I want to be a consultant offering a service to small companies & startups, and I want to be in a field where I will have plenty of work. I'm taking classes to learn web development, thinking I can build web/mobile sites for startups. But I realize that once you make a site for a client you get paid and are done. No more money from them. Then I think of doing marketing and advertising and that's an ongoing thing where companies keep paying me to do their advertising for them. So I'm wondering should I stay with web development or switch to marketing and advertising? Does one area grow faster than the other, or have more headaches than the other? Or are they both just fine?
I'd recommend both. That's what I've done, and I've never hurt for work.
The thing is, many marketers offer lots of ideas, but are unable to implement the solutions. This means that a client has to hire a marketing consultant to create a plan, and THEN hire a designer/developer/etc. to actually implement that plan. This, to many clients, feels like paying twice.
Many of the people I've met will value development over marketing, and therefore cut corners on the marketing budget. This is bad news when you're a contractor who relies on other contractors or teams to build the things you offer as a service.
However, by building the skill set to not only design a marketing plan, but implement it as well, you're now able to market yourself as a 2-for-1 deal. As a freelancer, this is HUGE, because it creates a higher perceived value, and allows you to charge a higher rate. (They only need to hire you, vs. two separate contractors who will likely take longer overall to complete the job due to meetings, etc..)
Web development is the easier role to land early contracts. There are far more small projects for web dev; marketing tends to be a bit harder to break into (in my experience).
So for quickly building a stable income, start with web dev — but always continue learning. Every skill you add to your toolbox means one fewer contractor your clients need to hire, and that means happier clients, faster turnarounds, higher hourly rates, and a better overall experience for everyone involved.
I've been adding skills to my repertoire for over a decade now, and I bill my services as a one-man research and development team, because I can plan, design, develop, market, test, and manage a new business idea on my own. It took a lot of work to get here, but I'm now able to effectively write my own ticket because I can offer so much value and experience to my clients.
I'd be happy to discuss specific strategies if you'd like to put together a career development plan. I coach several entrepreneurs, and I think I'd be able to help you hit the ground running. Let me know if you'd like to schedule a short call.
I agree with Jason, but for a different reason.
One if you do web development, you'll still have to market yourself.
Two as a consultant, if I'm going to refer someone to a developer, I want one who has an understanding of marketing too, because a web site isn't just about being pretty, it also needs to convert into leads.
You seem to be approaching this as a financial-only decision, which strikes me as a flawed decision model. You are likely to be much happier at one than the other, so they're not interchangeable.
That aside, let's look at financial implications of choosing to consult in marketing vs. web development.
As you noted, marketing is a better fit for ongoing retainers (for recurring revenue), more so than web development (which tends to be one-off projects, although approaches like Growth-Driven Design are bringing retainer models to web development).
If you choose marketing, you'll have a lower barrier to entry in finding consulting clients (because anyone can claim to be a marketer). You can probably adapt faster, too; it's easier to offer clients a new marketing channel than it is to learn a new programming language. And you'll likely build a portfolio of successes faster, which you can leverage to get paid on value.
In contrast, web development's higher barrier to entry (because you need baseline technical skills first) means less competition and the ability to charge more on a per-unit (hourly or project) basis. But longer projects and fuzzier returns mean it's going to take longer to build a salable portfolio of successes.
Consider where you can demonstrate a bigger impact. It's easier for clients to see marketing as an investment in growing their sales. That's not always the case with web development, where clients are more likely to see your service as a cost rather than an investment.
Finally, whichever way you go, invest in building your client service and strategy skills. Those will help you stand out against competitors who may be technically savvy but poor at delivering the service, or great at the tactical work but poor at creating a coherent strategy.
Good luck in the process, and glad to do a Clarity call to answer any further questions!
The short answer: both. There are tons of web developers out there, and you'll be competing with overseas companies and freelancers who charge nothing. One of the ways to differentiate yourself from them is to be a full-service provider. Not only can you build a site for a company, but you can support and market it long-term.
There is plenty of recurring income when you develop a site, most of my clients have been with me for over 10 years. Web development is not a 'build it and you are done' type of thing, as the web is constantly changing. For example, sites I built 10 years ago obviously need face lifts to keep up with the current trends, and with the advent of mobile phones, responsive design is now the way to go. Some sites get redesigned yearly.
Pick up as many skills as you can so that you can offer your potential clients all of the services they need to be successful.