Google ‘digital marketing career’ and you’ll find thousands upon thousands of articles telling you it’s the best job in the world. The evidence is vast: there’s a digital skills gap so loads of jobs are available, the industry is on an upward trajectory that shows no signs of slowing, you get to be creative all day long in a quirky, innovative office - the list goes on.
It’s a very popular job among graduates. According to Creative Skillset, 153,000 people in UK are employed within the marketing and advertising industry, with graduates making up over 70 per cent of the workforce.
But there’s something missing from this picture, something that rarely gets discussed. Working in the digital marketing industry is tough.
It’s highly competitive with more graduates wanting to go into the industry than jobs available. It’s also extremely demanding, and to forge a successful, lucrative career, you must be willing to work seriously hard and take some risks.
Before you step into the ring, here’s what you need to know about the drawbacks of working in digital marketing.
Sure, there are marketing jobs out there with six-figure salaries attached. But for the newbie, starting salaries tend to range from £18,000-£22,000 per annum in the UK for a digital marketing assistant, rising to around £30,000 once you’ve got some experience under your belt.
In the USA, even specialists earn just $49,000 on average. While these figures are not to be sniffed at, they’re not going to make you rich either.
In the world of digital marketing, things are always changing, and it’s very difficult to keep up. A digital marketer might achieve brilliant results one week, with their client in the top spot of Google.
However, the next week, the website has fallen to third page due to a change in Google’s algorithms. Therefore, a marketer’s work is never truly done, and leaving the office satisfied might be a rarity.
Furthermore, digital marketing is not a ‘helping career’. Although you are helping businesses to profit, some find they desire something a little more emotionally rewarding and meaningful.
In agencies, you often will have very little contact with your clients and therefore are unlikely to receive any special thank you. This can lead to digital marketing feeling like a very unrewarding career.
Which leads us to our next point. If you join this industry through an agency that provides the full range of digital marketing services for a variety of clients in different industries, the danger is that you end up knowing a little about a lot rather than a lot about a little.
In other words, you lose the ability to become a thought-leading expert in your field.
Like any other industry, digital marketing services work on a supply and demand basis, and there is always going to be greater demand for specialist skills.
Becoming an SEO specialist or a social media expert, rather than a digital marketing all-rounder, is much more likely to net you the higher earning positions.
Digital marketing is a field that’s constantly evolving and changing, as new technologies emerge and existing platforms adapt their ways of working (take Google’s constantly shifting algorithm, for example).
While certain things will always remain equal (a good grasp of keywords is critical to paid search, link building is the key to SEO, and engagement is the only worthy pursuit for social), your career is going to suffer if you don’t keep yourself up to speed with the rate of change.
A desire to read and learn from industry experts on a daily basis, along with the ability to search out relevant information using the right tools, is the only way to stay ahead of the game. In digital marketing, if you fall behind, more technological advanced individuals will quickly snap up your place.
The explosion of digital marketing as the primary platform for most companies to engage with their consumers means there has been a rapid increase in the number of competitors vying for the work.
Digital agencies and freelancers are growing in number, meaning that to keep customers satisfied and on the books the work has to be perfect.
For the employee, this often translates into extreme pressure to get the job done quickly and to a very high standard. Deadlines are often unreasonable and change without warning, overtime is frequent and non-negotiable, and you can forget stopping for lunch.
Marketing does involve elements of creativity, but many get the wrong idea that marketing is all about branding and designing. In most agencies, a dedicated graphic designer, web designer or branding specialist would be responsible for all the aesthetical design work.
Digital marketing, though somewhat creative, again depends on your speciality. If you’re more involved in the analytics, selling and building relationships sides of things – none of which are particularly creative.
Digital marketers often get lobbed in the same category as sales people, with many misunderstanding what they do. Louis Grenier, a digital marketing professional and blogger felt this so much so that he started a podcast titled ‘Everyone Hates Marketers’.
Aggressive tactics, such as writing poor articles just to get ranked on google, trying to scupper competitors through SEO attacks, sending mass emails, sending emails promising fake offers and spamming people on social media are examples of why marketers get a bad name, even if it is a tiny minority doing such things.
A career in digital marketing is not for the faint-hearted, the followers, or those looking to get rich quick.
Success in this industry requires dedication to learning your trade, a willingness to work extremely hard, and the presence of mind to think differently compared with your competition.
Anything less than this will simply not suffice and will leave you jostling for work with the rest of the pack.