While it never hurts to cut back on expenses, the best way to save money for your dream trip or pay off student loans is by bringing in more cash. And if you’re social-savvy, you’ve got skills that can help you do that.
When I first began offering social media services on the side of my day job, I earned about $2,000/month, which is a good chunk of change in addition to your full-time paycheck.
Now, that the side gig has turned into my full-time business. Readers of my blog often ask how they too can benefit from the huge demand for social media service?
Here are some of the big questions that land in my inbox, plus practical advice to help you get started.
What skills do I need to work in social media?
Not only should you be fluent in the language and etiquette of social media, you should also know how to use it strategically to reach certain goals. And yes, that’s different than posting a photo on Facebook of your friend’s party last weekend.
In addition to understanding the technical aspects of various social media channels, you should know how to use those tools to build communities and strengthen brands.
You want to be proficient on the main social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Flickr. But social media changes rapidly; a year ago, Pinterest might not have made that short list. So to be successful at this type of job, you should be a quick learner and someone who keeps up with the latest trends and tools.
The truth is, you can’t possibly know everything. And you don’t need to know everything to get started. Instead, focus on what you do know. If you’re awesome at Pinterest but not so great at LinkedIn, find a way to serve a client who needs help with Pinterest. Look for ways to capitalize on your strengths, and learn the rest along the way.
Should I work for free to gain experience?
If you’ve long thrived on your personal channels and want to transition into doing this type of work for a company or client, then yes, it makes sense to offer your skills for free to a small business or organization that could use your help.
Use that opportunity to identify gaps in your skills, while also gaining experience and confidence. But don’t make the mistake of working for free in the long term.
Instead, push yourself to transition into work you can benefit from, both professionally and financially. You deserve it!
What types of social media services could I offer?
There are so many ways to go with this, and nailing down which services you want to offer will go a long way toward helping you land clients. A few of your options include:
- Coaching individuals
- Running corporate workshops
- Offering trainings and resources (in-person or online)
- Creating strategies for clients
- Executing social media campaigns
My team’s specialty is executing social media campaigns for small businesses, taking as much as possible off their plate so they can focus on other aspects of their business.
I chose this focus for three reasons: I enjoy doing it, there’s a huge demand for this type of service and it’s recurring work, which means my clients pay me month after month (more on that later).
If you’re thinking about working in social media, you probably have one or more of these services in mind. Make sure you can articulate that offering in a way other people will understand, so they can hire you or recommend you to others. Which leads us to…
What’s the best way to find this type of work?
It can be daunting to find your first client, to get over that hump of getting started. But once you have one client, you can use that social proof and confidence to land more.
Here are two solid ways to land clients:
- Networking: As with all jobs, networking is really the key. Let people know — both online and in person — what you offer, being as specific as possible. Even if they can’t hook you up with an opportunity at that very moment, if they understand your value, they’ll think of you down the line when a good fit presents itself.A lot of social media consultants get their first gig via word of mouth, and that’s how it happened for me, too.
- Help clients find you: Establishing an online presence– like a blog, for example — that attracts new clients is one of the best ways to grow this type of business. If you provide valuable information that showcases your skills, potential clients will find you over time and ask you to work for them — so you don’t have to spend precious time, effort and even money looking for work.Having a killer blog can also help seal the deal when clients come to you via word of mouth or in-person networking, because you know they’ll ask Google about you before doing anything else. After all, if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve gotta walk the walk.
While it can’t hurt to scan niche job boards for relevant positions — like Mashable’s board for social media jobs — a lot of social media positions aren’t listed formally.
To be in the know when the right gig becomes available, be active in private Facebook groups dedicated to social media work, join social media associations or clubs, and sign up for newsletters produced by people who work in these fields.
Becoming part of the social media community online will help opportunities come your way.
How much should I charge for my work?
Pricing is always tricky, for two reasons:
First, it depends on a lot of factors, including: your experience, exactly what service you’re offering, who you’re working for and more.
Second, prices for social media services fall across the board, so you could charge a wide spectrum and still be considered reasonable.
While some consultants charge per hour — anywhere between $15-250 — I prefer to bill on a project basis. My fees are still loosely based on the number of hours I expect the project to take me and my team, but pricing by project gives us far more flexibility.
For recurring work, consider billing a monthly retainer fee, so the client pays you month after month. This works particularly well if you’re working on an ongoing project, like growing a client’s online community.
Recurring fees also help stabilize your income, so you know about how much you’ll make each month (give or take losing or gaining a client), which can make becoming self-employed less stressful.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: Always charge more than you think you should. Why? Because you’d be surprised at how much people will pay for your expertise; too many of us undervalue our work.
If your target clients balk at the price, you can always reevaluate. Plus, if you’re looking to turn this into your sole income, you’ll probably have to make more than you’d expect to cover self-employment taxes, health insurance and expenses.
All of your calculations aside, remember you’re worth what you say you’re worth. So pick a fee and OWN IT. Show your client why you’re worth that much, and overdeliver on your promise so they’re glad they hired you — and want to work with you again and again.
Here’s a post with more details about how much to charge for social media work.
Do I need to form an LLC before I begin?
No way! Just get started, and if you’re successful, you can figure out the legal logistics later. Launch with a DBA (Doing Business As) to cover your company name, or even better, keep it simple and work under your name. You can always incorporate your business later.
You do want to be aware of your tax obligations, though. If you’ll owe $1,000 or more in tax from this business during the year (which means you need to make around $3,000-4,000 annually), you’ll need to pay estimated tax payments quarterly.
If you’re making that much, it might be worth investing in an accountant to make sure you’ve covered your bases.
When you work for an employer, they take that money out of your paycheck automatically. But when you earn it on your own, you have to hand at least 25 percent to the government — so don’t spend every cent as soon as it arrives in your PayPal account.
What questions do you have about working in social media?
Alexis Grant is author of How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business. For more free advice about making your own luck, sign up for her newsletter.