Over 90% of marketers use social media to attract new business, but less than 15% are confident in their execution. That has opened a huge market for interested freelancers. Everyone from bloggers and direct sales consultants to large brands is looking for social media managers. And, even better news, a formal degree is rarely required to be a social media manager from home.
What does a Social Media Manager do?
Social media management can be called many things and it encompasses many aspects of the online marketing portfolio:
- Content marketing
- Public relations
- Customer service
- Social media strategy
- Community growth & management
Some of the tasks you may be able to offer your clients:
- Scheduling social media updates
- Sourcing viral content for sharing
- Community growth & outreach
- Responding to customer service issues
- Reporting on reach, traffic & growth
- Creating social media images
- Setting up profiles
- SEO – yep, social updates need keywords too
- Sharing popular posts & sales pages on a regular basis
- Paid advertising
You do not need to offer everything on the list, but you should be able to provide a good overall strategy. A client does not want to hire three different social media managers to cover the basics. At a minimum, social media managers today should be able to provide the following:
Source Engaging Information – You are the voice behind the social profile in most cases. You are interacting with followers and sharing interesting information. You are keeping tabs on the latest industry news and passing it along to spark discussions and engagement.
Respond to Customer Service Issues – We don’t like to wait 24-48 hours for an email response these days. We want our questions or concerns addressed ASAP. Many turn to social media channels as a result. You are keeping an eye out for issues both directly (@mentions) and indirectly (mentions on blogs or social media that are not necessarily addressed to you personally). These aren’t always bad! The good mentions should be acknowledged as well.
Grow the Community on a Continuous Basis – As a business owner and/or blogger yourself, you know the new customer outreach never ends. It may be more aggressive in the beginning, but you must continually get your client’s name out there. This is where trending topics, hashtags and industry news can get you ahead.
Stay on Top of the Latest Platforms, Best Practices and Policy Changes – I don’t need to tell you things change constantly around here. Keep an eye out for new platforms that may be of interest, changes to privacy and advertising policies and how your clients’ competitors are connecting with followers in general.
Be Able to Bring New Ideas to the Table – One of the hardest things about your job may be going to a client to say, “what you’ve been doing really isn’t working (or it’s just wrong).” Rarely am I met with resistance however. If a train wreck is foreseeable, you need to bring attention to it. If there is a tactic you know will greatly increase engagement or conversions, say something.
Know How to Report Successes and Failures – This is a results-driven job, which is one of the reasons I love it. Analytics are available for almost every platform today, whether it is onsite or through an app. Know where to find this information so you can provide it to your clients. Show them “on paper” what changes can be made and the results you anticipate or are experiencing.
Always Remain Professional and Provide a Consistent Voice – Followers should never know when someone else is behind the social media helm. If you are working with one or two other people, there should be no, “wait until after 3 to voice complaints on Facebook because that’s when the nice people come on” from your clients’ followers. It should be seamless.
Be Accountable – There is always going to be some experimentation with social media so when things don’t go as planned, own it.
How Much Do Social Media Managers Make?
Because of the wide range of skills and tasks that a social media manager may employ, salary ranges from around $22,000 per year to over $115,000 per year. Obviously, if your skills are entry-level and the things you can bring to the table are limited, you are looking at a lower pay scale. But, social media is very much a self-taught skill. You can learn more and do more for your clients as you see fit.
Skills You’ll Need to Become a Social Media Manager
Most freelance Social Media Managers are not formally training. Sure. If you want to work with Kraft, they are probably going to require a marketing degree. However, the average blogger or home business owner will not.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need a few basic skills:
- Grammar – trolls love to call out misspellings and grammar errors, you need great grammar to ensure your client looks professional at all times
- Research – social media is so much more than broadcasting your own stuff, you will need to know where to find great viral content to share in addition to your client’s stuff
- Time management – every freelancer needs to be motivated and accountable
- Great customer service – if you want to be the
facevoice of a business, you need to treat their customers with the utmost respect at all times
I have taken a lot of great courses related to social media. Your needs will be dependent on where you are in terms of experience and the services you want to offer clients. You do not need everything on this list and should only buy things of interest to you and the clients you want to work with. Unless it’s an A-to-Z course like Andrea’s Social Media School, wait to buy until you’ve done a little experimenting for yourself and found the areas you truly love and want to excel in.
- Andrea Vahl offers several courses related to social media, some specific to Facebook.
- Alexis Grant has a guide on developing a social media strategy that I mentioned before. She also has one on how to start a part-time social media business.
- Kristin & Gina have a very popular course on How to Become a Pinterest VA.
- Kate Buck is another powerhouse in the SMM world. Her Social Media Manager ProSocial Media Manager Pro course is open year-round.
Build Your Own Following
We spoke earlier about the very basics you should be able to cover for a client – scheduling, sourcing and customer service. The best place for you to start learning is with your own profiles. Very few people will hire you without being able to show you are on the major platforms.
Create profiles for your freelance services on the major networks; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. Though you may not offer services for all of them, these will be a place for you to learn and experiment before implementing tactics on your clients’ profiles. And, these are great places to start connecting with potential clients, too!
Once you have your Pages and profiles created, it’s time to start learning. I’m going to link you to some heavy-hitting courses at the end of this post, but let’s start with some basics. Many of these courses are free.
- Hootsuite offers a free course that covers the basics. You can also take their paid course if you decide Hootsuite is the social media scheduler you would like to use.
- Constant Contact has a Quickstarter program that covers the basics of the major networks.
- Buffer has a free email course that will let you Learn Social Media in 2 Minutes per Day. You’re not going to learn everything there is about social media, of course, but it’s a good beginner starting point.
- Buffer has another good email series that includes 25 strategies in 25 days. Experiment with these on your own profiles and keep the winners for your clients.
One thing I really like about the trainings offered by popular tools is that they are usually really up-to-date on the latest tactics and best practices. It can take months to update traditional curriculum. Online resources can change their resources on the fly.
Set Your Rates
In most cases, social media managers have preset monthly packages that include specific tasks and a set number for those tasks rather than billing hourly. For example, a SMM may charge $250 for scheduling 6 daily Facebook updates per month. Another may charge $450 per month for daily Facebook and Twitter updates, customer service and community growth.
Hourly rates can range from $15 to over $200 per hour. Your rates will be determined by the skill level required for the tasks you are offering and your experience. Services like Facebook Ads and Promoted Pins warrant a much higher rate because of the advanced training involved. Someone working for five years with high-level clients can get a higher rate than someone just starting out.
Develop a Strategy
It’s so important to have a strategy to pitch potential clients. When I’m looking for help, I want someone to say, “for $$ I post this many times per day which includes your posts, popular posts from your industry and this other thing.” I do not want to hear, “I charge $/hour and I’ll post whatever you want.” If I knew what I wanted, I’d post it myself.
As you were experimenting and learning with your own profiles, you should have seen trends emerging. Certain things work and certain things don’t. And that can vary by profile and platform, but you should have an inkling on timing, frequency and content type, and you should be able to change things up to meet your client’s needs and stay on-target with their voice and subject matter.
These strategies are also going to help you develop your service packages. Don’t go crazy with too many options. Instead, I’d start with three packages for your clients to choose from – one that’s lower priced and covers the basics on a single platform, one that adds in a few extras or additional platforms for an additional fee, and one that’s “diamond level.”
If you aren't yet comfortable enough to pitch your services, you can always ask someone “in the biz” if they would be willing to let you shadow them or coach you for a few hours. Please expect to be charged a fee or barter services in exchange for their time.
Create a Website
You do not need a full-fledged blog-type website to promote your services, but you do need a website to send interested parties to learn more about you and what you have to offer. When you are starting out, you can simply include a little about you and list your service packages and contact information. You can seriously have this setup in an afternoon. It isn’t difficult.
Bluehost is a perfectly fine host for a small freelance site. It’s easy to setup and your hosting package comes with a free domain name.
Once you have your hosting and domain registered, you need to install WordPress. Head over to your control panel and hit the Install WordPress button (this is easy to find on almost any host today). In Bluehost, you will navigate to the MOJO Marketplace > One-Click Installs > WordPress. In Hostgator, you will go to Services/Software > Quick Installs > WordPress. Click it. Done. Seriously. It takes two steps.
Next, you need to visit your new WordPress dashboard. There will be a link to this in your control panel after you install WP. It’s usually yoursite.com/wp-admin or something similar. Bookmark this link. It’s where you will go from now on. Rarely will you need to visit that hosting control panel.
Next up, you need a good basic theme. To get you started, I’d recommend a simple one-page theme that allows you to fill in the blanks. There are thousands to choose from, but here are a few of my favorite picks in different price ranges:
Now, just navigate to the Appearance > Themes > Add New section of your WordPress dashboard. Once your new theme is installed, click Activate. You can now start modifying those sections as instructed by your theme creator. A tutorial was likely linked to on that product page where you downloaded the theme.
Once everything is setup and you are happy with the look and feel of your new site, it’s time to start promoting. Add your URL to your social media profiles and email signature and let’s find some work.
Get Some Social Media Clients
You’ve been learning and playing around with the platforms and tools, and you love it! You’re ready to start making money as a social media manager. But where do you find clients?
Multi-VA Firms – There are a few firms that hire social media managers. You need to keep in mind the wage will likely be a lot less than you can get on your own. However, they can be a good place to get your feet wet and get a little experience under your belt. These positions may not be available at all times. Below are the listings to look for on the company’s job board. In addition to these, I’d also recommend a short-term membership to FlexJobs. They research their leads and only list legit telecommute positions.
- Mod Squad Social Media Moderator
- Appen Social Media Evaluator
- Affinity Social Media Moderator
- eaHelp Virtual Social Media Assistant
Pitching – This is a fine art every freelancer needs to embrace. It’s the fastest way to finding the work you want with clients you want to work with. Make a note every time you run across someone online that you would like to work with. Craft an awesome email offering your services. Don’t be spammy. Start a conversation. Don’t send form letters. Make each contact personal. I highly recommend using HubSpot Sales to track your emails for opens. It’s free and can let you know if people are getting your emails and when it’s time to move on.
Conferences and meetups – Almost every blogging or business conference has a freelance marketplace where you can set up a table and meet with interested parties. This can be an awesome opportunity, especially if you prefer working with a specific industry like financial bloggers or real estate agents.
Ask for referrals – Any time you are looking for more work, your first stop should be letting your colleagues, friends and existing clients know. You never know who knows someone in need of your help. Just a quick “I have room for another client in need of social media assistance” may be all it takes.
Guest posting on B2B sites – Pitch guest post submissions to popular marketing blogs in your target niche. In those articles, share your social media expertise. In your author byline, let people know about your service offerings and welcome them back to your URL.
Get on a Schedule
Once you start getting clients, you need to get yourself on a schedule ASAP. Things can get out of hand quickly if you are working with multiple clients.
My personal social media plan includes four goals; traffic to my site, subscribers to my email list, making sales, expanding my social media reach. To meet those goals, I share specific content; new and popular blog posts, landing pages for my opt-in boxes, affiliate links, viral content from others. My scheduling strategy reflects those content needs.
Once I developed my strategy, I established my schedule for getting that done. Sunday nights or Monday mornings I schedule my social media updates in my social media scheduler. Every morning, I take a few minutes to check my stats and for spam. Before I shut down in the evening, I’ll check again for spam and comments that need answered. I do not babysit my profiles all day. I spend about 30 minutes to an hour a week on scheduling and then just a few minutes each day.
Alexis Grant has a great guide on creating a social media strategy that you can use for yourself and clients.
There are some awesome schedulers out there that will not only provide you with scheduling ability to save you time, they can also offer awesome reports, moderation capabilities and more.
SproutSocial is my favorite all-around social media management suite. You can not only schedule posts, but it also offers awesome analytics and the ability to moderate and respond to comments right in your dashboard. It’s not cheap, however. It starts at $59 per month for 5 profiles.
Buffer is cool for scheduling, but doesn’t offer much in the way of community growth. It doesn’t have any outreach or networking ability. It’s cheap though. The Awesome Plan is just $10 per month.
I am very much a numbers girl and don’t know how people can succeed online otherwise. You don’t know what’s working and what’s not unless you know where you started. Your job as a social media manager is to deliver results – plain and simple. Therefore, you need to be able to provide your clients with proof of those results and offer feedback on strategy.
When choosing your social media tools, I’d recommend picking one that offers reporting.
I’m a learner. It’s one of the reasons I love working online so much. Every day I can wake up to something new – new experimentation, new tools, new platforms. And the ability and desire to do that is what keeps businesses moving forward and ahead of the late implementers. For you to stay ahead of your competition, you need to embrace the learning lifestyle as well.
Learn New Tools – There are so many tools – with new ones popping up every day – that will make your SMM life easier and provide your clients with better results. Keep a tab on the top social media blogs and marketing blogs specific to your chosen niche. Join a few social media manager Facebook Groups as well to help keep up on the trends.
Learn to Create Images – Visual marketing is big right now. Being able to create images for sharing on social media and for use in social media headers can provide an additional income stream.
Advertising – Paid promotion is huge, but there is such a learning curve most businesses and bloggers are slow to implement it with any success. Most platforms offer some type of free training. You will also find some great paid courses from platform experts available. Remember, experiment with your own profiles first!
SEO – Social media updates need optimized for search, too. Pinterest has become a search engine of its own. And I can’t tell you how many times per week I search Facebook for information related to my industry knowing I’ll find more conversation and feedback that I will find reading blog posts. You don’t necessarily need to learn about things like backlinks and anchor text unless you are also offering blog writing services, but you should learn about keywords. Kissmetrics has a great tutorial on social media keywords.