Two years as a freelance digital marketing consultant—a reflection.
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
I write this on the same evening that the Irish government announced the long-awaited easing of Covid-19 restrictions, a time for, at the very least, cautious optimism for all citizens let alone business owners. As I reflect back on the past two years, it occurs to me that the Covid journey has very much paralleled my own development as a freelance digital marketer, and the journey it's taken me on. So far they have been very much intertwined.
My early days as a freelance digital marketer
While I'd dabbled as a freelance marketer before, most of my career was spent working as a Marketing Executive for Dublin-based companies. In late 2019 the well-known Dublin car dealership which I had been working in announced its closure. I loved working there and probably would have stayed longer had all things been equal. However, I decided to treat this as an opportunity for a new venture. I hadn't travelled much in my twenties and now, being in my early thirties, I thought this was an ideal time to do it. Chatting to a friend one night, he suggested that I look into going down the freelance marketing consultant route. There was a lot of potential there. It also meant that I could take some of my work with me while I saw a bit of the world, keeping a bit of a cash flow going while travelling. Things happened fast. That February I had a positive meeting with a local business owner who had no in-house Marketing Executive of their own, and not much of a social media or digital presence. A few weeks later I flew out to Brussels to begin my travel adventures, my first client in the bag. It felt great. I sat in hotel lobbies in Oslo working away on social media content; I edited an email marketing campaign while on a train hurtling through Denmark. All was well in the world. I arrived back in Dublin Airport in early March, fully energised from my trip and eager to do more... Now a little tidbit, but stay with me. 'Go tobann' means 'suddenly' in Irish and it's an oft-used trope in secondary school Irish essays. Well. Go tobann...
Entering the pandemic as a freelance digital marketer
Did you guess what happened next? Yes, that's right. Within two weeks of my arrival back, Ireland was plunged into lockdown. As you can imagine, that put my travel intentions for 2020 just a tad off kilter. It left me with another problem too. Part of the reason for me taking up freelance marketing at the time was to enable said travel. Obviously, that was now out the window. What's more, it couldn't be guaranteed that I'd just walk into a full time employed role now either. The country, if not world, was entering one of the biggest crises of the last 100 years. It wasn't the most desirable of positions to be in for anyone, never mind a would-be freelancer. However, I'm a firm believer that there's no point sticking caught staring at the lights, you need to keep moving. For better or for worse, I decided I'd continue trying this freelance marketing consultant role and try kick it up a notch. In those early days of the pandemic, it was clear that a lot of businesses', particularly smaller ones, were finding themselves forced to embrace digital technology if they were to thrive and survive the pandemic. I remember collaborating with an old colleague on a crowdsource project that aimed to help small businesses offering a click and collect service. It seems long ago now but this was very much unchartered territory for many small businesses then. As for a digital marketing presence, for many small Irish businesses it was up until then non-existent.
Raffles Marketing is born
I had just been trading under my own name in early 2020. Around May/June, I decided the time had come to finally brand. Raffles Marketing had been a name at the back of my mind for some time. For those of you who don't know (probably most of you), Raffles was the name of one of my childhood cats. Her sister was Whiskers, but Whiskers Marketing doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? So, in June 2020, I officially registered the trading name 'Raffles Marketing' and started to promote my embryonic local digital marketing consuntancy. Orange was chosen as my brand colour; it's always one that's had connotations of value for money while neither coming across as cheap nor too expensive; this is where Raffles Marketing aims to sit as a consultancy. My early efforts involved Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram; despite what you might assume, Facebook and Instagram proved quite effective in getting the name out there, despite being essentially a B2B proposition. That's a key taking from the past two years; never make assumptions on what will or won't work in B2B marketing campaigns. Within weeks I had a few website design projects in the bag. I was feeling positive.
From little acorns, doth your business grow
The word 'whirlwind' is probably overused when it comes to telling business growth stories. Throughout 2020 I gradually picked up a few web design projects to work on, which carried on into 2021. Into the mix came some social media consultancy projects, content writing jobs for small businesses, and even a collaboration with another new digital marketing agency. It's been great fun, stressful at times but the sense of satisfaction has been mighty. And, to lean into a cliché, the people I've met along the way have really made the experience enjoyable. In the last two years I've carried out digital marketing consultancy work for small businesses throughout Ireland, in Wicklow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Dublin, Laois, Kildare... I even designed a website for a business in Edinburgh. The industries I've carried out digital marketing projects for have been wide and varied too. While my initial background was a mix of motor trade, events, telecoms and publishing, the last two years have seen me carry out digital marketing consultancy work for therapists, photographers, electrical installers, landscapers, florists, beauticians, furniture removers, musicians, educational institutions and builders. I've loved working with an eclectic mix of businesses, and I can honestly say all have been lovely to deal with.
What have I taken from my first two years as a freelance digital marketing consultant?
Looking back, I can honestly say the past two years as a digital marketing consultant have been challenging, varied, and enjoyable. Whether it be generating life into a dormant social media page, introducing small businesses to the world of email marketing, boosting sales through a targeted social media campaign, providing quality written content services to increase a small business' SEO ranking or simply helping a micro business or start-up get a presence on the web, it's all felt worthwhile. I've learnt a lot too, especially about time management. Ironically for someone who provides content writing services, my own website has been decidedly sparse on that front, but that's something I'm aiming to correct; this blog article being a case in point.
It's been quite the journey. I definitely get a kick out of helping a small business grow, especially the ones who simply couldn't afford the fees of the bigger marketing agencies. And it's only just beginning. I'd love to chat to more small businesses who'd like to get help with their marketing efforts this year, do drop me a line if that sounds like you. I can only conclude by thanking all the clients who have supported Raffles Marketing over the past two years, and of course, that friend who encouraged me to pursue this road in the first place. Onwards and upwards.