When you run an auto repair shop, you hire mechanics. When you run a coffee shop, you hire baristas. In both of these cases, you can clearly see how the people you hire directly affect your bottom line, which is why many business owners are reluctant to hire a full-time dedicated social media marketer – even though their ultimate success is on the line, no matter what industry you’re in. How can you justify that cost, especially when you need measurable ROI? Enter the social media freelancer!
Best of all worlds
A social media or marketing freelancer is a basically a low-maintenance part-time “employee” who is focused exclusively on one thing: making your business grow with online presence. They spend their spare time reading about new social media trends, finding out the latest tricks, and devising creative ways to drive traffic and make sales for clients. They don’t have to worry about splitting their time between running inventory on the walk-in freezer and responding to customer support requests: their only task is to make you look fabulous on the internet.
Freelancers tend to diversify, too. You might think that you’ll need a web designer and a social media manager and an SEO expert and a security guy and a customer service department, but most of the time, you’ll find all of these things in one seat. Why is that? Because a freelancer knows that your time is just as important as their time, and being a one-stop-shop makes it easier for everyone. Many have collected skills like some people collect stamps. As the wise Heinlein once said, “Specialization is for insects.”
The average small business does not need to prepare three Facebook posts, six Tweets, one Google+ post, and a blog every day for a month, with up-to-the-minute monitoring and full-time round-the-clock customer service responses. That’s the kind of reality that the great big corporations have to deal with. For the Main Street guys, you need a handful of posts scheduled out for the week, one or two blogs per month, weekly or monthly reports, and daily monitoring for customer service messages, usually during business hours. You need someone to explain your SEO in plain language, get some feedback on the course of your campaigns, and then let you get back to running your business.
Make that investment
Sure, larger companies can afford to hire entire departments, or they can contract the services of large agencies, but these are often priced way beyond what a small business can reasonably afford, and their services go way past anything a small business needs. The big service providers are just not a good investment for a local or even regional businesses – and that goes double if you’re already crunched for talent and trying to justify another full-time salary for a job that may or may not be full-time.
When you start looking at a social media freelancers, remember this: you’re paying for a part-time person, for all intents and purposes, so plan your budget accordingly. They’ve already done the leg-work to learn how to manage your social media network. If you’re looking for an “entry level” social media person because you’re trying to limit your cost, you’re going to spend more money for the time it takes them to figure out the differences between “I post stuff to Facebook” and “I post things to Facebook for a business.” They are not at all the same things.
Someone who’s already qualified as a freelancer is not going to accept $15 an hour, nor “exposure”, because they’ve made an investment themselves in learning the tricks of the trade. Someone who’s looking to work with small businesses, though, is probably not going to be charge upwards of $75 an hour either (outside of California) because they want to be accessible. The sweet spot for most freelancers is usually between $35 and $55 per hour for a single person, usually with a caveat that they might outsource a thing or two. (Make sure you ask about that when you’re deciding on your service agreement! Who’s on the line for that?)
Finding the right match
The thing about a lot of freelancers, though, is that they specialize in certain industries, markets, or methods. Some have a lot of background in software and SaaS, others like more brick-and-mortar businesses. If you own a business with a lot of visual appeal – tattooing, for instance, or fashion design, or handmade items – you’ll want to partner with someone who knows their way around Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re more focused on services and traditional fare, your freelancer needs to work solidly in Facebook and Twitter with a special eye towards paid social advertising.
More than anything else, though, you need to have a good rapport with your freelancer. Do you feel comfortable talking to them, or do you feel like you’re not quite speaking the same language (metaphorically)? Working with a freelancer (or even a micro-agency) is a long-term relationship, and you need to approach it as such. Your results will not happen overnight, and they will require some input on your part – this is your business that we’re talking about, after all – so shop around accordingly.
It’s not about the lowest price, it’s about the best bang for your buck.
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