Whether you are looking to start a side hustle or a new career change, working as a freelance social media manager can provide you with freedom while still working on projects you are passionate about.
But it’s hard to know where to begin, and you may have more questions than answers on how to make money as a social media manager. Let’s review what you need to get started.
Oh, and if you want to hear advice from our own internal social media team here at Hootsuite on how to become a social media manager, watch this video:
A freelance social media manager is a social media expert hired by clients who want to outsource their social strategy and execution.
Generally, freelance social media managers work with multiple companies and clients at a time.
Services commonly offered by freelancer social media managers can include:
- Social media strategy
- Creating and managing content calendars
- Content creation (photography, design)
- Content writing
- Scheduling and publishing posts
- Community management (engaging with followers, answering DMs and comments)
- Analytics and reporting
If you want to follow the freelance path, you’ll need to cultivate entrepreneurial skills on top of your social media management expertise.
You may be great at getting results for your clients, but you can end up struggling if your business processes aren’t solid.
Here are nine skills you should hone if you want to become a successful social media manager.
Social media has grown more visual in recent years, but a good caption goes a long way in developing an engaged community.
Freelance social media managers should be good at copywriting and editing, as the most effective social media posts are short, snappy, and witty.
Your social calendars don’t need to look like this 👇
With our help you can start to make a clear, concise plan. https://t.co/RfbnZqSJ8w pic.twitter.com/D2tagWGjTi
— Hootsuite 🦉 (@hootsuite) November 20, 2022
A freelance social media manager wears many hats, and content creation is no exception. In many cases, you may be expected to create graphics, TikTok videos, or photography.
You don’t have to be a Photoshop expert, either. Tools like Canva make design super easy with templates tailored for social media posts.
Whether you’re recording videos for TikTok or taking photos for Instagram, you need a smartphone capable of capturing content and editing it for various social media platforms. Each platform has its own image and video specs, so make sure you’re creating content that fits.
There are a lot of people interacting with a brand’s social media pages. From DMs, comments, and reviews, a social media manager may be expected to reply to each message.
It’s time-consuming, and many brands outsource this aspect of social media management. Good community management requires being organized and meticulous (ensuring no customer service issues are missed), following the brand’s tone of voice guidelines, and having genuine interactions with the community.
Analysis and reporting
This is a big one. Social networks supply a lot of data, and your clients will expect you to be able to collect and analyze it. You need to be able to sort through the numbers to find actionable insights.
You’ll likely need to provide a monthly report to show your clients the results of your campaigns. (Psst, here’s a free social media report template.)
Your social reports should outline the results of your work, highlighting audience growth, engagement rates, reach, and direct sales/conversions, if applicable.
Presentation and sales
As part of your freelance business, you need to have the skills to pitch and sell your services to potential clients. This is probably a skill you didn’t need in your corporate life as a social media manager, but it’s vital as a freelancer.
One of the toughest things about freelancing? Client projects can end, and you may not have new clients lined up to take their spots. Getting good at freelancing means learning how to keep your eyes open for new opportunities.
Pitching and selling your social media services will become more comfortable the more you practice.
Client relationship management
Improving your relationships with your clients can grow your business. After all, if your client likes working with you, then chances are they’ll continue to send work your way. They may even refer you to others in their network or supply a testimonial for your website.
Building and maintaining client relationships is crucial to being a successful social media manager. While your current clients are important, you don’t want to neglect other relationships. You’ll want to keep tabs on your potential clients and past clients and let them know if you have availability.
Social media managers need to have their fingers on the pulse of the latest trends. This can mean everything from memes to current events. Without this perspective, social media campaigns can look outdated or not relevant.
For example, Wendy’s used the timing of the FIFA World Cup 2022 to promote a special prize for the winners of the USA vs. England game. The winning country scored free fries in the Wendy’s app.
IT’S ON… free chips for England if we win. #ThreeLions https://t.co/wcHFj3gjaU
— Wendy’s UK (@wendysuk) November 22, 2022
Since the game ended in a draw, both countries got free fries (or chips for the English).
No one lost. THEREFORE EVERYONE WINS. Free fries with purchase in the Wendy’s app. pic.twitter.com/Wf19A9jLy2
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) November 25, 2022
we all need free chips after this #ENGUSA pic.twitter.com/wA8ybVJyqa
— Wendy’s UK (@wendysuk) November 25, 2022
Organization is another crucial skill for freelance social media managers. Not only do you need to manage content calendars, but you also need to keep track of your own business. While you may have worked with project managers in past roles, going freelance means taking on this job yourself.
You’ll need a social media management workflow to ensure assets are delivered on time and approved by your clients. You’ll also need a process to ensure your invoices are getting delivered and paid.
Marketing and strategy
Understanding marketing strategies and how they will impact your social media campaigns are non-negotiable skills. You may be responsible for creating a social media marketing strategy that aligns with the client’s business objectives — and even if you aren’t creating the strategy, you’ll likely be following someone else’s.
Every social media post needs careful reflection on how it helps grow the client’s business. Strategic thinking turns a social media post into engaging content.
Step 1: Set up your business
Before you can work as a freelance social media manager, you should consider what you need to do legally to set up a business.
This will vary depending on national and local laws, but may include:
- Deciding which type of business you should register (such as a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company).
- Registering your business name (which needs to be unique); check trademark databases if you want the option to trademark your brand in the future.
- Registering for a tax number (not all freelancers need one, so be sure to research the criteria for your situation).
- Getting your business license (which usually needs to be renewed annually).
- Creating a business bank account (optional, check with an accountant).
Along the way, you might want to consult with a tax professional to determine how much of your earnings you should set aside for taxes. They may also be able to provide advice on which business type would best suit your needs.
You may also want to create a business email and social media accounts (or at least reserve the handles for your business name, in case you decide to build them up later on). This will be useful when you start marketing your business more publicly and need to establish a brand.
Step 2: Build a portfolio
Once you’ve taken care of the legal aspect of freelancing, you should consider creating a portfolio to demonstrate your expertise.
There are a few different ways to showcase your professional portfolio. Some ideas include:
- Building a website
- Using your LinkedIn profile
- Creating PDF files
- Using a Google Folder to store your case studies
If you’ve only worked full-time corporate roles, you can use projects and examples from those roles to build up your portfolio. Just make sure you focus on the social media marketing strategies you’ve contributed to and the results for which you were responsible.
Step 3: Price your services
Pricing your services is probably one of the most agonizing parts of a freelancer, especially if you are new and unsure of what is a fair rate. There are many aspects to consider, including your desired salary, business expenses, taxes, and more.
We discuss some benchmark rates below, but you should consider networking with fellow freelance social media managers to find out what they are charging for their services. Doing your own primary research can help you develop a competitive rate for your own social media services.
Step 4: Put yourself out there
Now comes the fun part: landing your first clients. No matter how talented you are as a social media manager, you need to put yourself out there for clients to know you’re available as a freelancer.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Networking events. Networking events are a great way to put yourself out there and meet new people. If you have a specific niche, you may want to attend events where you can meet people from that industry. And don’t forget your fellow freelancers. They can provide valuable insights into working as a freelancer and may even recommend you to their clients.
- LinkedIn. An optimized LinkedIn profile can help clients find you and inquire about your services. You can add portfolio pieces to your profile and network with peers on the platform.
- Social media groups. Many Slack and Facebook groups often have channels where members can share freelance social media jobs. It’s also a great place to keep track of trends and network with other freelancers.
- Word of mouth. Past and current clients can become a great source of referrals. Once you’ve worked with a happy client, let them know that you’re open to recommendations as they often know other friends/contacts like themselves.
- Content marketing. If you want to build a longer-term stable source of client referrals, consider starting a newsletter, blog, or YouTube channel. Your content should cover topics prospective clients would be interested in (such as “social media tips for [your target industry]”) and include a CTA mentioning your freelance social media services.
Step 5: Develop additional skills
Building related skills can make your resume stand out and may make clients hire you.
Here are some skills to consider working on:
- Influencer marketing
- Paid social advertising
- Online reputation management
- Content repurposing
Pricing your freelance social media work can be difficult because there are many variables to consider. Your social media management rate should be based on your experience, value, business expenses, and your client’s budget and scope of work required.
It also depends on what the client needs for social media. For example, a client may want an Instagram strategy, but they could also ask for content creation, post scheduling, monthly analytic reports, and community management.
Before you give a potential client a quote, it helps to know what they need.
Scheduling a discovery call can allow you to ask questions about the client’s business model, target customers, marketing budgets, KPIs, and any history of working with freelance social media managers to uncover potential red flags. It also helps the client get to know you and confirm you’re a good fit for the job.
So what are the rough estimates for how much a freelance social media manager charges? Here’s the average pay in the United States, according to ZipRecruiter:
- Average annual pay: $52, 613
- Average hourly rate: $25.29 per hour
- Majority of salaries range: $36,000-$60,500
- Top earners (90th percentile): $84,500 annually
Based on the scope of work, you also need to decide if you will charge an hourly rate, monthly retainer, or another arrangement (i.e. % of revenue per lead generated).
Monthly retainers are best for long-term projects and will save you lots of time you would otherwise spend on time tracking.
Always keep your resume up to date
Resumes aren’t always required by potential clients. Normally a strong portfolio and recommendations are enough. But sometimes they ask, so it’s good to have an updated resume available. You can use our free social media manager resume templates to get started.
Hint: You may also want to gather testimonials from past and current clients to boost your reputation. You can also create case studies to promote your expertise.
Communicate with your clients
The best way to grow a sustainable business is to secure ongoing projects or retainers. Since social media is an ongoing necessity, your client probably wants you to manage it monthly. But this can only happen if they trust you. Part of that trust is communication.
As a freelance social media manager, strong communication is your responsibility. In case of any delays, be prompt and transparent. Creating an exceptional client experience is the best way to retain current clients (and maybe even earn a referral or two!).
Understand invoicing and taxes
Always make sure to sign written contracts with new clients, which should contain your preferred payment terms and penalties for late payments. A common payment term is 30 days.
You may want to get invoicing software to send professional invoices with due dates and automatic reminders for payment. Some accounting software also includes invoicing along with tracking expenses.
Don’t forget to set aside a percentage of your money for taxes. The amount of money you should save will depend on your local laws, so it’s best to consult an accountant to determine the tax rate.
Use social media management tools to save time
Investing in tools can help you save time while working on social media management.
A social media management tool like Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts, create analytics reports, and respond to comments and DMs, all from one dashboard. And, bonus, you can ditch the spreadsheets since you won’t need them to spot trends or extract insights.
Learn more about how Hootsuite can help you easily handle multiple clients’ social media accounts:
Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. Publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage your audience, measure results, and more — all from one dashboard. Try it free today.
With files from Laura Wong.
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