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Should I pursue a full time job in marketing or freelance to build an agency?

In my previous job at a large family fitness facility I was a marketing associate and customer experience manager, this meant I did everything from crafting marketing campaigns to fulfilling the services. Design the menu and work in the kitchen...I designed all banners, posters, merchandise, website, newsletter, print, menu graphics, website graphics and digital publications. I also managed operations, memberships, a cafe team, facilities, and digital marketing contractors.

What guidance or skill set enhancements could further elevate my career?

Considering my experience should I get a job OR find part time work and provide freelance marketing services such as social media management, design and publishing services to business owners?

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

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Aditi’s Answer

Hey Alexander, I think you've received some awesome answers above.

I will add - there are two schools of thought about quitting your job to pursue a passion career:
1. Do it! You will not have the time and energy to invest in your own business if you're working for someone else..
2. Don't quit your day job until you have a guarantee of success (and necessary income!) in your own business. Guarantee of success isn't related only to your ability and drive - it depends on market conditions, and the saturation of the competitive landscape. This is why, often, you see online influencers who keep their main job while doing social media on the side.

Basically it boils down to whether you have a risk appetite, or if you're risk averse.

I can't tell you what the right answer would be here, you will have to discover that yourself. But I hope this helps you think through the options!
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Kristan’s Answer

What a wonderful set of experiences you gathered at your previous job! I believe strongly in collecting experiences early in your career; staying curious about what you like and even more importantly what you like less is valuable information you can take forward as your career journey progresses.
Questions for you: Are you focused on marketing because you really liked it? Or for another reason? Did you like the customer facing tasks? Did you enjoy what sounds like more the project management and/or the operational management aspects of the position?
If you think your interest is definitely is marketing then consider doing one or more certificate programs. You will increase your understanding of the tools while increasing your value as an employee or as a business owner.
My recommendation would be to gather more experiences within the marketing arena. Every industry has a communications, marketing, and public relations divisions. Consider working with a law firm, the hospitality industry (probably the most closely similar to fitness clubs), finance, media, etc.
If you choose to pursue a career freelancing then my first recommendation would be to narrow the scope of services you provide. Establish mastery within a specific niche and then you can add services. Being niche specific with both your services, for example offering just social media management, and your customer, for example focusing on working with personal trainers, will allow you to develop a focused business plan and attract clients more easily.
Freelancers and small business owners spend needless resources-time, money, and talent, when their scope of services are too broad and their ideal clients are not well defined.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hey there, Alexander!

Let's get down to business. You're at a crossroads, choosing between a full-time marketing gig or going solo to start your own agency. It's a big decision, and your rich background as a marketing associate and customer experience manager at a large family fitness facility has armed you with a wide range of skills. From designing marketing campaigns and managing websites to overseeing operations, you've done it all. But to choose the right path, you need to think about your long-term plans, financial needs, and what makes you happy.

Choosing a Full-Time Marketing Job

A full-time marketing job can give you a steady paycheck, nice perks, and room to grow professionally. Working for a well-established company can be a great learning experience, with mentorship and resources to boost your skills and knowledge in marketing. Plus, being part of a team can expose you to different sides of marketing like strategic planning, market research, and campaign execution.

Working full-time in marketing can also keep you up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and technologies in the industry. This can be a big help in sharpening your skills and staying competitive in the fast-paced world of marketing. Plus, a full-time job usually comes with benefits like healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off.

But remember, if you dream of starting your own agency, a full-time job might not directly help you achieve that. Also, working in a corporate setting might limit your creative freedom and decision-making power, so keep that in mind.

Freelancing and Building Your Own Agency

On the flip side, freelancing and setting up your own marketing agency gives you control, flexibility, and the chance to make your business vision come to life. Freelancing lets you use your skills and experience to offer services like social media management, graphic design, and digital publishing to businesses. This way, you can build a client base while honing your skills in different marketing areas.

As a freelancer, you can set your own schedule, pick clients that match your vision, and grow your network in the industry. If you're an entrepreneurial spirit with a burning desire to create your own brand in the marketing world, this could be the path for you.

But freelancing has its challenges. You need to be disciplined, manage your time well, and handle tasks like finding clients, billing, and project management on your own. Plus, starting an agency from scratch requires strategic planning to grow the business, hire more people, and manage client relationships effectively.

Boosting Your Skills and Getting Guidance

Given your diverse background in marketing and customer experience management, there are several ways you can boost your skills and get guidance to take your career to the next level:

- Specialized Training: Think about getting specialized training or certifications in areas like digital marketing strategies, social media advertising platforms (like Facebook Ads Manager), graphic design software (like Adobe Creative Suite), or project management methods (like Agile or Scrum). This can make you more competitive in the job market or as a freelancer.

- Business Development Skills: If you're thinking about starting an agency, it's crucial to understand business. This includes learning how to find clients, set prices for your services, negotiate contracts, and manage finances.

- Networking Opportunities: Get out there and network in the marketing industry. Building relationships with other professionals can lead to job opportunities or client referrals for freelance work.

- Mentorship or Coaching: Find a mentor or coach who's an experienced marketer or entrepreneur. They can share their experiences and give you valuable advice on navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship in marketing.

- Continual Learning: Stay on top of industry trends by regularly reading reputable sources, listening to podcasts with marketing experts, or attending webinars on the latest trends in digital marketing.

In Conclusion

In the end, whether you choose a full-time job in marketing or freelancing to build an agency depends on your long-term career goals and personal preferences. A full-time job can offer stability and growth opportunities within a company, while freelancing gives you freedom and flexibility but requires discipline and business savvy.

With your diverse skills in graphic design, digital marketing management, operational oversight, and customer service delivery, you're well-prepared for either path. By boosting your skills through specialized training, learning business development, networking, continual learning, and getting mentorship or coaching, you can take your career to new heights, no matter which path you choose.

Here are the top 3 authoritative reference publications I used:

- Harvard Business Review: This publication offers authoritative insights into various aspects of business management, including entrepreneurship strategies.

- Forbes: Forbes is known for its comprehensive coverage of entrepreneurship trends and business development strategies.

- HubSpot: HubSpot offers valuable resources related to digital marketing strategies, freelancing tips, and insights into building successful agencies.

These sources helped me gather insights into career development strategies, entrepreneurship guidance, digital marketing trends, and freelance business considerations.

Take care and God bless,
James.
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Laura’s Answer

Hello Alexander,
Thank you for asking this question! Wow, you had a lot of responsibilities at your previous job which is great as you got amazing first-hand experience in marketing while also hearing first-hand from customers to make sure they were having a pleasant occurrence. To answer your question on whether you should look for a job or move to part-time and start providing freelance work, I would ask you first have you expanded your portfolio for your marketing work since working at this large family fitness facility? I ask because employers are going to want to see a range of projects that you mentioned you were involved in designing since working at the fitness facility. What I mean by expanding your portfolio is to have a range of categories, so that your next employer who is either casually viewing your work or you are in an interview for an available position that includes brand identity, layout, illustration, product/package design, etc.

If you feel you have a range of projects in those categories (or others that I didn't think of) then I think you would be great to look for a job. If not, I highly recommend you pursue the second option of finding part-time work and freelance to expand your portfolio work and professional experience as aside from the actual projects in your portfolio, employers love to see designers have a bit of professional work in their portfolio from actual clients along with that gaining of experience. Also, just as some additional side advice, if you decide to look for a full-time job, you can still do freelance work; the difference is you would need to be upfront and honest with clients that you work with that you working with them might be a bit sporadic as you have the full-time job.

I hope this helps you in deciding what you want to do, and I wish you the best of luck in your marketing/graphic design journey!

-Laura M.
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Tammy’s Answer

Hi there!

I've done a little bit of both and I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. You have received some wonderful answers above, and I will add that you should chose the route that is most flexible and accommodating to you and your lifestyle. The key to jumpstarting your career is being able to effectively demonstrate your work and expertise during your interview.

With a full time job, you will have a steady income and set hours (especially if you have a traditional 9-5). You would be able to work at a corporation within a marketing/comms department or you could choose the agency route. With a corporate environment, I have felt like sometimes my creativity had been limited (especially if you decide to work for a more conservative company or a heavily regulated industry like financial services).

With freelancing, you will have the power to set your schedule and choose the types of clients you would like to work with. You'd need to build an iron-clad contract to ensure your clients agree to a contract to ensure you will receive a paycheck for a certain amount of time. It can be hard to build up your portfolio however there are many online sites you can use to source clients. I always found luck by attending events and marketing classes geared towards small business owners.

Hope this helps!

Tammy
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Katherine’s Answer

Going through something like Ken Coleman's book From Paycheck to Purpose could help you decide.
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Aytek’s Answer

Great experiences, Alexander!

What would you say your eventual career goal? Is it more towards becoming a marketing leader or executive OR is it more towards the broader business roles?

If you see yourself going beyond marketing in your career, I wonder whether you will benefit from going into a company, initially focusing on marketing, then expanding your experiences through other functions *such as account management, business development, pricing, etc.) This path (working for a non-agency company) can expand your skills beyond marketing in the medium term and prepare you for broader business management roles.

If your longer-term goals focus on marketing (especially "marketing communications," not the broader 4P marketing), then both "finding a job" and "freelancing" routes may just be interchangeable. You will probably find much more freedom on the freelancing route in terms of choosing what you want to do and being very intentional in areas you focus on developing. In a company setting, you can be intentional, but still, you will likely get involved in lots of work that may not fully align with your intentions.

I hope this helps!
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Scott’s Answer

Hello Alexander - Your experience in managing diverse aspects of marketing and business at the fitness center seems to have been quite rewarding. If your ultimate goal is to establish and operate your own marketing firm, it could be beneficial to spend a year or two working for a successful agency that specializes in the kind of work that captivates you. Although you've gained experience in creating marketing materials, programs, and campaigns for a single business, the ability to understand various clients from different sectors and effectively communicate their brand and narrative to their intended audience is crucial in setting up your own enterprise. The backbone of any successful marketing or advertising agency is the capacity to promote your company's distinct skills to prospective clients in order to secure their business. The most effective method to acquire this skill is to closely observe and collaborate with the heads of a successful agency before venturing out independently. It seems like you're on the right track. Best of luck with your future endeavors!
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Anthony’s Answer

What's up Alexander,

Both routes have their strengths and weaknesses. Working in marketing is a great way to make connections and build a network of people who might hire your agency in the future, but freelancing will give you a nice broad range of experiences allowing you to build your portfolio and offer services across a broad range of industries.

In my experience, which comes mostly from the agency/freelancing perspective, the old adage "it's not what you know, it's who you know" still rings true, unfortunately.

Good luck!
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Dustin’s Answer

Hello Alexander,

Fantastic inquiry! You've already received some insightful responses. Here are a few additional points to ponder:

- Continually reflecting on your professional satisfaction is an excellent practice. Are you finding joy in your work? Does it invigorate you? Remember, it's perfectly normal if the answer isn't always affirmative. However, when you find yourself responding negatively, consider re-evaluating your situation. Seek out opportunities that feel less like a burden and more like a passion, as these are the areas where you'll excel and bring the most value to your employer or clients. Reflect on your fitness marketing role and identify the aspects you loved the most. Try to find roles in demand that allow you to focus on these aspects.

- From personal experience, the skills I developed during my regular employment significantly enhanced my marketability when I transitioned to a freelance or consulting role later in my career.

- Balancing a full-time job with freelance work can be a rewarding strategy. Can you handle a full-time role while gaining skills that you can later use in freelance design or social media management? If this isn't feasible due to family commitments or other priorities, think about whether full-time freelancing can sustain your lifestyle. I suggest exploring freelance platforms like Upwork (https://www.upwork.com/) and Working Not Working (https://workingnotworking.com/) to see what similar freelancers are charging and evaluate your competitiveness on these platforms.

Dustin recommends the following next steps:

Assess where you most want to grow in your career.
Determine whether you are competitive as a freelancer to do that work and if you can support yourself.
Explore open roles in the areas of interest for you.
Apply, interview, and get feedback from hiring managers.
Consider doing some pro bono freelance work to build up your portfolio, if you can spare the time.
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Troy’s Answer

You've evidently accomplished a great deal in your previous role, which is truly commendable. Drawing from my own journey, I've gained invaluable knowledge from each unique marketing role I've held. Hence, it might be a good idea for you to consider another full-time marketing position to further expand your skillset. Each organization has its own unique approach to marketing, offering you the opportunity to acquire a fresh set of skills or delve into an unfamiliar area. While I've been involved in freelance work for a considerable amount of time, it's noteworthy that this transition was only possible after years of experience in full-time marketing roles.
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Dustin’s Answer

Should I pursue a full time job in marketing or freelance to build an agency?
In my previous job at a large family fitness facility I was a marketing associate and customer experience manager, this meant I did everything from crafting marketing campaigns to fulfilling the services. Design the menu and work in the kitchen...I designed all banners, posters, merchandise, website, newsletter, print, menu graphics, website graphics and digital publications. I also managed operations, memberships, a cafe team, facilities, and digital marketing contractors.

What guidance or skill set enhancements could further elevate my career?

Considering my experience should I get a job OR find part time work and provide freelance marketing services such as social media management, design and publishing services to business owners?

Hi Alexander,
What a great question, and you've gotten some great answers from others. A couple thoughts to consider:
- This is a great question to continue asking yourself throughout your career - am I fulfilled by the work I am doing? Am I getting energy from how I'm spending my time? Note that the answer may not always be "yes", and that's ok. But when possible, if the answer is no, consider whether there are changes you can make to spend more time doing the things that don't feel like a chore, because you'll likely be best at those responsibilities and be able to create value either for your employer or for your clients. I'd encourage you to look at the broad range of responsibilities you had in your fitness marketing role and identify if there are in-demand roles that would allow you to focus more on an aspect of the role you particularly loved.
- In my experience, the skills I gained while employed in my day job allowed me to become more marketable when I went more freelance/consultant later in my career.
- It's a great idea to weigh your energy and ability to do a bit of both - can you manage a full-time role and gain skills that you can then "moonlight" as a freelance designer/social media manager? If that is not accessible to you (i.e. you have family commitments, competing priorities), consider whether you can support yourself and your lifestyle while going freelance full-time. I'd recommend checking out freelance platforms like https://www.upwork.com/ and Working Not Working (https://workingnotworking.com/) to check what freelancers with similar skillsets are charging, and assess your ability to be competitive in these platforms.

Dustin recommends the following next steps:

Assess where you most want to grow in your career.
Determine whether you are competitive as a freelancer to do that work and if you can support yourself.
Explore open roles in the areas of interest for you.
Apply, interview, and get feedback from hiring managers.
Consider doing some pro bono freelance work to build up your portfolio, if you can spare the time.
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