Starting Out In Digital Marketing: Advice & Guidance

Starting your career in digital marketing can be extremely daunting: it’s constantly changing, it involves a lot of self learning and in a lot of aspects there’s no right or wrong in how you approach it.  Couple this with the age old question of whether you become a generalist or specialist and it’s enough to cause confusion for anyone.

Getting into the industry isn’t a black and white route either – I did a Journalism degree at university, then took a Digital Marketing Assistant role at a mobile phone accessories company.  As part of this role I was blogging on the site and looking for bloggers to review our products… at the time I had no idea what I was doing was part of an SEO strategy! But as I spent more time at the company, I learnt about SEO, Social Media and got to experience Adwords for the first time. My experience was definitely gained on the job.

So… we reached out to our network to get their advice for anyone looking to enter the industry…. what had they wished they’d known before embarking on their digital marketing career? We put a shout out for responses on social media and groups we’re part of and had an overwhelming response (thank you everyone, and apologies to those not included).


Stacey MacNaught | MacNaught Digital“Test, test and test some more. Whether you’re in house or agency side, having your own passion projects on the side (could be a blog, a small ecommerce site or something similar) is a way for you to experiment. And the vast majority of learning comes through testing and pushing boundaries.” 

James Sandbrook | This is Human“Try everything and expect everything you learn to change. Also understand the importance brand and strategy before any ‘tactics’.” 

Claire Carlile | Claire Carlile Marketing“Oooh – early on in your career, try a bit of everything! See what you like, and then find your niche so you can hone your craft – there’s joy to be had in knowing something inside out – even if that’s being a generalist but in a specific niche. And find a mentor – there are so many wonderful folks in this industry that are willing to share and nurture talent, and then be ready to give back when your time comes. 

Buzz Carter | Bulldog Digital Media“I’d say to anyone starting a career in Digital Marketing, get as much experience as you can, get a work experience role, make your own blog anything you can to get started in the industry early, learn from the marketers you want to be like, listen to podcasts, read how to’s and ask questions. Learn as much as you can and use that knowledge to get yourself ahead of the game.” 

Stephen Kenwright | Rise At Seven“Start in an agency. You’ll see how 5+ companies do it instead of just one company. They all do it wrong in different ways (including the agency). You also get to do just the work and miss out a lot of the general meetings and BAU that happens in house…so if/when you do eventually go client side you know how to do the work, fast, and work around the meetings. Getting into an agency is also a bit easier – there’s a shortage of good people and the staff movement is high. Get employed faster, learn faster, get in a position to choose what you really want to do faster.” 

Areej AbuAli | Zoopla & Women In Tech SEO“Practice by doing! There’s so much theory to read out there but the only way you can truly start to grasp concepts is by applying what you’re learning. Whether you start your own blog, build your own website or work on your client’s site – digital marketing will feel much more tangible by practising all the concepts you learn.” 

Rebekah Dunne | Freelance
“Work with the site user in mind first and Google second. You will end up impressing both!” 

Thomas Corbally | Action Adhesives“Keep studying. Marketing is changing so fast you need to keep learning. Just because you have a job, does not mean you can stop pushing how much you’re learning.” 

John Skinner | SearchNorwichGet involved with a local meetup! It can be daunting trying to get good information online with so much conflicting and low quality advice out there. A local group will vet and curate speakers for you to learn from and the small group size means you can have meaningful interaction with attendees afterwards. Plus, you’ll usually get free food and drink!” 

Sam Raife | BlueClawFor anyone I’m mentoring just starting out I always encourage people to go outside of their comfort zone and start looking at the internet outside of the few websites they engage with. The best digital marketing professionals understand the power of niche websites and know where to find them to build relationships. One of my favourite interview questions is what five websites do you look at most often. It’s amazing how many people starting out can only name two or three non-social media channels. The best candidates shyly mention they are a contributor on Reddit. Embrace your inner geek, if you’re in an interview with me, I want to hear about every blog you read, contribute to or subscribe to.” 

Rebecca Moss | JBHTry and work across as many different areas as possible, from content to PPC, as it will enable you to get a broader understanding of how each part fits into the digital marketing mix. Small agencies are a brilliant place to do this as (in my experience) you tend to get better opportunities to shadow different teams around the business and as such, learn a wider range of skills along the way. Doing this can also help you decide where your own personal skills lie and where you want to specialise. Whilst you might enjoy writing content, if it’s the only thing you do you’ll never know if you’re a Google Analytics whizz! I would also go as far as to say that this could make you a more attractive recruitment prospect, I personally always look more favourably at candidates with a broad range of experience, as opposed to just single-track experience.” 

Mark Williams-Cook | CandourHave your own little blog or website to experiment on. Just going through the process of setting up hosting, getting a domain, installing something like process will start to give you a really nicely rounded skillset. It’s also a great way to build confidence, so when you’re asked to do that Google Tag Manager setup, you know you’ve done it before. It also gives you scope to try things that might carry too much risk to do in-house or on client sites. Breaking things is a great way to learn how things work!” 

Kristina | Marketing SyrupDon’t be afraid of new challenging tasks. Seek for them embrace them. Challenging things lead to breakthroughs and make you learn faster! Additionally, I’d advise having your own website, even if it’s just a blog. It helps A LOT with understanding how things work behind the scenes and it will make you more confident while working with your clients’ websites.” 

Steven Lynch | Parkdean ResortsEngage with as many different areas and teams in a business as you can, whether you’re in-house or working for a client. They’ll help you see a much wider picture of the business that you can apply to what you do, and encourage you out of the comfort zone of the digital bubble, but also helps many more people understand what you do and why so many of the decisions that they make can have an impact digitally.” 

Carrie Hill | Ignitor Digital MarketingDon’t be afraid to break things – learn from your mistakes. The best SEO’s test EVERYTHING – share their findings, and stay humble in their approach. Share the knowledge you achieve and thank those that you learn from.” 

Amanda Leeman | RG BarryI have 3 things: 1. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks! Taking risks is the only way we learn in digital marketing. And the great thing is – we can fail fast and move on. 2. Learn to manage up. Many of your managers won’t know what you do or why it’s beneficial. Make sure you do your due diligence to educate them on them benefits and results so they know how to support you. 3. Always help the digital marketers coming up behind you. I’ve learned everything I know for my current job from working (not school) and amazing managers who showed me the way. Where we would we all be if we didn’t share and help others grow?” —–

In Conclusion

Rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in is one of the core ways you’re going to develop your skills within the industry. Meetups and Digital Marketing events are fantastic for meeting people and learning new tactics… from the biggies like BrightonSEO and SearchLeeds, to local meetups such as Optimisey and The Marketing Meetup – check Eventbite and Meet Up to find events near you.

But most importantly…. keep testing!

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