It’s practically impossible for a business to operate in today’s market without a social media presence. Despite this fact, many business owners and marketing teams are missing the experience or resources to internally manage their social media presence in a strategic way. More and more businesses are opting to outsource their social media management to freelancers, consultants, or agencies.
This shift in business correlates to the growth of the overall “gig economy.” According to a new report from Deloitte, self-employment in the U.S. is expected to triple to 42 million people. 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 important questions that a freelancer or consultant will ask themselves is: how much should I charge for social media management? And just like most important questions in business, there is no clear cut right or wrong answer. In fact, the rates that social media managers charge vary widely based on a number of factors. These factors include the scope of work, experience level, business type, industry, and location. Additionally, freelance consultants who work in social media management must also 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. Keep in mind that the factors listed below should be evaluated holistically 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 are able to charge their clients significantly higher fees.
According to the freelancer platform Upwork, the following are rates that other freelancers are charging clients for social media content management:
- Entry Level (social media posting, virtual assistant duties): $15-$50/hr
- Intermediate (social media posting, content creation, and community management): $50-$100/hr
- Advanced (brand and social media strategy, consulting): $120-$250/hr
Even though social media consultants and freelancers don’t earn salaries, it can also be helpful to use the salary data as a starting point when evaluating your fee schedule. According to LinkedIn, the median salary for a social media manager in the United States with 1-5 years of experience is $41,900. For that same role with 6-14 years of experience, the median salary jumps to $80,000!
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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, too. The competition in your industry also plays an important role here in setting your freelancer rates.
Are there several social media management companies in your city? How much do they charge? While it can be difficult to find out the pricing of your competition, take the time to perform a competitive analysis anyway to make sure you’re setting yourself up to land a new client! Even if you can’t find out 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 you begin to price a social media management project, it is important to learn everything you can about a prospective client. 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.
- Business Size. The bigger the business, the more they are able to spend on marketing. However, most businesses will only allocate a certain percentage of their revenue towards their marketing budget. In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of gross revenue on marketing and advertising for businesses making less than $5 million in annual revenue. Keep this in mind.
- Industry. Factors like competition, pricing, and growth plans all vary by industry. For example, the restaurant industry is notoriously competitive, but profit margins are slim. The 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, keep in mind that no two jobs will ever be exactly the same, and customizing your offering based on your clients needs and specifications is a smart way to gain business. Use your best judgment when presenting your rates – but do the research first.
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What is the client’s scope of work?
How much support your social media management client needs is an important factor 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 what your prospective clients’ social media goals are, and what they want to see on their social media channels. Below are a few key services and variables to consider that can help establish the scope of work.
- 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? Obviously, the more social platforms a client has the more you’ll want to charge to manage their social channels. Also, take into consideration whether or not the platforms have already been started or whether you’ll need to create and grow a new social platform from scratch. Creating a brand new social media account with no followers can be significantly more time consuming than taking over an account that is already established
- Paid vs. Organic. Paid social is becoming a bigger part of overall marketing budgets. Make sure that you are clear on where your duties will begin and end when it comes to advertising on social media, as social media advertising requires a unique skillset, and 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.
- Content creation. Many social media managers and consultants also offer services like blogging, copywriting, or graphic design. If you’re expected to create the blog posts, the charts and graphics, or the memes, and tweet and post them, you’ll want to charge more. Alternatively, you may be required to do the 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 how they leverage your services is always smart.
- 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 quite 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.
- Influencer Marketing. Another factor that may go into determining your rates for social media management is whether you’ll be reaching 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 their following, and any influencer marketing services you offer should be considered as a stand-alone service.
What overhead or internal costs do you incur?
What people, tools, and supplies will you need in place in order 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 what your true costs will be.
- Employees and/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?
- Tools and Software. What tools and software will you need to get the job done? A good rule of thumb is to add up your monthly fees and divide this cost out among your clients.
- Overhead. 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? All of these factors should be considered when pricing your services.
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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 all depends on how you want to structure your freelancing or consulting business.
Here is some more information on your options for charging a social media client:
- 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 schedule. 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 tough situations when the scope of work changes. Be sure to set an overall estimate if you decide to charge hourly, and define parameters for how you will track your time and address scope changes and communicate with the client if you think you’ll go over your hourly estimate for a project
- Monthly (Fixed-Fee): Many SEO and social media marketing managers prefer to charge a fixed monthly fee for their services. This gives a consistent and predictable income, which is beneficial for both the client and 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, and etc.), the actual hours it takes to complete your statement of work, or the number of hours you make available to your client.
- Retainer: 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 is invested in utilizing 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.
- 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 a lot of 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, be sure to define clear parameters regarding scope, and a plan for how to resolve things if things don’t go as planned.
Once you have answered these questions, you will have an idea of what you can charge for social media management and how to price your services competitively, build good client relationships, and grow your business at a reasonable pace. No matter which option you choose, be firm and confident about your fees!
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 you find that 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?
Other posts you may find helpful:
- 9 CRITICAL COMPONENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
- TOP 8 VIRAL SOCIAL CAMPAIGNS OF THE YEAR
Need further guidance in taking your strategy to the next level? Attend a Social Media Strategy Summit to hear the latest in best practices from top brands across multiple industries.