If you’re reading this site, chances are you are a freelancer or head of your own company. Or you want to be. You’re also young, passionate, motivated and overworked. You probably are like me and don’t sleep much. Social life? Are you kidding?
I recently left my fairly-secure job at a small SEO agency to start my own online marketing company. I believe I have a terrific chance of success with my agency, because I’ve already worked for the four different types of companies in the online marketing landscape. I would like to share with you what I’ve learned. This will help you to succeed and to become a CEO under 30.
Multinational Corporations – Client side
My first job and my stepping stone into the world of online marketing was an internship in the marketing department of one of the biggest insurance companies in England. My boss, who is still with the company, told me, “It’s always better on the client side.” Those words were true, although I didn’t know it at the time.
As an online marketing professional, to this very day I still work with multinational corporations. Although they are all different, they do seem to have a few things in common.
1. Low pay, no credit, much work.
I worked for people who paid me very little and demanded that “the stars be brought down from the sky.” Meanwhile they were playing on Facebook comfortably in their offices, reading reports and going to meetings. I did the work, they got the credit and the rewards.
2. Used as a pawn in someone’s game.
Nobody enjoys being used as a tool in the internal politics/intricacies of a multinational company. When you’re low man on the totem pole, you don’t get much say in what you do or not.
3. Respect is important!
If you are on the client side and order marketing services – or any services really – make sure to act (or at least appear) respectful to your people, and that the people working for you respect you. If you are not respected, you will not get the results you want.
Freelance Online Marketing Specialist
Next I went the freelance route. I have only one word for my experience: Sucks.
1. Small clients, little money, much work.
When you’re a freelancer, you usually land only small clients who want a lot and want to pay little. They have no clue about online marketing, have no idea how much work is involved, and often want impossible things without understanding or accepting when you tell them that what they ask for is impossible. And if ever anything goes wrong, and you have to put in additional time and/or effort in order to salvage a situation that has spiraled out of control, the client will not want to pay extra, no matter how you explain that it was not your fault.
2. Clients control the pursestrings.
If you work through a freelancer site like Elance or Odesk, you risk having your account frozen by a bad client who tries to claim that you did not fulfill your end of the contract. You may find yourself spending more time seeking out and applying for gigs than you actually spend in time that can be billed to clients.
3. Limited opportunities.
As a freelancer you may not actually get the opportunity to work with complex online campaigns because they require a bigger client with a big budget. And you can rarely land a client like that, because they generally work with agencies rather than freelancers.
Boutique Online Marketing Agency
Fortunately I was able to spend some time working at a dynamic smaller online marketing agency.
1. Innovation and new developments.
Smaller agencies can be hotbeds of innovation, and you are frequently working with people who really are experts. The best agencies hire employees who are interested in online marketing, who are constantly reading and researching new techniques and new developments in the field.
2. Big clients with big budgets
Hhere you are able to actually use some of the newest techniques and developments in the industry.
Your Own Online Marketing Agency
Your own company can be the best job ever, but it can also be the most difficult path to follow.
1. Opportunity for innovation.
You can continue to learn and innovate, and you can try out different marketing ideas. Provided, of course, you can land a client who is willing to try out new things and has the budget to do so.
2. You wear all hats.
You have to locate and persuade clients to hire you. You also may have to recruit freelancers to do some of the work, you have to keep the books and pay the bills, you have to order the office supplies… you have to do everything yourself, until you grow big and successful enough to hire others to help.
3. This must be your entire life.
If you are not 100% committed and do not absolutely love what you are doing, you are nearly guaranteed to fail. You have to put everything you have into your new business. If you are not prepared to sacrifice everything – your sleep, your social life, and financial stability – then you should remain an employee.
The road to entrepreneurship is a hard one, but ultimately the most rewarding.
Simon is the founder and CEO of Simon’s Online Marketing, an online marketing agency focusing on sensitive and difficult niches. He is 27 currently, so that makes him an actual CEO under 30. If you are interested in reading more about his experience, you can check out his personal blog as well.
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