When I became a freelance marketing consultant, I never took the time to share my experience. I’m doing it now with some advice for those going solo.
To begin with, I think it might be good to explain what a marketing consultant is. If you are a stranger to the advertising world, it may be difficult for you to imagine what I do. So, to put it simply: I am a professional with extensive experience in marketing. My mission is to help others make better choices in that field. To put it even more simply, I am a broker of Knowledge-based and evidence-based practice in marketing.
Where the value of a consultant comes from
Building relevant expertise requires a lot of time. This is why you will rarely see someone becoming a consultant right after university. It also requires a fair amount of interpersonal skills as it puts you in relation with professionals from different backgrounds, with their own culture, values, and vision. All that to provide clients’ projects the efficiency and results they want to achieve. Because, as you have already guessed, the added value of marketing consultants comes from the time they save to their clients.
Why I became a consultant. And what drives me today
When I started working in marketing, my beginnings coincided with the rise of social media. I knew its codes quite well, and I was struck that nobody saw it early on as a cultural revolution. So, I convinced other professionals to jump on the bandwagon. And at some point, I started my own business to meet the demand in a way I felt was more appropriate. As organizations embraced social media, the big question was whether their uses were aligned or not with their goals, and my focus progressively moved to coordinate their digital campaigns. And now, with the recent evolution of the internet, privacy regulations, environmental issues, marketing has to turn to more sustainable approaches. The work of evangelization continues, and there is much to do.
As a freelancer, I enjoy complete autonomy
One of the paradoxes of freelancing is that I often meet clients looking for a fresh perspective, which they deny to their employees at their company. Another one is that many people in these companies were secretly dreaming of becoming freelancers at one point without making the leap. And just to be clear, it really is a dream to work the way you want: managing your own schedule, days off, vacations, being able to choose your place of work and clients… But with this comes new responsibilities that many of us are not familiar with: accounting, business management, self-promotion, to name a few. And talking about business, selling your work as a commodity, managing your reputation often turns off many hopefuls. Being a freelancer is a job in itself. The autonomy you gain, you pay for with increased responsibilities.
I turned my aspirations into a great product
As a freelancer, you have to define your offer, your rates, set your goals. It is almost a requirement to look at what the competition does, study the marketing services they propose. But you also need to keep in mind what expectations drive you. You become a freelancer to bring your own vision and value proposition to your clients. Something that is not possible at an agency. Then, you spend some time defining proper pricing around this value proposition. While many junior freelancers underprice their services, I never did. First, low rates reflect a poor understanding of the market, a short-sighted vision of doing business, and a profound lack of confidence in your sales strategy. Then it cannibalizes your time to the point that when you spend too much of it earning a hard living, you miss out on golden opportunities.
As a marketing consultant, I aim for the long haul
The best way to last in the business is to make your clients happy and never stop learning. Growing expertise comes with experiencing new things, listening to feedback, and constantly adapting to your ever-changing environment. I can also point out that although it is a solo business, the adventure of a freelancer is often made of professional relationships that help to move further. Your network is made up of people who have an interest in what you do, who can talk about you. There are your colleagues of yesterday and your partners of tomorrow. Take care of them as you would with your friends. The thing about ‘serendipity’ is that you never know what might come out of it, but it’s often something enriching for everyone.
Being a freelance digital marketing consultant is undoubtedly an incredible ride. The way I see it: it is both a choice for a particular approach to being a worker and an empowering adventure. Setting up my own consultancy gave me greater autonomy and expanded my professional horizon. It gave me a taste of what it’s like to run a small business and the confidence to tackle larger projects. It allowed me to comprehend the strategic place of freelancing in the current market economy and the challenges it faces. A lot of things to say about it that will surely be the subject of new essays soon.