Process and organization
According to a recent report, freelancers are the fastest-growing segment of the European labor market. So let’s first run through the key things to consider.
So, you’re thinking about becoming a freelance social media manager?
Yay! 🎉 This is going to be one exciting ride.
The good news is - you’re not alone. According to a recent report, freelancers are the fastest-growing segment of the European labor market.
But before you jump in with both feet, let’s run through the key things to consider and take you from overwhelmed ➡️ exited.
Keep reading to discover how to set up, grow, and scale your freelance social media manager business for success.
Before we get into any of the administrative or logistical elements of setting up as a freelance social media manager, let’s first talk about the work itself.
Whether you’re currently in a 9-5 job, studying or working as a freelancer in another capacity, knowing where your first social media manager paycheck is coming from will help smooth the transition.
So, where can you find work as a freelance social media manager?
Besides sites like Indeed and LinkedIn, here are some great platforms to browse freelance gigs:
The great thing about Upwork is the number of creators, YouTubers and online business owners who come to the platform to seek support with their websites, blogs and social channels.
Fiverr is a great place to find freelance social media manager jobs. There’s lots of new positions posted daily and plenty of brands and businesses searching for the right candidates.
There are lots of Facebook groups to join that are filled with business owners looking for people to hire and collaborate with. Not only can a Facebook group provide you your first freelance social media manager job (or jobs!), but they’re also a great place to connect with likeminded people. A couple of my favourites include The Social Bungalow and Living the Laptop Life.
Don’t forget to leverage your existing network, too. I got my first freelance social media manager job through an ex-colleague.
A few months before I gave notice at my job, I contacted friends and former colleagues to let them know I would soon be a freelance social media manager available to hire.
That’s how, when my last day of full-time employment rolled around, I had a 3-month contract lined up thanks to a referral made by my aforementioned ex-colleague.
Taxes and expenses aren’t things you need to think about when working in full-time employment. As a result, many freelancers find themselves in a sticky situation when tax return deadlines roll around and they haven’t done any (or very little!) bookkeeping.
As a freelance social media manager you have a couple of options: Manage your bookkeeping and tax returns yourself, or hire an accountant to help you.
I chose the latter to give me peace of mind and provide me access to experts that I can turn to whenever I’m not sure about my finances. It’s a small monthly investment, but the time it saves me trying to figure things out for myself - not to mention the time spent on filling out forms that I don’t understand - is worth it.
So, before you go full-throttle with your freelance business, research your options and decide which is best for you. If you’re a maths whizz and don’t mind learning how to do tax returns while your business is still in its early days, then perhaps you don’t need an accountant just yet.
There’s no right or wrong - as long as you’ve given it some thought and weighed up the pros and cons of all options, then you won’t be in for any nasty surprises when tax return season is upon us!
If you’re working with an accountant, they can usually point you in the right direction to get set up correctly as self-employed.
As a new business owner you’ll need to tell the government you’re now self employed/operating as a company.
The specifics differ from country to country, so do your research or find out from freelance friends the process they went through to register.
This is something that slipped to the bottom of my to-do list for far too long. 😬
But just like your home, your life, and your pet, you’ve got to protect your business, too!
Insurance will cover you against any unforeseen circumstances, such as faulty equipment, data breaches, or a tricky client challenging your work.
If you have an accountant, they may recommend a company to use for your insurance or you can do as I did and take to Google. A quick browse gave me lots of different policies to choose from, from as little as £10 per month.
Warning: You do not, I repeat do not need a fancy website to get started as a freelance social media manager.
The key information you need on your website is:
There’s heaps of DIY website builders out there including Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy. Most offer a free service and while you’re getting started, you can keep your website as simple as a one-page landing page.
Just remember: The less people have to click and scroll to find out the key information about the services you offer and the type of clients you work with, the better!
From Iconosquare to Canva to BuzzSumo (and everything in between), I’m sure you’ve built up an arsenal of social media tools you love using day-to-day.
Those are the social media tools that help you create amazing client work.
But what about the tools that enable you to run your business more efficiently?
I’m talking about tools for collaboration, productivity, invoicing, and client management. You’ll figure most of these out as you go, but it’s worth thinking about which parts of your business you can systemise and automate now. Trust me - it’ll save you time in the long-run!
No idea where to start? Here’s a list of my go-to tools:
Ahh, pricing. One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a freelance social media manager, for sure.
A great place to start is by asking around any freelance friends or acquaintances (with similar experience) to see if they’d be happy to share their rates with you.
Depending on where you’re based, there are usually some good resources online featuring the average day rate of freelancers from different industries. And of course, you can take a look at other social media freelancers’ websites (in your region) to see how much they charge.
Besides your research, remember that the lowest income you need to generate each month has to cover your expenses (rent, bills, taxes, insurance, tools, etc.).
Once you have that number, work out how many billable hours you want to work each month. You can use that to calculate your hourly rate - or use a calculator like this one to help.
If the thought of networking makes your skin crawl… don’t fear! It used to make me feel like that, too.
However, now that I’m a social media freelancer it’s something I really enjoy. Why? Probably because I love the work I’m doing, I really believe in it, and I’ve seen the positive benefits of connecting with new people on a regular basis.
Networking doesn’t always lead to a job immediately, but getting my name out there has led to lots of opportunities and introductions with individuals and companies that have gone on to request my services.
If you’re wondering how you can start networking, I suggest doing a simple Google search of groups in your area. This is how I found a female networking group that I joined in January 2020. These monthly meetings have proved invaluable to both my business and my confidence. And they’ve been a fantastic way to meet new people who are in the same boat as me.
But networking groups don’t have to be local, of course. There are heaps of online communities (both free and paid) that you can join to expand your network. Here are some of them:
Sharing testimonials is one of the best ways - if not the best way - to attract new clients and grow your social media freelancing business.
It’s the social proof prospective clients need to see to know that investing in your services isn’t a risk. Other people have seen great results and therefore they could, too.
I recommend getting organised now, before client work becomes too demanding. Develop a simple step-by-step system you can use with every client.
For example, you could include a section in your contract that mentions the provision of a testimonial a certain number of days after your work ends.
In the meantime, prepare a short feedback form that you can send to clients (with minimal customisation required) immediately after you finish working together. Add reminders to your calendar so you don’t forget, and make sure to share these as often as possible on social media and your website.
Remember, lots of testimonials are the best way to drum up new business! According to a recent survey, 79% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.
Along with testimonials, keeping your portfolio updated is one of those things that often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.
To avoid this from happening - and to make sure any prospects are up-to-speed with your latest and greatest clients, campaigns and capabilities - set aside time every couple of months to make updates.
Depending on your workload this may take a few hours - it may require a whole day. But if you schedule it in well in advance, this process won’t feel rushed or like it’s detracting from your important client work.
Depending on where you’re based, it’s likely that you’ll be one of many social media managers available for hire. For that reason, it can be extremely beneficial to figure out what makes you different from the competition. In other words, your “unique selling point”.
It could be that you only work with one type of client or one social media platform. Perhaps you offer just one type of service.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure about your USP right now. Defining this comes with time, experience and better understanding the kind of work that makes you happiest.
For example, I’m a freelance Instagram strategist who works with business owners in a 1:1 capacity, helping them to develop high-converting marketing strategies.
Niching down to focus solely on one social media platform hasn’t hindered my growth. In fact, it’s helped build my reputation as an expert who knows (almost!) everything there is to know about the weird and wonderful world of Instagram.
And I’ve had no problem finding clients who would prefer to work with someone who has a single focus, rather than a seemingly broader knowledge of a variety of social media platforms.
Something that doesn’t come naturally to many social media freelancers is self-promotion. However, there’s never been a more important time to shout about your amazing work.
That’s because the online world is incredibly noisy. Social media freelancers aren’t a rare breed so to stand out, you need to be willing to talk explicitly about your ideal clients, the type of work you do, and the results you’ve achieved.
Factoring this into your marketing content calendar will help you do this on a regular basis. At least once per week, share an Instagram post or Story (or both!) about your current availability and desired clients/projects.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that talking about your services is overkill or that people already know what you do.
If you’re familiar with the marketing concept “Rule of Seven”, you’ll know that prospective buyers need to hear the same message at least seven times before they really hear it. And certainly before they consider buying from you.
While it may seem to you like you’re repeating yourself, think of how many messages people receive every single day from various brands, businesses, peers, friends, and family they follow online.
It’s a huge amount and if you’re going to cut through the noise and get your message heard, you need to promote yourself - a lot!
Invest in yourself
As you grow and your freelance income becomes more predictable, start putting money aside each month to go towards your personal development.
Trust me, I know what an indulgence it can feel like to spend money on yourself.
However, investing in programs and products that expand your skill set is essential if you want to keep growing as a freelancer.
In the last 12 months I’ve spent more than £5000 on courses and communities that have massively improved my selling, writing, and (product) launching skills. But I’ll be honest - it definitely took some learning (or unlearning) to realise that trying to do everything myself wasn’t noble or impressive.
In fact, this is the quickest way to burn out. I’m one human being who can’t become a master at everything - at least not without the support and expertise of people who’ve been in my position and know what to do (and not do) to be successful.
I know for a fact that without these investments, I wouldn't be where I am today. So, do your research, don’t make any investments that will get you into debt - but besides that, don’t be afraid to invest in you. It’ll be the best money you ever spend.
You need to rest and recoup to be able to grow. Now read that again, because if you’re anything like 99% of social media freelancers, then you probably won’t stop for air during the first few months (or even years) running your own business.
And I don’t want that to be you! Because you are your most important asset. And if you’re burnt out or sick, there’s no one to replace you to keep the business moving (at least not in the beginning of your freelance career).
The single easiest way to avoid this is by taking regular breaks. Schedule holidays into your diary. Take the occasional afternoon off. Your business won’t grind to a halt and you’ll stay engaged with your work and clients, able to work at full capacity because you’re getting the regular, rejuvenating breaks you need.
So here’s your permission slip - because I know you need it. Go schedule some time off in your calendar now. You don’t need to go anywhere. You just need to be able to close your laptop, switch off your phone and not do any work for a few days.
Follow-up with past clients and prospects
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since becoming a freelance social media manager is that there really is business (and money!) in the follow up.
If you’ve ever done any kind of sales training, you’ll be familiar with this concept. Staying in touch with leads is essential to generating new and repeat business.
One of the best ways to do this is to add reminders in your diary to check-in with past clients and contacts that didn’t become clients for whatever reason.
These people already know who you are. They’re familiar with your services and capabilities. Therefore, they’re the easiest people to convert.
So often, all it takes is one message sent at the right time for lapsed conversations (about working together) to start back up again - so make this follow-up part of your monthly (or bi-monthly) schedule!
Grow your email list
Speaking of keeping in touch, starting and growing your email list is an invaluable way to generate clients as a freelance social media manager.
According to OptinMonster, email marketing has an ROI of 4400% with the average order value of an email at least three times higher than that of social media.
There’s lots of email service providers out there to suit every freelancer’s needs including MailChimp, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, and Constant Contact.
I recommend doing some research to find out which one would be right for you - and don’t worry too much about which one you start with. The most important thing is just to start.
To actually get people to hand over their email list and join your list, you’ll need a lead magnet. A free PDF, video, or template that gives your ideal clients a “quick win”. This shouldn’t be hugely long or detailed - think about the common questions you get and package up one of the answers into something easy and digestible.
And if you’re wondering how often you should be emailing your list, a couple of times a month is fine to begin with. This regular drumbeat of communication will help keep you front of mind with your subscribers and potential clients.
Congratulations, you made it to the end of the guide and should now be feeling more prepared to become a freelance social media manager… right?
Don’t panic if you’re still feeling a little trepidation - that’s completely normal. Nothing prepares you for freelance life quite like actually doing it. Trust that you know the essential information and go start your freelancing journey. Good luck!
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