So you want to be a social media freelancer, but there’s just one problem: you don’t have any experience. Oh, and you haven’t got a huge budget to spend.
So you want to be a social media freelancer, but there’s just one problem…
You don’t have any experience. Oh, and you haven’t got a huge budget to spend on fancy courses.
If you feel stuck, I get it. That’s because a few years ago, I was in the same position.
Working a soul-sucking full-time job that wasn’t in social media, I wondered how I would ever be able to earn a living doing what I loved.
Fast forward to 2022 and I’m a full-time social media freelancer, managing Instagram accounts, creating content, and providing consultancy services to business owners.
Keep reading to find out how I got here.
If you’ve spent any time online over the last few years, you might have seen the advice to ‘charge your worth’. While I’m sure it’s said with good intentions, I don’t (completely) agree with it.
Every social media freelancer has to start somewhere. If you haven’t got any experience, working for free is a great way to develop your skills and get those all-important client testimonials that will secure more work in the future.
Top tip: Be proactive! You don’t need experience to secure your first freelance social media gig - you need enthusiasm and proactivity. For example, pick 3-5 businesses you’d love to work with and create a short social media audit for each of them with recommendations on how they could do better. Send this over (along with your portfolio/personal social media channels) as evidence of your capabilities and emphasise how much you’d love to work for the brand if and when they have an opening.
But what about the rent and bills you have to pay? I hear you.
The way I managed this was by working for free while I still had my full-time job. With the safety net of a monthly salary, I spent time before and after work consulting clients and creating content to build my portfolio. Once I had more experience, a couple of testimonials, and a track record generating results for clients, I began charging for my services.
If you’ve already left your full-time job, working part-time could be a good option to lessen the financial pressure of those early freelancing days.
Working for free or charging less than you eventually will isn’t beneath anyone.
Almost every successful freelancer I know started this way.
Word of warning: While working for free is a freelancer rite of passage, don’t make the same mistake I did. For the first 18 months of my freelance career I undercharged clients for fear of losing their business. These clients took up a huge amount of my time - time I could’ve spent pitching new business.
You don’t need to wait months and months to start charging fairly for the work you do. There will always be people who will tell you you’re too expensive. That’s ok. Those aren’t your ideal clients. With experience, results, and testimonials under your belt, you can go and find clients who are willing to pay for your services.
When I began my social media freelance business, I set up a simple website using Squarespace. It only had a couple of pages but that was all I needed to house some case studies, testimonials, and my social media packages.
If you’re wondering whether you really need a website if you have a social media profile like Instagram, LinkedIn or TikTok the answer is yes. One of the main reasons for this is search engine optimization (SEO).
The more traffic you can send to your website from social media the better you will rank in search, helping prospects to discover you and your services. Well-researched and carefully chosen keywords, as well as regular blog content shared on your website will also give your SEO efforts a significant boost.
But SEO isn’t the only reason to set up a website. You’ve also got to consider the fallibility of social media platforms. Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter could disappear tomorrow, taking with them your online profile. Without a website to fall back on, you’ll have a lot of work on your hands to get one up and running as quickly as possible - and no one needs that stress.
Finally, there’s the reality that some clients aren’t very active on social media and many prefer to check out a website before working with a freelancer.
So, to set yourself up for SEO success and increased visibility with social media-shy clients, create a cheap and simple website.
It doesn’t need to be fancy. You don’t need to spend any money on a website designer. All you need to include is a short summary about you, a few case studies, and the services you provide.
Cheap website recommendations:
When I first started freelancing, I felt weird about telling previous employers that I was available to work. Don’t be the same as me!
The easiest way to secure your first freelancing gig when you have little or no experience is through your network. Most social media freelancers I know have worked with ex-colleagues and managers. Those that haven’t have - at the very least - received referrals and introductions to people in their network.
This works so well because as the saying goes: business is all about relationships.
Your former colleagues are more likely to work with (or recommend) you because they already know and trust you. Compare this to promoting your freelance services to a cold audience on Instagram, for example. That process requires much more time and effort to drum up new business.
So if you’re ready to lean on your network, what’s the next step?
Let them know that you’re now freelancing and available to work. Send a short and personalised LinkedIn message to former co-workers that summarises what you do, your availability and 1-2 results you’ve helped clients achieve.
If you have absolutely no experience in social media, be willing to work for free and make that clear in your message.
When you receive interest, you can direct people to your website for more information or jump on a quick call to chat through your services. Be as clear and succinct as possible and don’t forget to follow up! People are busy - silence doesn’t mean they’re not interested.
One of the best ways to land a social media freelance gig when you have no experience is to show clients what you’re capable of.
In other words, use your own Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok account to show off your design, copywriting, photography and/or videography skills. Now rather than just telling a brand that you’re qualified for the job, you can show them.
But acting as a mini portfolio isn’t the only reason to leverage social media marketing. If you consistently create and publish valuable content, you’ll start to grow your own audience.
And while you may not necessarily want to do anything with that audience in the beginning, who knows where a daily writing/posting habit will take you. It might mean that in a few years you no longer have to freelance because you have a large enough following to sell your own products to.
My story: While I was still working my full-time corporate job I set up an Instagram account on the side to see what would happen if I posted and engaged daily. My focus was front doors in London - a subject that resonated with anglophiles, travel lovers and architecture fans alike. Today the account has more than 70k followers and has been featured in The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, and even has its own puzzle!
In the meantime, being active on social media is a great way to make connections with peers in your industry and find new freelance opportunities. I follow plenty of social media managers who regularly share job openings and brands looking to hire. @freelancingfemales is one of my go-to resources for freelancer jobs and resources.
Another piece of advice you’ve probably heard over and over again is “niche down!”. Despite the title of this tip, my advice on this isn’t clear-cut.
If you have absolutely no experience in social media, you will need to figure out what type of social media you enjoy doing before you limit yourself to a specific niche.
I recommend being at least a little selective. Don’t try to garner experience across every social media platform. Pick one or two, like Instagram and TikTok. And if there is an industry you’re particularly passionate about - like food, fashion, tech, or interiors - look for social media internships or entry level freelance openings in those areas.
By mastering a particular industry and/or social media platform, you’ll become the go-person in your field. Not to mention the fact that it’s almost impossible to stay up to date with every new feature that rolls out across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc., so don’t make your life more complicated than it needs to be.
When I first started freelancing and told people I specialised in Instagram, I got some funny looks. Just Instagram? Could I possibly help with Facebook advertising too?
I stuck to my guns, preferring to be a master of one (or two) as opposed to a jack of all trades. This focus has paid off. People now know me as the ‘Instagram girl’ and this specificity has helped me secure new clients and referrals.
One of the very best things I did when I first quit my corporate job to freelance was join a cheap local networking group.
It couldn’t have been easier to do so. All I did was Google “female networking group + [location]” and after narrowing down the options I chose a hybrid online/offline group that meets once per month.
The networking group is made up of female business owners at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Some are relatively new like me (1-3 years), others have been freelancing/running a business for 10+ years.
Everyone works in a different niche so not only are there no clashes, but it gives us the opportunity to invest in expertise we may be lacking but which our businesses really need.
I can’t sing the praises of a networking group highly enough. Here are just 5 of the benefits I’ve experienced:
If you’re looking for a supportive group of likeminded people, do an online search or ask your IRL freelancer friends if they have any recommendations.
Not only are courses great for your resume, they’re also the best way to boost your confidence as a social media freelancer with no experience.
The good news is that there’s no shortage of courses available. The bad news is that it can feel almost impossible knowing where to start.
Well lucky for you I’ve rounded up a few of the best:
Browse the course details to figure out which one works best for you. Or, if you’re feeling really scholarly, have a go at all of them!
Honing your skills and keeping up to date with the latest social media trends can feel like a never-ending challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Nor does it have to leave you out of pocket.
The most important thing is that you’re curious and willing to get incrementally better at your job every single day. That’s how you’ll beat the stiff social media freelancer competition in 2022!
One way to get around the fact that you have little or no social media experience is to get familiar with analytics. A deep understanding of which insights matter - and which don’t - is how you’ll stand apart from other social media freelancers.
This is often an area that clients aren’t hugely familiar with. So if you can explain the importance of developing a social media strategy rooted in insights and suggest recommendations on existing content (as part of your interview or proposal) you’ll quickly gain their confidence.
If you want access to in-depth analytics and time-saving reporting, I recommend using a platform like Iconosquare. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to have a play around with the features until you’re ready to invest.
While you’re adding to your portfolio and applying to social media internships, it’s a good idea to start building your preferred suite of social media tools.
As a social media freelancer you’ll be:
To get through these tasks quickly and efficiently (and not end up completely frazzled), you’ll need a set of tools that cover content creation, project management, social media analytics, and client collaboration to name but a few.
Some of my favourite tools include:
Experiment with different social media tools - and make the most of free trials! - until you find your favourites.
This way - as your client list starts to grow and your workload increases - you’ll keep on top of additional projects like a social media pro.
The journey to becoming a social media freelancer can be challenging, exciting, daunting, life-changing and never, ever boring. In the beginning, focus on building your personal brand, providing value and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
If I could give you one additional piece of advice it would be to believe in yourself. That’s half the battle and if you can do that, you’re already well on the way to becoming a successful social media freelancer. Good luck!
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Every week, Emily interviews top brands, renowned influencers, and hidden agencies with one goal in mind: to understand what happens backstage of their social media strategies.Listen to esm2