The Ultimate Guide to Freelancing for the Lazy Social Media Manager

Process and organization

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Ultimate Guide to Freelancing for Lazy SMMs

SMMs wanting to go it alone may feel like the only downside is the workload. Bella gives her expert tips on how to keep your head above the water!

Jun 30, 2022
Update on
June 30, 2022
08 MIN.
Table of Contents

Being a freelance social media manager is hard work. You’ve got lots of clients to manage, different social media channels (and trends) to keep on top of and your own business to run.

It can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. 

It is possible to be an in demand social media manager without working yourself into the ground. 

Scroll down for the ultimate guide to freelancing for the lazy social media manager. 👇

Niche down

One of the best ways to freelance lazily is to work with similar types of clients. In other words, niche down.

That niche could be broad like food, fashion, or interior design or it could be more specific. For example, ecommerce start-ups, male business coaches, or pregnant women. 

The benefit of finding your niche is that you don’t have to context switch every time you move onto a different piece of work. While the specifics of the business, offer and audience might be different across clients, the themes will be largely the same. 

According to psychologist Gerald Weinberg, each extra task or ‘context’ you switch between eats up 20–80% of your overall productivity.

Take me as an example. A few of my clients work in the luxury interior design/architecture space. When I set aside time to create content and write marketing material for these different businesses on the same day, I end up being productive because I’m well and truly in the ‘luxury interiors’ zone. 

Pro tip: Niching down also helps in other small but significant ways, like tagging on social media. Now that I have a few businesses in the same industry, I’ve built up a great list of ‘feature’ Instagram accounts that I refer to when I want to tag my clients’ content. This saves me time having to conduct a new search for feature accounts in an entirely different industry.

Set up systems

Want to succeed as a lazy social media manager? Systems are about to become your new best friend.  

Seriously, if you take nothing else from this article - I hope you do! - let it be this step right here. Because it’s what keeps most freelance social media managers working much harder than they need to. 

You can have a system for almost anything:

  • Client acquisition
  • Creating content
  • Email funnels
  • Client onboarding and offboarding
  • Customer service
  • Inbox management
  • Administration
  • Finances

And if you’re ever going to earn more money for less work, you must learn to remove yourself from the day-to-day operations of your business. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hire someone. But it does mean setting up systems that speed up processes. 

Then, when the time comes, those systems can be handed over to an employee or contractor to carry out the non-urgent but extremely important tasks of organising and optimising how your business functions.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start with systems, try this: review your website and/or social media channels to see how easy it is for someone to enquire about your services. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I list my services and pricing clearly on my website?
  • How many clicks or scrolls (from them landing on my website) does it take for someone to send me an enquiry email/fill out a form? The fewer clicks/scrolls the better
  • When they enquire, have I got an automated response set up to let them know I’ve received their email and when they should expect to get a response?
  • If I’m using a call scheduling software like Calendly, is this synced correctly with my iCal/GCal / do I have specific times allocated for calls?

Streamlining the journey from someone discovering you to enquiring about your services (whether that’s through a discovery call or filling out a form) is an example of a system that shouldn’t require any manual work from your side.

For example, if all you’ve got on your website is a call-to-action that says ‘send me an email at this address and I’ll get back to you’, this is a missed opportunity (and a big waste of time).

Without easily screening potential clients with a series of qualifying questions, you risk wasting precious time communicating with people who aren’t an ideal fit. 

Automate as much as you can

If you want to freelance like the lazy social media manager I know you are, then automations are key. 

Here are just some of the everyday tasks you should automate (now!) - and most of them can be easily set up inside the relevant software or through your email provider:

  • Send recurring invoices
  • Request client testimonials
  • Track your time
  • Schedule social media (your own!)
  • Email automations
  • Automatic appointment booking and reminders

If you’re starting any of these tasks from scratch each month then it’s time to set up automations. Once you do you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start reaping the benefits of increased productivity, lower stress levels, and more time to relax.

Pro tip: The ultimate tool for the lazy social media manager is a scheduler. With Iconosquare’s scheduler you can ensure your content reaches the right people at the right time thanks to features including ‘Best Time to Post’, ‘First Comment Scheduler’ and ‘User Tagging’. Try your 30-day free trial now!

Calendar block

Contrary to what you might think, one of the best ways to be a lazy freelance social media manager is to be vigilant with your time. That starts with calendar blocking.

Calendar blocking is when you block off a spot on your calendar and allocate a set number of hours to a single task. In doing so, you eliminate other distractions outside of the specific task by blocking off your time - and your mind - from other projects. 

Have you ever been working on a task that you know should take 30 minutes but ends up consuming your entire day? This is what’s known as Parkinson’s Law, the idea that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” 

To beat this, calendar blocking has become an incredibly popular productivity tool for freelancers. Rather than a to-do list, which tells you what you need to do, calendar blocking tells you when you’re going to do it. 

The trick with calendar blocking is to dedicate a chunk of time to one task and ideally prioritise more complex tasks first. As a social media freelancer, you’re used to doing a million jobs in one day from client work to emails to invoicing to marketing your own business. 

Pro tip: If you’re most productive in the morning, block time for client work - the money making activity - first thing, before you check your inbox or social media. This way you’re capitalising on your capacity to focus without getting distracted by ‘shallow work’. Find out more about ‘deep work’ and ‘shallow work’ in our article on time management for freelancers.

Create templates

I couldn’t write a guide to freelancing for the lazy social media manager and not talk about templates. I love using templates in my business to speed up tasks I do over and over again for different clients.

Here are some of the templates I currently use as a freelance social media manager:

  • Captions
  • Social media graphics
  • Proposals
  • Content calendars
  • Strategy decks

I templatize as much as I can - especially social media content, because this can be so time consuming to create from scratch. 

How do I do this? 

When I review a client’s social media insights for the month I will pay particularly close attention to the best performing content. Then I will templatize it. This way I can replicate the success of that content again and again, helping my client to grow and giving their audience more of what they want.

That means less brain power from me ✅ and more opportunity to be lazy! 🙌

Try it yourself. Look over your Instagram insights from the last 30 days and pick the best performing post. Let’s say it’s a photo of you and a caption that generated a ton of comments and saves. Study the caption:

  • How does it start: Do you ask a question? Compare X with Y? Make a polarising statement?
  • How is the caption structured?
  • What’s the key takeaway: Tips? Personal insights? Inspiring message?
  • How does it end?

Strip away as much of the caption as possible until you’re left with the pointers above. Now you should be able to write a caption similar in structure to the high-performing one. 

Raise your rates

Want to do less work for more money and fulfil your role as a true lazy social media freelancer? Then it’s time to raise your rates!

Now of course, there are a few caveats to this step:

  1. You need to have some experience/a portfolio of work
  2. You can demonstrate results (e.g. increased engagement by X amount)
  3. You’ve got a few glowing client testimonials

As you get more experienced, it’s important to evaluate your rate at least once a year. If you’re stuck on the same one year-in and year-out, you’ll be earning less over time as inflation eats away at your income.

It’s easier to raise your rates for new clients because they’re not used to working with you for a cheaper fee. For your existing clients, that conversation can feel a little trickier - but it doesn’t have to be. 

Give them enough warning (at least 6-8 weeks) and explain how the change in rates benefits them with reference to some of the results you’ve provided since working together. If you’re looking for a good freelance rate increase email template, here’s a good place to start

And please, don’t charge by the hour! This is not the way to go if you want to be a lazy social media manager. Time is a limited resource and if you’re charging by the hour you’ll only ever earn as much as there are hours available. 

For example, if you charge £50 an hour and work a 40-hour week, the maximum you’ll earn is £2000. That doesn’t take into account all the time you spend on admin, marketing, pitching, and so on - all of which takes time and isn’t billable to the client. If you added up the time for those tasks, suddenly that £2000 is looking more like £1000.

Charging by the hour also doesn’t incentivize you to be fast. Remember Parkinson’s Law above? If you’re being paid to do 3 hours of work, you’re going to spend 3 hours doing that work even if in reality it’ll take you just 1. And those are 2 precious hours you could be dedicating to laziness!

Keep in touch with past clients

One of my favourite tips to freelance the lazy way is to foster great relationships with your existing clients and keep in touch with them once the contract has ended.

Why?

Because they’re your best - and easiest - source of future income. Trying to find new clients, go through the pitch process, and draw up proposals takes time and effort. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll win the business.

Your existing clients on the other hand already know, like, and trust you. You’ve proven yourself through great work and (hopefully!) good results, so winning future business from them will be infinitely easier. Especially because most businesses won’t want to go through the effort of having to replace you. 

Even if your time working together does come to a natural end, it’s very likely they’ll get back in touch. This has happened to me multiple times with a client I’ve been working on and off with for the last three years. 

To keep your clients happy and guarantee long-term relationships, put some rules and processes in place. For example:

  • Send a weekly or monthly report to your client 
  • Set a recurring calendar item once a week to hold a client update call
  • Agree how long you’ll take to respond to client communications (1, 2, 3 hours?)

Communication is the key to a great client relationship so find a process that works for both of you and stick to it.

Build an email list

If you haven’t set up an email list yet, that’s the first thing I want you to do once you’ve finished reading this article.

With an email list, you can nurture your subscribers, generate interest in your services, and book more clients. Just type ‘email marketing ROI’ into Google and you’ll see a ton of stats praising the effectiveness of email over social media for customer acquisition.

Personally, I prefer to combine email marketing and social media to generate awareness and drum up more business. But there’s no denying the power of email. 

It’s a surefire way to stay in touch with your audience when social media algorithms (and fatigue) get in the way.  Plus you never know where your next client will come from. Someone reading your emails might have a friend who’s looking for a social media freelancer. After being nurtured by your brilliant (and consistent!) emails, they pass your details on. That’s happened to me multiple times and it can happen to you too. 

Here’s what to do next if you’ve not yet set up your email list:

  1. Read our article all about how to grow your email list with Instagram marketing
  2. Choose your email marketing platform (I recommend ConvertKit or Mailchimp for beginners)
  3. Brainstorm lead magnet ideas (a free guide/lesson/template you give in exchange for an email address)
  4. Create a lead magnet
  5. Connect your lead magnet to your email marketing platform and automate a short welcome email sequence for people that subscribe
  6. Promote your lead magnet!

Once you’ve set up your lead magnet, it’s time to regularly email your list. 

As mentioned above, systemising this process is going to make your life a million times easier. Whether that’s batch-writing 3-4 emails at once or choosing a set day and time to write your weekly email, find a process that works for you and make it a non-negotiable part of your schedule. 

Set boundaries

A major success factor in your quest to be a lazy social media manager is setting boundaries with clients. 

You’ll never be able to switch off if clients think they can Whatsapp you questions at all hours of the day and expect a reply. Too often freelancers get caught in the trap of doing additional tasks for clients without being properly compensated. And while it’s important to provide a great client experience, that shouldn’t come at the expense of time or money.

The best way to set clear boundaries is to implement them at the start of every relationship both contractually and in your initial proposal. Here are some other ways to maintain boundaries as a freelance social media manager:

  • Always have a contract in place, no matter how well you know the client before you begin working together
  • Track your time so that if additional work is required, you have evidence to show your client exactly how much these ‘small’ tasks are adding up
  • Include your policy and your terms on your website and point new clients to these (even if a contract is in place) so they’re aware of the rules 
  • Set working hours (e.g. Mon-Fri 10am-5pm) and a response time (e.g. 2 hours) so that your clients know exactly when they can expect a reply 

Conclusion

Being a lazy social media freelancer is the dream, right?! It’s certainly mine. 😉 

It takes some up front work to get there, but once you’ve niched down and put your systems, automations, and boundaries in place, it’s going to be a lot easier to create a balanced freelance life.

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Copywriter @Iconosquare

Hey! I'm Bella. Super curious about any new feature released on social media platforms. I do have a preference for Instagram, even though each platform has its specificity ;)

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