Nowadays, social media is a critical component of any business's marketing strategy.
There are over 3.2 billion people on social media globally. With such a large potential audience, it's becoming essential for every company to use social media to reach new prospects, boost brand awareness, and market their products or services.
But oftentimes, marketing on social media platforms is easier said than done -- and when you're working at a small company with limited resources, it can be tricky (or even impossible) to hire and train a fully-staffed social media team.
If a company doesn't have the resources to staff a social media team in-house, they aren't out of luck -- as an alternative, they can hire a social media consultant to help them increase their social media presence and grow traffic to their social accounts.
If you're a social media consultant, you're required to act as the voice, eyes, and ears of a client across various social platforms to properly engage with and grow an audience. While an undoubtedly rewarding role, it can be tricky -- which is why we've gathered insights from five successful social media consultants.
If you're interested in becoming a social media consultant but aren't sure how to get started, or you're hiring a social media consultant for your team but aren't sure what to look for, keep reading.
How to Become a Successful Social Media Consultant
1. Build a portfolio of case studies, and produce and publish content that proves your worth.
Keith Kakadia, Founder and CEO Sociallyin.com, told me -- "My advice to anyone who is trying to build a portfolio of clients as a social media marketing consultant would be to do a few things, starting with building out your portfolio of case studies. Many clients want to see the work you have done in the past for others successfully."
"The second piece of advice I could give," Kakadia adds, "is to produce and publish content that shows your expertise in the field of social media marketing. Having a blog or even writing on a channel like Medium can help you stand out from the crowd of social media consultants."
If you're interested in creating your own blog, take a look at How to Create a Successful Blog Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide.
2. Network, network, network.
Akvile DeFazio, President of AKvertise, Inc., advises aspiring social media consultants to network: "The moment you decide you want to take the leap to become a social media consultant and eventually shift towards doing it full-time, I encourage you to begin networking and sharing your skillset and services with others, on and offline, even if you aren't working for yourself just quite yet."
"Relationships and building up your clientele can take time, so begin feeding your funnel as soon as you can. As someone who has always enjoyed networking, I didn't realize just how valuable my network was until I announced that I was leaving my former employer to go out on my own. I imagined that as soon as I did, I would lose some ties as I wouldn't be seeing industry peers and business owners in person as much, but to my surprise, many of them shared in my excitement and sent leads and clients my way."
To begin networking, DeFazio suggests checking out places like meetup.com, joining Twitter chats regarding topics relevant to social media, and guest blogging to expand your reach and visibility. She also recommends researching podcasts that might be interested in having you as a guest, attending industry events such as pop-up networking events or conferences, and checking out your local chamber of commerce.
3. Create an engaging Instagram account.
Simone, a social media consultant and Founder of Savvy Simone, told me -- "If you are hoping to become a successful Social Media Consultant, the first thing to do is create an Instagram and post frequently. Don't worry too much about a logo or a polished website, that can come later."
"Focus on growing a loyal following by providing value (social media tips and tricks) and sprinkling in some of your own personal life," Simone added. "If you don't have any formal experience, you can still attract potential leads by sharing your knowledge with the world. Be passionate about your new venture and make sure to spend time developing your own personal brand and online presence. Also, ask other social media consultants how they got started. Most are more than willing to chat with you!"
If you're unsure how to grow an Instagram following, check out Instagram Marketing: The Ultimate Guide.
4. Timing is critical.
Amy Bishop, owner of Cultivative, LLC. and a Digital Marketing Consultant, told me it's critical you remain practical when deciding when, and how, you're going to create your own business -- "Timing is typically one of the most difficult factors in deciding when to go out on your own. Only you will know when the time is right, but I suggest saving up about three to six months worth of living expenses, just in case things don't go as planned."
"Even if you don't need the money," she says, "it will save you some stress and likely prevent you from taking on clients that are a poor fit, or pricing yourself too low out of desperation to sign clients. Oftentimes (assuming it doesn't break any contracts with your current employer), consultants will pick up a few clients before quitting their current job, to ensure they have a little bit of revenue flow -- but I recognize sometimes that's not an option."
Additionally, Bishop mentions it's vital you set up an LLC for your new business (it's relatively inexpensive to set it up online), and keep track of expenses and income for tax purposes later on.
5. A tiered approach is a good one.
Crystal King, HubSpot Academy Social Media Professor, told me -- "Make sure you understand upfront how big the job you are taking on will be. Survey your clients thoroughly. Sometimes they may not really know what they want or need. Be ready to deliver a proposal that accurately defines what you think is best for their business, the scope of the work, and what additional fees there may be for work that goes beyond the original parameters of the project.
"A tiered approach is often a good one -- what the client would get for a very high cost, a medium rate, and a low one."
Additionally, Crystal mentioned, "Be clear about hours and the activities that such a fee would encompass. And keep in mind that there is only one of you --be ready to say no if the job is too big, or ask if bringing in freelancers to help you is something that can be accommodated by their budget."
5. Prioritize lead generation.
Amy Bishop told me -- "Lead generation is critical and, for many folks, the most stress-inducing part of starting your own business. There's a huge demand for social media consultants -- you just have to know how to find them. Start by reaching out to your network to let them know you're offering consulting services. Ask them if they know of anyone that could use your services. Even if they don't, they'll likely keep you in mind for future reference."
"Additionally, join local networking groups and associations. Try to identify folks with skills that don't overlap with yours that you could partner with -- for instance, folks that do web development, email marketing, or SEO, but not social media management. If you find yourself struggling to sign on clients, consider reaching out to agencies and asking for overflow work. You can keep your skills sharp and have some income coming in while you continue to work on new business."
Ultimately, Amy insists if you're passionate and dedicated to social media consulting, it's worth the risk: "If you have experience managing social campaigns and you're considering making the leap to owning your own business, I can't begin to recommend it enough. For the right person, the benefits are limitless."
6. Overdeliver in the beginning.
Keith Kakadia says -- "My last piece of advice would be to overdeliver in the beginning as you start to build your brand."
"You need an army of evangelists for you and there is no better way of accomplishing that besides overdelivering for all your clients and making them feel as if they are your only client."
While you're ultimately in-control of what packages you offer and at what price, consider going the extra mile early on -- once clients' begin seeing an increase in traffic and engagement from your services, they'll be more willing to recommend you to another colleague or business, which is critical for your long-term success. Additionally, try including customer testimonials or reviews on your website to demonstrate your legitimacy.
Typical social media consulting/freelance rates 2019
- A consultant with 0-3 years experience and a limited portfolio will likely want to start charging between $15-$50 per hour, depending on the project scope and type of client.
- After three years, you can charge between $50 and $100 per hour.
- Once you're an advanced consultant with an impressive portfolio, you can charge upwards of $120+ per hour.
- Social media consultants can charge anywhere from $15-$250+ an hour, so it's important you keep in mind your prior work experience, the scope of the project, and the type of client when deciding your rate.