How to Make Money as a Freelance Social Media Manager
Working as a freelance social media manager can provide a lot of freedom. Luckily, social media management can be done from anywhere, as long as you have access to a reliable Wi-Fi connection.
If you already have some experience under your belt, it’s quick and easy to get started as a freelancer. (Keep reading to find out how to get started in just four steps.)
Whether you’re an established social media manager interested in becoming a freelancer, or a business looking to hire one, we’ve outlined the rates, best practices, and key requirements of the role below.
Bonus: Customize our free, professionally designed resume templates to land your dream social media job today. Download them now.
A freelance social media manager is a social media marketing expert who provides on-demand services. They are usually a team of one, are registered with their local Chamber of Commerce, and work with multiple companies and clients.
While freelance social media managers, in general, handle their clients’ social media presence, some freelance gigs are more specific. Here is a list of services commonly offered by freelancer social media managers:
- Social media strategy
- Creating and managing content calendars
- Content creation (photography, design)
- Scheduling and publishing posts
- Community management (engaging with followers, answering DMs and comments)
- Analytics and reporting
Good freelance social media managers need all the skills of a normal social media manager, plus the skills needed to run their own business (as if the first part isn’t hard enough!).
“So what do you do for a living?”
Social media managers: pic.twitter.com/YMRCw5x5Qj
— WorkInSocialTheySaid (@WorkInSociaI) July 18, 2021
Here are seven skills that will help you become a successful freelance social media manager.
Social media management requires creating lots of captions, so copywriting is key. Freelance social media managers should be good at copywriting and editing, as the most effective social media posts are short, snappy, and witty.
What’s poppin? Is that a thing people say still? Anyway, the answer is this Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich. It rules.
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) February 23, 2021
Moreover, freelancing projects often come with higher expectations than a normal job: clients expect freelancers to deliver copy without any spelling and grammar mistakes. As a freelancer, you can subcontract an editor to double-check your work before delivering it to clients.
2. Photography and design
A freelance social media pro will often need to capture and create content for clients. This is where having skills in photography and design can come in handy.
Even if you’re not a Photoshop expert, tools like Canva make design super easy with templates tailored for social media posts.
In terms of photography, the best camera is the one you always have with you (aka your phone). Whether you’re recording videos for TikTok and Reels, or taking photos for Instagram and blog posts, today’s smartphones are fully capable of capturing content that meets the image specs and video specs of each social media platform.
3. Community management
Many businesses hire social media freelancers to outsource the more time-consuming aspects of social media, such as community management.
Community management usually involves monitoring inboxes and replying to DMs, engaging with post comments and mentions, interacting with other users, and moderating discussions.
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.
4. Analysis and reporting
As a team of one, freelancers often need to provide analysis and reporting on the client’s social channels. A good freelance social media manager should deliver a monthly report (here’s a free template) outlining the results of their work, such as audience growth, engagement rates, reach, and direct sales/conversions, if applicable.
5. Presentation & sales
Freelancers typically need to create a pitch or proposal for each prospective client and effectively sell it to land the gig at their desired rate (more on setting rates below).
One of the toughest mental aspects of being a freelancer is that clients can end projects at any time, so you’re always looking for your next client. The more pitches you do, the more comfortable you’ll get with selling your services (and you’ll also develop your own template and style).
6. Client relationship management
One of the key business aspects of being a freelance social media manager is building and maintaining client relationships.
Freelancers always answer to the client, which means they have to respect clients’ decisions on budgets, campaign messaging, visual assets, and more (which can be frustrating).
But that doesn’t mean that freelance social media managers should avoid pushing back on tactics and strategies. After all, clients pay freelance social media managers for their expertise.
As a social media freelancer, you have to wear many hats.
When working with small business clients with limited resources, you may be expected to step outside of typical normal social media duties. A client might ask you to help with other digital marketing tasks like writing blog posts, or even with logistics, like packing customer shipments. I once helped a client by working at their sales booth at a community event (and captured social content at the same time).
Step 1: Set up your business
Before you can start working with clients, you need to officially set up your business. The requirements for setting up a business differ from country to country, but generally involve:
- 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 what the criteria are for your situation).
- Getting your business license (which usually needs to be renewed every year).
- Creating a business bank account (optional, check with an accountant).
Once you’ve registered your freelance business, some optional steps would be creating a business email, website, and social media accounts (or at least reserve the handles for your business name, in case you decide to build them up later on).
Step 2: Build a portfolio
To land your first clients, you’ll need a portfolio to showcase your past work and skills. It doesn’t necessarily have to be created within a fancy website — for many clients, a PDF will do.
If you’ve only worked full-time corporate roles, you can use projects and examples from those roles as long as 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
The beauty of being a freelancer is that you have complete control over pricing your services.
Before setting out to find clients, you should do some research to figure out how much your time and expertise are worth. However, I always have discovery conversations with clients before actually sharing my rates with them – more on how to do this below.
Step 4: Put yourself out there
Now the hard work starts: finding clients. No matter how talented you are as a social media manager, you need to put yourself out there for clients to know that you’re available as a freelancer.
Here’s what works for me:
- Local community-based groups (Facebook, Slack): Many Slack and Facebook groups often have channels for jobs where members can post freelance opportunities. I’ve landed almost all my freelance projects through these types of groups.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn has recently added features for freelancers, such as indicating your availability for freelance work and listing your services on your profile. Once you launch your business, you should post to let your network know that you’re offering freelance services.
- Content marketing: If you want to build a longer-term stable source of client referrals, consider starting a newsletter, blog, or YouTube channel that covers topics that your prospective clients would be interested in (such as “social media tips for real estate agents”, or whatever your target industry is) and adding a CTA mentioning your freelance social media services.
- 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.
Check out this Twitter thread for more ideas on landing freelance clients:
I’m working on an article about landing a first freelance client.
Now, I’m curious. How did you land your first client as a freelancer? #FreelanceTwitter
— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@EmaPirciu) August 14, 2021
Setting rates can be one of the toughest hurdles to overcome as a social media freelancer. Thankfully, we’ve researched what social media freelancers are charging in 2021 to help guide you in setting your own rates.
Please note that these rates are just a benchmark and should be supplemented with your own research about freelance rates in your area and within your niche.
Before providing a quote to a prospective client, I recommend doing a “discovery call”. During this call, ask questions about the client’s business model, target customers, marketing budgets, KPIs, and any history working with freelance social media managers to uncover potential red flags.
Then, I start outlining the scope of work by asking questions like:
- What type of social media work are you looking for?
- What do you want to achieve on social media?
- How will we measure success? What social media KPIs are a priority?
- What’s the budget for organic and paid social media tactics?
The more complicated a project will be, the higher you should charge.
Now, on to the rates. Based on our research, freelance social media manager rates usually correspond to years of experience:
- Junior (0-2 years): $20-30/hr
- Mid-level (3-5 years): $40-75/hr
- Senior (5-8 years): $80-100/hr
- Expert (10+ years): $100-250/hr
One way to calculate your freelance rate is to increase your previous hourly rate as a salaried employee by 30%. You can also use a freelance rate calculator.
Keep in mind that as a freelancer, your rate needs to cover your overhead costs (business registration, taxes, supplies & expenses, etc.) and that the client isn’t giving you the stability of a permanent contract or benefits.
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.
However, if the project will require unpredictable or variable hours, an hourly rate will benefit you more as a freelancer. You can do a mix of both: a monthly retainer covering a list of deliverables/services, plus an hourly rate for any work above and beyond.
Advice for freelance friends:
– if leads are signing right away
– if you are drowning in work
– if you have zero free time for yourself
it’s *your* fault – you’re not charging enough.
Double your prices & hire help. YW.
— JH Scherck (@JHTScherck) August 12, 2021
1. Always keep your resume up to date
In addition to providing a portfolio, clients also usually want to see a resume. Make sure to update it with your most recent position and revise your bullet points to mention the skills and services that you’ll be offering to clients. You can use our free social media manager resume templates to get started.
2. Help yourself get paid
Unfortunately, one issue many freelancers face is not getting paid consistently and on time. 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.
Consider using invoicing software, which will enable you to send professional invoices with clear payment deadlines (some also have automatic payment reminders). Some software also provides contract templates.
Last tip: for one-off projects with defined amounts, ask for a 50% deposit upfront and the rest when work is completed. This ensures you still get paid for your time even if a client changes their mind during the project.
3. Learn how to say no
As a freelancer, there is constant pressure to take on clients or projects to pay your bills. Yet it’s equally important to learn how to say no to toxic clients, to smaller contracts that don’t meet your minimum, and to projects that become too stressful or difficult.
You can always pass on opportunities that don’t work for you to fellow freelancers.
4 Mistakes I Made Early On As A Freelancer:
1. Saying “yes” to every project.
2. Working around the clock on projects.
3.Undervaluing my rates.
4. Not requesting testimonials from clients.#freelancetwitter #freelancer pic.twitter.com/jOfIfmSgdH
— Minolta |Ghostwriter (@manuscriptqueen) August 12, 2021
4. Communicate with your clients
As a freelance social media manager, it is your responsibility to communicate well with your clients. In case of any delays, be prompt and transparent.
The best advice I’ve ever received as a freelancer is to underpromise and overdeliver on client expectations.
5. Understand business requirements and taxes
The best thing I ever did as a beginning freelancer was attending a workshop by an accountant who specialized in freelance businesses. She explained the steps to setting up a freelance business, how to track finances, which expenses to write off, and how to plan for tax filing.
Using accounting software like Wave or Freshbooks can help with invoicing and expenses. Another question worth consulting an accountant is whether you need to register for a tax number, which will impact how you bill clients.
6. Use social media management tools to save time
As a freelance social media manager, you’ll have to juggle sending invoices, creating proposals, and communicating with clients on top of doing the social media work itself.
Save yourself time and stress by using a social media management tool like Hootsuite to schedule posts, create analytics reports, and respond to comments and DMs, all from one dashboard.
Learn more about how Hootsuite can help you easily handle multiple clients’ social media accounts:
Save time managing your clients’ social media accounts with Hootsuite. Easily schedule posts, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across social networks. Try it free today.
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