Are you tempted with the idea of consulting companies to grow their businesses? Or are you a brand looking to hire a top notch marketing consultant to catapult your revenue?
In either case, I’ve got you covered today. First, we’ll answer a couple of basic questions around marketing consultation. Then, I’ll show you how to start your freelance digital marketing journey (you know that’s a largely interchangeable term for marketing consultant, right?)
If you’re looking to hire a skilled marketing consultant, then I’ll tell you how to identify and find the ideal professional for your company. Towards the end, I’ll also share a template for the job description of a marketing consultant. Let’s start with the first common question:
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What Does A Marketing Consultant Do?
When a business realizes the need for external help to drive traffic, generate leads, and fix the pages that are leaking sales on their site, they turn towards external help from a marketing consultant.
Often these professionals are known for ONE specific skill like content marketing, copywriting, search engine optimization, social media marketing, conversion optimization, and the like. They use their creativity, previous experience, and skills to generate more revenue for the company.
If you already have a sustainable business model in place with a proven product and a clearly identified problem, then it might make sense to hire a marketing consultant.
Let me illustrate with an example: Arb & Grounds are a local business based out of Derby that distribute garden/grounds machinery and arborist equipment. As an old school business, they realized the need for professional digital marketing help, and they turned towards Elliott Davidson. The result was a 553% increase in organic traffic and £100k in turnover.
I want to emphasize that hiring a marketing consultant makes sense when you’ve tested the waters on your own and you need help with specific marketing tasks.
Simply because a consultant has a specialized knowledge and domain expertise. They won’t magically turn around your failing product or fix all your inefficient marketing processes.
On the other hand, if you’re a marketing consultant, then it might make sense to (eventually) niche down to a specific skill/industry. If you think that narrowing the set of audience you want to work with, limits your business potential, then you’re wrong.
The expertise I pitch at Elite Copywriter is: long-form content creation for SaaS businesses. It’s granular and is based on my portfolio of writing lots of long articles for B2B businesses and entrepreneurs. It also helps me differentiate my services and getting paid a premium for them.
Which brings me to the next question:
What Does A Marketing Consultant Earn?
SEO, PPC, and digital marketing service providers network, Credo, found that the median hourly rate of a consultant is $112.5.
In their industry research, Ahrefs also found that the average SEO hourly rate for professionals having between 2-4 years of experience is $110.69.
If you’re a business looking to hire experts, then be ready to pay upwards of $100 per hour.
Want to cut your budget substantially and think it won’t affect the output of work? Well, read the results of this case study of hiring a B2B SaaS writer for $640 vs. $15. Guess you won’t run behind a sub-standard service provider simply because of their lower rates now.
If you’re a consultant, ditch positioning yourself as a “digital marketing guru” or “digital marketing expert.” Companies that have an eye for hiring will run backwards from you. You’ll need to own a skill. For example, my friend, Ryan Robinson is a content marketing consultant. And recently, he shared making over $9,000 as a “side income” from his content marketing clients.
Throughout your consultation journey, remember that companies hire freelance digital marketers to achieve business results.
If taking your consultation service doesn’t lead to a net positive return for a business over an agreed scope of time, then you’re an expense. You’re an easily replaceable commodity and will get fired sooner or later.
Marketing consultation is not simply about the skills you possess, but how you can use them to increase the revenue of a company.
How Do I Start A Marketing Consultant Career: 3 Slow And Painful Steps To Success
Becoming a sought-after marketing consultant is a lot of hard work. Look how my friend Ryan Robinson puts it on his homepage:
Indeed, you’ll need to build a personal brand that can include getting published on the above media sites. You can learn the ropes by positioning and marketing yourself for a specific digital marketing skill (you’re your first client, yo!) Let me lay down the step-by-step process for you.
Step 1: Lay a strong foundation for your ‘business’
Make no mistake, offering your marketing consultation services to other brands is starting a serious business. You need a sustainable model by validating the need for your services and establishing trust with your audience.
If you have a clear “why” when starting up, then you will remain motivated through the initial difficult phase of consultation. The McKinsey Global Institute found that independent workers generally fit into the following four segments.
The best part is you can make a decent income as a side-hustling marketing consultant as well.
After your “why”, you can test your skills on the ground by offering your services on freelance marketplaces from the ones below:
- Problogger Job Board
These gigs here generally won’t pay much, but they will give you a confidence boost as you’ll deal with clients directly and receive feedback.
Next, once you’ve settled on a set of services that you enjoy offering, you can set up your site after a few months (using WordPress or whatever floats your boat).
In the interview below, I simplify the process of how you can begin your career as a freelance writer (your approach for becoming a marketing consultant can be similar).
2. Build a strong portfolio and gain an understanding of how your work affects the bottom line
After laying a foundation, you can start hunting clients aggressively.
At the beginning, you can publish blog posts on your own website. It’s a great way to educate your audience and show off your skills. John Espirian has written 50k words on LinkedIn marketing to show his prospective clients his expertise.
If you want to specialize in services like technical SEO, then a certification might help your application. However for cracking most other kinds of marketing jobs, formal education doesn’t carry significant weight. You’ve to get cracking with building a body of work that demonstrates quality of work and reliability in delivering results.
Indeed a strong portfolio can start off a referral engine. It’s something that can catapult your freelance business, as my friend Elise Dopson puts it:
Here’s a thing nobody tells you about starting out as a freelancer: you won’t get referrals for MONTHS. But they snowball after your first. pic.twitter.com/nBEx6sHYRF
— Elise Dopson (@elisedopson) May 30, 2018
While building your portfolio, you should also simultaneously start to analyze how the fruits of your labor are affecting the businesses you work with. In most cases, digital marketing activities are tied with KPIs.
- Ideally your performance is measurable by metrics like traffic and conversions that demonstrate the impact of your efforts on the bottom line.
- In other cases, you might have to talk about metrics like social media followers, backlinks, brand mentions, and the like. In such the business impact is rather indirect and long-term. However you can report the growth rate to make a strong case for yourself.
3. Obsesses over results and revisit your positioning
Nat Eliason started a content marketing agency a year ago, offering premium content services (starting at $10k/month). In a year, he scaled it to a $100k monthly recurring revenue (MRR). When I asked him the secret to generating leads for a service business during an AMA, his response was delivering “results.” From there, it was simply about putting out screenshots of his clients on Twitter, in his articles, and the like.
Doesn’t that make sense? If you can show your prospects how you have delivered business results for your past clients, you instantly earn trust.
For certain projects results become a subjective entity. Suppose you take up a freelance writing gig. Then are you expected to simply deliver articles of a certain length in a certain tone?
Well if you can also take care of keywords and go the extra mile to ensure your delivered content piece beats the competitors quality, then you give it better chances to rank. And you put yourself in a great spot to upsell more complementary content marketing services to the client.
For example, here’s a content management service inbound opportunity I got after delivering a couple of stellar ghostwritten pieces for a client.
Results are social proof and always work like a charm for getting referrals and closing more prospective clients!
Once you’re getting results, a crucial aspect to up your marketing consultancy career is the positioning of your services.
If you’re against “niching down” to a specific industry or a specific kind of service, that’s fine. You can still create a strong brand identity and solve the problems of your target audience in a unique way.
That will become the reason for businesses to come to you in the giant sea of other consultants and also pay a premium for your consultation. For instance, Grow and Convert offer content services starting at a (rarely seen) rate of $8,000 per month.
They found that most content agencies focus on delivering a certain number of pieces per month. A crucial differentiator they strategized was being accountable to deliver leads and traffic to their clients (i.e. delivering a healthy ROI). They document the process of how they positioned themselves here.
Another great example is copywriter, Lianna. She has built her business around writing ‘funny copy’, and her homepage as well as entire site reflect her brand’s personality.
Of course, humor isn’t relevant for all kinds of audiences. So Lianna clearly drops a note for prospective businesses that she might not be a fit in certain scenarios.
If you’re an individual, try positioning your consultation around your core interest or a trait that people around you appreciate you for anyway. For example, Lianna enjoys and occasionally still does stand up comedy.
Go Start Your Marketing Consultant Career Now!
As per a Morgan Stanley report, freelance workers represent 35% of the total U.S. working population, and it’s expected to expand beyond 50% by 2027. If you want to kick start a project-based professional life as a marketing consultant, then now is the right time.
Personally, I have worked in the capacity of a freelance copywriter and content marketing consultant after my graduation. I have worked with various companies ranging from startups, solopreneurs, and big enterprises (in different industries). The top perks I enjoy include flexibility of schedule, end-to-end ownership of projects, and creative problem-solving opportunities.
If you like to lead projects, have an entrepreneurial mindset, and like driving business results, then you can try becoming a marketing consultant. I have already showed you the specific steps to begin your journey.
And if you’re a company, then you can consider hiring independent, specialized marketing consultants after diagnosing the growth levers for your business. You can use the job description template I shared.
I want to hear from you now. Are you a marketing consultant? Else, have you hired one for your business? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.