How to get started as a freelance social media manager

How do you become a freelance social media manager? This handy guide lets you know everything needed to get yourself started in this career.
How to get started as a freelance social media manager

Hero image by Neo Latrica

There are more than 60 million business pages on Facebook. Add to that all of the business accounts across Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more—and there are probably hundreds of millions of social media accounts belonging to businesses and brands. 

Guess what? All of these need to be managed. If you want to become a freelance social media manager, there is a sea of potential clients out there. 

And there is money to be made. Reports show the average pay for social media managers is $46,678 per year. This isn't a huge paycheck, considering that the average national salary is around $56,000.

However, highly successful social media professionals can earn a lot more than this. The top 10% of social media managers earn up to and above $94,000

What are the secrets involved in joining the ranks of the top-earning social media freelancers? Being a social media manager is a demanding job, and it can be even more demanding if you're doing it freelance. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of habits, tips, and strategies you can copy from other highly effective social media freelancers. Implementing these habits and practices will help you stay organized, manage your time wisely, achieve success, and stand out from the pack. 

Keep reading to find out what they are. 

Build a portfolio

Unlike a typical  job interview, clients aren't interested in where you worked previously or where you went to college. They want to see tangible examples of the type of work you do and the results you can get. 

If you are just starting out, it can be hard to put together a portfolio from scratch. One way to fill out your portfolio is by volunteering to manage a local fundraiser or charity's social channels. Not only will you be doing a good deed, but if you put time and effort in, you might grow their engagement and following substantially and net yourself a prize portfolio piece. 

Along with building a portfolio, you should also look at creating a website for your services. And not to get meta about it, but what freelance social media manager doesn't have any social accounts?

Take the time to set up branded accounts for your freelancing business and create a marketing plan for them from the get-go. These accounts and their numbers will essentially become a live portfolio piece, so the quicker you can grow them, the better. 

Define what sets you apart as a social media manager

Although there's a demand for social media managers—competition can be tough. Before you've built up a name, you might find yourself bidding on job after job without seeing results. 

One of the ways you can change this is by zeroing in on what sets you apart. What is unique about what you bring to the table?

For example, let's say you live in New York City. You are trying to start a career as a freelance social media manager, but you just don't land the jobs. One of the reasons for this might be that you're competing against freelancers in other countries that do similar work for a fraction of the cost.

However, just by living in NYC, you already have something that sets you apart. You have a unique insight into the lives and minds of New Yorkers. Because of this, you'd probably be more successful at running social channels for a New York-focused business than someone far away. 

Create a distraction-free workspace

As most of us are well aware, social media itself is jam-packed with distractions. Successful social media professionals are usually the ones that can strike a balance between monitoring trends, while still being able to focus, manage their time, and nail their deliverables. 

This can be a challenge, given that part of your job is literally to be on social media and keep an eye on what's going on. The last thing you need is a chaotic workspace that's bringing even more distractions from the outside into your work zone. 

Try to carve out a space in your home reserved solely for your social media freelancing work. Ideally, this space should have a door and be able to protect you from distractions that are taking place in your home. 

If you live solo, then this isn't as critical. But if you have a family, working at a desk in the living room or at the dining table can get very distracting. 

If you can't dedicate a room to work in, you can also utilize focusing hacks like listening to lo-fi music with headphones on or using the Pomodoro Technique. You should also communicate your need for focus to your family, making sure they understand that just because you have to work at a desk in the living room doesn't mean that you're available the whole time. 

Plan and pre-schedule out content

If you have some experience in social media, then you probably know that most of the best brand accounts run on a pre-scheduled content calendar. This is something that all successful and experienced social media freelancers implement. 

Publishing social media posts at the last minute is not the way to run a cohesive campaign. Effective campaigns take a lot of planning and work behind the scenes. 

Ideally, you should always be working on posts that are due to come out in the future, not ones that are due the next day or in a few hours. Not only does this allow you to create more cohesive campaigns, but it also offers time to resolve errors. 

Who knows, maybe the simple-seeming Instagram photo doesn't turn out the way you planned and you have to rethink it? The more of a time buffer you have for dealing with these things, the better. 

Batch content

A popular practice among social media freelancers is creating content in batches. Instead of taking one Instagram photo every day for a brand, you can batch several weeks' worth of photos into one or two shoots. 

Then, create the captions in batches and schedule the posts to go out on the days you want. 

This method of working is far more effective than jumping from client to client every day as you work on individual posts. 

Keep a finger on the social pulse

Social media managers have to stay in tune with social sentiments, trends, movements, and best practices. They also have to stay up-to-date on the latest platforms and types of content that are performing best for each. 

Those who are highly successful at social media freelancing know this. Therefore, they make it a habit to keep up with key social media developments. 

This is very important not, only for identifying trends, but also for maintaining relevancy and relatability for your clients. For instance, if there is a serious matter shaking the internet, the last thing you want to do is publish an ill-timed post that is frivolous and sales-ey. 

This will come across as insensitive and very out of touch. By keeping your finger on the pulse of social trends, topics, and movements, you can ensure that your clients' content always stays relevant and attuned to broader social sentiments. 

Analyze great campaigns and content

Another habit that highly successful freelancers have is analyzing brand campaigns and content. 

Although brands can often take tips from influencers and hop on some of the social trends, their content typically requires a more refined approach. 

Because of this, you shouldn't just be looking at influencer content. Instead, start deeply analyzing how companies are utilizing social media to build their brands. 

Besides consuming brand content on social media, you can also listen to discussions and interviews on social media topics, attend social media marketing events, and research case studies. 

Develop strong proposals

Nowadays, social media management isn't just about posting to accounts. 

Brands want results, and they want to know for sure that you will be able to achieve growth for them. 

Professional social media freelancers start all of their contracts with in-depth proposals that cover everything from analysis to the scope of work, deadlines, milestones, proof of work, etc. 

Creating in-depth proposals doesn't only show brands how you can achieve growth for them. They are also vital for ensuring you and your client stay on the same page from day one. 

For instance, let's say you tell the client that you will do brand keyword monitoring for them. However, you don't specify exactly how many keywords you're going to monitor. Down the line, this could cause issues if the client expects you to monitor every single keyword associated with them. You will be left trying to explain that if they want this extra work, they will need to pay you more. 

Therefore, be as detailed as you possibly can with your proposals. Quantify everything, and specify things such as when you will be able to engage on social and what hours you are available to the client. 

Does this sound like a lot of work, before you've even gotten a contract? It is, but we can help. 

Here at Hectic, we know how vital detailed proposals are for freelancing success. We also know how long they can take to create. This is why we have developed a powerful proposal builder in our suite of tools. 

With Hectic’s proposal and contract builder, you can create proposals in a fraction of the time it would usually take. You can choose from templates or start from scratch. 

You can also seamlessly turn your proposal into legally sound contracts once clients approve them.

Use time tracking

If you're billing on an hourly basis, tracking your time is a prerequisite. 

However, a lot of social media work is billed by deliverables instead of by the hour. If you are billing on deliverables instead of hours worked, you should still track your time. Here's why. 

A lot of highly effective people leverage things like time tracking, time blocking, or calendar blocking to ensure they are utilizing their time efficiently. 

If you don't track time spent on tasks, you can easily spend far more hours than you should on a specific deliverable. You might also waste time with distractions and disorganized working. 

Tracking your time also gives you a clear insight into how much time you are spending on each task. This might lead to you making changes, either to your rates for certain things or to how you complete specific tasks. 

Tracking your time is also a great way to keep yourself focused on the task at hand. The core principle of a lot of time management techniques is setting time limits for tasks. By tracking your time, you can gauge how long tasks are taking you and set limits to help trigger enhanced focus. 

Our time tracking feature is the perfect tool to help you with this, as you can:

  • Use it from any page,
  • Include job details 
  • Get an instant graphics-based visual on how you spend your time

If you are billing a client by the hour, you can effortlessly turn your tracked hours into an invoice in a few clicks. 


Lastly, successful social media freelancers understand the value of unplugging. Social media must be one of the most "plugged-in" jobs on the planet. Social media never sleeps and it doesn't take weekends off.

It's also a form of entertainment and communication for a lot of us. As a social media manager, it can easily get to the point where your free time doesn't allow you to switch off because you're constantly connected to social platforms. 

Numerous studies have revealed that working long hours and being "always on" impacts both productivity and wellbeing. So do yourself (and your business) a favor. Maximize your effectiveness and schedule time to unplug every week. 

Build your freelance social media manager business with the help of Hectic

A career in freelance social media can be fulfilling, lucrative, and flexible. Now that you know about the top habits, strategies, and techniques that successful social media freelancers use, you're primed to start maximizing your time and earning ability. 

Before you start growing those client accounts like a boss, we recommend you try out Hectic. Streamline your workflow and client management and sign up here today.

Share it!
Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
More By This Contributor
Getting everything from your brain in one place
Moxie makes all your systems work together seamlessly with better software, education, and community.
hectic app logo