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Unlocking Insights: Decoding Digital Marketing Costs in South Africa

By SATZ Infinite Success · Aug 1, 2023
Unlocking Insights: Decoding Digital Marketing Costs in South Africa picture

How much does digital marketing actually cost in South Africa?  

In an increasingly competitive and strained market, one of the best ways we can look after our business’ success is by investing in digital marketing. 

By now, digital has far eclipsed traditional media as the go-to platform for reaching consumers and boosting sales. 

You may be left wondering though, how much will it cost me?  

We’re here to help. 

Below we’ll go over some rough estimates over how much digital marketing will cost you. 

We’ll cover your three main options (managing your digital marketing yourself, hiring a freelancer or hiring an agency) and some considerations over which you should choose.  

DIY Digital Marketing Costs 

DIY Digital Marketing Overview:  

“DIY” digital marketing, or managing all your digital marketing yourself, is your first option

For many entrepreneurs and new businesses, this is your only viable option at the start. 

You may simply not have enough money to split between the cost of hiring someone and paying for ads. 

Others may be attracted to the cost savings. Who wants to pay for something they can do themselves? 


Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  

You pay nothing in administrative costs, so the only real expense is paying for ads. 

This number is entirely up to you, but we start seeing great results at around R 3000 per month for a single campaign. 

The good news is there are literally thousands of online resources to teach yourself digital marketing. 

The bad news is, you can only learn so much from them 


Digital marketing is a subject where a huge percentage of the learnings are made from experience and practice. 

The more ads you run, the better you get at knowing what works, who to target and where to go. 

This means you can teach yourself to be a great digital marketer over time, but it isn’t entirely free. 

People end up indirectly “paying” in two main ways: 

Firstly, you’re going to inevitably waste a lot of ad money learning what works. 

Your ROIs and CPA’s are more than likely going to suck at first if you have no digital marketing experience.  

Secondly, you’re going to have to invest a lot of time into learning and managing your digital marketing. 

The time investment also goes up as your business grows. 

Running five campaigns with five different audiences is much more time consuming than one.  

That doesn’t seem so bad at first, but consider this: what else could you be doing with that time? 

Say you’re a brilliant salesperson and an okay digital marketer. 

Wouldn’t your time be better spent meeting people in person and closing those big deals, rather than managing Facebook campaigns all day? 

We’ll admit to being slightly biased here, being a digital marketing agency and all, but our general suggestion is this: 

If you don’t have the talent or knack for it, outsource your digital marketing as soon as possible.  

Think of it like accounting. 

Most new businesses owners are forced to do it themselves, but they’ll likely outsource it as soon as their business is big enough if they don’t have a passion for it.  

Also much like accounting, digital marketing is one of those things you can always do yourself, but the real question is can you do it properly and at scale?  

DIY Digital Marketing Cost:  

Free (Excluding ad expenses).  

But you may end up wasting ad money and it costs you the most time.  

Real Cost: Up to you, but we recommend R 3000+ per month.  

DIY Digital Marketing Pros: 

  • You’re in complete control of your digital marketing strategy.  
  • You save money on the administrative costs of hiring someone else.  
  • You know your business best, so you’ll be the most in tune with your business’ goals. 

DIY Digital Marketing Cons: 

  • You may not have the natural talent or passion for the subject. 
  • Learning digital marketing costs you a lot of time that could potentially be better spent elsewhere.  
  • You’re probably going to waste a lot of ad spend in the process of learning. 

Freelance or Independent Digital Marketing Costs 

Freelance or Independent Digital Marketing Overview:  

A freelance, or independent, digital marketer is somebody unaffiliated with a larger agency that takes on clients and typically manages most of the work themselves. 

You can expect to pay around R 2500 to R 4500 per month for their services as a rough estimate. 

This is excluding ad spend, so you budget that on top of it. 

Again, we start seeing great results at around R 3000 per month on ad spend, but your mileage may vary. 

So you’re looking at a ballpark figure of R 5500 to R 7500 per month and upwards. 

They’re an attractive “step up” from managing your own digital marketing that comes without the hefty price tag of a full agency. 

As we mentioned above, the major benefit of hiring someone is that they’ll likely already have experience and you can focus your time and efforts on what you’re best at. 

This means they’ll more than likely be able to bring up your ROI and bring down your CPA, ultimately saving you money. 

You also get to focus on what you’re good at, assuming that isn’t marketing. 

If you find that you enjoy managing your own marketing, and you’re good at it, you may skip this option entirely until it’s time for your business to consider hiring a full agency. 

However, freelancers typically focus on one set of skills. 

After all, it’s very rare to find someone good at everything. 

So you’ll find they tend to specialise in specific platforms or toolsets. 

This makes them a great option for small and medium-sized businesses, who have very narrow and specific marketing needs. 

An experienced freelancer will typically be great at their chosen focus area.  

Often just as good as a full agency. 

The challenge comes in when you’re looking to expand your marketing to other platforms or mediums. 

For example, what are the chances your amazing Google Adwords freelancer is also a graphic designer? Do they also know the ins and outs of Facebook ads? 

The other downside of freelancers is that they only have so much capacity. 

It’s highly unlikely you’re their only client, so at times of high demand, you may find their attention stretched thin.  

This is the point where agencies start to become appealing, because of the breadth of skills they typically offer. 

You could hire multiple freelancers to manage each aspect of your digital marketing. 

But, at that point, the costs start to rack up quickly and it may end up being cheaper to take on an agency. 

Freelance or Independent Digital Marketing Cost: 

Around R 2500 to R 4500 pm (excluding ad expenses).

Real Cost: R 5500 to R 7500+.

Freelance or Independent Digital Marketing Pros:

  • Great step up for most businesses from managing your own digital marketing. You save time and gain efficiency. 
  • Typically great at once aspect of digital marketing.
  • Cost-effective compared to hiring a full agency.

Freelance or Independent Digital Marketing Cons:

  • Not the most scalable option. Eventually, you’ll likely outgrow their skillset or capacity.
  • Typically limited skillets. No one person is the best at everything. 
  • Can be hard to find the right freelancer with the right balance of experience, affordability and reliability.

Digital Marketing Agency Costs

Digital Marketing Agency Overview: 

Last but not least, you could hire a full digital marketing agency.

Agencies typically come in two varieties, generalist agencies and specialist or “boutique” agencies. 

Generalist agencies tend to be larger, with a bigger headcount and variety of skills under their services.

Specialist agencies tend to focus on one broader area of digital marketing, for example, PPC marketing, social media marketing and more. 

Either way, they are significantly more expensive than the other options on this list.

The lowest you’ll likely be able to hire an agency for is around R 7500 excluding ad expenses.

This puts the total lowest cost at around R10 500 and up.

And when we say up, we mean it. 

Depending on the size and reputation of the agency, you could pay as much as R80 000 per month in retainer fees. 

Why would you ever spend this much money?

Well in return you get two things.

As we mentioned previously, you get access to a wide variety of skills and services. 

A good agency (matched with your needs) will be able to accommodate every platform and service you need to boost your digital marketing to its maximum potential. 

Secondly, reliability and experience.

Good agencies typically have a great breadth of experience under their belts and as a business, they have a reputation to uphold.

This means you get to benefit from their years of learnings across multiple industries, probably including your own, and they’re able to provide you with great customer service.

When hiring an entry-level agency, the cost savings you get from increased efficiencies (better ROI, less CPA) will often be offset by the cost of hiring them.

Over time, however, as your campaigns scale the balance tends to turn in your favour as the agency learns what works for your specific business and customer base. 

The major downside of hiring an agency is the cost, firstly, which is simply untenable for many smaller businesses.

Particularly when dealing with large corporate agencies used to dealing with other corporations, with budgets to match.

Secondly, similarly to freelancers, agencies have other clients too.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be their biggest priority, which can lead to some delays in times of peak demand like holiday seasons. 

Overall though, there’s a reason most businesses use digital marketing agencies at one time or another.

They’re simply the most scalable and effective option for many cases.

Digital Marketing Agency Cost: 

R 7500+ (Excluding ad spend). 

Real Cost: R 10500+ (And again, we do mean plus).

Digital Marketing Agency Pros:

  • Scalable. There’s an agency for almost every size of business and need out there.
  • Instantly benefit from years of learnings and expertise. 
  • Similarly to hiring a freelancer, you get to focus on what you’re best at. 

Digital Marketing Agency Cons:

  • They may be unaffordable for many smaller businesses. 
  • You may not always be their priority.
  • If they don’t know the ins and outs of your industry, it may take a while to establish cost savings.


We hope that helped estimate how much digital marketing costs going into the new year.

It should now be clearer what the best option is for your business and budget.

Digital marketing is fundamentally all about ROI.

And generally speaking, if you’re being wise about it, the more money you put in the more you’ll get out.

This holds for digital marketing services too, a good digital agency costs much more than handling it personally, but they’ll be able to deliver results that no one person can match.

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