Side hustles can be so much more than just a way to make a little extra money. Today, you’ll read a personal story about Todd, and how he learned new skills and enhanced his career through his freelance marketing side hustle.
What may be even more significant, Todd was able to use his side hustle as a main source of income for 9 months after he lost his job. He had already been doing some client work on the side, and he simply scaled up while he was unemployed. That’s a perfect example of how you can benefit from the flexibility of a side hustle.
Now Todd has a full-time job, does some freelancing on the side, and also manages his own personal finance blog, Invested Wallet.
Todd agreed to answer some questions about his freelance marketing side hustle, and if you’re looking for a side hustle of your own, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading Todd’s story. It’s a great example of how you can take some basic skills that you already have, improve them over time, and make a good bit of extra money along the way.
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Getting Started as a Freelance Marketing Consultant
Here is the interview with Todd.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Todd, I’m 31 years old and have lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania all my life. It’s about an hour north of Philadelphia. I’m an only child of a middle-class family and I’m the first to go to college in my entire family. I graduated from DeSales University with a B.S. in Computer Science with a minor in Communications.
What do you do full-time?
Currently, I work remotely for a start-up out in Salt Lake City, Utah as the Head of Marketing. I’m currently the sole marketer for the company, so every digital marketing tactic and strategy falls on me. It’s a lot of fun, challenging, and keeps me learning more and more.
How did you get started with the marketing consulting side hustle and what was your motivation?
Initially, a few years after starting my first full-time gig after college, I realized I wanted to do some outside side work. For one, my full-time gig at that time was not paying me very much, I had student loans, a car payment, etc. Needless to say, there was not much left for saving or investing, so I needed a way to get some extra cash. I also wanted to be able to add more experience to my resume, so I could boost my future salary and increase my professional network.
At first, it started with friends whose employers needed some extra help. It started with basic stuff like social media management, some web project managing, basic content marketing, etc. Staying connected with high school friends and others helped me get my foot in the door for some extra consulting gigs.
How much time do you spend on this side hustle, and about how much money does it generate?
In the beginning, it was roughly 4-6 hours per week. Since I was working full-time, I could not work on anything until after my hours were done. In many cases, those businesses were done working by the time I could start helping. But it worked out, because they would give me tasks for the week on a Monday, and I could work during my free time to complete the projects.
The very first one I did, I was getting paid $10/hour with no taxes taken out. So I had to set aside money for the tax man. But that extra bit of money each week, would certainly help my savings or for any future needs. After that one ended, the second company I did extra work for was an e-commerce company. I had a few years of work experience under my belt as well as a remote position for another. I was hired for the same amount of hours, 4-6 per week, and made $20 per hour. This was a nice jump from the previous, but again I had to save money for the tax man.
I got that second gig in September of 2014 and by December of 2014, I was laid off from my full-time gig, which was a bit rough. But instead of completely panicking, I reached out to the consulting side hustle gig I had and said “Hey, I can do more hours if need.” Luckily, they had work for me and offered 20 hours per week. This was a nice buffer to have since I had some severance pay until February, but knew I would have a hard time finding a job during the holiday season. Little did I know it would take almost 9 months to find my next full-time gig.
During this time, I also got very active on remote job boards and websites like AngelList to find side gigs (or full-time work) as well as let companies find me. A music start-up found me on AngelList and wanted to connect about a consulting job, 20 hours a week. This was more marketing intensive than the e-commerce company, but also was offering $20/hour. So now I had two side gigs at 20 hours a week for $20 an hour. This gave me the bug for wanting to work in marketing more, work for start-ups, and be in a remote working environment.
Can you explain the specific types of things that you do for your clients?
Since those first few gigs, I’ve worked for a marketing agency with high-profile companies and well-funded start-ups, and have more recently been running the marketing department for my current employer.
However, even while running marketing and managing my blog Invested Wallet, I’ve been open for additional marketing consulting or advising. Previously, I offered more execution work in marketing. So things like managing social media, creating paid ads, SEO, writing content, etc.
I still do those things, but now I focus on more of the strategy side of everything in digital marketing, where I put things together for teams to execute on. This includes:
- Email marketing
- Paid Ads/Paid Social
- Marketing Automation
- Content Marketing
- Marketing Strategy
- Product marketing
- Account-based marketing
Do you work for clients in particular industries or all industries?
There has been a mix of industries, but primarily I have worked with start-ups to VC funded start-ups. But I’ve never been against companies of larger size or brand. I also have not limited myself to any specific industries, I’m happy to work with any great companies.
How do you find your clients?
Right now, I’m not doing any consulting work besides helping with a friend’s recent business. He gets some clients that may need some marketing attention, so I help out there. Down the road, I will probably be looking to get more involved as a marketing advisor or consultant more frequently.
So a few ways I previously found work, and great ways to find clients include:
- Being very active on LinkedIn, connecting with other marketers
- Browsing remote job boards and listings like AngelList, Remote.co, JobSpresso, etc.
- Talking with friends about business endeavors (how I got connected to two consulting gigs)
- Attending networking events in the local area (I plan on doing more of this in the coming years)
- Listing services on a blog or personal website. I had a personal website up for a bit but took that down. I also have a “work with me” section on Invested Wallet for anyone that can use my services.
What kind of skills or experience are needed for someone to get started doing something similar?
I did not go to school for marketing, but my first full-time gig was in email marketing. That helped set a basis for some of my skills. However, most of the marketing skills I learned on my own. I created a music blog back in the day, took free courses from Google, read marketing blogs, etc. That way, I could speak and understand what it takes.
Then it takes reaching out, applying, networking, and putting in the work for someone to give you a chance. I knew I couldn’t get a big or high-paid gig until I had more experience under my belt. I looked for something small, like the first gig managing social media and writing some basic blog posts. From there, I’d slowly take on more and grow my marketing knowledge.
For someone who is just getting started, how would they know what to charge?
It depends on your level of skillset when you are ready to take on side gigs. For me, I only had a handful of work experience under my belt and really only email marketing. So I knew around $10/hour would be fair, basically almost like a paid intern. But if you have a lot more experience and insight to offer, you can charge a lot more.
Your rate is based on a lot of things like:
- What is the average marketer’s salary at different titles?
- What are the formulas for consultants/freelancers to know what to charge (plenty of articles online)?
- What is the company asking of you?
You don’t want to sell your self-short, but you also don’t want to ask some outrageous hourly rate.
What would you recommend as the first steps for someone who is interested in offering marketing consulting services?
A few things I think come to mind,
- Ask yourself how much time you can dedicate to marketing consulting.
- What are my main specialties of marketing, what are the top things I can execute really well on?
- Put yourself out there with marketing knowledge. LinkedIn, Medium, your own website, Quora, etc. Market yourself!
- Monitor remote job boards and sites like AngelList. Even if they are offering full-time or part-time jobs, you can message people and offer consulting work instead.
- Attend networking events and meet people
- Be patient
What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about this side hustle?
- Flexibility to work with really unique companies and people
- Besides bringing my knowledge, I learn a lot and gain more experience to apply to future gigs
- Once you have some good experience and references, the money can be quite good
- It can be time-consuming. There is a lot of parts to marketing, which requires high detail and to be one step ahead on trends and competitors of your client
- Can be hard sometimes to find work at first. Digital marketing is a huge and a lot of people can do the basics. You need to be an exceptional marketer to stand out and get the best gigs.
How have your side hustles impacted your life?
Side hustles have impacted my life in numerous ways.
- It helped me get extra cash to save or put towards bills.
- It helped me gain new experiences for work and build my resume
- Helped me find my love for start-ups and increase my exposure in marketing
- It taught me the value of time management and organization, which can be applied to all aspects of my life
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Todd, and hopefully it gave you some ideas that you can put into action.