4 Digital Marketing Trends Vital for the Freelancer


By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’ve already written my secret goal list for the year and did days of research about online marketing and tech trends.

A, because I’m paranoid about missing tech trends and B, I like food and shelter, and living the unsteady adventure of being a digital freelancer means I have to constantly learn to survive.

Below, I want to share some of the most important trends I see in digital marketing and online creation:

Welcome to your new AI masters

Well, sort of. The Hollywood horror scenario of sentient robots launching wars against us will hopefully never materialize, but AI will play a bigger part in our online content creation and marketing.

Forbes magazine is working on AI that pre-writes articles for reporters, offering headlines, rough drafts, and images based on the author’s previous articles. The content writer then simply has to polish the article. Probably effective…and scary.

Chatbots are popping up more and more on websites. They usually lurk in the bottom of the screen with a friendly avatar and a question directed at YOU:

“Hey, thanks for visiting our website. How can I help you?”

The advantages of these virtual assistants are obvious. They:

  • respond fast via instant messaging
  • Are available 24/7
  • way cheaper than their flesh-based rivals
  • have unlimited patience (ask the same question a 100 times, they still stay polite)
  • now your customer profile and/or buyer’s history

Uber also uses chatbot technology to make it easier for you and me to hire cars, even on Facebook Messenger or Google Maps.

Who knows–we might even be seeing chatbot technology available for small business owners who then will be freed up to do more personal and creative work.


I’ve asked a UK friend working in the publishing about the Do’s and Don’ts of querying agents (i.e. getting agents to represent you). She said the number one mistake was a generic pitch where the new author did little to NO research on the agent they were pitching to. Instead, they used a generic template to save time.

You know this lazy approach from online marketing. To this very day, I get spam mail starting with ‘Dear marsdorian.com’ or a simple ‘Hello.’ Surprise, surprise, the pitch that follows is as generic as the address and becomes an instant candidate for the digital trash bin awards.

The big corps are doing it as well. Netflix is notorious and even criticized for personalizing their thumbnails, right down to colors, gender, style, and race. If you watch a couple of their series and movies, and you tend to click on abstract thumbnails, which apparently is the case with German users, then Netflix will show you more abstract thumbnails in the future.

So even if you and I were to watch the same content, it would be differently presented to each one of us.

If you don’t have the digital tools to automatically learn from your customers, do as much personal research as you can. Share why your offer is relevant to him/her and show what you have common.

The last part is crucial:

My mother, a full-time painter, was looking for a new and affordable art studio in Berlin. She found out that one of her desired properties was owned by a real estate agent coming from the same region in Germany. My mother used that fact in her pitch, was invited for the interview and won the offer.

The power of (your) voice

Not just a generic self-help book title, but also a rising trend in the online world.

Voice will be more important for content creation, consumption, and marketing.
Authors I follow use voice dictation for writing their books or online content because it’s more relaxing on your keyboard-battered fingers.
(Believe me, if you type at least 3000-5000 words per day, you will appreciate any relief of strain!)

Some of my author peers dictate their articles, non-fiction books, and even audiobooks, which are booming.

Voice search will become more important, as the AI of voice assistants like Siri, Google and Alexa will increase. In the mobile age, it’s just easier and faster to talk to your smartphone than to type on it.

According to ComScore, by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches.

We’ll even see, well, HEAR voice ads. Think Google Ads but spoken. Verbal sponsorship, as they exist in sponsored podcasts, will become more prevalent.

Do more research and adapt your marketing and content creation.

Many more micro-influencers

With competition overkill, it’s going to be even harder to be known. Thanks to long-tail keywords and global reach, it’s not necessary.

Micro-influencers aren’t global Hollywood icons everyone from Berlin hipsters to Thai digital nomads know. They’re niche celebrities with a smaller but dedicated following.

  • Most people don’t know Joanna Penn, but in the self-publishing niche, she’s a top player with over 80K Twitter followers and a popular indie author podcast. She’s selling her own thriller fiction, giving speeches all over the globe while teaching beginners how to thrive as a self-publisher.
  • Carson Reeves is a script consultant based in LA (where else?) who makes a full-time living from reviewing amateur screenplays. He’s posting new content five times a week, each article generating between 100-300 comments.
  • Angry Joe is a popular Youtuber reviewing pop culture, mostly games, and movies. His claim to fame is being entertaining, often replaying iconic moments of the game/movie or giving a very angry review, hence the brand name. His earnings come from ad money, sponsorship deals, and merch sales.

What do these micro-influencers have all in common? Their brand offer is highly specific (indie publishing, screenplay critiques etc.) and they’re only known by niche insiders and not the general public.


Like the Chinese symbols for “crisis”, the future brings risk and opportunity. If you do your research and adapt your approach, you will be ready.

What’s an important future trend in marketing and content creation you can share?

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

Original illustration by the author.

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