(updated on 07.11.2019)
When I first started my professional work life and career in marketing I didn’t have a complete picture of what I am going to do. I guess this was also why I went to study business instead of some real profession (#noregrets).
As much as I would like to, I’m not going to spill my whole story here.. yet. This is for another time. I’m putting this post together to give some practical and useful tips to you young (or not so young) people who are getting into marketing.
I started with marketing around 2008. At the time I think I just turned 20. I returned to my home country Estonia from studies abroad and I started to figure out how to make some additional income from my bedroom.
I was always into computers and software and internet marketing was quite different back then.
I know. It’s only been like a decade.
Long story short, after 6 months of trying different things like affiliate marketing, Google Adsense, write blogs and also spending hundreds on different internet marketing products that ended up being a scam I finally made my first cents.
This is was it.
I knew I could make this work and it excited me, probably more than it should excite a normal person.
Either way, I have been testing and learning ever since. While developing my marketing knowledge, which by the way is mostly self-taught (although I went to business school), I also worked with several start-ups, built some of them my own.
Looking back and talking from my own experience there are things you should know before starting a career in marketing.
Before we head into the steps required to become a marketer, I want to let you know this – it’s never too late to change a career.
Yes, starting a new career at 30 or starting a new career at 40 or 50 and above is all possible. Now, if you’re in a rush and how specific questions about starting a career in marketing, scroll down on this article and skim the FAQ section.
Yes, we’re all busy. Thank me later.
Here are steps required to become a marketer and start a career in marketing.
1. Is marketing for me? Do your homework!
What does a marketing job entail? It’s a job like any other. You have your goals, that you break down to tasks and you execute.
Most of the marketing positions these days are for online marketing. Traditional offline marketing like radio, TV, newspapers and all that still exist, but they are (in my opinion) significantly less popular.
Now, marketing can be a lot fun and it can be frustrating as well.
We have this quiz here to figure out if marketing is for you (coming soon, check back later) or not. Shortly, there are times when you’re working like crazy and getting no results. Your coworkers are looking at you and you begin to question if you even know what you’re doing.
Other times, you’re getting amazing results and everybody in your office thinks you’re god. Business is booming and often you don’t even know why things are working out that well.
For me, being a marketer has been one of the most exciting professions there is. It’s a very good combination of 3 main elements:
I call it – The Marketing CAP.
If you’re a somewhat creative person, you don’t shy away from reading and understanding numbers from time to time and you enjoy taking the time to listen and understand people, then 100% marketing is for you.
Now, marketing as a field is quite broad and the job you might end up doing can only surround one of the CAP elements.
We have jobs for analytics to copywriters, SEO specialists, social media managers, media planners, ad designers and the list goes on. Online marketing is evolving at a very rapid pace and marketing specialist that can cover more than one specific field are really high in demand.
Do some research on different marketing fields and find out what is most appealing to you. Here’s a short-list of marketing fields and some of the best blogs out there that give explicit overview of them:
- Social Media Marketing
- Paid Advertising
- Search Engine Optimization
- Web and Conversion Optimization
- Content Strategy and Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Start-up marketing and growthhacking
This is a fairly brief list of fields and solely around digital marketing, but should get your ideas going and you’ll be able to cross out everything that’s less appealing to you.
2. Choose your field
Thing is, nobody excels at everything and that’s OK.
When choosing the field that most speaks to you, bear in mind that all jobs pay well if you love doing them. This is common sense, so don’t rank some over others simply because one marketing job salary or the service fee is higher than the other.
From my own perspective I see a rising demand for User Experience Optimizer/Analyst in the field of marketing. Also, all kinds of data researchers and content creators are in high demand. If those titles make any sense to you and sound interesting then go for them!
If you still seem confused by all this, then take this quiz to find out a bit about yourself and see what we think should be your marketing career path.
Here’s the quiz – what type of marketer you are (coming soon, check back later)
3. Research job requirements
You want to do some research on companies and what skills specifically are required for certain marketing positions. Thing is, that headhunters and HR managers can have quite a different understanding of the position, job title and the skills and tasks associated with it.
Moreover, each company might actually need different skills for their business.
My suggestion would be to dig through their list and make a spreadsheet for yourself.
List down all the required skills and experience requirements stated.
What I see usually is that the more complex and the more skills are required the smaller the company and the more hardcore multitalent they are looking for. This doesn’t mean that the salary is that great. Usually isn’t.
If you chose your field and you’re committed on that, then find job posts that are to the point and doesn’t require things that doesn’t seem like should be your responsibilities.
For example and SEO specialists hardly should design graphics for the content (he/she might, but shouldn’t). On the other hand a copywriter or social media manager should have some base understanding of designing graphics.
Click Here to download a PDF showing you how to get hired in 2 weeks!
4. Get some courses
Still with me? Awesome.
Once you know what skills and experience is required you can go ahead and get some courses online.
There are several entry-level marketing courses you can get for free. This should be a good start to get the basics covered. Additionally you can browse YouTube with relevant keywords. Although I always prefer courses such as Udemy offers.
Because it’s nicely packaged together and it’s easier to consume the material than to browse around YouTube. Definitely do Youtube as an extra.
Here’s a pro tip that will get you FREE access to even premium and paid courses!
If you have a LinkedIn account on free version, you can upgrade it to 30-days trial Premium and get access to Lynda.com (or linkdIn learning not sure what do they call themselves) course marketplace. Then you can basically cancel your LinkedIn Premium trial any time and still get access to the courses.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, then OH MY GOD go make one.
It’s a must have if you want to succeed as a professional in our modern society.
5. Attend networking events
In order to become a successful marketer you need to grow your contact base.
What does someone in marketing do? Well, among other things, they attend networking events. They share experiences, showoff their successes and just socialize.
One way would be to attend local get together events. If you are just starting out and do not feel comfortable meeting with other peers, then try starting it slow.
Go to the event and just decide not to talk with anyone. Just hang around, have drink, listen what they are talking (not in a creepy way) and take it easy. The conversation and socializing will happen organically the next time.
Just go to the event!
Remember, many great people have once been shy and reserved.
6. Get some coaching
Once you start getting relevant people to your network, you are so much closer to getting an actual job than you know it.
Frankly, marketing is a lot about people and trust (as probably with most professions). People, and marketers especially, are drawn to other people who are ambitious and goal oriented.
If you share your goals (getting a new job and start a career in marketing), I guarantee you that some, if not most of them, would like to know more. “How are you planning to do that?”, “Where are you applying?”, “What position do you have in mind?” are the questions flying at you.
At this point, they might see you as a rookie, as someone they could help out and teach. And marketers sure like to teach other people. Look here, I’m teaching you how to become a marketer with this blog post.
If they are willing to help you and show some interest in advancing your career. Consistently follow up with them and take their advise. Marketers are busy people and if you’re not there showing up, it’s not likely they will be.
If you can try to offer your help to them as well. This is something you have to show them not tell them. If you chose a design field. Don’t ask if you can redesign their Facebook cover photo. Just do it and ask if they are happy with the existing one. Assuming, it’s an ugly one, you have a new (hopefully a better) one to show.
This is a good way to get coaching (and possibly even a job).
7. Start your own blog or vlog
This is something that is fairly underrated. Marketers are social beings. When we are not talking with other people and trying to figure out the next epic campaign idea how to engage with people, we blog or vlog…
Blogging is a way to let the world know your tone of voice, your ideas and your technical skill.
Now that you have:
- chosen your field of expertise
- had some online courses
- expanded your contact base
- got some coaching
you are more than equipped to start your own blog. For sure there are hundreds and thousands of blogs in every marketing niche and you as a novice marketer can’t match up with these superstars.
Not to worry. The internet is big and by writing about relevant subjects you establish your very own personal brand. If you have exceptional writing skills, you might even end up as a professional blogger and say no to whatever marketing job is offered to you.
Meanwhile I am writing my own guide to set up a blog with content strategy. Here’s a great overview on how to start a blog.
A thing to keep in mind is Grammar. This is something new bloggers struggle with. In fact, this report shows that you could lose visitors from web search when your grammar isn’t on par. Make sure you double check your writings and ideally let someone else check it again.
8. Do some free work
So, by now you should be pretty confident about yourself as a marketer. It’s time to make money!
First, you need to prove that you truly are a marketing hero.
“That’s hard!” you might be saying.
Actually, no it’s not.
Thing is that the average Joe doesn’t know that much about marketing. Especially, when we’re talking about new digital marketing trends and what to follow and what not to follow.
There will always be this new feature that your potential employee or client will not know about. If you bring it to their attention and tell (ideally show) how it will make more money for them, they will surely listen to you.
Getting someone to listen to you is all you need.
Here’s what you should do:
- Make a list of all your friends, family members and other acquaintances, who are either running their own business or are in an executive position in their company.
- Reach out to them and tell them what you are up to and what your career goals are (to become a kickass marketer).
- Offer your services to their business. This can be done in several ways, but you don’t want to come off salesy and be sure to communicate that you want to help them for FREE. This is for your portfolio.
- Get the green light and start cooking with the job. Yes, it’s free and you might feel demotivated. Not to worry. In my experience, when doing free work and doing awesome free work, it always turns out to be paid work in the end – one way or the other (ta ta ta ta ta ta, taa taaa 🎵).
- Report the results and plan for next activities. This is the place where you can shine and present a nice report of what you accomplished, researched, created etc. This is the time you are actually doing sales and if you did a good job, they are will ask more work from you (and this, yes you guess it. It’s going to be paid work).
9. Why marketing as a career – the motivation
If you find yourself doing the work with full enthusiasm even in the evening – that’s great.
If not however, it doesn’t mean that the marketing field is not for you. Keep in mind that everybody has motivation issues at some point.
Motivation to clean the room, motivation to start eating more healthy or motivation to finish up started work. There’s an amazing book on motivation by Steve Chandler called 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself.
It’s not linked to marketing, but still gives a good idea of how to stay motivated and focused at all times.
I personally like to read and learn new stuff about marketing when I feel demotivated. Because every time I read blogs and news about marketing, I get surges of motivation and I think to myself “Damn, why didn’t I come up with that”.
As soon as I get into that mode I just wish there were more hours in the day and I could do something epic from start to finish.
10. Start asking for money
Once you get into business with people and offer them your advice for free, you’d be surprised how many of them are actually willing to pay you for your services.
Be passionate about your stuff, deliver results and people will love you.
You might be thinking: “How can I, a marketer with little experience, ask money for my services?”.
Thing is that if you don’t ask for money or you ask very little of it, then people don’t respect you and think that your advice is not valuable. It’s okay to say no to people who are willing to pay you little money even if you’re broke. Something better will come along.
If you ask a proper service fee, people take you seriously and are more willing to go in business with you.
Because asking little = low quality.
Your clients (or employers) don’t want that.
A good way to establish your fee would be the following:
- Ask from your network if they have bought these services recently and how much they paid. Write down the number.
- Make a Google search for that service and contact some sellers who rank on the first page of search results and contact some who rank in the 5th page. Email or call them to ask for a quotation and write down the number. Some of them might have the prices on their website as well (depending on the service).
- Now compare these numbers and decide what you’re comfortable asking for your services.
- If you have your number down. Double it! I’m not joking. Odds are that if you are starting you are asking too little for your services. The worst that can happen is just a rejection from the client. This gets you in negotiation.
Keep in mind that if your initial number was close to what the best players on the market are asking then doubling it doesn’t really work. But I guess you figured that out already.
Also worth mentioning here – don’t just double the fee you’re asking. See how you can pack more value in the proposal. Think of your strengths that your competitors might be lacking. It can be as simple as giving the client a daily or weekly update in addition to the industry typical once a month report.
11. Reconsider your position on the market
Once you’ve successfully closed a client and delivered the results you agreed upon (and everyone’s happy), it’s time to ask yourself, what kind of marketing position you want.
What you’ve done so far is freelancing. Successful freelancers make a very nice living for themselves (even more than executives).
But it’s not all about money obviously. People are different and what drives us in the workplace can also vary.
You have to think further ahead. Do you want to be your own boss and do all the hard work, but also reap the financial benefits and enjoy the free lifestyle?
Or do you want to get hired into a company and be part of something even bigger and have less stress and more fun with your colleagues. There are many pros and cons to being an employee or being self-employed.
Self-employment in many cases can also lead to building your own marketing agency. Which is a different concept already and perhaps a topic for another time.
12. Keep learning
As with everything in life, marketing keeps evolving all the time. In order to maintain your professional status, I recommend taking at least 1-2 mornings a week and spend a few hours just reading books and articles, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts.
Simply gather ideas about various topics.
You can use your Facebook browsing time much more effectively. For example, collect ideas for your blog and for your social media. Browse the latest web design trends. See who won awards for creative works and so on.
I keep a Trello board system for myself to track everything I am currently doing and things I am planning to do in the near future. I also gather content ideas there and brainstorm new business ideas. If you like to visualize your goals, then it’s an awesome free tool to use.
- Figure out what marketing field suits you the best
- Get to know the field – get some courses and get coaching
- Attend events and expand your network of contacts
- Start a blog
- Do some free work
- Work out your service fee and get your first paying customer
- Set long-term goals and decide if you want to be a freelancer or an employee
- Start a healthy habit of learning about your field
Click Here to download a PDF showing you how to get hired in 2 weeks!
Frequently Asked Questions
- What could be my salary if I have degree in marketing?
In my opinion degrees don’t matter that much anymore these days. As long as you have some degree, which means that you have higher education and you’re capable of learning new things then it’s all good. If you have like PhD in marketing then yes some public sector institution probably will pay more. Of course this really depends where you’re located in the world. In EU and US anyone with a degree should make at least $2,500 per month net.
- What’s the entry-level marketing salary?
I think the most junior position you can get is intern. So this can be in many times a unpaid position, but aim to get at least $1,500 net per month.
- What to marketers do?
Most of the times we analyse the data to figure out, why out stuff isn’t working or why it’s working.
- Why work in marketing?
Why not? If you’re a person who’d like to have job that heavily combines creativity, analytics, psychology aka. The Marketing CAP, then marketing could one of the most fun fields for you.
- How to gain marketing experience?
By doing. Start your own blog and start experimenting a lot of stuff. That’s the best school you can ask.
- Is marketing right for me?
You’ll never know if you try. Check out this quiz – is marketing right for me (coming soon)
- Can I start a career in marketing at 40?
Yes! You have valuable experience that other younger people don’t. Use that in your advantage and show them who’s the boss.
- Can I start a career in marketing at 30?
Yes! What, do you think you’re too old already? Of course you can. You’re in your 30s, that’s when people start taking you seriously. Chill out.