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Just like the best-selling books on Amazon are not necessarily the best-written books, the most successful digital marketers are not necessarily the best at what they do.
What they’re the best at is marketing themselves.
Marketers like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Deiss, and Neil Patel are seen as exceptional because they practice what they preach. They understand that the thing they’re selling to potential clients, media publications, other marketers, and businesses looking for collaborators is their own personal brand. And they’re up for the challenge of marketing the hell out of it!
So in this article, we’re going to dive into practical steps to landing your first digital marketing client by understanding how to market your own knowledge and skills.
Let’s face it, asking “what does a digital marketer do?” is the digital equivalent of “how long is a piece of string?” Because there really is no clear-cut answer.
I like to think of the perfect digital marketer as a digital chameleon, seamlessly blending into any marketing area. But this can be incredibly daunting as a beginner in this field.
And for that reason, I generally recommend keeping it simple. Of course, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all areas of marketing but then pick just one or two key areas to focus on mastering before adding others to your arsenal.
This works well for several reasons:
Of course, the best digital marketers have at least some hands-on experience in all of the different areas of marketing but at the very beginning, it’s best to start by being exceptional in a few areas than to be mediocre in all of them.
Confidence is one of the biggest assets in your digital marketing career.
As long as you have confidence in your ability to provide value to any business and a positive attitude, you can win over (almost) any client. But, of course, it’s not an easy thing to gain without hands-on experience.
Luckily, there are two easy ways for you to get confident in your knowledge and skills, even if you don’t have experience working with paying clients yet.
I don’t usually encourage people to work for free because I genuinely believe it’s not a necessary step on the path to being a successful digital marketer. However, I recognize that it can be a great way to build confidence and practice working within a business without the added pressure or dealing with proposals, contracts, etc.
Resources like Acadium specialize in connecting business owners with new digital marketers who want to gain work experience and are seeking a mentor.
It might sound counter-intuitive to begin teaching a concept before you’ve mastered it or even had hands-on experience implementing it. But it’s been proven by psychologists to be one of the best ways for you to get confident in your knowledge while also gaining a deeper understanding of a particular skill.
Not to mention it’s incredibly easy for you to do this through the YouTube platform which will inevitably also help you build your personal brand and help potential clients discover you organically. Did somebody say win-win-win?
While there’s definitely value in unpaid internships, I would also argue that you can learn a heck of a lot just by treating yourself as your first client. This will allow you to build a portfolio to showcase your skills, gain confidence in your knowledge and be your very own first case study.
Showcase your passion and expertise by writing articles about digital marketing. You can begin writing for free on Medium, guest post for other industry publications, or even just publish articles directly on your LinkedIn profile!
With tools like MailChimp or ConvertKit you can start growing your own email list for free. This will help you test out your copywriting skills, email marketing skills and you can even use these tools to build landing pages!
If social media growth is an area you might want to support your clients with – why not do it for yourself? This can be a great way to showcase your passion and skills to potential clients, while also making you more discoverable which is especially true for platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
You can run Facebook Ads directing people to your helpful content. Remember people’s intent is not very high on Facebook or Instagram. So you might have more luck gently introducing your potential clients to you by encouraging them to read your helpful article or download a free guide.
See how Marketer Jon Loomer has done something similar with a simple two-step Facebook ad funnel below:
In this case, Jon is using the first ad to spark interest and add value, and the second ad’s purpose is to retarget those who have engaged with the initial ad and encourage them to book a free consultation.
Alternatively, you can also run targeted Google Ads or YouTube Ads directly to your services. In this case, people will be seeing your ads pop up when they’re already searching for solutions to their problems, which you provide. This means you can be more direct by advertising your services on these platforms for specific keywords or phases as you’ll see below.
In searching for solutions on how to find your first digital marketing client, one thing will likely keep popping up more frequently than the others. And that is to ‘just put yourself out there’ attend networking events in your local area.
This is fantastic advice because it is such a powerful way to land clients, however, it can also be absolutely terrifying if you’re a complete beginner.
It took me about a year of working in digital marketing to feel confident enough to attend in-person networking events and talk to potential clients about the value I could provide to their business. But if you’re confident in your networking abilities straight away then make sure to check out websites like Eventbrite, Meetup, and local Facebook groups or LinkedIn events for business networking events near you.
You can also put the phrase “networking events near me” or “business events this month” into Google and see what comes up! Not to mention networking events can be a great way to connect with other digital marketers and grow your community of supportive people you can learn from.
Some additional tips for successful networking:
But not all of us are brave enough to dive into this type of direct approach straight away, so next, we’ll talk about some less intimidating ways to find and approach potential clients.
At one point, the shotgun approach of sending 100+ templated emails per day beginning with the sentence “Dear Sir/Madam” might have resulted in some success. But if there ever was a time for this approach (and I’m not convinced there ever was), that time is well and truly over.
So instead, let’s now talk about some more relevant options for finding potential clients online.
You could set yourself up on freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer.com. Or you could browse through dedicated job boards like We Work Remotely, Remote OK, or even on LinkedIn.
But of course, the easier it is for you to find a job listing, the easier it is for hundreds of other people to also find it. Whereas if you approach potential clients directly through Facebook groups, online forums, or even on social media your level of competition is much lower.
Potential clients are just business owners with problems of their own. Problems you might be able to solve for them if you’re able to find them in the right place at the right time and provide the right kind of value.
So figure out where your ideal clients are asking for help online and focus your efforts there. The key to succeeding with this strategy is to be helpful first and foremost and only promote your services if specifically asked. But by doing this, you will be able to create a name for yourself within these forums or groups as the helpful digital marketer which will, in turn, act as your ongoing promotional strategy.
One of the best ways to get clients is still word-of-mouth. This is an underrated but incredibly powerful strategy. Other digital marketers, graphic designers, coaches, virtual assistants, web developers, and anyone else who works in the online space can be a powerful resource for referrals.
So make sure you take some time to build relationships with others whose skills are complementary to yours, allowing you to refer business to each other.
Much like everyone else, clients want to feel special. They want to feel that you have a real interest and passion for their industry and their business, not just the work you can do for them.
This is why leveraging your previous experience within a particular industry when trying to get your first marketing client can be a strong approach.
Imagine you have worked as a yoga teacher in the part and you’re talking to a yoga studio owner about how you can add value to their business.
And you send them one of the following two articles written by you:
It should be pretty clear just from the title alone that this type of client would be much more likely to emotionally connect with the second article. Not to mention they’re much more likely to want to work with you knowing you have an intimate knowledge of their business due to your past experience.
Don’t be afraid to leverage your experiences, hobbies, and passions outside of marketing to bond with potential clients. This kind of connection might even help them choose you over someone with more experience!
As marketers, we know one thing all too well: a confused mind always says no.
It’s why we write ad copy that’s simple enough for a 10-year-old to understand. It’s why we focus on having just one obvious call to action on our landing pages. And it’s also one of the most critical components of landing your first client.
Once you have connected with a potential client, you need to have a solid process in place for what happens after they agree to talk to you about how you can add value to their business.
I often see new marketers focusing almost solely on the initial connection stage with potential clients.
When in fact, it’s what comes after, that can often make or break the relationship with your client. So make sure that your attention to detail, level of focus, and most importantly your care factor, are exceptional from the very first touchpoint until your retainer is signed and beyond.
I really believe that there’s never been a better time to get into digital marketing and land your first client. And hopefully, with the tips you’ve learned here, you’re feeling more confident to go out there and find your ideal client!
Maggie is a digital marketing strategist and top-rated online educator with over 25k marketing students worldwide. With a background in health and psychology, her mission is to contribute to creating a more positive experience for creators and consumers in the digital space.
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