One of our DDU Experts, Ryan Thwaites, helped me put together a Masterclass on Google Ads Editor… (And by “helped,” I mean Ryan revealed his power Ads Editor tricks, and I watched.)
Like so many great advertisers, Ryan got his start running campaigns for his own brick-and-mortar business.
And, eventually, that turned into him going full-time into managing paid digital advertising.
Ryan’s experience got me thinking… What should you do if you want to turn advertising into a skill that powers your freelance business or a new career path? And how long does it take to make a good living?
Well, I've got you covered. Around 50% of the questions I receive from students revolve around those two topics – how do you get good at advertising, and how much work will it take?
So today, I thought I’d map out the steps involved in becoming a good, great, and elite advertiser.
While there's more than one path to becoming a successful advertiser, from my experience, this is the most common and sensible progression.
Here’s my 7-Step Good-to-Elite Advertiser Formula
✅ Step 1 – Choose your weapon wisely
If you want the fastest path to becoming proficient in online advertising, choose one platform/discipline and go deep. Learning any new skill takes focus. So instead of spreading yourself thin by trying to learn multiple ad platforms simultaneously, pick the best platform for you and commit to it.
From my experience, the best advertisers are specialists, not generalists. (If you need help deciding which of the big two ad platforms is right for you or your business, check out our Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads breakdown.)
✅ Step 2 – Put some skin in the game
You can’t learn to advertise by sitting on the sidelines. You need real-life experience to truly learn the discipline. So, if you’re going to advertise for your own business, grab our Google Ads and Facebook Ads Budget Calculators and figure out how much you can afford to invest.
And, if you’re going freelance, find your first client any way you can. There are tons of companies trying to figure out digital right now, so there’s plenty of opportunities.
My first client was my Dad. My second client was a window replacement company. I turned those meager beginnings into a multi-million dollar ad agency. So there is no shame in starting small!
Steps 1 and 2 shouldn’t take long… a couple of weeks, depending on whether you have to drum up business. The most important thing is to make a commitment, put your feet on the ground and go after what you want.
✅ Step 3A – Master your chosen weapon
You need to learn everything you can about your chosen platform. For example, Ryan used my Google Ads Mastery program to get his start advertising his retail business. I read the online “Google AdWords Manual” (and about 20 other books) cover-to-cover when I was starting out (there weren't online courses back then). Expertise is key if you want your first campaigns to break even. So invest in your learning early and often.
✅ Step 3B – Learn the art of persuasion
You do NOT have to be a master copywriter to create pay-per-click ads. (In fact, sometimes it’s better if you’re not). But you do want to understand the “levels of awareness” and how awareness impacts action. I cover these topics in my courses. I also recommend reading the books Breakthrough Advertising, Scientific Advertising, and Great Leads.
✅ Step 4 – Keep your eyes on the prize
As a new advertiser, you need to have your hands in your advertising tool just about every day. Logging in daily, reading your results, and learning how to make tweaks are how you turn an ad campaign profitable. It’s a core tenant of my teaching methods.
Steps 3 and 4 will take about 30-days if you devote 2 to 3 hours a day to education and action. And yes, you can and should build your ad campaigns while you’re learning. All my advertising courses are structured to help you set up and optimize your campaigns while you absorb the lessons.
At this point, you’ve set yourself on the path to becoming a profitable advertiser. If you go no further, you have enough skill to manage a few campaigns and work your way to a decent ROI. But, if you want to keep going, here are the next steps:
✅ Step 5 – Follow a reliable inside source
Digital advertising is constantly evolving. Some changes are meaningless, others represent big opportunities. Find a trustworthy source you can follow to help you understand what’s happening in your discipline and how it affects you. Community is everything when it comes to expediting your learning curve.
✅ Step 6 – Go advanced
In advertising, the money is in optimization. This is also true of your skills as an advertiser. Once you start to feel comfortable, reach for the next level. Helping our Insiders level up is the very reason Ryan and I were producing a Masterclass. Once you‘ve mastered manual advertising, you can start using techniques like bulk editing and scripts to 80/20 your time and drive bigger returns.
Steps 5 to 6 may take another 12 to 16 months. But that’s OK. At this point, you’re on your way to expertise. You should have a lot of confidence. And your skillset will start to become invaluable.
✅ Step 7 – Become a double threat
Want to get to the top 1%? Want to start working with clients who have multi-million dollar budgets? The best way to get to this level is to become a data nerd. Ultimately, digital advertising is a numbers game. If you can find opportunities in the numbers, you will be unstoppable as an advertiser.
So at this stage, develop your skills in web analytics, tagging, tracking, and reporting. Becoming a dual-threat will sharpen your vision and give you an advantage over 99% of your competitors.
Step 7 may take another 12 to 24 months. But there’s no rush. You’ll have all kinds of success and opportunities if you continue on this journey.
Alright, so that’s my summary of the path from zero-to-elite in digital advertising.
Now, I want to know, did you find this helpful? Did it answer any questions?