How to Become a Successful Social Media Consultant

Do you have what it takes to be a social media consultant? If you’re fantasizing about working four hours a week on a Hawaiian beach and making twice the amount of money, you’re in for a shock. Being a consultant isn’t easy and specializing in social media doesn’t make you unique in the marketplace.

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This article will break down how to be a successful social media consultant. By the end, you should have a clear understanding of what a social media consultant does and how to get started in the process.

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A post shared by Amy Howard Social (@amyhowardsocial) on Jan 13, 2017 at 2:46pm PST

Benefits of Becoming a Social Media Consultant

There are many advantages to becoming self-employed. Generally, you’re able to decide on your schedule, workload and wages. You can also work from anywhere in the world with clients who are globally based. This appeals to those who like or need flexibility in their schedules.

The challenges of owning your own business means you’re constantly evolving and learning. This is ongoing professional development that you might not find elsewhere. You’re able to essentially design your own career trajectory.

Often touted as a benefit, becoming your own boss can be a myth. It’s true that you might not be working up a corporate ladder. However, you still have to answer to clients and deadlines.

Disadvantages of Being Your Own Boss

Many people start out romanticizing the life of the entrepreneur. You get to wear pajamas all day, start and stop work whenever you want and travel the world. They get caught up in the ideal and forget that you also become a business owner. This means that unless you have the money to outsource, you have to do all the accounting, billing, tax payments, marketing, sales pitches, content development and networking that keeps a business running.

An undervalued skill set is self-motivation. When you’re your own boss, the only person who is motivating you to complete work is yourself.

If the disadvantages don’t deter you, then maybe becoming a social media manager is the job for you.

Here are seven ways you can become a successful social media consultant:

1. Do Your Research

Like at the beginning of any new business, putting work in to research your industry, worth and potential client base can help you in the long run. Creating a business plan helps you work through how you’ll make your money. Saying that you’ll offer consulting services is not enough.

Research your potential competitors through sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and standard Google searches. This is much like keyword researching. Who comes up when you look up “social media consultant Houston” or “social media consultant hotels?”

Do you have the skills needed to be a social media manager, if that’s part of your services offering?

2. Dip Your Toes With a Few Clients

For some people, it’s a slow transition from working at their day job while building their side hustle to being a full-time consultant. If you’re unsure if this is the job for you, then taking on one or two clients at the beginning is your safest bet. You’ll have a safety net of your current job while figuring out your ideal one.

If you’re having issues with finding your first clients, browse job sites like Indeed or Built In and start pitching. You can also network among your local freelancer group, attending social media conferences and participate in industry Twitter chats.

A good part of your time as a consultant involves self promotion and establishing expertise. No one will hire someone if they can’t demonstrate that they know what they’re talking about.

Q2. In your opinion, what are some examples of metrics of a successful Facebook ad? #semrushchat pic.twitter.com/XyOXN77Vu6

— SEMrush (@semrush) August 2, 2017

3. Set up Your Workstation

Beyond your computer, there are still processes and workflows that you need to establish to run a smooth operation. This includes finding the right people or software to handle invoices, client appointments and even your quarterly tax payments.

The best way to set up a client intake process is to picture yourself as the client. Go through every step and write them down.

client intake process graph

Prospecting: How do clients find you? How do they book a consultation with you?
Proposal: Will you send out a proposal? What are the steps for review and approval?
Contract: Are you offering a contract? Is it easy to understand and how do they sign?
On-boarding: How do you officially start working with the client? Do you need to give them access to your invoicing software? Do you need to collect password information?
Invoicing: How do you deliver invoices and how do you want to be paid? Is your client clear on the payment terms and late fees?

Beyond a client intake process, you still have to look for other helpful software programs, like a social media management platform, analytics program and invoicing app. If you plan on offering analytics as part of your services, then you’ll need to decide if you’re going to put together your own report or generate one from a service.


4. Niche or General?

This is a constant battle for consultants. Do you aim to handle social media marketing for any company who asks or do you specialize in certain industries and limit your client base? There are pros and cons to both and it’s up to you to decide which is best.

During the research process, you can take a look at both what you want to offer and the matching client base. For example, if you only want to handle social media marketing for restaurants, take a look at the restaurants around you to see if they need help.

If you want to specialize in pizza restaurants, are there enough that need your services? How will you stand out from everyone else who is offering the same service?

5. Decide on Services & Products

The span of the social media consultant is vast. Oftentimes, the role overlaps into SEO, content creation and social media management.

As a consultant, you have many choices on your offerings. Here are just a few:

Social media audit
Coaching sessions or retainers
Training
Social media manager
Account creation and setup for new businesses
Social media strategy session

Having a mix of products and services allows you to diversify your income stream. But having too many can also be prohibitive because you’ll be more scattered in your tasks.

Along with deciding on which services and products you offer is the often-stressful task of setting fees. A social media specialist can make $35,609 annually while a senior social media strategist can make $110,216. The range is enormous and you need to find your sweet spot.

In your research stage, take a look at what other consultants are charging. Remember that you need to build your expenses and self-employment taxes into your pricing. Freelance rate calculators exist as a resource to help you decide.

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This is an example of a services page from Everywhere Agency.

6. Practice What You Preach

While you’re searching for new clients or working with your current ones, make sure to keep practicing your advice. Your potential client will research your pages and you don’t want them to see that you haven’t Tweeted in two months.

Consider yourself as your own client. Connect with other industry professionals, keep learning about social media news and write blog posts to establish your expertise. As you probably well know, the more you engage with the community, the more they recognize you as an expert.

I'm excited to be a speaker at @mashable's Social Media Day NJ event on Friday 6/30. Join us: https://t.co/ByI83ou3XZ #SMDayNJ pic.twitter.com/mbuC2NLnXX

— Deborah Smith (@deborahlsmith) June 26, 2017

7. Don’t Fall Into the Common Mistakes

You aren’t going to be free from failure as a consultant but you can certainly try and avoid the more common mistakes. Some of these mistakes include:

Undervaluing yourself: If you find that clients are readily saying yes to your rates and that your clients aren’t as good as you like, these are signs that you could be undervaluing your services.
Not getting work in writing: We want to all believe that people will pay on time and stick to what you agreed to. Unfortunately, as a small business owner, you need to protect yourself and contracts are the best way of doing so.
Broad scope: Be as specific as possible on what you will be doing for your client and how it will be delivered. Setting boundaries is key in any healthy relationship.
Poor communication: You don’t have to answer emails within five minutes to be a great communicator. Professionalism is underrated. The better your communication and the smoother your workflows, the easier the rapport will be.

Our software helps consultants and agencies alike in streamlining the social media management and analytics process. Take some of the manual work out of your process and see how Sprout can help you be a better consultant.

Social Media Consultant Checklist
Social Media Consultant Checklist

This post How to Become a Successful Social Media Consultant originally appeared on Sprout Social.