Marketing’s Most Valuable Freelancers
An increasing number of professionals are turning to freelance work via the ‘gig economy’ to make ends meet or as a long-term career choice. Marketing is undoubtedly a lucrative profession, and also one that varies dramatically depending on skill set and role, whether you’re a freelancer, working at an agency, or in-house. Freelancers can often charge more for more in-demand skill sets, be that digital marketing strategy, digital PR, or social media marketing, which also gives us a glimpse into the skill sets and roles that are seen as the most ‘valuable.’
We analyzed different roles and skills within the marketing industry and then averaged the hourly rates for the freelancers that were returned to find the most valuable skill sets and roles. With average hourly rates beginning at $11.45 up to $61.70, it’s clear that within this industry that’s often branded as heavily saturated, there are still lucrative positions to be had.
In fact, the average hourly salary of all roles was $38.19, more than triple the average reported salary in August 2022 of $10.95. Undoubtedly, some of these roles and skill sets are more ‘valuable’ than others. Some marketing families have a much higher average than others, based on factors such as how in demand they are, what the standard rates are in the industry, and how much businesses and decision-makers value certain skills.
Social media is often one of the first things that come to mind when we think of digital marketing; from social media management to strategy, it seems that most businesses are looking to invest in their organic presence. That’s why it’s perhaps surprising that the average hourly salary for social media-based roles fell just short of the average at $34.07 per hour. The highest earning role in this sphere was YouTube, with a rate of $61.70 per hour, and the lowest was general social media marketing, with a rate of $21.59.
Strategic roles generally require higher levels of experience within leadership and direction, as well as having a broader overview of how the many elements of digital marketing come together, as such they can command the highest average hourly rate of all marketing families, at $53.06 per hour.
The design and development family came in at the second highest, with an average hourly rate of $43.82, with hourly rates fluctuating from $35.52 for a UX/UI professional, to $53.58 for a general designer. Even the most data-driven marketing campaigns use design and development in order to visualize and present the data in a way that’s easy to digest, this particular skill set also often requires a lot of time, training, and experience, which potentially goes some way in justifying the higher hourly averages. According to data from Zippia, salaried designers in the US, in-house or at an agency, can expect an average hourly rate of $31.90
Paid Advertising came in at the third highest with an average hourly rate of $38.62, varying from lower rates of $25.60 per hour for PPC professionals, to $47.97 for general paid advertising professionals.
Taking the top spot for the highest average hourly wage was YouTube at $61.70, covering a variety of roles from ad placement, video optimization, post-production, thumbnail creation, and strategy. All of these combine to ensure growth on the platform that is home to millions of creators, some of which have gone on to carve illustrious careers outside of YouTube due to the communities they have developed over time. It’s estimated that top creators like Mr. Beast earned as much as $54 million in 2021, and with many creators hoping to jump on the bandwagon, there’s no surprise that marketers with this skill set can command an average hourly rate that is over 5.5 times the average hourly rate in the US.
Marketing Strategists had the second highest rate when it came to freelancers, they were able to command $58.44 per hour on average, whereas those working in salaried positions could expect an average of $38.48 hourly. Marketing strategists are typically responsible for researching, developing, and communicating strategic marketing plans that meet the company’s goals, often leading and working with teams to achieve this.
Commanding the third highest average hourly salary were Copywriters, at $54.29 per hour. When compared with the salaried US average (in-house or agency side), it’s clear that freelance copywriters have the ability to earn more on average by working freelance. Those working in salaried positions typically earn $31 per hour, however, this will differ depending on the role, and level of seniority. Copywriters typically work across a variety of advertising channels, producing engaging copy for websites, ads, marketing materials, and even social media.
In stark contrast to these high-earning roles, and potentially quite surprising in terms of their average hourly rate, are roles within marketing for eBay, Etsy, and as a general Social Media Marketing Manager.
eBay and Etsy came in at the bottom, with eBay marketers being able to command an average of $11.45 per hour and Etsy marketers being able to command $14.93, however, this was still above the average reported salary of August 2022. Social Media Marketing Managers fared slightly better with an average hourly salary of $21.59, however, in this case, those working or aiming to work within this profession may be better off with a salaried role, with an average hourly rate of $33.79.
Our research shows that while all of these freelance marketing roles have an average hourly rate that is higher than the average hourly reported US salary in August 2022, some roles are significantly more lucrative than others. A 2021 report by Upwork found that 59 million Americans performed freelance work in that year, a number that is unlikely to slow given the flexibility of remote working and the financial opportunities it provides.
Rates were collected by looking at upwork.com for different roles/skills and averaging the hourly rates for the freelancers returned. Searches were conducted between the 15th and 21st of September 2022 and rates were collected in USD.