Digital Marketing Career: How to Start and Be Successful

digital marketing career

A digital marketing career is an exciting path to get into for many reasons. With so many areas of focus and an ever-changing environment, no two days are ever the same.

Digital marketers have increasingly become very important in any industry because they establish the brand and scale the profit engine.

If you enjoy communicating with people, building systems to scale, optimizing web pages, writing clever headlines then a career in digital marketing may be a career worth pursuing.

As with any career, starting out can be challenging. You’ll have to pay your dues in the early years to gain the experience it takes to morph into a professional. The dedicated time at the beginning will also help you figure out which path in digital marketing to take whether it’s content marketing, social media, SEO or something other area of interest.

This article will help you understand the steps it will take to launch a successful career in online marketing.

What is Digital Marketing?

Before we do a deep dive into the career, let’s first understand what digital marketing is.

Digital marketing – otherwise referred to as online marketing, internet marketing, online advertising, internet marketing – is a way to connect your products and/or services with potential customers through various digital channels like your website, email, social media, paid ads, etc.

We published a blog that explains what digital marketing is in more detail.

Tips to Start Your Digital Marketing Career

The best way to improve and incorporate new skills is through experience. You can read this blog and fifty others like it but without action you won’t develop into a well rounded digital marketer.

Here are 5 tips to take when starting out in a digital marketing career.

  • Start a Blog

    One of the best ways to gain experience is by building a WordPress blog, increasing traffic to it and marketing it through various digital channels. You’ll not only learn the technical aspects of what is required to setup a website but you’ll also have to come up with a strategy to execute on.

    The other byproduct is that you’ll learn how to work without a boss looking over your shoulder. Being self-motivated is a highly attractive skill to present in a fast paced career.

    This is exactly how I got my start. I graduated with a degree in finance and didn’t have a lick of experience in digital marketing. I built my first WordPress site back in 2007 with some frustrations but kept at it. As I continued working on it, I gained more confidence in my skills and an optimism that digital marketing was the right career path for me.

  • Keep up with the Latest Digital Marketing Trends

    Having familiarity around what’s relevant and what’s dated will enable you to ask and answer the right questions during the interview process. More importantly, it will help you do your job with more effectiveness. The internet is constantly changing and so will the need for your knowledge for it.

    I’ve witnessed marketers stick to what they know without expanding their skillset only to be left in the dust. Don’t be the you of 2013.

  • Connect with People

    Networking your way to a job is easy. The hard part is actually getting out there and meeting people. Marketing agencies and companies could see hundreds of resumes for a job opening so it’s very difficult to differentiate yourself through a piece of paper.

    People remember people, not resumes.

    Therefore, you have a better chance at landing your first job through your network. Even if it’s not directly through this person, they may pass on that you’re a good guy or gal to their friend who happens to be looking for a digital marketer.

    When networking, please leave your personal agenda to the side. Don’t go into a conversation in hopes to land a gig. Connect with people on a pure level where you share a two-way conversation. This will payoff dividends in the long-run.

  • Taste Everything

    Remember you aren’t a seasoned digital marketer (yet) so I suggest you take on almost everything and anything at the beginning. Whether you are a college grad or a 45 year old just starting their career in digital marketing, experience is key. To gain experience you need to push the ego aside and take on any type of work related to what you do.

    Over time, you’ll learn what interests you and what you don’t care for. But, the only way to find out is tasting it through old fashioned hard work.

  • Realize You Don’t Need a Formal Education but Training Will Help

    Most industries require a formal education to get started in their field. It’s rare for someone to be hired as an Accountant without an accounting degree. Fortunately, you don’t really need a formal education in digital marketing to land a job. Heck, I graduated with a degree in Finance.

    What will help is that you keep up with the latest trends (see tip #2) and take an introductory online digital marketing course.

    There’s more…

    Use the informal training and implement what you learned on your blog. Education is one thing but execution is everything in digital marketing.

    Here are some actionable items you can do with your own blog;

    • Learn email marketing -> send out a newsletter via Mail Chimp (a free email program)
    • Learn social media -> build your social network out and post 2-3 times per week
    • Learn content marketing -> write 30 posts in thirty days
    • Learn SEO -> optimize your posts for search engines
    • Learn PPC -> run $25 worth of Facebook ads

Digital Marketing Salaries

As we’ve discussed previously, there is a wide range of focuses you can find yourself in as a digital marketer. As a result, salaries for a digital marketer range based on areas of focus as well as location and experience.

On average, here are some starting U.S. salaries for various focuses in digital marketing according to PayScale and Glassdoor, respectively:

These salaries will change over the course of time. These reflect the average starting salaries at the time of this post.

Why Digital Marketing as a Career?

I wouldn’t jump into a career because it’s considered “sexy” and “cool”. A career in digital marketing has many positives that one should consider. Knowing this will help you understand if digital marketing is a right fit for you long-term.

The following are the biggest benefits (in my humble opinion) in pursuing the digital marketing space:

  • Every company is at different levels of their digital marketing journey but most know they need one in order to compete. Whether it’s a private or public company, many businesses are still figuring out how to get their online voice out to the world.
  • It’s an industry that is changing by the day. New technologies are constantly developed to help companies grow their brand and increase their revenue. Digital marketers are able to create the strategy to execute with the new technologies.
  • Digital marketing is much effective and scalable than traditional marketing.
  • There are many different paths in digital marketing. Depending on your interests and skillset you may choose a more technical or lead gen or creative route.
  • You’ll have a direct impact on the company you are working for. You can affect top-line revenue by creating a stronger brand and getting more leads into the funnel for sales.
  • Typically, there will be a push to innovate, try new things and test. As a result, no week is the same.
  • You can work for a large company, local business, agency or yourself. If you work for yourself, the startup costs is minimal. Education and experience will be two factors that will be important.

Is Digital Marketing Right For You?

If you are self-motivated, like a fast paced environment, aren’t afraid to base your results on performance and enjoy learning new subjects/technologies then I would highly recommend you look into a career in digital marketing.

As you get more experience and years under your belt, you’ll find yourself having the choice of transitioning from a practitioner to more of a strategist role. Gaining the education and experience everyday will help you propel yourself as a Digital Marketer.

I do caution you though that it can be highly competitive because the barrier to entry is pretty minimal. Don’t let this scare you off though. You’ll have a much higher chance of succeeding as long as you stay patient, keep sharpening your skillset, build your network and never lose your enthusiasm.

Best of luck 🙂