Ready to jump on the Great Resignation bandwagon and become your own boss? If you’re a social media manager who is keen to go out on their own, you might be thinking about launching your own freelance business.
As a social media freelancer, you get to team up with a portfolio of clients and help them level up their social media marketing. Plus, you get to choose exactly who you work with, what kind of projects you take on and even set your own rates.
However, there’s plenty of competition out there in the freelance SMM space. So, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know before becoming a freelance marketer and how to stand out as a freelance social media manager.
What is a freelance social media manager?
A freelance social media manager is a social media marketing expert who assists businesses of all sizes to elevate their social presence.
Typically, freelance social media managers work with multiple clients at once, from small businesses to startups and even established brands.
Some SMMs juggle their freelance business with a full-time job in social media or digital marketing, while others work entirely for themselves.
By having specialised skills in social media marketing, these freelancers are able to offer tailored support to businesses that don’t have an in-house marketing team (but understand the value of building an engaged social media community).
What does a freelance SMM do?
While some freelance SMMs work with clients in a particular niche (such as beauty, fashion, fitness or even finance), the key skills needed to be a freelance social media marketer is universal.
In broad terms, a freelance social media marketer is responsible for the strategy, creation, publishing, and reporting of a clients’ social media content. Plus, they should be fostering an active and engaged network of followers through proactive community management.
Typically, the core services offered by SMM freelancers include:
- Social media strategy creation: developing social media objectives, content pillars, tone of voice guidelines, and posting schedules to help clients hit their business goals.
- Content calendar management: coming up with the post topics, key messages and phasing of social media posts across the clients’ different social media platforms.
- Social media content creation: from designing graphics to filming Instagram Reels and TikToks to capturing click-worthy photography.
- Copywriting: crafting on-brand captions and social media copy that will convince and convert audiences into paying customers.
- Social media content scheduling: using tools and platforms to schedule posts ahead of time and ensure every piece of content is published at the right time.
- Community management: monitoring social media activity, responding to messages and comments and sparking engagement from a client’s audience.
- Social media reporting: digging through a client’s insights and analytics and developing monthly social media reports.
With so many moving parts and platforms constantly releasing new features, social media marketers need to be organised, detail-oriented and agile.
Being flexible and adaptable is key to keeping your clients happy and delivering top-notch social media content for every business you work with.
What skills or training do you need as a freelance marketing manager?
Whether you’ve worked in marketing before or not, having specialised skills in social media marketing is key when starting your freelance social media business.
Luckily, there are plenty of online courses and virtual training sessions available to help you sharpen your skills. While a degree in marketing can be helpful, learning what makes each social platform tick is what will help you drive tangible results for your clients.
Here are three courses and certifications that can help you get started as a self-employed SMM.
Coursera: Social Media Management Course by Meta
Looking to learn how content creation works and how to master social media marketing? This self-paced course is a fantastic way to upskill and has been created by one of the biggest players in the social media space: Meta (a.k.a. Facebook).
Run 100% online and designed for beginners, this 12-hour digital course will help you understand how to build a social media strategy, what to include in a content calendar, how to read social media analytics and how to make data-driven decisions for your clients.
For a comprehensive course that covers everything to do with freelance marketing, look no further than this online training program from Google.
Packed with 26 modules, Google’s Fundamentals of Digital Marketing has been designed by Google’s trainers and takes about 40 hours to complete. The best bit? It’s totally free.
From search engine optimisation (SEO) to email marketing, you’ll learn a stack of practical skills to impress potential clients. Plus, there’s an entire module dedicated to all things social media marketing, too.
Skillshare: Online Social Media Classes
Want to learn how to use Canva templates like a pro for social media graphics? Want to learn how to write social media copywriting that converts? How about learning how to film and edit your first TikTok video?
You can learn all this and so much more in Skillshare’s library of online social media classes. These short, specialised courses are created by social media experts and help you upskill in specific areas (rather than simply offer generalised social media skills).
Four steps to get your freelance social media marketing business set up
Now we’ve covered all the knowledge and the skill set you need, let’s run you through the practical steps you need to take to launch your freelance marketing business.
1. Get your SMM business set up
Like any freelance business, the first place to start is to get all the paperwork and business admin sorted before you sign your first client. While it can feel like a drag, getting these steps out of the way up front means you can spend more time focusing on what you do best.
Here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need to do to launch your SMM business:
- Decide your business structure: if you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective way to launch your business, starting as a sole trader will help you get up and running quickly. But, if you’re looking to grow an agency, it’s worth looking at whether a company or partnership structure is a better fit.
- Register your business name: depending on where you live, you’ll need to register your business name with your local authority and check if you need to register for any trademarks to protect your business.
- Register for a tax number: plus, you’ll need to make sure you get your businesses’ tax number or business number sorted so you avoid any big headaches at tax time.
- Create a business bank account and consider accounting software: lastly, it’s important to create separate bank accounts for your business and even consider if accounting software might be useful to reduce the time you spend sending invoices or chasing up late payments.
2. Create your social media marketing portfolio
One of the first things potential clients will ask you is this: can I see examples of your work? That’s why building your portfolio at the beginning is a smart way to convince potential clients to work with you.
The key thing to include in your SMM portfolio includes examples of your best work. This could be screenshots of social posts you’ve created from start to finish, marketing strategies you’ve developed or the results you’ve helped a businesses’ social ad campaign achieve.
Whether you create a PDF presentation or a website landing page that houses your favourite projects, make it easy for your prospects to see how talented you are at your job.
Plus, it’s important to create dedicated social media profiles for your new freelance business. This will allow you to ‘walk the talk’ and show that you really understand how to create great social media content for your own business.
3. Develop your rate card and price up your packages
This step can be one of the most daunting, especially if you’re freelancing for the first time. Pricing your services is an important part of your freelance journey as it will make or break your business in the long run.
Setting your prices too low will make it tricky to generate a profit, and may cause you to take on too many clients at once. However, setting your prices at the premium end of the scale can make it tricky to convert new clients, especially if you’re just starting out.
So, here are a few things to consider when coming up with your SMM rates:
- How long will it take you to complete the tasks in this package? It’s always worth budgeting for two rounds of changes in your pricing to ensure you’re not left working for free on freelance jobs.
- What subscriptions or tools do you need to purchase to do your job? Make sure to factor in any equipment or platforms you need to buy into your pricing as these expenses can easily add up.
- How do you want to structure and sell your services? Working on an hourly rate can be good for one-off projects, while retainers help you generate consistent revenue month-on-month from your clients.
Now, you might be wondering what other freelance social media marketers are charging for their services. While everyone will set their own rates, here are a few benchmarks to help you price your own services:
- Junior SMMs (under 2 years of experience): $20-30 per hour
- Mid-level SMMs (3 to 5 years of experience): $40-75 per hour
- Senior SMMs (5 to 8 years of experience): $80-$100 per hour
- Expert SMMs (10+ years of experience): $100-250 per hour
Chances are your services and packages will be similar from client to client. So, consider setting standard prices for your packages to make it easier to quote and bill clients for your work.
4. Build your network and promote your SMM business
Now you’ve got the admin sorted, it’s time to get onto the next key part of being a freelance SMM: winning clients.
Unlike being an in-house marketer, being a freelancer or business owner means you need to proactively reach out to potential clients and promote your services online.
The marketing approach you take for your own business will depend on the clients you’re trying to attract. But there are a few proven ways and strategies you can use to grow your business and win your first clients:
- Build your network on LinkedIn: as the go-to professional networking platform, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for reaching new businesses and connecting with entrepreneurs. So, it’s worth using this tool to get in touch with businesses you want to work with as well as promote your services and past client work.
- Invest in content marketing: as an SMM, you know the value of content marketing. So, it’s important to practice what you preach by creating an email newsletter, posting consistently to your blog, and ensuring you’re actively sharing valuable content o social media.
- Join community Facebook groups: a great source of work can be Facebook groups that are filled with your ideal clients. Whether you’re looking to work with small business owners, real estate agents or startups, find and join relevant groups and proactively offer your services to anyone searching for support with social media marketing.
- Call out for referrals: your existing clients are also a great resource to help build your client roster. Why not send out a dedicated EDM to your current clients promoting that you’re looking for referrals?
Five best practice tips to stand out as a freelance social media manager
Ready to stand out from the pack? Here are our expert tips to build a SMM business that will win clients on auto-pilot.
Gather testimonials and create case studies
While everyone will have a portfolio or examples of their work, going to the effort of crafting case studies to showcase your expertise will really set you apart from other SMMs.
Rather than simply sharing screenshots of your work, consider telling the story behind this client’s social media presence. What was their social media account like before you started? What problems have you solved? What results have you achieved for their social networks?
Plus, it’s worth gathering testimonials from your current and past clients to have powerful pieces of social proof to convince and convert prospects. This lets your happy clients vouch for your skills in their own words.
By having these case studies and testimonials visible in your portfolio and on your website, new clients will feel confident to choose you to manage their social media channels. Make sure to repurpose these case studies and quotes and reshare them to your social media channels, too.
Invest in the right social media marketing tools
As we mentioned, it’s important to have the right tools and software to do your job as a social media marketer. From communicating with your clients to booking appointments to scheduling content ahead of time, these are platforms and tools that can speed up your workflows.
Here are some of our favourite platforms and tools for freelance SMMs:
- Canva: anyone can become a graphic designer with this web-based design platform. From GIFs to Instagram Stories to Facebook Ads, mockup and create anything you need using Canva.
- Calendly: want an easy way to book discovery calls or monthly client meetings? Rather than sending multiple emails back and forth, try using a scheduling tool like Calendly to allow your clients to book meetings with you in a few clicks.
- Slack: make email a thing of the past with collaborative communication platforms like Slack. Set up channels for each of your clients and manage all of your feedback, changes and comms in one easy-to-use app.
- Sked Social: obviously we’re a tad biased, but we reckon Sked is the best all-in-one social media management platform to help you manage, schedule and report on your client’s Instagram content.
Share your social media expertise
Looking to build your profile and win new clients? A great way to get your name out there is to share your expertise at events, seminars and podcast appearances.
Rather than waiting for clients to find you, putting yourself out there and positioning yourself as a leader in the social media marketing space will help new businesses discover you.
So, put your hand up for podcast guest appearances and speaking gigs that will help you connect with your ideal clients.
Develop retainers and ongoing relationships with your clients
The best way to grow a sustainable business is to secure recurring projects. Luckily, working as a social media manager usually means clients want you to handle their social media content on a month-to-month basis.
So, do yourself a favour and lock in retainers with your clients from the beginning. Not only does this give you financial security but also helps you to plan out your workload in advance (and avoid too many late nights).
Offer an exceptional client experience
Last but not least, is our final tip for freelance SMMs: deliver a top-notch client experience. One of the best ways to retain your existing clients (and inspire them to send referrals your way) is to go above and beyond in your day to day client management.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Book recurring meetings to ensure you give everyone plenty of time to prepare for the next month of social content.
- Send social media reports at the same time every month to show you’re proactive and a self-starter.
- Make it easy for clients to get in touch with you and book appointments (using tools like Slack and Calendly).
And that’s a wrap! When it comes to starting your own freelance social media management business, understanding how to stand out from the pack is what will help you win and retain clients. Plus, having the right tools to streamline your workflows will make sure you’re working smarter, not harder.