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How to Start Working in Online Marketing Without Prior Experience


It is almost weekly that I receive a question from someone who is interested in starting to work in online marketing or from students that have just graduated. Working in marketing is something interesting but at the same time. It requires a lot of patience and of course, a lot of passion.

You can be good at marketing but only if you work hard!

Being a marketer today, is more interesting than ever before. But this doesn’t make it is easy to be one. Some may say that the online marketer doesn’t do much, that he or she is just sitting at a desk in front of a laptop and doing something, nothing, anything… Others will say that online marketing is not even a job. And, let’s not forget about the ones that don’t even understand the things you do and why you are doing them…

Sometimes when people ask me what I do for work, I just reply them that I am involved in online marketing and the discussion ends there. I can’t dive in and talk about online branding, content marketing, link building or other stuff like podcast marketing, social media marketing, blogging and others. They just don’t get it. Nevertheless, it’s fine with me.

Are you already in? Or, are you trying to learn about digital marketing and don’t know where to start or what to start with?

Here are some of my best ideas that I would recommend to anybody who wants to start on the right foot.

They are easy to understand but nevertheless, they require a lot of investment on your part, an investment that usually starts with a lot of work.

1. Create a Portfolio outside your traditional Curriculum Vitae

If you want to work in online marketing, you have to try to change your mentality and learn about the motives behind the reasons people will hire you. And yes, it means that you do not need a perfect CV and sometimes not even a basic CV if you dream about going to bed, at night, confident that you got a job and you’d been hired for a marketing position in a company. My advice?

Be a “Purple Cow”.

Wait, what? Well, this is my advice in just a few words exactly. Be a Purple Cow.

Seth Godin wrote a very good book in 2003 about how to be remarkable in business and marketing. It’s the mindset you want to have when you enter in that office. But your work will start before you even got that call from a HR person.

Seth wrote in this book about why companies should create remarkable products and how to target the people who are likely to spread the word about it.

I would recommend you to read this book before your very first day as an online marketer. This book changed my beliefs and my entire way of thinking about marketing and how to approach this industry. And, since I have first read it, I’m still using it as an example every time I have the chance.

This means that your product/s will be your portfolio.

Think about your product as a project. Your own personal project. You have to start by creating a side project where you will invest all your time, all your energy (not 100% of it, because you still need to have a break once in a while and go out with friends and live your life) and all your passion. I believe that the best marketers are the ones that have their own side projects, the ones that invest time and energy in them. It may be a simple personal blog, a YouTube channel or a podcast.

It doesn’t matter what you are creating, as long as you have a project that will impact the world around you.

And, as long as you invest time in creating something personal.

It has become one of my habits to always say that a marketer should have a designer mentality and a designer should have a marketer mentality.

A marketer should think like a designer because a good designer is the one that has their own craft, their own style and they are working constantly on their portfolio. When they go to work for a job, they won’t go with their CV and explain why they where the best students in that art class, or how they’ve got an A+ on some specific art or science class. The best designer will only walk into the office and get an interview with his/her portfolio, or even better, with a tag name. They will never let the interviewer look up on the internet and the interviewer will never have a reason to do it either.

Therefore, if you want to start working in online marketing and you don’t have a working experience, start creating your own experience.

We live in a world where everybody can create something for somebody, for themselves.

2. Everything Starts With Content Creation

When Bill Gates said that “Content is King” I believe that he had a vision. He imagined content not only as content marketing but as everything that surrounds us. We live today in a content driven world. We have our headphones stuck in our ears, consuming audio content.

We consume content while we are watching a Netflix movie or reading an article or a book. This post is a also a form of content. A Facebook status is a piece of content. An IG story is a piece of content.

Everything around us is a piece of content.

And every piece of content needs a creator.

When I mentioned the idea of creating your own portfolio I meant that you must create your own side project/s. And, today, you can easily create a side project with only a few mouse clicks on your computer or laptop or some taps on a mobile device.

If you think that you can write some cool blog posts then, I suggest starting your own blog. You can create your first blog on WordPress, Medium or even on Facebook using the “Facebook notes” strategy. Use these platforms if you want to to publish an article, if you want to start a personal blog, without having to pay for a hosting and a personal domain name. Not all popular bloggers own a domain name and a lot of bloggers who own a domain name never get to become popular.

If you think that you can shoot some cool photos, create some awesome online graphics. You can start your own visual side project. Launch your Instagram account or a Pinterest stream. Create visual content for your audience. Work on understanding how these platforms are working.

If you think you can create some awesome videos that people will like to watch and share, then start your own YouTube channel or your own Facebook Watch page.Don’t care about what people say. Don’t mind they saying that video is trendy today or that it won’t be trendy tomorrow. It only depends on you. If you think that you can create video content and you want to have a side project as a YouTube channel, start recording right now.

If you think you can start an online radio show, then create your own podcast series. Today it’s so easy to create a podcast. If you don’t have enough money to invest in equipment, just download the Anchor app on your mobile phone and start your own show.

In the end, you see, everything is content based. Blog is text. Instagram is photo. Youtube is video. Podcast is audio. These are the main types of content that you can create today.

Don’t overthink the process on how it should be named, when should you post, what hashtag should you use or who will consume your content.

If it’s good, people will consume it.

3. Dive in a Culture

The word “culture” is bigger than ever before. More and more cultures are rising and more and more people are making their voices heard in this culture.

The hip-hop culture is on a rise because there are platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify that are promoting them. The online design culture is on the rise because there are platforms like Instagram and Pinterest that are distributing the content as well.

Think about a passion you have and understand the culture around it.

For instance, Eliot is one of my best go-to examples that I’m always eager to tell people about. He launched an IG account that is focused on the basketball culture. And, today, he has over 2.3 Million followers. NBA basketball players are following him, top online publications are following him and everybody that loves the basketball culture is following him. He publishes daily content on Instagram Stories and the Instagram traditional feed. He replies immediately to comments and DMs other users. Eliot dived in a culture that he was passionate about and now he has become an influencer, a voice that is very close to what a media company is.

When Gary Vee is evangelizing every time he publishes a new piece of content about how to have a media mentality, I can’t agree more with him.

We live in a world where we can start our own media company with just a few clicks.

Try to discover your own passion, look up in the culture that is the most close to what your passion is and try to find that one thing that it is missing. Create the kind of content that this specific culture will love to consume and also love to share.

The type of content that does not exist but the community needs to read about. Or, to listen to or watch.

It is possible that you will want to work inside the B2B market and contribute to an online marketing strategy inside this industry. However, let’s consider another fact, that your actual passion is fishing. Should you give up? Of course, not. Focus on your passions and just start a LinkedIn account where you publish videos and articles about fishing, trying to reach people that love the idea but who do not have the time and the skills to go out and fish whenever they would like to.

Create content for a specific culture.

Understand their behavior and be a part of that culture.

4. Document Your Process

Every time I hear about somebody launching a new side project I get excited about it.

But in takes only a second for me to start worrying about them.


Well, it’s because we all get to excited about our side projects in the first few days, but then, the dark days come around. We soon learn that all the other people are not as excited as we are about that topic or that specific project. They don’t consume our content as much as we want them to. Then, we get anxious and we stop working on our side projects. We imagine that  nobody cares about them and sometimes, we are right.

Let me tell you my personal story on why I documented my entire process before I started my own podcast.

I like to start things on the right foot, I like to market them and I love to work on them. This was my initial drive. But then, there were moments when I didn’t feel like it was something I want to work on anymore. My passion was wearing down, it was leveling down to nothing and people didn’t hear me talking as much about it as I once did. From this I have learned a lot. Therefore, when I started my own podcast series, I knew what to do.

As a consequence, before I launched my podcast I conducted research on Facebook and after that, I have tried to document the entire process. I wanted to be accounted by my online followers about it. The moment I said that in the next few days I will launch it, people have been  waiting from me to launch the podcast in the next few days. It wasn’t only me, it was also a few people that followed me, followed my process on working on that podcast and waited to be launched.

And I want to be known as the guy who says something one day and follows on that specific promise, the next day.I wanted to be known as the guy who keeps his word no matter what..

That’s why documenting your own side project will give you a leverage on anybody else who is working on similar projects. In fact, documenting your own side project can help you create better and more valuable content.

Create a video where you record yourself on how you learned to record a video, and on how you have learned to edit it. Talk about the process of that video.

Your process can be your content.

5. Test & Experiment & Fail & Repeat

Now that you have your own side project it is quite possible you are already constantly working on it. Maybe you work every day, maybe you work only on weekends or just one time / week. It is only you who can really understand your time, your resources and what do you want to achieve with your side project.

And here come the most interesting part. This being your own project, you can do whatever you want with it. You can test and experiment, win and fail and then talk about it.

This is how I found the most useful things I can do with a side project. I turned out i can experiment, test, analyze and document it whenever and however I liked.

A few years ago I launched a local blog that was focused on Instagram only. I wrote an ebook and gave it for free. I organized an event for free. I even had an instagram interview with an influencer (insta-interview: I published the photo with a question using the project hashtag and he replied me with his answer in the photo using the same hashtag). It was something nobody had done before and it gave me the leverage to build my professional brand and my personal brand as well.

Even if you fail, even if you don’t get the positive results you have expected, you gain a lot from a side project. Your gain is that you tried something, people heard about it and now you have got some experience in that field.

Experimenting new things via side projects will get you experience.

6. It Will Take Time

The best brands are being built in time.

Branding needs time.

Wait, what? Why do we talk about branding in an article focused on things we should know about working and being active in online marketing for people with less or no experience in the industry? Well, it is because we are talking about side projects and if you want to be different than others, you should make your side project  and build a brand around it.

Because branding is the one thing that gets to be sold today.

And good branding takes time. A side project needs time. Getting to be known for that specific side project, also takes time.

So, don’t believe that if you will launch your Instagram account today, post 10 photos you already have and create a project that can be a professional portfolio for you. No. It will take you time.

That’s why I’m recommending to all my students out there that want to work in online marketing to start creating their side projects when they are in college. Work on your craft while your friends are sleeping, watching Netflix or just doing nothing. Do it even if you think they will laugh at you. Do it because in the end, when you graduate from college, you will already have a personal brand as a portfolio or why not, a company that will get you the money you want.

Think about how big your side project can be  if you invest and work on it every day or every week for a period of 3 or 4 years while you are in college.

In conclusion

We are honored to live in a time where we can create our own side projects for free. We can create our own TV show or launch an online radio station by using only the Internet and a smartphone. Side projects can help us build our personal brands. They can help us gain experience and at the same time, they can help us get hired in the company where we want to work.

HR employees are always looking for something special, for something that it’s interesting. Why would you want to be just like all the other potential employees who are coming with a CV at the interview? Create your side project. Work on it. Build your brand. Let them know you.

That’s just my personal point of view on how to start working in online marketing if you don’t have any experience. But, maybe, there are other opinions that can help you get a job in online marketing.

If you have any other experience or example, feel free to share them in the comments section available bellow.

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Robert Katai

Content Marketing Strategist

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

Ram Castillo