How to Get Started as a Social Media Consultant
You’re social media savvy and looking to start something new. You are constantly encountering businesses, both large and small, that desperately need help in growing or maintaining their online presence. The need is tremendous. The opportunities are there. You’ve thought about putting your skills towards being a social media consultant, either full time or as a way to earn a little extra money, but have no idea where to start.
Before you quit your day job, here are FOUR basic things to consider when jumping into becoming a Social Media Consultant:
Decide on a Focus
Social media consultants run the gamut from those who define strategy to those who implement it or build systems to maintain it. There are coaches, community managers, researchers, and technologists. The trick is finding what YOU have to offer and putting it out there. Is there a need your skill set and if so, where? What services would you like to provide? What sets you apart?
Last week, I counseled a college friend who recently started her own social media agency. She comes from a unique background and has access to some incredible data. I was all, “LEVERAGE it”. She was so caught up in being part of the wave that she didn't realize that the key to success is not being like everyone else. There is a demand for smart, motivated, and innovative people in social media. You just have to know how and why you can help.
Find Potential Clients
Who do you know who could benefit from your skills? Are you part of any groups or organizations whose social media presence could use a jump start?
Your next big decision as a social media consultant is to determine who to target… and no, it is not “everyone” or “whoever needs my help”. If you try to reach everyone, you will reach no one. Begin with one area that interests you, whether it’s fashion, travel, technology, green living, or your local market. Learn everything you can about that niche and target those types of businesses. Over time, you can branch out and leap into other areas of interest, but it’s wise to keep you focus small while you are and grow as the opportunities arise.
Let’s say you want to specialize in running social media for local children’s boutiques. Find ones in your area and talk to them about their marketing needs. Don’t try to sell them on your services right away. Instead, chat with them about what’s working and what’s not in their business. Ask them about their day-to-day pain points, long term goals, and current tactics. Be the expert in that niche!
From there, create a one-page on your services, specially addressing common marketing concerns, needs, and opportunities in that target market. Then, go back to them with your pitch.
Another way to find clients is to offer webinars or classes. Develop content and materials on social media and put them in front of people who most need your help. Seek out and offer to speak at conferences or industry events within that niche.
Networking within your own industry is awesome. It can be amazing and inspiring and comforting. It’s being with your tribe, understanding where you are coming from, and getting the punch line. But… your chances of finding your next new client in a room full of marketers, mavens, and gurus are slim to none. To find clients, look into your network and then reaching just slightly beyond. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone and take risks.
Determine What to Charge
Pricing is tricky since it depends on many factors— type of client, scope of work, duration of project, etc. Social media consultants typically charge anywhere from $15 to $250 an hour, which is a huge range. There is a delicate art to pinpointing the exact amount that you are willing to accept and that client can afford. Charge too much and the conversation could come to a screeching halt. Charge too little and you may not be taken seriously. The best way go about it is simply to ask the right questions and be willing to be flexible.
Consider what is being asked of you and what type of experience you bring. Hourly work or short-term projects should be charged at a fairly higher hourly rate. If a client is willing to retain you over several months, then offer a lower hourly rate in exchange for the guaranteed paycheck. Perhaps the work is something that you can do fairly quickly because you’ve done it before. Don’t forget your knowledge is just as valuable as your effort and your time. In that case, charge a project fee instead of an hourly rate, and figure out how to grow it into a long-term role.
Expect to charge little or nothing for your first clients, not that you have to reveal this to anyone else. Pricing is considered proprietary information and the value of every client is relative. What you are earning with your first clients is experience and the ability to point to a success story in order to attract future clients. The long term goal for your business ought to include transitioning to higher-paying clients, but in the short-term, your focus needs to be on getting off and running. Once you have been established and have gained enough experience, you can (and should) increase your rates.
Mack Collier offers an excellent year over year rate sheet for variety of social media projects, from developing a social media strategy to updating a blog. This information is based on a survey of consultants who work either independently or as part of an agency. It’s a good basis on which to set your expectations.
Refine Your Sales Pitch
Have you ever met a person who was so caught up in telling you all about themselves that they don’t ask a single question about you? They go on and on trying to convince you of how great they are that they don’t ever bother find out if you care. Chances are you never want to talk to that person again… much less trust your brand with them. Don’t be that person.
The art of a great pitch isn’t about making a sale, it’s about finding a solution… and you will never know what you are trying to solve unless you are willing to listen. Be prepared with an “elevator pitch” (thirty seconds of who you are, what you offer, and why it is important) and to ask the right questions. Listen intently to the client’s needs. Speak clearly and concisely about what you offer and the expected results. Provide best practices and measurable results. If they are interested in learning more, the conversations will naturally continue.
Most important, make sure you own online presence is targeted, on point, and highly polished. Be yourself, but also share pertinent discoveries, statistics, or articles on social media. After all, what you are truly selling as a consultant is yourself
Have you thought about a career in social media? What lingering questions do you have?
Image via EverydayFamily.com