It’s easy to fall for the YouTube “Gurus” who sell the dream about easy and quick it is to become a digital marketing freelancer, offering the allure of freedom, flexibility, and punchy day rates. However, the reality is that “digital marketing” and “side hustle” should never be used in the same sentence.
In this myth busting guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the most common misconceptions about freelancing in the digital marketing world and how do we know…because we’ve all done it! All 93 (as it stands today!) of the Interim Digital community have been there, done that and got the battle stained t-shirt to prove it.
Myth: Freelancing is an Easy Way to Make Quick Money
*Insert audible cringe from every successful and experienced freelancer our there” 🤨Let’s get straight to reality: freelancing is not a guaranteed path to quick riches. While success is obviously possible as there’s so many of us out there flying the solopreneur flag, it demands immense dedication, effort, and an understanding that it genuinely won’t happen overnight.
- The Reality: Building your experience to even allow you to go freelance in the first place takes time. Then, once you are officially self-employed building a client base and a strong reputation takes time. You’re your own worst enemy if you don’t realise how important your reputation is as a freelancer and, without that, you can kiss your day rates g’bye.
- Our Advice: Be prepared for serious fear when you first step into the emotional turmoil of good and bad months financially. This isn’t something you can practice from a psychological perspective but we guarantee it will happen. If you can, save for a buffer to cover potential dry months. As your skills and rep grow, so will your income.
Myth: Freelancers Have Unlimited Free Time
The myth of the endless vacation and #vanlife for freelancers is basically, imaginary (soz about that!). Whilst absolutely a lot of Freelancers work from beautiful destinations which is a HUGE perk of being in control of your own destiny, the most successful ones often work longer hours than traditional employees.
- The Reality: As a freelancer, especially in the beginning, we have a phrase that you work for 5 days but get paid for 2. Not only are you managing clients and delivering projects you’re now your own sales team, accounts team, legal team, lead gen team and psychotherapist.
- Our Advice: It is 100% achievable to work from around the world as a digital marketing freelancer but forget the idea that it’s going to be a relaxing “side hustle”. Implement effective time and finance management with the help of online tools that can be found in our freelancer survival guide, set clear boundaries, and allocate time for self-care. Building a sustainable routine that includes working on your business as well as in it is essential to maintaining your productivity and well-being.
Myth: Freelancers Only Work When They Want To
The idea that freelancers only work when they feel like it is quite frankly complete 💩. In reality, freelancers have deadlines, responsibilities, and client expectations to meet to maintain a solid reputation.
- The Reality: Just like working agency side, Freelancers are accountable for delivering quality work on time. This means sticking to deadlines and managing client expectations whilst managing your books, your pipeline and your personal PR, all of which requires work when you’d rather be sipping on a pina colada.
- Our Advice: Take those down time moments that you left employment for when you can and don’t feel bad about it but, you must stay disciplined and maintain a work routine. The freedom to set your own hours should not result in losing clients because you’ve got too much sun stroke.
Myth: Freelancers Don’t Need to Deal with Difficult Clients
“If ONLY” we hear the entire Freelancer nation cry! Navigating client relationships is challenging, and without the backup of a client services team it makes it even harder.
- The Reality: Use agency life to help you refine your emotional intelligence. Learn what personality types you work well with and try and stick to these in the Freelance world.
- Our Advice: It’s not easy and you will mess up (you will!) but the more time you get under your belt as a Freelancer the easier it becomes to dodge those bad client bullets. Get confident enough to say no when your guts giving you the “no-go”!
Myth: Freelancers Don’t Need to Market Themselves
Not only is this a myth, it’s also one of the most dangerous myths out there about freelancing.
- The Reality: Self-promotion is non-negotiable and often the least liked discipline by freelancers as it can feel cringey and tiresome. However, building an online presence and networking are key areas of focus that you must adopt.
- Our Advice: Buckle up and get into it. Leave your self-doubt at the door, research what others in your industry are doing, decide what you want your voice and narrative to be and go for it! You miss every shot you don’t take and you never know who’s watching from the side-lines.
Myth: Freelancers Can Work from Anywhere Without Any Issues
The idea that freelancers can work from anywhere without issue is not entirely true. While there’s a lot of flexibility that comes with freelancing, it doesn’t come with a golden ticket to total nomad lifestyle without you putting careful consideration into how you’ll navigate it.
- The Reality: Travelling the world comes with varying time zone logistics to think about. As you breeze out of the UK and land on the white shores of Bondi you need to have carefully considered whether your clients in the UK are going to be OK with you replying a day later to everything. If not, you need to face the reality that you’re going to need build a whole new network in a foreign land.
- Our Advice: Float the time-zone idea with your existing clients before you jet off to make sure you have some back up. There are also a lot of international digital marketing agencies throughout Asia, the US, Europe and Australia so raid your network and see who can introduce you to help kickstart a new network of contacts.
Myth: Freelancers Don’t Need to Pay Tax
Getting your head round finances as someone who’s self employed is painful (literally!)
- The Reality: Freelancers are responsible for paying self-assessment and sometimes corporation tax and VAT depending on how they’ve set themselves up and there are a lot of ins and outs that come with understanding exactly what business expenses are.
- Our Advice: Don’t guess or think you can save yourself money by trying to work it out yourself because it’ll end up costing you in the long run. Consult a small business accountant to ensure you understand your tax obligations and can plan accordingly.
Myth: Freelancers Don’t Need Insurance or Benefits
Unfortunately one of the harsh realities of self-employment is that your pension and insurance is all on you!
- The Reality: Not every client requires you to have your own insurance cover and unfortunately the lack of employer contribution into any form of pension for you is real.
- Our Advice: Explore insurance and benefit options suitable for you and the types of clients you work for. There’s plenty of great advice out there as to how to best put into a pension as a Freelancer so, as with everything; due diligence is key!
Myth: Freelancers Can Simply Copy What Others Are Doing
Agh yes…the notion that success in freelancing can be achieved by copying what YouTube Gurus have to say will immediately make you $100,000 in 30 days is rampant in the digital marketing world. Spoiler alert…it’s complete rubbish.
- The Reality: We’re not saying that there isn’t a lot of great stuff to learn from out there on the web but no amount of YouTube videos can replace hands-on experience and graft, nor can it help with the individual nuances of each client interaction you’ll have. There is no “quick win” to be a truly successful digital marketing freelancer as there are too many additional facets that come along with the ride of self-employment that can only be learnt via experience.
- Our Advice: Learn from others but focus on developing your distinctive style, refining the basics of great communication and expectation setting and actually just. crack. on. Most importantly, don’t feel dejected if you don’t all of a sudden make 6 figures over night as in reality, the vast majority don’t and remember the whole point of going freelance is to get more freedom, not just cash.
Myth: Freelancers Can Succeed Without Continuous Learning
The beauty of working within a digital agency is peer to peer learning. When you’re working solo from a coffee shop and only have your dog to soundboard with it makes learning a lot harder.
- The Reality: As digital marketers we all know the “joy” that comes with new algorithms, trends, and platforms that require ongoing learning to stay on top of.
- Our Advice: Don’t feel guilty about taking time out of your working day to allocate to self-development. Whether that’s reading books on developing habits and mindset or researching the latest tips and tricks for “what tools your need to be the best SEO consultant“, as a Freelancer if you’re not on your A-Game there is no business.
Myth: Freelancers Don’t Face Job Insecurity
- The Reality: Clients can come and go, and especially in an economic climate like the one we find ourselves in right now Freelancers are often the first ones to get let go.
- Our Advice: Don’t take it personally if you are let go in tough times. One of the best ways to mitigate this kind of risk is to price yourself well. Too high and you price yourself out of the market, too low and you look like you don’t have a handle on the market. By sitting pretty in the middle you enable yourself to work with a wider band width of clients so that when things do fluctuate you’ve got a nice safety net.
We’re Not Here to Scare You, We’re Here to Inform You
Becoming a digital marketing freelancer can be incredibly rewarding, but it comes with its share of scares and challenges. Debunking some of these rose-tinted myths helps aspiring freelancers understand the realities they will face on their journey. the only way to achieve success in freelancing is with hard work, commitment, and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Freelancing is utterly liberating and can help you achieve your dream of freedom whilst earning a great living so don’t let our myth busting scare you; instead let it help you set a realistic picture of what can and will happen along the way.