So, you’re looking at becoming a PPC freelancer? Well, I officially became a full time freelancer in October 2019, so let me share a few pointers to help you on your way. Ideally, you will already have some PPC experience, and you’ll be used to dealing with clients, creating reports etc. If that’s the case, you’ve got the PPC side of things covered, you just need to crack the business side of things.
Just to give you some context, here is a quick summary of me and my freelance journey to date. I started out in digital marketing back in 2013, when I joined a small marketing agency. I stayed there for over 6 years and climbed the ranks, eventually heading up the search marketing team. In 2018, I started taking on the odd project on the side of my full time employment. The months flew by and before I knew it, I had a handful of regular clients that were matching my full time salary.
At that point, I made the jump to freelancing full time and I haven’t looked back since. I now have a successful PPC micro agency, with two other freelancers working alongside me.
Pros Of Freelancing
So the most important part to discuss is the pros and cons of going freelance. Most freelancers that I have spoken to would never want to go back to a 9-5 job. But freelancing isn’t for everyone, as it can be quite stressful and lonely. The pros and cons will vary depending on the sort of person that you are and the sort of lifestyle that you desire.
For me, the pros are that I get to work from home without having to commute. I get to choose what clients/projects I work on and I determine my own working hours.
Cons Of Freelancing
The cons. Well, first of all, it’s hard to switch off. But naturally, with PPC, it’s not something you can just ignore for 2 weeks. So even if you plan on having a holiday, you’ll either need to find someone who can take care of the accounts while you are away, or expect to spend a small amount of your holiday checking in to make sure things are going smoothly. Building your own business can be quite addictive, especially when you first start out. So being able to switch off is important.
Money fits into both the pros and cons. Many marketing freelancers who have made the jump after working at an agency will tell you that the money is wayyyyy better. In most cases, at least double if not triple the amount. But the con is that it’s not always a stable income. So be sure to have a rainy day fund to top up your monthly salary for those quieter months.
Start Freelancing As A Side Hustle
If you are in a fortunate position that you already have a full time job, I would strongly advise starting your freelancing as a side hustle. Not only will this help you learn the ropes while having some financial security, you can also build up a client base.
As mentioned in my summary at the start of this post, I was freelancing on the side for over a year before I made the jump to freelancing full time. In the first few months, I was roughly earning an extra £200 a month. But this gradually increased before finally matching my monthly salary from my full time job, despite working a fraction of the hours.
I have to admit, it’s easier said than done when you are older and have kids/commitments etc. But it helps maintain financial security while you are finding your feet and getting yourself established.
If you are thinking of starting as a side hustle, here is a very useful article on how to handle your taxes, as it can get a bit confusing if you’ve never worked two jobs.
How To Price Yourself As A Freelancer
This must be the most common question among newbie freelancers. There’s no easy way of answering it, as there’s no set rule for how much or how little you can charge. When you first start freelancing, it’s natural to charge a low fee and gradually build it up once you have more experience and confidence.
To be honest, I did not have this mentality. When I first started freelancing as a side hustle, I remember thinking to myself that if I’m going to throw away my evenings and weekends to do extra work, it needs to be worth it!
There are plenty of ways to work out what you should charge
- Existing Reddit threads
- Existing posts on Freelancing groups
- Reach out and ask other PPC freelancers
- Check out this PPC pricing survey from 2021
There are also different ways to package up your pricing, such as hourly rates, fixed monthly retainers, percentage of spend etc. Most people avoid hourly rates as it’s not a very effective way of pricing your work, but with the others, experiment and find the one that works best for you.
Once you have your initial rates, my advice would be to alter these based on how much work you have coming through the door. If you are having to turn work away due to being too busy, you’re probably not charging enough!
Find A Community
Being a freelancer can be lonely. No matter how introverted you are, it always helps to have a group of people that you can lean on for advice, a second opinion or just a general chit chat. I was very fortunate that I stumbled across a newly formed marketing group for freelancers called the DMU. We talk about all things digital and freelancing, with a regular video call every Friday at 11am to discuss various topics on camera.
There are countless more communities out there. Here are a bunch that I would recommend, some PPC related, some not:
These are all useful places to ask questions and meet new people. While I prefer working from home, some people prefer working in co-working spaces to meet other freelancers who may live in your local area. It’s also an affordable way to have a desk away from home to avoid all the distractions.
How To Get Freelance Clients
This is one of the biggest problems for new freelancers. Generating a steady stream of high quality leads is a continuous goal for most.
I’ve seen a few freelancers say to be picky with your projects, only working on projects you enjoy, blah blah blah. When you first start freelancing, not many people have the luxury of being that picky. Just like when you start out at a new job, you have to do all the grunt work before you can start moving on to better projects.
A debate that pops up regularly among freelancers is about taking on whitelabel work. You’d be surprised at how many agencies outsource bits of their marketing work to freelancers. Working with agencies can be a great way to get work, as you can have multiple clients all through one contact. But they often want you to charge lower rates (so they can take their cut off the top) and I find that these projects don’t end so well, especially if all of the communication is being handled by someone at the agency that has very little PPC experience.
Here are some of the most common ways to drum up new work:
- Freelance platforms such as Upwork
- Social media platforms like Linkedin & Twitter
- Answering questions on forums and Reddit
- Reaching out to agencies and freelancers
- Through your website via SEO or PPC
- Cold outreach
Once you’ve mastered it and have a steady stream of work coming in, it soon transforms into another problem which is what I refer to as stage 2 of freelancing. You start to reach full capacity with all of your underpaid crap jobs but you are still getting enquiries. This is where you need to start being picky about the projects you work on and start raising your rates.
Other Useful Resources & Tips
Here are a few more quick fire tips and resources for you:
- Set up a business bank account (I use Starling)
- Get insurance (I use 'With Jack')
- Start a pension (I use Penfold) *referral link - we both get £25 if you use it!
If you have any other questions about going freelance, feel free to drop me an email.