It’s practically impossible for a business to operate without a social media presence in today’s market. Despite this fact, many business owners and marketing teams are missing the experience or resources to strategically manage their social media presence. More and more businesses are outsourcing their social media management to freelancers, consultants, or agencies.
This shift in business correlates to the growth of the overall “gig economy,” with a 2023 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research revealing that approximately 15% of all workers in the US are self-employed independent contractors.
As businesses shift away from traditional employees and budgets for social media marketing increase, there are plenty of opportunities for individuals to market their social media, design, copywriting, and strategy skills into a job or business.
Source: The CMO Survey
One of the most critical questions a freelancer or consultant will ask themselves is: how much should I charge for social media management?
Like most essential questions in business, there is no clear-cut right or wrong answer. In fact, social media managers’ rates vary widely based on several factors, including the scope of work, experience level, business type, industry, and location.
Additionally, freelance consultants in social media management must pay attention to their competition, the market value for their work, the effort required to complete a project, and the type of results the client can expect.
To help you determine the right pricing for your social media management business, here is a list of questions to ask yourself as a social media consultant, freelancer, or agency. Remember that you should holistically evaluate the factors listed below to inform and define your pricing strategy.
How much experience do you have in social media management?
Prospective social media clients will want to know what relevant work experience you have, what results you have achieved for past clients, and what specialties you can bring to their business, such as content creation, social media strategy, account growth, social platform advertising, etc.). Your ability to communicate the value that your experience carries to your clients will often mean the difference between winning and losing a new account, so take the time to explain and market your abilities.
While years on the job isn’t the only way of determining experience, it can be helpful to compare your length of work experience to others. As social media managers gain more experience, they can charge their clients significantly higher fees.
According to online recruitment platform Zippia, the average salary for a social media manager in the US is $70,287, equivalent to an hourly rate of $33.79.
However, this varies significantly by experience level, with senior social media managers able to charge far more for their services than their more junior peers:
- Entry-level social media manager: Average hourly rate of $25.09
- Mid-level social media manager: Average hourly rate of $26.79
- Senior-level social media manager: Average hourly rate of $60.95
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
What do you know about the market you do business in?
Social media management rates will also vary by location. In an area where the cost of living is higher than average, rates will often be higher. The competition in your industry also plays an important role in setting your freelancer rates.
Are there several social media management companies in your city? How much do they charge? While it can be challenging to find out your competition’s pricing, take the time to perform a competitive analysis anyway to ensure you’re setting yourself up to land a new client! Even if you can’t determine your competition’s pricing, you may discover what they offer and how they package their services.
What type of businesses are you working with?
Before beginning to price a social media management project, learning everything you can about a prospective client is important. While this information shouldn’t be the only factor in determining pricing, it is helpful to know when writing winning proposals and closing new business is helpful.
- Business Size. The bigger the business, the more they can spend on marketing. However, most businesses will only allocate a certain percentage of their revenue towards their marketing budget. Zippia research reveals that most small businesses should spend 7% – 8% of gross revenue on marketing and advertising, although some businesses spend as much as 40%.
- Industry. Factors like competition, pricing, and growth plans all vary by industry. For example, the restaurant industry is notoriously competitive, with 47% of operators expecting the competition to be more intense in 2023 than last year, yet profit margins are slim. This recipe leaves less budget for marketing expenses. Price yourself accordingly.
Most social media managers adjust their fees for each unique client and project. While that may seem strange to some, remember that no two jobs will ever be the same, and customizing your offering based on your client’s needs and specifications is a smart way to gain business. Use your best judgment when presenting your rates – but do the research first.
Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash
What is the client’s scope of work?
How much support your social media management client needs is important in determining how much to charge them for your services. Some clients require limited support, while others need 24/7 community management and creative planning, not to mention execution of posts. Before sending a proposal, be sure you are clear on your prospective clients’ social media goals and what they want to see on their social media channels. Below are a few services and variables to consider that can help establish the scope of work.
1) Number of Platforms
How many social media platforms will the client want you to manage? Is it just their Instagram account, or do they have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Yelp, and YouTube? The more social platforms a client has, the more you’ll want to charge to manage their social channels. Also, consider whether your client has already started the platforms or whether you’ll need to create and grow a new social platform from scratch. Building a brand-new social media account with no followers can be significantly more time-consuming than taking over an established account.
2) Paid vs. Organic
Paid social is becoming a bigger part of overall marketing budgets. Make sure you are clear on where your duties will begin and end when it comes to advertising on social media, as it requires a unique skill set. If you’re not well-versed in optimizing paid social media campaigns, this may be something you’ll need to learn or farm out to another freelancer or member of your team.
3) Content Creation
Many social media managers and consultants also offer blogging, copywriting, or graphic design services. If your client expects you to create blog posts, charts, graphics, or memes and then post them, you’ll want to charge more. Alternatively, you may be required to research to find good content for the brand’s platforms, and social media content strategy adds considerable time to your job. Some companies may already have all of their content created by employees or other freelancers and ready to go – but find out first, estimate your required time accordingly, and outline your content creation and content strategy deliverables clearly when pricing your agreement. PRO TIP: Make some things optional – giving the client flexibility in leveraging your services is always smart.
4) Customer Service
Will you be in charge of responding to customer complaints and following up with them, or will you simply direct them to an employee at the company? Fielding customer complaints and inquiries can be pretty time-consuming and time-sensitive, especially as a business grows, so you’ll want to charge a significantly larger fee if you will be doing that kind of work and making that kind of commitment.
5) Influencer Marketing
Another factor that may determine your rates for social media management is whether you’ll reach out to influencers who can advertise the business’s name, product, or service. It takes time to research, contact, and engage people who may be able to help the business grow its following. Any influencer marketing services you offer should be a stand-alone service.
What overhead or internal costs do you incur?
What people, tools, and supplies will you need in place to provide good service to your social media management clients? All of these expenses should be considered and factored into your pricing structure, so ask yourself questions to determine your actual costs.
1) Employees or freelancers
Will you need to hire anyone to support you with any part of your contract? Can you increase the rate you charge by bringing on experts in other fields like copywriting, photography, and graphic design?
2) Tools and Software
What tools and software will you need to complete the job? A good rule of thumb is to add up your monthly fees and divide this cost among your clients.
Will you need an office, photo studio, or coworking space? What supplies will you need? How much will you need to spend on your own marketing, and how much time will your administrative duties take every day, week, or month? Consider all of these factors when pricing your services.
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash
How will you charge for your services?
How social media managers charge for their services varies widely. Some social media managers charge by a retainer, some charge by the project, while some set an estimate for a predefined statement of work and charge hourly, weekly, or monthly. This decision depends on how you structure your freelancing or consulting business.
Here is more information on your options for charging a social media client.
1) Hourly Rate
Since most of the economy is based on hourly wages, it’s no surprise that this is a common way for social media freelancers and consultants to set their fee schedules. The hourly rate is simple and convenient. However, it doesn’t lend itself well to building a team and scaling your operations – and by charging hourly, you might run into challenging situations when the scope of work changes. Be sure to set an overall estimate if you decide to charge hourly, define parameters for tracking your time and addressing scope changes, and communicate with the client if you think you’ll go over your hourly estimate for a project.
2) Monthly (Fixed-Fee)
Many SEO and social media marketing managers prefer to charge a fixed monthly fee for their services. This strategy gives a consistent and predictable income, benefiting the client and the freelancer. Make sure you set parameters here, too, for what you will provide at a fixed fee, and define how you’ll measure that – whether it’s by deliverable (e.g., blog post, social profile creation, etc.), the actual hours it takes to complete your statement of work or the number of hours you make available to your client.
A retainer is a payment made in advance for future services performed by the social media manager and has some advantages. Lawyers are famous for utilizing retainer fees, and many social media management consultants will charge based on a retainer fee to ensure the client invests in using them in an organized way while reducing the risk on their end should a client experience delays or fail to provide you with the information you need to do the job.
4) Per-Project Basis
You can also charge on a per-project basis that you set ahead of time if it suits you and the client. The per-project basis offers flexibility in outsourcing some of the work assigned, especially if you decide to scale your business. That said, charging per project also presents the risk of undercharging if a project takes longer than expected. As always, define clear parameters regarding the scope and a plan for resolving things if things don’t go as planned.
Once you have answered these questions, you will know what you can charge for social media management and how to price your services competitively, build good client relationships, and grow your business reasonably. Be firm and confident about your fees no matter which option you choose!
Once you set your social media fees for a particular client or project, the next step is to submit some proposals and keep your mind open to feedback. You will always run into clients who think your fees are too high. However, if everyone thinks you’re too expensive, you may want to step back and reexamine how much you charge. With time and experience, you will learn when and where to adjust your pricing.
Are you a social media freelancer or a consultant? If so, what factors go into determining your client rates?
Need further guidance in taking your strategy to the next level? Attend a social media conference to hear the latest best practices from top brands across multiple industries.