In the US, Google’s desktop search market share is just under 64%, with Microsoft’s Bing holding at little more than 21%. In the UK, their overall market shares are even more different. As of April 2017, Google’s is 85.75% and Bing is 10.07%. Whichever your preferred search engine is, getting to the first page is a huge challenge. It’s no surprise then that spending on internet advertising in the UK is now over 10bn a year, which requires an expert to help you navigate the minefield. For that, let me bring in this week’s Featured Freelancer, Tom Holder, who specialises in this area.
His freelancing journey is largely a positive one – aside from late paying clients, of course – which he puts down to looking after himself as much as his business. This is the story of his freelancing journey so far…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My name’s Tom Holder, I live on the stunning North Devon coast and I’m a Certified Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Google Analytics PPC Professional.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
On paper, I’ve been freelancing for 3 years. But as I sit here typing this, the end of the month marks my first 12 months as a full-time freelancer. Previously I’d been juggling some evening and weekend freelance work alongside full-time employment.
Unlike some, my hand wasn’t forced into self-employment and freelancing. My digital marketing career started at agency level, as a PPC Executive at the UK’s leading travel marketing agency. Over 4 years I “completed my apprenticeship” and became a key member of the digital team, working my way through promotions to a senior PPC role.
My most recent role was in-house at one the largest holiday providers in the South West, where I was head-hunted for a PPC & SEO Manager role. This offered me valuable experience working client-side in an in-house marketing team.
It was client-side where I became disillusioned with employment, I felt the work I’d done and figures I’d delivered over 2 years were undervalued. So, with a growing client base and a burning ambition to start a business, I left the safety of my job to succeed alone.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My family have been hugely supportive and offered advice throughout the whole process, from the decision making around leaving employment, through my first year in business.
They understand my ambition and desire to forge my own career path.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
To date, I haven’t worked alongside any business professionals. During my first year, I wanted to experience everything off the back of my own decisions, the highs and the lows and the successes and failures. That’s all part of the journey, right?
I believe these lessons are invaluable to succeed, grow and continue to learn.
As my client list and workload continues to build, I will be looking for a business coach to offer advice around growth strategy, process streamlining and outsourcing. In Freelance Heroes, I have the perfect platform to find that help.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Given my agency background in travel marketing, I work predominantly with SMBs in overseas and UK travel. I also manage accounts in market sectors that include retail, law, education, health, design and automotive.
Marketing agencies also make up my client base, working on a white label basis where it’s not cost effective to employ a salaried in-house marketer, and for smaller agencies with limited PPC knowledge looking to outsource.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
My clients might be better placed to answer that.
Only now are businesses realising that they don’t have to turn to agencies for their digital marketing work. In an entrepreneurial revolution age, there are skilled individuals, often with agency experience, offering a higher-level service minus the excessive fees.
I pride myself on the results I deliver for my clients, my knowledge and experience, qualifications, transparency, proactive approach, communication and fixed fees. These resonate well with existing and prospective clients.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
I did my research, read freelance blogs until my head hit my laptop and spoke to piers who had been through similar. So being a freelancer is what I expected.
When starting out, you want to dedicate 18 hours a day to work, but you soon realise it’s not healthy nor productive. Now, I try and be stricter with the hours I work, whilst maintaining that flexibility.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
In my profession, Google AdWords Editor and Bing Ads Editor. Without them I simply couldn’t manage my clients’ accounts.
On a generic business level, QuickBooks is perfect for giving me a real-time business snapshot. I’m looking forward to testing its self-assessment capabilities. LinkedIn is the platform to stay connected with business individuals and prospective clients. Finally, Twitter keeps me in-the-know with industry news and blogs.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Specifically in my field? Don’t put yourself through it, all that flexibility and control of your own future, you’ll hate it
I joke. I would encourage any skilled professional to explore freelance opportunities. There’s a reason the number of freelancers has skyrocketed in recent years, contributing £119 billion to the British economy in 2016. The financial opportunities and lifestyle benefits are huge.
In terms of advice, what really helped me was having that established freelance client base, prior to making the full switch from employed to self-employed.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
I’ve learnt that investing in yourself is the best investment you can make.
I’ve invested in my health and my education. Joining the gym, talking, reading books, listening to podcasts.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
- Holding the key to my future.
- Financial opportunity.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
This will echo what previous featured freelancers have said…
No matter how good business appears to be, there’s the reality that circumstances can change quickly. You’re only ever 1 large client leaving away from a financial headache. You have to use those potential scenarios as fuel to succeed.
Chasing late payments is also a bugbear. I’m prompt in my work, my communication, and my reports, so why can’t clients meet my generous payment terms?
Final negative, not being able to “down tools” when it comes to holiday. My laptop is the first item in my hand luggage.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My ultimate goal is to run a small, stable and successful business, with an office space and enough employees to stop my milk going out of date.
I’d love to be in a position to hand over the day to day management, so I can explore other paths, interests and goals.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Things take time.
Growing takes time.
Securing new clients takes time.
Invoicing takes time.
Reporting takes time.
Networking takes time.
Social takes times.
Your time is invaluable as a freelancer.
To connect with Tom, visit: