So you've decided to go into business for yourself as a freelance social media marketer. There are some things you need to know. Beginning with: it ain't gonna be easy. It is a tough gig to get, clients rarely appreciate the time it takes to sort out a solid social strategy for them, and the competition is fierce.
That said, there are things to keep in mind that will increase your chances for success.
Personality characteristics for success
All successful freelancers share certain characteristics, not everyone is cut out for this life. Among them:
- Flexibility: This is not a 9-5 job; you will be working evenings and weekends, often without much notice. Clients are apt to change their requirements mid-stream. You must be able to roll with it and make adjustments, without getting rattled.
- Confidence: You need to offer solid advice to clients in such a way that it is clear that you know what you are doing. You were not hired to offer vague generalities. They pay you to be the guide who is sure of the path forward; make sure you convey that impression.
- Not easily discouraged: You will fail at some tasks. Some clients will not be happy with what you do. This is a tough market and things will certainly not always go your way. But no one set you on fire; you live to fight another day.
But characteristics alone aren't enough to get you there. There are things a successful freelancer needs to do to be able to make it:
- Be organized: You will be juggling several projects and clients at a time. You will need to know exactly where you are with each one and what needs to be done and when. Your clients are not paying you to let things slip through the cracks.
- Have strong communication skills: You must be able to communicate with your clients in such a way that you get a clear understanding of their needs and you convey clearly what you can deliver and why. There is no room for misunderstandings in this business. If a client believes that they have not been listened to or that they have been misled, you will lose business and you will get the reputation for being an unreliable flake ball.
- Be rigorously disciplined: One of the great appeals of being self-employed is that you can make your own schedule. That's a wonderful thing, but without the fear of a boss over your shoulder often the temptation is to finish watching the Breaking Bad marathon. You must be harder on yourself than any boss ever was. Make a schedule and hold yourself to it.
- Have a solid social presence to show you can do what you say. If you can't find the time to "do social" for yourself, you can't expect other people to believe that you can do it for them. Your online presence should convey stability and competence. What you do for yourself is what you are promising your clients you will do for them.
Tools to help
There are apps out there that will make it easier for you to work efficiently and effectively. Three of the best are:
- TeuxDeux allows you to create an intuitive and workable To-Do list that can be updated wherever you are. It works as easily on your iPhone as on your desktop and is very affordable
- UpWork (formerly ODesk) links you to companies looking for all types of freelance talent. It costs you nothing to join and once you start getting projects it takes just a 10% fee. It is available as an app for your iPhone, Android, or as a Web platform
- Time enables multi-tasking. Freelancers don't have the luxury of working on one project at a time but must be able to jump between several tasks and clients throughout the day. As a web platform and an iPhone app, Time follows that hectic pace with you, delivering your schedule and tracking how you spend your time so you can control the past, present, and quite possibly the future.
Tips for success
Once you do get off the ground, there are some tips you should keep in mind:
- Avoid depending on very large clients. As attractive a proposition as the whale may be, you are better off with many smaller fish because if big one disappears, you're screwed.
- Don't work for free. There is a school of thought out there that you can make a name for yourself by doing freebies. That name is patsy. You are a professional and professionals get paid.
- Don't spread yourself too thin, only commit to projects you know you can complete in a timely manner. If you miss deadlines you will destroy your carefully cultivated relationships and reputation.
Even with all of this, odds still aren't in your favor - they aren't in any freelancer's favor. Success, if it comes, will not come quickly or easily. It is essential that you plan to put time in and build your business base slowly.
So go ahead and take your shot, just make sure that your eyes are clear and your toolbox is full.