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Digital Marketer

How to Become a Digital Marketer: 5 Soft Skills to Develop to Lead

Are you looking to kickstart a digital marketing career even without a degree or experience? In this article, we’ll show you where to start and how to land your first job where you can earn anywhere between US$49,480 - $65,9821. Digital marketing is one of the most in-demand skills worldwide2. That’s because 63% of the world's population is on the internet searching for products and services3. As a result, businesses use online marketing to attract, engage and convert customers to drive product sales. This detailed guide will summarize the key steps to becoming a digital marketer. You’ll gain an understanding of the most important skills you need to develop and learn how to get started. Ready to learn what it takes to build a successful career in digital marketing? Let’s dive in.

Illustration of a woman with purple hair is utilizing digital marketing tools of various platforms to learn how to become a digital marketer

What do digital marketers do?

A digital marketer wears many hats. 

They plan, create, and distribute educational and promotional digital content to:

  1. Make people aware of a business
  2. Attract the business’ target audience
  3. Generate qualified leads—those who are most likely to become customers
  4. Build trust with these leads until they become paying customers
  5. Exceed customer expectations so they become brand evangelists who will bring in more new customers 

In a nutshell, digital marketer professionals drive awareness, build trust, and increase sales via online channels.

There are several areas of specialization for online marketers. Each of these areas covers different digital marketing channels. They include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Marketing automation 
  • Audio and video marketing
  • Paid media marketing 

You should have a general understanding of each and build deep expertise in one or more of these areas. 

Let’s review the skills you need to become a digital marketing professional.

What are the skills needed to become a digital marketer?

As a digital marketer, you need soft and hard skills to succeed. We’ve outlined seven of each to focus on.

Hard skills you need to become a digital marketer 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is an important digital marketing skill. It involves making a website’s content relevant to people and search engines. You optimize content to include keywords an ideal buyer uses to search for answers. As a result, your content ranks higher on the search engine result pages (SERPs). Ideal buyers can find your company’s solutions, which drives more traffic and leads. 

Competitive research and analysis

Competitive research skills will set you apart from the crowd as an entry-level digital marketer. You identify and review competing websites, content, products, and services to uncover useful strategic insights to inform your marketing strategy. These insights give your organization a competitive edge by identifying unique messaging. 

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads

PPC uses paid advertising to expand a company's reach and generate revenue. This skill requires creating ads using Google Ads or other search engine advertising. Then tracking, reporting, and optimizing performance based on findings.

Content marketing

Content marketing involves creating digital strategies and high-quality, search-optimized content that generates organic traffic and sales. These content types include:

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • Downloadable templates or eBooks
  • Checklists

The content generates demand and qualified leads, ultimately resulting in more sales. 

Content repurposing 

Repurposing content is a skill that requires converting blog posts into social media posts and vice versa. It involves turning existing content into other content formats for different online channels. For example, turning a blog post into carousels for LinkedIn or Instagram. Or turning a podcast into a long-form blog post. 

Content repurposing is a critical skill because it saves time and maximises your marketing budget return on investment.

The company doesn’t have to keep creating content from scratch. Instead, you can repurpose existing content and distribute it through several digital channels.

Marketing analytics

Reporting is a vital skill that involves tracking the performance of digital campaigns. You learn more about audience behavior, interests, and preferences to improve the strategy. Knowing how to use Google Analytics and other tools will make you an asset to any company. 

Basic design and video skills

It never hurts to have some complementary skills to pair with digital marketing. For example, basic design and animation skills can improve your chances of landing a social media role.

Soft skills you need to become a digital marketer 

Communications skills

Effective communication is a critical digital marketing talent. It involves sharing ideas, knowledge, and data in a clear and concise manner. It also involves asking questions and active listening to understand your next steps. 

Verbal and non-verbal communication skills are important for your career success. They show how well you’ll collaborate with your team, especially after joining a remote team.

Beyond team communication, building the skill makes you a better digital marketer. Especially because speaking and listening are a big part of marketing. You’ll interact with customers, subject matter experts (SMEs), and stakeholders. 

That’s why you should build strong communication skills

Learn how to use communication tools such as Loom, Zoom, and Slack to collaborate better with your team and share feedback with clients. 

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is your ability to analyze data and draw insights to make better decisions. You question the data to gain fresh insights to develop a winning strategy. 

This involves using tools such as Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Facebook Ads to gather audience insights. Then you pull these insights into a master excel spreadsheet to make data-backed suggestions to the team and stakeholders.

With this skill, you have data-backed insights to get stakeholder buy-in. As a result, your efforts will improve customer experience, boost sales, and grow the business. 

Organization and project management skills

As a digital marketer, you’ll have multiple marketing tasks running simultaneously. It could be creating several blog posts, writing sales copy for ads, or anything related to your area of specialization. 

Being able to manage your own schedule sets you up for success. You should be able to break down big projects into actionable smaller steps and deliver on time. 

Also, keeping the team in the loop of your progress is a critical project management skill. Learn to use collaboration and project management software such as Slack, Asana, and ClickUp. These digital tools will bring your organization and project management skills to life. 

Analytical skills 

Analytical skills involve gathering information, evaluating it, and making decisions to solve a problem. It requires strong research, data analysis, and critical thinking skills. 

As a digital marketer, you should develop analytical skills such as:

  • Industry and market research analysis 
  • Data interpretation 
  • Data presentation 
  • Marketing analytics 
  • Strategic planning

These skills help you plan, execute, measure, and improve the efficiency of your digital marketing campaigns. 

Leadership skills

Leadership is an important soft skill for a career in digital marketing. 

Showing leadership potential is critical early in your career. You should start developing and refining these skills. Here are some to keep in mind: 

Developing these skills boosts your confidence to influence your teammates and grow your digital marketing career.

Collaboration skills 

Effective collaboration sets you up for success, especially when working with cross-functional teams. 

Solving problems with team members creates opportunities for you to learn and perform better. After all, two heads are better than one, so they say. It also helps you understand how your role contributes to the company's overall success.

You should develop an agile approach to collaboration. For example, practice sharing ideas and information to keep the team aligned. Also, learn how to use collaboration, file sharing, and communication tools to break down silos. 

Doing this will help you get more work done faster and create meaningful experiences for customers. 

Conflict Resolution 

Understanding how to handle disagreements is another soft skill worth developing. That makes you a team player, not a lone wolf. 

A helpful conflict resolution skill is understanding the power of difference

Your teammates will be different from you. They may have different strengths and blind spots from yours. However, it’s this difference that facilitates diverse marketing solutions. So don’t let their blind spots create conflict. 

Other conflict resolution skills you should develop are:

  • Asking the right questions to understand the intent behind a person’s actions 
  • Giving the right non-verbal cues that correspond with your words
  • Understand your and your teammates’ feelings 
  • Managing the stress, so you don’t flare up
  • Understanding what other people are going through 
  • Not taking sides when resolving conflicts 

Staying curious, adaptable, and customer-focused are extra soft skills you should build. Giving and receiving feedback is another. 

Of course, these skills aren’t the only ones you should develop, but they are a good starting point. They form the foundation for your career success as a digital marketer.

Develop these important digital marketer soft (human) skills

Soft skills are critical for success in any digital marketing role. They determine how well you collaborate with others to increase digital marketing return on investment (ROI). 

Fingerprint for Success helps you build soft skills to kickstart your career. We have over 20 years of experience using our people analytics tools to study soft skills. And we’ve identified the attitudes and motivational traits you need to develop to succeed.

Take our free assessment today to discover your personal motivations and how they relate to digital marketing soft skills.

After completing the assessment, Coach Marlee will provide personalized insights related to your goal. You’ll receive feedback on your motivations and insights about blind spots. Use F4S’ free coaching programs to build the soft skills you need to excel in any digital marketing role.

Leadership skills

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How long does it take to become a digital marketer?

It takes three months or less to learn the basics of digital marketing. You might be lucky to get an internship role within this period.

Then it takes anywhere from six months to a year to land an entry-level digital marketing role. It could be an agency, freelance, solopreneur, or an in-house job opportunity.

What higher education is required?

You don’t need a university degree or prior marketing experience to get started. 

But having a degree or experience in some fields is a bonus. These fields include traditional marketing, journalism, digital media, English/liberal arts, and advertising. 

If you have a degree in these fields, you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. You only sharpen your existing skills and develop new digital ones.

What licenses, certifications, and registrations are needed?

There are different courses and certifications to help you get started.

Here are some digital marketing academic courses and certifications:

  1. Google Analytics Certification (free)
  2. Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification (free)
  3. Hubspot Digital Marketing Certification (free)
  4. HubSpot Content Marketing Certification (free)
  5. Hootsuite Academy Marketing Certification (free)
  6. Google Marketing Certifications: Fundamentals of Digital Marketing (free)
  7. Content Marketing Institute: Master Class Certification (free)
  8. Kellogg School of Management: Digital Marketing Strategies (paid)
  9. The Digital Marketing Institute: Digital Marketing Certification (paid)
  10. The OMCP Digital Marketing Certification (paid)

Some of these courses are free, while the others are worth your money. 

What on-job internships or apprenticeships are typically undertaken?

Digital marketing internships help you gain hands-on experience and build your portfolio. These internships can either be remote, on-site, or hybrid. 

Whatever part of the world you’re in, you can land a paid or unpaid internship. We try to dissuade unpaid internships, but you can consider taking one if you are:

  • Unable to find a paid opportunity 
  • Willing to focus on learning and experience over earning for 3-6 months.

Whichever you choose, ensure you have solid goals and a growth plan so you can track your progress. You can also consider jumping right into landing an entry-level position. 

Here are six tips for landing a digital marketing internship or an entry-level position:

  1. Create a list of companies you would like to work with.
  2. Identify key decision-makers. They include the Chief Marketing Officer, VP of Marketing, Founder/CEO, Director of Marketing, Editorial Lead, and other C-suite executives. You can find them on the company’s LinkedIn page.
  3. Connect with key decision-makers and current employees and build rapport with them.
  4. Let them know you’re looking to intern with their company.
  5. Share your resume. Your resume should include key skills, certifications, and key results from personal projects.
  6. Always follow up if you don’t hear from them. 

You should also consider attending on-site and remote conferences and networking events. Consume digital marketing podcasts, videos, and articles. Also, follow experts on social media to learn from their experiences. 

You should join Slack, Discord, or Facebook niche communities and interact with other professionals. Some examples are Superpath, Women in Tech SEO, Exit Five, and Freelance Coalition for developing countries.

What advancement or specialization opportunities are there?

There are several career specialization opportunities for digital marketers. They include:

  • SEO expert or specialist
  • Technical SEO specialist 
  • Social media manager 
  • Content marketing strategist
  • Content marketing manager
  • Content writer
  • Copywriter 
  • Digital media buyer
  • PPC or search engine marketing (SEM) specialist
  • Email marketer
  • Growth marketer
  • Conversion rate optimization specialist
  • Video Marketer 
  • UX designer
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What are the career opportunities for digital marketers?

Here are five (5) digital marketing career options you should consider:

1. SEO 

SEO improves brand visibility, builds authority/trust, and generates organic traffic. On-page SEO professionals create intent-driven, optimized content for the different stages of the marketing funnel. Technical SEO professionals improve the technical parts of a website to increase their performance on search engines. 

Jobs available include SEO Manager, SEO Specialist, and Technical SEO Manager. 

2. Content Marketer

Content marketing involves everything from research to distributing educational, relevant, and actionable information for each stage of the ideal buyer’s journey. 

As a content marketer, your role will be to create short- and long-form content that drives consistent web traffic, generate leads, nurtures relationships, and increase sales. 

A typical path for content marketers is: 

  • Content Marketing Intern
  • Content Marketing Associate 
  • Content Marketing Specialist 
  • Content Marketing Strategist
  • Content Marketing Manager 
  • Head of Content / Editorial Team Lead / Chief Marketing Officer 
  • Director of Content Marketing 
  • VP of Content Marketing 

3. Product Marketer

Product marketing is a cross-functional marketing role. It involves driving demand and signups for a product. Product marketers conduct user research to create/refine the product’s go-to-market strategy, messaging, and positioning. 

The ultimate goal of this role is to sell prospects on the value of the product—show them how it solves their pain points. Like content marketers, product marketers typically grow from intern/associate to VP.

4. Social Media Marketer

Social media marketing involves using social media platforms such as LinkedIn to create brand awareness and build meaningful connections with prospects. So when they are ready to convert, your company’s name is at the top of their list. 

Social media marketers know how to choose the right platform to market a business. You should know where a brand’s audience spends time most and the content that resonates with them. Also, knowing how to repurpose blog posts is a plus. You create more awareness and drive traffic which results in leads and paying customers. 

Common social media roles include social media intern, specialist, manager, and influencer. 

5. Designer

Good user interface and experience (UI/UX) are a big part of digital marketing. They affect a customer’s perception of a brand. 

As a designer, you influence how users see and interact with a company’s website. Designers in digital marketing fall into either of these buckets: graphic designer, brand identity designer, web designer, UX/UI designer, and creative director.

Other digital marketing career opportunities include:

  • Front-end web developer
  • Back-end web developer 
  • Search engine or PPC marketer 
  • Digital media buyer
  • Video and audio production
  • Marketing analyst
  • Conversion copywriter
  • Email marketer 
  • E-commerce manager/director 
  • Acquisition marketing manager 

There’s no one-size-fits-all method for choosing a role. 

You can start as a content marketer and decide to move into technical SEO or product marketing. Or offer digital marketing services freelance. 

To choose the right role for you, start by building the hard and soft skills we mentioned earlier. Then research each of these roles to see which one suits your interests.

Where can digital marketers work?

Digital marketers can work in both the private and public sectors. 

The public sector is government funded. Digital marketers focus on building awareness and selling ideas that create positive change. You’ll likely work as a government agency's public relations or communications specialist. It could be in health, transport, education, and other industries. 

In the private sector, digital marketers focus on generating demand for a product or service. So you’ll likely work in a startup, growth-stage, or enterprise company in different industries. Or an agency that offers digital marketing services.

Also, you can work as an independent contractor, with an agency, or an organization in a specific industry (in-house). 

Independent contractors are freelancers that are paid per project, per hour, or per word count. They aren’t attached to a particular agency or company. Instead, they have a roster of one-off and ongoing projects from individuals, agencies, and organizations. 

Agency digital marketers work for different organizations. That’s because agencies take on projects from companies in different industries. So the digital marketer has to adapt fast to working in unfamiliar niches. 

In-house marketers are niche-specific. For example, a content marketer in BambooHR will only create content related to HR tech. Unless they have side projects that expose them to other industries. 

Choosing the place to start your career can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be. 

If you have no experience, you could consider working with an agency. The advantage is that you’ll have first-hand experience delivering results for different industries. There’s always work to do, and you’ll learn fast on the job. You’ll also have access to expert team members whom you can learn from. 

Alternatively, you could go for an in-house role if you prefer a slower, more structured pace. The fast pace of client deadlines is one drawback of working at agencies. There’ll also be lots of learning opportunities. And you can learn from C-suite executives and older team members. 

If you’re entrepreneurial, then freelance is the way to go. You can build a portfolio of personal projects and a personal brand. Then start putting yourself out there by creating helpful content.

How much can digital marketers earn?

Digital marketing salaries vary based on many factors, including experience level, education, company growth stage, industry, and role. 

The average global Digital Marketing Manager earns US$83,585/annum in 2022. Hourly, these marketers earn between US$36 - US$44. The estimated median annual salary for this role falls between US$75,174 and US$92,459.5 

The common salary in the US for digital marketing specialists is US$52,151/annum.6  While the common salary for digital marketing interns in the US is US$28,590.7

As we mentioned already, some companies pay better than others. Enterprise organizations typically have bigger budgets. So they pay better than startups, non-profit organizations, and the government.

For freelance digital marketing managers, the average annual salary in the United States is $69,042 a year.8

Frequently asked questions

How to become a digital marketer from home?

To become a digital marketer from home, you should:

  1. Learn the digital marketing basics
  2. Choose a niche
  3. Build a personal brand on LinkedIn
  4. Start a blog dedicated to a topic of interest to show your expertise
  5. Create a portfolio of personal projects and record key results
  6. Connect with other professionals and experts to grow your social media networks.
  7. Make a list of companies you want to work with and research them
  8. Reach out to decision-makers in those companies
  9. Search and apply for open roles

How to become a digital marketer with no experience?

  1. Take digital marketing courses or certifications.
  2. Seek out internship opportunities to grow your skill.
  3. Consume content from industry experts.
  4. Build a personal brand on LinkedIn.
  5. Start a blog dedicated to a topic of interest to show your expertise.
  6. Create a portfolio of personal projects and record key results.
  7. Grow your social media networks. Connect with other professionals and experts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms.
  8. Make a list of companies you want to work with and research them.
  9. Contact the decision-makers in those companies.
  10. Search and apply for open roles.
  11. Follow up with applications.

How to become a freelance digital marketer?

  1. Learn the foundations of marketing.
  2. Choose a digital marketing skill to focus on.
  3. Define your ideal client.
  4. Start building your personal brand on a social media channel.
  5. Create content on topics of interest to show your expertise.
  6. Link your portfolio to your social media handles.
  7. Connect with other freelancers and company decision-makers.
  8. Join freelance communities such as Peak Freelancer.
  9. Document your process and gather client feedback as social proof.
  10. Use feedback to improve your skill and relationship with clients.

How to become a digital marketer without a degree?

You can take online certifications and courses to build digital marketing skills. Here are some digital marketing academic courses and certifications:

  1. Google Analytics Certification (free)
  2. Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification (free)
  3. Hubspot Digital Marketing Certification (free)
  4. HubSpot Content Marketing Certification (free)
  5. Hootsuite Academy Marketing Certification (free)
  6. Google Marketing Certifications: Fundamentals of Digital Marketing (free)
  7. Content Marketing Institute: Master Class Certification (free)
  8. Kellogg School of Management: Digital Marketing Strategies (paid)
  9. The Digital Marketing Institute: Digital Marketing Certification (paid)
  10. The OMCP Digital Marketing Certification (paid)

Also, build connections with professionals and industry experts via social media. Here are seven digital marketers to follow on social media:

  1. Joanna Wiebe - Copywriting
  2. Chima Mmeje - SEO
  3. Aleyda Sollis - Tech SEO
  4. Avinash Kaushik - Marketing Analytics
  5. Peep Laja - Conversion Rate Optimization
  6. Elise Dopson - Freelance writing
  7. Neal Schaffer - Social Media

How to become a B2B digital marketer?

  1. Become an expert in one or more digital marketing skills
  2. Grow your network via LinkedIn
  3. Connect and engage with content from colleagues and industry experts
  4. Learn B2B terminologies
  5. Follow and consume B2B content
  6. Look out for open B2B marketing roles
  7. Work with an agency to build experience

How to become a good digital marketer?

  1. Build creative problem solving skills
  2. Use digital tools to complete tasks faster
  3. Learn how to adapt to situations quickly
  4. Follow industry experts on social media to learn the foundations of marketing and about the industry
  5. Study the product/service to understand how it solves users’ problems
  6. Collaborate with the team to learn on the job and deliver exceptional results
  7. Build effective communication and analytical skills

Be persistent at problem solving. If a project fails, learn from the experience to create a solution that outperforms your last project.

Improving team performance

Reshimi Buthello

F4S has been crucial for our Baraja teams. We have a debrief every time we have new team formations, or when we have new team members joining existing teams. It gives us direction for team compositions, hiring and conflict resolution. There are so many “Aha” moments when we go through these debriefs.
Reshimi Buthello, VP of People and Culture and Change Management Expert, Baraja

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  1. Digital Marketing average salary in the USA, 2022
  2. (Dec. 2022)
  3. Internet and social media users in the world 2022 | Statista, (Dec. 2022)
  4. (Dec. 2022)
  5. Global Digital Marketing Manager Salary,
  6. Digital Marketing Specialist Salary | PayScale, (Dec. 2022)
  7. Digital Marketing Intern Salaries, (Dec. 2022)
  8. Freelance Digital Marketing Manager Salary - ZipRecruiter, (Dec. 2022)

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