    Be in the right place

    There’s no shortage of freelance platforms out there for you to choose from and the list is continually growing. But that doesn’t mean every one of them is right for you.

    Once upon a time you could have found my profile flung across every freelancer site in existence. I thought more exposure equalled more opportunities. Technically, this was correct. Until I realised that each platform catered to different styles of freelancers depending on your industry, experience, pay scale and personal taste. Some were immediately wonderful. Others were absolutely hopeless. It became obvious that I needed to streamline my job application to focus only on the platforms that worked for me.

    In my mind, the leaders of the pack are unquestionably Upwork and Freelancer. These two seem to have opened the door to the greatest amount of opportunities, the highest quality projects and the most awesome clients.

    Of course, neither of them are perfect and there’s many freelancers out there who’ll oppose my preferences. That’s why it’s important to do your own due diligence!

    Create a profile that cuts through the noise

    When it comes to creating your profile, the number one question you need to ask yourself is: How do I stand out? I can’t stress this enough. I’ve once been on the client side of both Upwork and Freelancer, and the amount of applications I received was overwhelming.

    Go wade through your fellow freelancers profiles on Upwork now. Your pool of competition is Atlantic. But don’t let this scare you away. Getting noticed is surprisingly easy when you realise that the majority acts like, well, the majority.

    Seth Godin puts it best:

    There’s a lot of pressure for freelancers to fit in, conform and comply. It seems easier to generate new business that way. That’s not really true. It’s easier to become an easily-described commodity that way, but the person who’s willing to push themselves out to an edge that matters is on the only path that actually leads to success.

    I watched my freelancing career skyrocket once I started asking myself how I could stand out and implemented the action to make it happen. It takes doing something differently. Going that extra mile. Thinking critically.

    So, how are you going to create a profile that puts you on the leading edge of the pack? Here’s some tried and true tips of my own:

    Keep your profile blurb concise, honest and clever

    No matter the industry you’re in, all prospective clients want to know is that you’re a professional person with the skills and the experience to do remarkable work. Simple.

    Every line of your profile blurb should fulfill this purpose. Press ‘delete’ on anything that doesn’t.

    Steer clear of faffing, no one is going to read your essay. Think 3-4 paragraphs and no more than 1,000 characters.

    Give it personality but avoid sales shark language like the plague. Remember you’re speaking to a human on the other side of the screen, so converse like you’re one too. Authenticity always connects.

    Get a portfolio website

    Most people will tell you a digital portfolio isn’t necessary to have as freelancer. And, I actually agree. You will still find work without it, albeit with a considerable amount of unnecessary sweat and tears.

    Pitching and winning becomes ridiculously easy when you have a professional digital presence to showcase who you are, what you do and why you love to do it.

    It pushes you immediately in front of the competition. Simply because the majority doesn’t do it.

    I swear by my own and I really don’t believe that I could have made a successful freelance career without it.

    Build it on Squarespace or WordPress, it will cost you literally nothing and even the tech-handicapped can do it. You won’t regret it!

    Make a video (but not if you suck in front of the camera)

    Upwork now offers you the ability to upload a video of yourself for prospective clients. It’s a fantastic way to bring an edge to your profile, but be careful: it can either make you or break you.

    If you’re someone like me who suddenly becomes stiff and awkward as soon as a lens is turned on them, then don’t even try. Connect with a medium that feels more natural for you: like your words or your work.

    If you don’t have a problem with the camera, then be friendly, be yourself and let your passion shine through.

    Get smart with your pitch

    Winning is all in the pitch. Here’s some tips that’ll make you irresistible!

    Address the prospective client by their first name

    It’s personal and immediately creates connection. If their name isn’t listed on the job post, then scroll through the reviews where you will usually find a mention of it. If you only have a company name, start with: “To the [company name] team”. Otherwise, “Hi there!” won’t cause any offense. Avoid “Dear Friend” like the plague.

    Answer the questions that matter

    Just like your profile, in your proposal, you want to answer the questions that matter to the client. What’s your experience? What past projects can you provide as samples? What’s your specialisation? How you could uniquely bring value to their project? How can you solve their problem?

    Imagine what it’s like to stand in your clients shoes reading your proposal. Is it too verbose? Do you succinctly get your point across? Are you addressing their needs?

    You’ll know your proposal’s efficacy once you test it out on the marketplace. Don’t be shy to keep on refining it and trying new things out until you get to a place where it’s really working for you.

    Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

    Use a customised template

    You’ll quickly discover that submitting proposals is a time consuming task. That’s why it’s smart to develop a well-crafted template that can be easily customised to suit each job application.

    My template’s customisable variables include: the client’s name, my specialisations (I switch hierarchy or place more emphasis on certain aspects to align with what they’re looking for), and a line at the end which speaks directly to the individual job, client or how you could specifically bring value to the project (for example, when applying for an agency position, I could write something like: “My background is in agency – it’d be great to get back working in my home turf! I’d love to chat to hear more details about the project and to see if we click.”)

    Don’t forget to be warm, friendly and yourself!

    Let your work speak for itself

    Your work speaks louder than words. I don’t recommend submitting a job application with at least one sample. Make sure every portfolio item you direct the client’s attention to is relevant and remarkable.

    Everyone is not your customer

    I know it’s tempting to whore your proposal out to everyone with a job post. But I really can’t stress enough how important it is to qualify the client, the project and yourself before hitting ‘Apply’.

    Ask yourself first if you have the skills or know-how to complete this job? If you’ve got the goods, then this will obviously increase your chances of winning the pitch. But being the right person for the job doesn’t mean that the client or the project is the right one for you.

    When tossing up whether you should apply for a project, it’s vital you know who you are and where you are going as a freelancer. Ask yourself these questions:

    • – What dollar amount am I willing to do incredible work for?
    • – What am I looking for in a client?
    • – Am I looking for short-term and/or long-term projects?
    • – What industries/fields/topics get me fired up as a copywriter/designer/illustrator/digital consultant/architect/etc. ?
    • – Am I looking for an easy quick buck or projects that will allow me to create outstanding work?

    Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to pitch for jobs and win clients that are aligned with your core values. This equals not just greater pitch success, but a career that’s actually fulfilling for you.

    Go the extra mile

    If the client asks you to answer extra questions for the job proposal, don’t wing it. Dig deep and take the time to put energy into your answers. It will literally pay off in the long run.

    If you’re shortlisted, tell them that you’re happy to jump on Skype call to introduce yourself and to chat about the project. Your willingness to do what the majority is not willing to do will determine your success.

    Words by freelance copywriter Rachel Sorenson.

    Feature image photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

  • In Career development

    How to get a digital marketing job in 2018

    So, what will employers look for when it comes to hiring their next digital marketing star in 2018?

    We’ve looked into our crystal ball to see how you can make your application stand out from the crowd.

    Get your nerd on with data

    For many years now, marketers have gotten away with pretty portfolios and creativity. However, there has been a seismic shift towards data-driven marketing, and this trend will only continue in 2018.

    Regardless of your expertise or position, it will be vital for you to not only be able to report on your work but also be able to interpret data to make more informed decisions.

    Expect to also see a growth in data and analytics focused roles supporting digital activities as companies expand their analytics teams to help leverage their marketing efforts. If you’re a stats geek, this really could be your year!

    Our tip

    Make sure you have demonstrable experience in data analysis, or, qualifications and certificates focusing exclusively on analytics. Even if your major focus is elsewhere, analytics is the most applicable and usable second skill set to have.

    Find your niche

    It might seem like a lot of digital marketing roles expect you to be a jack of all trades, but expect to see more and more jobs seeking digital marketing discipline specialists.

    We’ve seen this for quite a while now with the split between digital marketing and social media, and you can expect to see more content marketing, SEO, online advertising, and analytics focused positions moving forward.

    However, experience across a range of disciplines isn’t a bad thing, especially if you can pair it with expertise in an industry.

    Being the go-to expert for *insert industry here* digital marketing can make you hugely valuable to employers in that niche, and position you uniquely in the marketplace.

    Our tip

    Make sure you have base level knowledge of all digital marketing disciplines before finding your specialty. You’ll find most skills are transferable, and it makes it easier for you to pivot into new areas if needed.

    Have a side hustle

    Side hustles exploded in 2017, and have become a huge tick to have on your resume.

    Side hustles show an employer that you are driven, are willing to put in extra work, and that you are passionate about your chosen field.

    Your extra-curricular activities are also great to show in your portfolio, and also demonstrate your time management, project management – and depending on your work – your client or customer relationship management.

    Our tip

    It’s best to make sure your side hustle is related to your chosen work field if possible. For example, if you’re an SEO expert, having a small SEO agency is a much better side hustle and selling craft at a market stall.

    Use outsourcing to your advantage

    If you’re looking to start or expand your side hustle, 2018 will be the perfect year for you.

    Expect more and more business to outsource their digital marketing activities to freelancers and agencies. With so many moving parts comprising a digital strategy, it can be far easier to outsource jobs like SEO and content writing than building capacity internally.

    While this work can be sporadic and pay less than a full-time position, it can be the perfect to make extra money on the side. Combining many clients can also make up a full-time wage for you as a freelancer or your own agency.

    Out tip

    While outsourcing will affect the job market, establishing yourself now as a freelancer or agency in your niche position you perfectly in the future as outsourcing continues to expand. While your colleagues scramble to find new jobs, you’ll be years ahead of the game with an established client base.

    Start building your personal brand

    Whether you’re applying for jobs or building your own client base, having a strong personal brand can give you a massive advantage over your competition.

    Your personal brand is how you are perceived by others, especially around your expertise and knowledge. Think about the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin who have become go-to experts for everything marketing related through the careful curation of their personal brands.

    By developing your own personal brand, you can not only tell the world how amazing you are but demonstrate your skills and expertise to an interested and engaged audience. While you don’t have to become uber famous, having a strong online presence as a thought leader in your niche can even have people reaching out and making job offers to you.

    And don’t be afraid to send people to your content! Whether you choose to write or make videos, there’s nothing wrong with including links on your applications or resume.

    Out tip

    Get blogging. Nothing says you’re an expert like driving the conversation. You don’t even have to start your own blog, sites like LinkedIn or Medium are perfect for reaching a captive audience already interested in what you have to say.

    Some resources to help you start building the ultimate CV

    Get started with your digital marketing career

    Get experience across all digital marketing ddisciplinesand get certified at the same time. The Digital Marketing Certified Associate course gets you certified as an Online Marketing Certified Associate, as well as with Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!

  • In Career development

    Finding your digital marketing niche

    Digital marketing is huge!

    It covers everything from big data and analytics right through to posting pretty pictures on Instagram. And even if you’re a rock star – and we know you are – the chances of you being a world-class stats geek and social media maven are pretty slim.

    This is why it’s important to find your own niche. Not only does this allow you to better leverage your talents, you can really zone in your expertise and become more valuable to prospective clients and employers.

    Types of niches

    It best to think about choosing your niche in one of two ways:

    1. Choosing a specific digital marketing discipline and becoming an expert, or
    2. Finding an industry to focus on while providing a number of digital marketing services.

    There is no right or wrong path to follow, and whether you become a jack of all trades or a master of one, you have the opportunity to quickly position yourself as a leading expert in your field.

    But to help you on your way, here are the pros and cons of each approach.

    Becoming a digital marketing discipline expert

    You’d be shocked at how many disciplines make up digital marketing, and how it is now close to impossible to be an expert at everything.

    It’s also worth keeping in the back of your mind that digital marketing is a moving landscape. Five years ago, no one had heard of marketing automation, while mobile marketing is also relatively new. So, the niche you choose now may not be the niche you are in forever.

    You should choose your digital marketing discipline based on your skills and what you enjoy. Are you a big thinker? Look at the strategy side of digital marketing. Love playing with numbers and stats? Look at analytics. Enjoy telling stories and being creative? Content marketing could be for you.

    In general, this approach is best for those who would like to work for a company rather than individuals starting their own agency. There are a lot of SEO agencies, for example, however, if you can service a gap in the market you could become highly sort after.

    On the plus side, it is very easy to learn about your discipline, become a thought leader, and work across a large number of different companies and projects. But this means you will really need to stay on top of your discipline and make sure you’re the go-to expert in your field.

    Pros Cons
    –          Perfect if you would like to work for companies
    –          Easy to become a thought leader
    –          Educational programs are easily available
    –          Blogs, podcasts, and video content easy to find
    –          May be difficult to break through as a new agency
    –          Need to keep up with latest trends
    –          Some disciplines are more sought-after
    –          Employers may want experience in other disciplines

     

    Becoming an industry expert

    Using your knowledge and experience to service an industry you know well can really differentiate you in the market, and help you cut through to prospective clients and employers.

    Not only will you have inside knowledge of the industry, clients will trust you more, and you’ll easily be able to build a strong network within the industry.

    There are a number of ways you can find an industry to service:

    • – Something you enjoy – like music or sport
    • – An industry you are knowledgeable about – like real estate
    • – An industry you have worked in or are experienced with – especially if you have demonstrable success as a marketer
    • – An industry you see an opportunity in – that is growing or is not currently serviced by other marketers.

    But it’s important to remember you don’t have to have worked in the industry, through building your brand you can position yourself as an industry expert.

    Unlike choosing a digital marketing discipline, becoming an industry expert lends itself more to those wishing to freelance or start their own agency. This approach is also much easier to show value to prospective clients and employers, as they will understand your previous projects and imagine how you can apply it to their business.

    Pros Cons
    –          Perfect if you would like to start an agency or freelance
    –          Networks of prospective clients already exist
    –          Easy to demonstrate value to clients and employers
    –          Easy to develop portfolios of previous work
    –          May be difficult to find employment opportunities with companies
    –          Must be across a number of different digital marketing disciplines
    –          Industry-specific education hard to find

     

    Tips for choosing your niche

    Choose something you enjoy – yes, you can turn your passion for taking photos and making videos into a career!

    Try before you buy – don’t just choose a discipline without having any experience in it. It’s best to start your digital marketing career as generic as possible with exposure to lots of different aspects, and then choose your niche once you’ve found a favourite.

    Don’t be afraid to change – the great thing about digital marketing is there are loads of transferable skills. If you think you’ve made a mistake, never be afraid to branch out or change niches.

    Start building your brand – once you’ve chosen a niche, start building your personal brand. There’s no point being an expert if no one knows about it.

    Supercharge by combining niche types – this one won’t work for everyone, but if your industry is big enough and there is demand, you can become a discipline expert within an industry. Think of something like an education content marketing expert or banking PPC agency.

    Get started with your digital marketing career

    Get experience across all digital marketing disciplines and get certified at the same time. The Digital Marketing Certified Associate course gets you certified as an Online Marketing Certified Associate, as well as with Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!

     

  • In Study online

    Start your business while you learn

    Don’t learn by watching and reading; learn by starting your own company!

    As part of the Digital Marketing Certified Associate course, you can start any online business you can dream of and use your new venture as your course project. Directly implement your learning, all while setting up your business with best-practice teaching.

    You may have been thinking about opening an online store, a digital marketing agency, or maybe you just wanted to build a personal portfolio site to showcase your skills.

    So if you’re ready to launch, check out what you’ll be doing during your project.

    Starting your project

    The DMCA Project is broken into four smaller sections, each with their own specific objectives. Each section builds on the last, setting the correct foundations for your site, and helping you build traffic.

    Before starting the first section, you will need to define your new venture, choose a target audience, and identify relevant keywords for your site. Your venture can be anything you choose, however, we recommend choosing something you will want to continue with even after the course is complete.

    This could include:

    • – An e-commerce store selling a product
    • – A digital marketing agency
    • – A freelancing portfolio website
    • – A drop shipping store
    • – A new software you have developed

    Section  1 – Getting ready to market

    You have your idea, now it’s time to get to work!

    Section 1 is all about getting your site set up correctly so that you’ll not only be found in search engines but also be able to correctly track and monitor activity on your website through the use of Google Analytics.

    Section 1 activities

    1. Set up a business website – including content and lead capture
    2. Ensure proper SEO for your website – through keyword research, competitor analysis, and metadata
    3. Track and monitor your website using Google Analytics – with goals and utm code setup
    4. Announce the launch of your new venture

    Section 2 – Driving relevant traffic

    There’s no point having a beautiful new site without anyone visiting!

    Using what you’ve learned about Pay Per Click advertising, you’ll start your first search campaigns within Google’s advertising platform, AdWords.

    If you have budget, you can turn on these ads to see visitors start to visit your site and begin interacting with your content.

    Section 2 activities

    1. Sign up for a Google AdWords account – including adding retargeting pixel to your site
    2. Create keyword lists for your ads to target
    3. Create ads for your keywords highlighting your selling points
    4. Research and set bids for ads
    5. Track and monitor the success of your campaigns

    Section 3 – Brand visibility and engagement

    Time to get social!

    Take your new venture to the world by creating a Facebook page with the goal of reaching 2000 users and engaging with 100. But if that sounds like a lot, don’t worry. We’ll teach you how to get there step-by-step.

    Section 3 activities

    1. Create your Facebook business page – including images, logos, and information
    2. Post relevant content on your page for prospective followers
    3. Set up your content strategy and post schedule
    4. Run contests and/or free trials to increase awareness and reach

    Section 4 – Content marketing

    By now you’ll have organic, paid, and social traffic, and with content marketing, you’ll have yet another stream of prospective customers flowing to your website.

    In this section, you’ll create your own YouTube channel and post relevant and engaging videos your audience will love. If you have budget, you can also set up display and in-stream advertising to further boost your traffic and leverage your great content.

    Section 4 activities

    1. Set up your YouTube channel
    2. Create videos to maximise views and likes
    3. Generate views through in-display and in-stream advertising
    4. Target relevant views to drive views and likes to your video

    How the project is assessed

    The great news is that unlike projects and assignments, you don’t have to do a lot of writing to be assessed for the DMCA project.

    Instead, all you need to do is record your analytics each week and at the end of the project, take relevant screenshots, and provide links to your website and social media accounts.

    That’s it! You’ll be assessed on actually doing, not how well you can write an essay.

    Project costs

    The great thing about the project is that you can spend as much, or as little as you want.

    The entire project can be completed for free, or you can pay for extras like hosting, domain names, content creation, tools and apps, graphics, and advertising. However, you won’t lose any marks if you don’t, you’d be surprised how much you can do by yourself for free!

    Using your project after your course

    Want to know the best thing about completing your project? You now have a business!

    This is 100% yours to keep, and can be used as:

    • – Your new business or side hustle
    • – For your portfolio, including all the metrics and statistic of traffic and conversions
    • – As a sandpit you can use to practice or try new concepts on

    You also now have the template to go and launch a site all over again, whether it’s for you or a client.

    Ready to start your business?

    Download the  Digital Marketing Certified Associate course guide for a comprehensive look at all course modules and to discover the new skills you’ll learn you can apply to your new venture.

  • In Career development

    How to create your personal brand

    No, we’re not talking about your logo…. Think of this less about colour pallets and image filters and more about how you are perceived by others.

    By developing your own personal brand, you can not only tell the world how amazing you are but demonstrate your skills and expertise to an audience of millions. So, how can you go about positioning yourself as a must-hire candidate?

    Choosing your niche

    If you haven’t done so already, it’s important to choose a niche where you’ll become a thought leader.

    This niche can be a specific discipline like content marketing, social media, or SEO, or an industry like education, law, or e-commerce. In many cases, being the go-to expert in a field is much better than trying to be a jack of all trades.

    Once you’ve identified your niche, you need to know where professionals exist. What blogs do they read? What conferences do they attend? Do they listen to podcasts? Who are the thought leaders? Do they prefer one social media platform over another?

    The answers to these questions will greatly help where, when, and how you distribute content and interact with prospective customers.

    Get social

    Remember, social media is for more than dog gifs and baby photos. Used correctly, it can be a great tool for branding and networking.

    1. Find the social media channels where conversations are happening This may differ from niche to niche. Generally, business and marketing professionals have discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter. But, on the other hand, fashion and fitness professionals are more likely to use Instagram or Facebook.
    2. Create a professional profile on these channels Remember, this is the social media channel that the professional world will see. Use your personality, but keep it professional.
    3. Follow thought leaders within your niche, as well as surrounding niches Not only might they follow you back, but they will infinitely help your learning with their insights into the industry.
    4. Find relevant hashtags and groups to join Don’t just follow individuals, also keep across topics and join relevant groups. This will be important for when you start posting yourself!

    Get learning

    Get the bookmark button ready, because it’s not just social media where the conversation will be happening. Make sure to research:

    1. Niche-specific news sites and publications
    2. Blogs and websites focused on your niche
    3. YouTube channels dedicated to your niche
    4. Podcasts discussing your niche

    If you’re completely lost as to where to start, Alltop is blog aggregator which allows you to search by keywords. Here you’ll get links to popular sites in your niche which post regularly.

    Get talking

    You know where the conversations are happening; now it’s time to join in! Here are some simple ways you can start positioning yourself as a thought leader.

    1. Start commenting Yes, we know, the comments section is the worst. But in these circumstances, they can be a good thing! Niche content comments are far more civil than main-stream sites and are a great place to share your opinion or ask questions. But remember! That these are professionals in your field, so make sure you’re informed before throwing in your two cents.
    2. Answer questions This can be anything from a quick response on Twitter or a lengthy answer on Quora. Everyone loves being helped by someone in the know, and often a link off to a detailed article you’ve read is a perfect response.
    3. Ask questions Want to know more about something and can’t find the answer? Ask the world! But make sure they are genuine questions, and be sure to research the answer first. There’s nothing more embarrassing than asking a question that can be answered with a simple Google.
    4. Give an opinion Got a view of something newsworthy? Tell the world! Groups and discussion forums are great for this, as is Twitter. But just like your commenting, remember that your opinion needs to be well researched and informed.

    Get creating

    This is where you’ll really start to position yourself as a thought leader. Creating content is simply the best way to demonstrate your expertise and grow your personal brand.

    Types of content you can create

    1. Blog posts on your own website
    2. Blog posts on LinkedIn
    3. Guest posts on niche blogs
    4. YouTube videos
    5. Podcasts
    6. Slide decks
    Content creation quick tips
    1. Be sure to share
      As much as we wish it wasn’t the case, posting something on the internet doesn’t mean it will be found by the world. Make sure you share your content across all channels including social media and your contact list. If it’s relevant, you can also use your content as an answer to questions you find.
    2. Play to your strengths
      Don’t try and be everything to everyone. Like choosing your niche to specialise in, there’s nothing wrong with only creating content on media you’re comfortable with. If you’re a good writer, create blog posts. You love video? Jump on YouTube. The key here is quality delivery as well as presenting great information.
    3. Research, research, research
      I think we’ve mentioned this before….. There’s nothing worse for your reputation than an uninformed opinion or presenting something that is factually incorrect. Make sure you conduct extensive research before you start creating content so what you are presenting is cutting edge and best practice.
    4. Bring something new to the table
      Research will also help you find something new to talk about. Don’t just create content for the sake of it, or regurgitate a topic that has been covered already. Show a new or fresh idea, or bring a new perspective to the topic.
    5. Bigger is often better
      There is no such thing as a perfect length for thought-leadership content. People are busy and will often only read smaller articles and watch short videos, but if you’re bringing quality go as long as you need. Many niche blogs have articles 10,000 words or longer, while it’s not uncommon to see videos 30 minutes or longer.
    6. People love case studies
      It’s one thing to talk about theory, it’s another to show it in practice. If you can, talk about previous work you’ve completed, or even better, do experiments and report on the results. People love to read step-by-step, warts and all case studies. And don’t be afraid to talk about when things go wrong, there are just as many lessons in failure!