How do I start digital marketing

How to start a career in digital marketing (7 steps)

Would you like to become part of digital marketing and benefit from it? Then this guide is for you.

I don't have a degree in marketing - just one in psychology. Even so, I've worked in digital marketing for the past five years.

That's the beauty of this industry. You don't have to be certified to work as a digital marketer. There are no gatekeepers.

Still you have to either Acquire knowledge in digital marketing as well as gain practical experience.

This is where this guide comes in. I will show you how you can expand your knowledge and guide you through the various phases you may go through on your way to becoming a professional digital marketer.

Start your career in digital marketing in these seven steps:

  1. Create your own website
  2. Choose a digital marketing channel that you focus on
  3. Learn more about your chosen digital marketing channel
  4. Apply what you've learned
  5. Familiarize yourself with free digital marketing tools
  6. Apply for a job in marketing
  7. Advance your career

1. Create your own website

Even if you don't need certifications to get a job in digital marketing, that doesn't mean companies will hire you straight away.

You have to first:

  1. Develop your digital marketing skills;
  2. Show that you have these skills.

The best way to do this is to create your own website.

By creating your own website, you create a field of experimentation in which you can test and learn different marketing strategies. And all without worrying about damaging someone else's website.

And not only that: what else can better prove your abilities than to show that you have actually built something from scratch?

For example, when I started in digital marketing, I created a website about my hobby: breakdancing.

What my breakdancing side looked like back then.

I'll be honest - the website was ugly. But it gave me the opportunity to practice things like content marketing, email marketing, SEO outreach, and a lot more. Even if the website was ultimately unsuccessful, it was instrumental in helping me gain a lot of practical experience.

There is no need to ponder the matter. The most important is, easy to start and practice. Choose an area you are interested in and create a website with WordPress. Don't worry about things like logos or a monetization strategy.

If you're not sure how to set up a WordPress website, just do a quick Google search. You will find tons of tutorials.

2. Choose a digital marketing channel that you focus on

There are a variety of digital marketing channels. The book Traction lists 19 of them, including:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Social media and display ads

Since you run your website on your own, it would be impossible in terms of time, effort and resources to serve all marketing channels. Instead, we recommend focusing on just one area of ​​digital marketing.

But which channel should you choose? Let's look at the pros and cons of three popular channels.

Online Advertising

This includes buying ads on platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram. In general, this strategy is great for getting traffic to your website quickly.

However, if you're a complete beginner, this channel can be a bit daring. Managing online ads isn't just about serving them and letting traffic flow. You still need some knowledge and experience so that you don't end up losing all of your money.

So if you can put some budget to test and learn this channel, go ahead. Otherwise, it may not be right for you.

Social media marketing

This is about building a fan base on social media and driving traffic from these platforms. You should be familiar with them. And since it's free to post, experimenting is easy.

This could be an ideal channel to start with.

Remember, however, that social media marketing isn't just about posting something on Instagram every few days. Each platform is like its own country. To be successful, you need to understand “culture” - how it works, what users want to see, what types of content work well, and so on.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the optimization of pages in order to rank high in search engines like Google.

The great thing about it is that once you rank, you get free, passive, and consistent traffic from search engines.

However, the downside is that it takes a lot longer to work. You will need patience to see results. But it's worth it.

Not sure which channel to choose?

Start with SEO. Yes, of course we are biased. But we still recommend it for several reasons:

3. Learn more about your chosen digital marketing channel

To do this, do a search for “[your chosen area] Beginner's Guide” on Google.

Find a guide that is detailed, explained the subjects well, and has been recently updated. The last part is especially important as digital marketing is a fast-moving industry.

The guide also serves as a starting point for discovering other subtopics that you can learn more about.

If you want to focus on SEO then I recommend checking out our video on SEO for Beginners:

This should give you a good understanding of the basics of SEO.

If you want to learn more about SEO from there, I recommend going through these sources of information:

If you want to do a muscle up, it doesn't matter how many YouTube tutorials you watch. You still have to find a bar and practice.

The same goes for digital marketing.

Don't just consume the content. That just leads to analysis paralysis - thinking too much about it and still doing nothing. Believe me, I've seen that too.

Once you've learned something, you need to go ahead and put it into practice. That's why you created your website.

I find I learn much faster by starting to do something and overcoming roadblocks I run into along the way than by carefully studying and preparing

- Austen Allred (@Austen) February 7, 2021

I find that I learn much faster when I start doing something and overcoming obstacles on the way than when I study carefully and prepare.

For SEO, that means focusing on the basics like doing keyword research, creating content, and building links. These three things alone can add more to your website's success than anything else.

5. Familiarize yourself with free digital marketing tools

Since you are just starting out, it will be difficult to spend money on premium marketing tools.

But don't worry - there are tons of free tools out there. Here are some to familiarize yourself with:

  • Google Analytics. Here you can see data such as the number of visitors to your website, which pages they view, how long they stay on them and many other meaningful metrics. This guide will teach you how to use it.
  • Google Search Console (GSC). Here you can see which pages are indexed on Google, for which keywords your website is ranking and which websites are linking to you. This guide tells you how to get the most out of the GSC.
  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT). This is where you can see your website's backlinks and keyword rankings, and check your website for common SEO issues that could affect performance.
  • ConvertKit. An email marketing tool. With the free plan you can manage up to 1,000 subscribers.
  • Buffer. Free social media management tool. Automates the process of publishing content.

6. Apply for a job in marketing

With your newly acquired skills, it is now time to scour the job boards.

What you should be looking for is an internship or an entry-level position. This could be a job in a digital marketing agency or an in-house position. For example, I started as a marketing intern at a wearable tech startup. I later took the opportunity to convert this position into a full-time position.

But even for these positions the competition is very fierce. So you need a way to stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few ideas:

Briefcase technology

This is an interview tactic coined by Ramit Sethi, a New York Times best-selling author. Basically, this is how you do it:

  1. Research the company you are applying to;
  2. Find out their biggest problems in digital marketing;
  3. Develop solutions to address these.

Learn more about this technique here:


Sociologists have found that most non-advertised, high-paying jobs are not found through close friends. Instead, they are found through weak ties, i.e. through chance acquaintances or people who have the same school or cultural background.

That's why you should always be networking.

Here's a three-part strategy you can use to network effectively:

  1. Consume all of the content that the person has produced. If you liked a particular post or learned something from it, share it on social media and tag the person. You can also send an email to say thank you or to pay a compliment;
  2. Give them a platform to promote their work on. Interview them for an article, podcast, video, etc. It doesn't have to be for your own website; it can be for another. But again, you shouldn't be discouraged, even if you only have a small website. Some people would be more than happy to help you.
  3. Find out what project they are currently working on. This could be evident from their social networks or you could ask them. Then find out how you can help them achieve their goals.

Want to see proof that it works? Well, that's actually how I got my job at Ahrefs.

I started by consuming all of the posts on the Ahrefs blog. Then I shared it on my Twitter.

I also regularly promoted these articles on GrowthHackers without anyone on the team asking for:

I later contacted Tim and interviewed him for a guest post on LeadFeeder. It was then that I learned that he was working on introducing corporate blogging.

So I supported him:

  • I took the beta course and gave my feedback. I even provided a testimonial;
  • I advertised the course everywhere - in Slack communities, Facebook groups, etc.
  • I networked Tim with people who have a wide reach so that he can promote the course.

And most importantly: I did everything for free and didn't ask anything in return. And now, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Make your work public

Having been in the industry for a while, I've seen a lot of marketers pop up out of nowhere and start gaining reach and influence. What they did was simple - they began to publicly share what they were learning.

Austin Kleon writes in Show Your Work:

Once a day after completing your daily chores, go back to your work records and find a small piece of your work to share.

Don't be afraid to show what you're working on. Show your successes and failures. Not only will this attract marketers and expand your network, but it will also grow your personal brand.

Market yourself

Nina Mufleh wanted to work at Airbnb. But applying for job advertisements didn't work out for her. So she made a résumé outlining her knowledge of Airbnb, the travel industry and the opportunities they are missing out on.

She tweeted this résumé to the Airbnb CEO and CMO, got their attention, and landed an interview.

The resume also went viral, grabbing the attention of Uber and LinkedIn.

How can you prove that you have a talent for marketing? Do like Nina - get creative, market yourself well, and get the attention of the companies you want to work for.

7. Advance your career

After a few years in digital marketing, you can start considering different options that can help you advance your career.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the entire career development process, let's take a look at some potential future opportunities.

Stay with the company

In general, this is the most typical way. Contrary to what people want you to believe, there is no shame in being an employee. Not everyone can break out and become a successful entrepreneur.

Now it's important to note that you shouldn't necessarily give up your own websites. Good companies will encourage you to invest time in your side projects to improve your skills.

These are usually the type of people you want to work for because they will challenge you to become a master at your job.

Freelance work

Freelance work is a great way to get more hands-on experience while increasing your income at the same time. If you've been in the business for a few years, the chances are that you will already be offered some freelance jobs.

Even if you don't get any recommendations or incoming inquiries, don't worry. You can always apply for jobs on sites like Upwork, ProBlogger, etc.

Recommended Article: How to become an SEO freelancer - insights from over 10 years of industry experience

Start your own agency

Many people who are good at digital marketing set up their own agency at some point. The good thing about starting your own agency is:

  • You can work for many customers at the same time because you have teams that take care of customer management.
  • Also, you can offer more services as your team will be diversified.
  • Since you offer everything from a single source, you can maximize your earnings potential by upselling.

However, setting up an agency means hiring staff. This can be costly (salaries, office space, etc.). You also need to acquire skills unrelated to digital marketing - recruiting, sales, accounting, etc.

It is also likely that you either You have to take over the strategy as well as the execution before any success can be achieved.


If you:

  1. Are interested in working on your own;
  2. but not interested in starting an agency.

Then the independent counseling could be a potential path for you.

Sam - our YouTube guy - was a digital marketing consultant before joining Ahrefs full-time. In his experience, consulting achieves a better net margin than an agency. Hourly rates also typically range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

However, you will be limited in the number of customers you can take on. Reason: Companies usually hire consultants because they specialize in a certain area.

So while you might hire a small team to handle the systemized parts of your business, clients end up hiring you because of your expertise. Of course, this limits your chances of attracting many customers.

Build more websites

Many digital marketers prefer this route as it allows them to practice and at the same time earn additional income on the side. A popular choice, especially for SEOs, is to create an affiliate website.

Learn more about affiliate marketing in this post or watch this video:‑nbsnXtSZI


Whichever path you choose to master digital marketing, there are two things you should always be doing.

First: learning. Marketing is a constantly evolving field. You have to constantly learn, apply, test and refine.Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and follow thought leaders online.

Second: networking. Networking not only opens up future career opportunities for you, it also helps you meet people who have new and different ideas than you do. It can open up your perspective and help you develop further in your career. After all, you can never have an answer to everything yourself.

Would you like a summary? Check out this video:

Have I left out anything that is important to start a career in digital marketing? Let me know on Twitter.