All the ways I’ve earned a [good] living from marketing
Sometimes I research keywords when I face analysis paralysis around which content idea I should pursue next. Last night was one of those nights.
During my research, I noticed a lot of people are searching for things like, “what can I do with a marketing degree” and “marketing degree jobs.” I’m taking a stab at user intent here, but I think what people are looking for are ways to earn a living from marketing.
To be upfront, I don’t have a marketing degree. I’m a journalism dropout, who learned everything I know from people smarter than me, by reading A LOT and by *doing* a lot. I didn’t go to some fancy, schmancy bootcamp, and I’m not “certified” — whatever the hell that means.
Here’s the thing: colleges, bootcamps and certifications do not automagically equate to earning a good living. Years of experience in the trenches do. Years of delivering quality content and getting results for clients is what automagically equates to earning a good living from marketing — or anything for that matter.
With that being said, if your intent is to learn how to earn living as a marketer, keep reading, and you’ll learn all the ways I’ve earned a living over the past six years as a full-stack marketer.
Because the world of work is rapidly changing from traditional jobs to project-based work (and because I’ve been a serial freelancer), I’ve broken these down into “gigs” or projects. This way you can quickly test which types of marketing gigs you’re best yet and enjoy doing the most (because work is supposed to be enjoyable!).
There’s no right gig to start with so I’ve put them in no particular order.
Ready? Let’s talk projects!
Content Creation Services
“We’re hiring a writer” is now more common in my inbox than “we’re hiring a content marketer.” (source)
I’ve been editing content for nearly seven years now, and let me be completely frank: The overwhelming majority is absolute crap.
Combine this knowledge with the fact that 56 percent of marketers’ №1 challenge was producing engaging content in 2016, and 73 percent of marketers’ №1 priority for this year is creating engaging content.
If you can write well, are pleasant to work with and can handle blunt feedback, you may want to take a crack at writing. Let me tell you… It’s a hell of a lot of fun — after the initial staring at the blank document for however long it takes.
Here’s the types of content I’ve hired people to produce (and been hired to produce myself).
Write case studies.
A case study could be written as a blog post (i.e. “How I went from underemployed waitress to the top 1% of millennials in 6 months”) or it could be written as marketing collateral for a client’s website (like the ones here).
A case study for a blog post is an example of 10X content because they tend to do [significantly] better than other types of content.
People are hungry to learn how to be successful at XYZ and how to solve their big hairy problems, which is why readers absolutely love these types of posts.
Good case study blog posts weave together a true story with actionable advice. They are typically written based on your own experiences (although you could conduct interviews with experts), whereas, the website case study is based on interviews with your client’s customers.
- 30-minute interview (If interviews are going to be conducted)
- Unedited transcript of interview (If interviews were conducted)
- Case study (Here’s how to write a case study for websites)
Design the case study landing page for your client
- For a website case study, charge anywhere between $250 and $1,000. Interviews can be a PITA.
- For blog post case studies, it really depends on the blog’s budget. I’d say it’s in the same range as above, but a hovers around $400.
- Good interviewing skills: You ask good questions.
- Good communication skills: You make people feel at ease.
- Writing skills: You can seriously write.
Nice to have
Design chops: You can design good landing pages for case studies in various tools, such as Leadpages, HubSpot, WordPress, Squarespace, etc.
Finding good writers is VERY difficult. Therefore, if you write well, you won’t need to worry about competition. Also, case studies are in pretty high demand these days. Most people know customer stories help sell their offerings significantly faster.
The hardest part is learning how to write well. At first, I’d get another pair of eyes on your work before turning it in.
- How we made $1 million for Moz (formerly SEOmoz) — using landing page optimization and email marketing (blog post)
- [Case Study] The Million Dollar Quiz (blog post)
- Selling Your Shopify Store: How One Entrepreneur Cashed Out and Made $81K (blog post)
- Uber Case Study (website)
- Virgin America Case Study (website)
Write blog posts.
As I mentioned above, marketers biggest challenge is producing engaging content, and their highest priority is producing engaging content, which means there’s a lot of work for good writers out there.
Where to find writing jobs
How to find writing jobs that aren’t listed
- Reach out to blogs you admire. Find the editor’s email, and write them a damn good email, asking to write for them.
- Start by guest blogging to get your name out there. Then people will come to you.
This will vary widely based on publication/company’s budget, your influence and writing ability. Check out Contently’s freelance rates database. I’ll also say prices for blog posts span the spectrum, costing anywhere from $150 to $1,000+.
Design images for the post too.
Create marquee content.
While I don’t believe in gating content myself, a lot of marketers do, which means you can sell companies ebooks, guides, whitepapers or learning paths for a decent amount of money.
Types of Marquee Content
- Resource directories or mega guides: You’d deliver your content in this template, and it could look like this on a website.
- Competitive analysis: These are great because they help clients rank for other brand’s keywords. Here’s an example (the chart is messed up though).
- Ebook / guides: Here’s an example.
- Learning paths: Here’s an example.
- Quizzes: This could be a bit more difficult. It was for me at least. But use a tool like Qzzr to help.
Design a PDF ebook or microsite for your client.
This varies depending on the amount of research and work required, but always bill per project, not hourly. Project-based work for marquee content can range from $500 to $5,000 and more if you’re an agency.
How to find work
I would reach out to companies that have blogs but few “resources,” and pitch them on these services. I’d also consider reaching out to companies with robust resource centers because I know they already are doing this type of content. While they may already have providers they currently work with, it doesn’t mean they aren’t open to new talented content creators.
Create a drip email sequence for a product launch.
Digital products, such as online courses, are launching left and right these days. And the major marketing tactic that separates the seniors from the freshmen is a well-written, email drip sequence that is sent to current subscribers BEFORE the course launches.
This will depend on the number of emails you decide to write, but regardless, if these are well-done and your client has a decent size (and well-targeted) email list, they’ll likely bank from this one sequence. So think value-based pricing for this one.
- GrowthLab Email Funnel
- Autoresponder Madness
- The 17,000-Word Beast Ramit Sethi Created to Launch His New Course
Badass copywriting skills
- Design a landing page(s) to drive users to from your emails
- Write the landing page copy too
Most businesses don’t have documented marketing strategies. They’re randomly trying different tactics as they read about them. Sometimes they blog. Most of the time they don’t. Sometimes they post on Facebook. Most of the time they don’t.
This short-sighted thinking can kill businesses before they even start. What they need is a strategy.
A strategy is a documented process and roadmap that’s actionable and almost acts as a checklist.
Here’s the different types of marketing strategies businesses need. I’ve broken them down into micro-strategies, which could be bundled together. The reason I did this is because businesses tend to be scared of long-time frames and big price tags.
Create buyer personas.
Buyer personas are generalized representations of your ideal customers. The process of researching and creating buyer personas makes you understand your customers and prospects. Personas allow you to personalize your marketing campaigns, website messaging and content specifically for your perfect customers, which increases your conversions.
When personas are well researched, the exercise clarifies who your buyers are, the situations they’re in and most importantly, the goals they’re trying to accomplish.
Top performing companies have mapped 90 percent or more of their customer database by buyer persona, and 71 percent of companies that exceed revenue and lead generation goals have documented buyer personas. (source)
- 1–3 buyer personas
- In-depth raw interview transcripts
- 1 negative persona
Depending on how you conduct your research, buyer personas can take a decent amount of time because they require interviews with key internal stakeholders as well as customers and prospects. Pretend you need to conduct 12 30-minute interviews total. Then you’ll have the cost for the transcription service as well as your time crafting the personas. This will help you figure out what you should charge.
Journalists would be especially good at creating buyer personas because they’re trained interviewers and storytellers.
- Content [marketing] strategy
- Editorial calendar
- Content map
- Phone or Skype recorder to record your call. I use TapeACall.
- Transcription service. I use Rev.
- PowerPoint (or any presentation software)
Conduct a content audit.
After you create personas and before you create an editorial calendar or content map, you should consider conducting a content audit. Because a content audit is an entirely massive post in itself, I’m not going to dive into the details. You can read about the details here though.
The cost of a content audit will vary dramatically depending on the number of pages on a given website. I would say most sites range anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000+.
Create [blog] style and voice guidelines.
Before creating a content calendar, you should have style and voice guidelines in place for your blog. Here’s an example of style and voice guidelines I made for a former client.
- Curated directory of style guidelines
- HubSpot Guest Blog Guidelines (Marketing)
- HubSpot Guest Blog Guidelines (Sales)
- Economist Style Guide
I would say somewhere between $250 and $500.
- Content calendar
- Content map
- Content creation
- Google Docs
- Frontify (Totally optional)
Develop a content roadmap.
One of marketers biggest difficulties is generating great content ideas. A content roadmap will solve this problem for them.
Based on your client’s goals, develop a content roadmap that tells them:
- When (and how often) they should blog
- When (and how often) they should release marquee content
- What they should cover on their blog for the next three months
- How it all connects
Typically, I fill content roadmaps with two blog post ideas per week for three months along with one marquee content idea per month. For every idea, I outline the article and link to research to make it super easy to write the content when it comes time to develop. To make this even more worthwhile, I’d include a focus keyword phrase with each post idea.
- 1 editorial calendar with 12 (1 blog post / week for 3 months) blog post ideas, based on keyword research and buyer personas
- 12 blog post outlines to make article writing easier
- 3 premium content offer ideas
- 3 premium content offer outlines for each one
- 1 content map that explains how the content links/connects to one another (good for internal linking and re-purposing content)
- Trello editorial calendar template
- Another Trello template (not mine)
- Content Map — G-Slides
- Ultimate List of Content Calendar Templates
Don’t underestimate the amount of time this could take. I would charge between $1,200 and $2,000.
Create a distribution strategy.
Your blog post isn’t going to go viral on its own, no matter how phenomenal it is. You have to promote it to get eyeballs on it. This is where a distribution strategy comes into play. What will you do every time you write a blog post?
While the tactics will likely change from blog post to blog post, a basic list of tactics that will work for a specific blog is useful. This way they can go to the list you created, and put together a quick launch plan each time they publish a new post.
- Good research skills: You must be able to find information, such as email addresses.
- Creativity: You must think of innovative ways to reach people.
- Good networker: You must be “in-the-know” and have some relationships to help with syndication partnerships, etc.
- Social media skills: You know how (and how often) to share on social media.
- Tell them you can manage this for a monthly retainer fee
- Influencer strategy
- Outreach (list/link building)
- Email marketing strategy
Create a social media strategy.
One-third of the world uses social networks regularly. Think about it. How do you usually learn about new things and find stuff to read? It’s likely through social media.
Tactics and engagement are top areas marketers want to master: At least 90 percent of marketers want to know the most effective social tactics and the best ways to engage their audience with social media, so tell them how to do it!
- SEJ’s Social Media Strategy
- How to Create an Extraordinary Social Media Strategy for 2017
- State of Social Media 2017
- How to Create a Social Media Strategy and Template
- Social media management (monthly retainer)
- Content map / calendar
- Ad management
Social media should be pretty easy (a bit time-consuming though) if you don’t overthink it.
Depending on the state of the client’s accounts, anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
Here’s a few more ideas.
And here’s a few more marketing gigs to test out that didn’t quite fit under either of the above categories.
Conduct keyword research.
Instead of doing an entire SEO audit, you could just conduct keyword research for clients.
Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.
It’s not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated; with keyword research you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are actively seeking. In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually any niche. (source)
It depends on the number of keywords you agree to deliver.
- Content calendar
- Buyer personas
- Content creation
- SEO audit
Tools (just a few — many more)
- And many more
Curation is the new creation.
Just take a look at the rise of curated newsletters. And consider the fact that you’re supposed to share other people’s content 60–80 percent of the time as opposed to your own.
Curation is undervalued and underappreciated, but I think that’s on the verge of changing, so I’d start pitching this to clients now.
What exactly would I pitch? Here’s a few ideas.
- Tell them you’ll manage a weekly curated newsletter for its clients. Examples: Mattermark Daily, Founders Grid, and my curated newsletter. Each newsletter could be repurposed as a blog post too.
- Curate a bunch of great content for them to [schedule to] share on their social media profiles and communities they’re a part of.
This will depend on how often you’re curating content and how much content you’re curating.
Manage Facebook ads.
According to Gary Vaynerchuk (at INBOUND16), LinkedIn ads are overpriced.
According to HubSpot, 25 percent of adult internet users use LinkedIn while 72 percent of adult internet users use Facebook — 73 percent of whom say they use Facebook for professional purposes.
Couple that information with the fact that Ad blocker usage surged 30 percent in 2016. There were 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide by the end of 2016, 62 percent (308 million) of those mobile. Desktop ad blocker usage grew 17 percent YoY to 236 million.
This is why I believe in Facebook ads over LinkedIn ads and Google AdWords.
For certain clients, I’d definitely give Instagram ads a shot too (I’ve been buying a lot of Instagram lately, unfortunately).
- Creating (designing the image and writing the copy) various ads to A/B test
- Setting up and managing the campaign
- Creating a landing page to drive users to, if that landing page isn’t already created
- Figuring out the Facebook marketing funnel (Has to do with above bullet point)
- Social media strategy
- Content calendar / map
- Social media management
This list is far from definitive.
So go out there, and look for more marketing projects to work on, if you don’t like any of my ideas.
You can get ideas from scouring marketplaces like Upwork to see what people are hiring for. You can get ideas by making friends with people in the marketing industry via Slack groups, communities and forums. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll be surprised how many different ways you can make money marketing.