How to become a freelance social media manager

With most people in the UK using social networks (around 57 million in January 2023), it’s become a mainstream channel for businesses to promote themselves and interact with customers. Whether it’s via Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Discord or Mastodon, find out how to become a freelance social media manager to help companies and brands use these platforms effectively.

Whether you’re hoping to freelance part or full-time, and work with small, medium, or large organisations, there are definitely opportunities in social media marketing. As an example, on Facebook alone there are more than 200 million businesses trying to promote themselves and their products or services.

You can choose whether to offer overall strategy and management of all social media channels. Or if you want to specialise in particular types of content or specific platforms.

What does a freelance social media manager actually do?

The responsibilities of a freelance social media manager will vary a lot depending on the size of business you work with, the services you decide to offer, and the platforms you specialise in. But as a general overview, the role can include:

  • Creating social media strategies
  • Setting targets and objectives
  • Content Creation, including text, images, videos, and graphics
  • Scheduling
  • Reporting and data analysis
  • Social listening and research
  • Providing customer service
  • Crisis management plans and responses
  • Community management and engagement
  • Generating sales and leads
  • Identifying and working with social media influencers
  • Paid social media advertising and promotion
  • Managing and updating brand profiles and assets
  • Identifying and recommending future trends and opportunities.
  • Providing internal best practice, staff guidelines and other internal education

Many medium-sized companies and larger may have internal staff, or existing external resources, covering some of these areas. Particularly around paid advertising or marketing. But smaller clients are more likely to need a freelancer that can cover a larger range of tasks and platforms competently.

It’s important to be clear about the services you offer, and any areas that you don’t specialise in, or even deal with. And that your clients understand the assets or resources they will need to provide for you to be effective. 

What skills or qualifications do you need?

With a freelance role that can cover so many areas, there are specialist skills that you may need to develop. But some of the core requirements to be a good social media manager are:

  • Creativity: Some businesses might provide text, images, or videos to publish, but they’ll need guidance on how to do it effectively. And you’ll need to be able to edit that content, or create anything required.
  • Organisation and Project Management: With potentially multiple clients working across various campaigns and platforms, you’ll need to ensure your planning and scheduling is well-organised to avoid any issues or mistakes.
  • Communication and Community Management: Not only will you need to respond to customer service enquiries and complaints, but you’ll also need to ensure clear communication with clients as part of managing their social media effectively.
  • Reporting and presenting data: If you’re being paid by clients, they’ll need to know they’re getting value for money. Reporting can range from showing you’ve published a required volume of content over a set period of time, to demonstrating the sales or leads that social media has generated via tracking and analytics.

Good writing and editing skills will help with creating engaging content for social media, and also your relationships with your clients. With most social networks rewarding short, and often funny or witty posts, copywriting and editing are two areas to study.

Understanding basic photography and video techniques will also help you create good quality content, but you can also get plenty of help from both social media platforms and specialist third-party tools to polish your images and videos before publishing them. 

And many businesses will already have third-party social media tools in place for scheduling, publishing, and management. Or may look to you for recommendations. So, it’s good to be familiar with the main options on the market, in addition to what social networks offer natively through their platforms.

There are no set qualifications to become a social media manager. Clients will typically look for experience, knowledge, and previous client results to demonstrate your abilities, although a related degree or specialist certification can certainly help you to stand out from other freelancers. Especially when you’re just starting out.

A wide range of free and paid specialist social media courses are available online or in-person. These are offered by everyone from other freelancers and the platforms themselves, to various organisations and universities. For example, the Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate, Hubspot’s Social Media Marketing Course, or social media courses offered by the Institute of Data and MarketingDigital Marketing Institute, or Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Before spending time and potentially significant amounts of money on any course, it’s worth researching the value it can provide. Speaking to clients about what they look for, chatting with other social media professionals (for instance, in our Creative Freelancers UK Facebook group), and scanning job adverts will help you identify which skills and qualifications are currently most valuable in securing client work.

Useful tools and equipment for freelance social media managers

You don’t need to make a huge investment in equipment or software to get started as a freelance social media manager. And some clients will already have publishing and management tools in place, to which you’ll be given access. 

Obviously you’ll need a computer, or at least a smartphone, to be able to access the internet and create content. And your phone will also provide a way to create images, audio, and video. It’s worth investing in a fairly powerful handset which can run all the apps you may need to use. 

It’s also a good idea to have quality headphones and microphones for both meetings, and recording audio. Along with some basic lighting solutions, such as a ring light, for when natural sunlight isn’t going to be suitable. And while many phones and video software do include some stabilisation solutions, it can also be worth acquiring a stand or gimbal to make things easier. Some phone and camera stands can also include automatic tracking and rotation, so they will follow you as you move around.

When it comes to social media software, there are a lot of management tools available with various positives and negatives. But some of the main providers you’re likely to encounter will include:

  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • Sprout Social
  • CoSchedule
  • Loomly
  • Hubspot
  • Brandwatch
  • Later
  • Tailwind
  • SocialBee
  • MeetEdgar

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and there are many more social media tools available to cover all platforms, or specific networks (for example, Later focuses on Instagram, while Tailwind adds Pinterest). It’s worth using free access or trials to test a few of the providers available and see what works best for you, and your clients. 

And it’s also useful to become familiar with some of the most popular content creation tools, particularly for photo and video editing. Obviously Canva is a well-known and widely-used example, along with Photoshop, but it’s also a good idea to try out the native tools provided by social networks, such as the TikTok Video Editor, and be aware of third-party apps which can help your content stand out (such as CapCut, BeeCut or Zoomerang for TikTok).

How to become a freelance social media manager

How much can freelance social media managers earn?

Your potential income in any self-employed career will vary a lot depending on your skills, experience, clients, rates and location. Any suggested figures provided are for general guidance, and you could earn significantly more with the right projects.

In a 2022 Salary Survey by Major Players, day rates typically range from £225 to £325, rising to £300 to £400 for more senior roles. The average annual salary for a freelance social media manager in the UK is suggested as £31,947 (Glassdoor).

Including employed roles, the average earnings tend to range from £25,818 (Payscale) and £27,200 (Jobted) to £33,303 (Indeed), but this will include new and junior employees likely to be on an entry-level salary. And wages will always be higher if you’re in London or another big city with strong demand for social media and marketing professionals.

Many people will build up experience working for a business or agency before switching to freelancing. And your rates will need to include the costs you’ll take on, such as insurance, health cover, setting up your own pension and more. IPSE members can get discounted offers from specialist partner companies, in addition to free advice on becoming self-employed for the first time.

Finding clients as a freelance social media manager with no experience

If you’ve already gained experience working for an agency or business, then it’s likely you’ll also have useful contacts for finding freelance projects. And when you have a few successful examples in your portfolio, it should become easier to maintain a steady demand for your services.

But how do you go about finding clients as a freelance social media manager with no experience, and potentially no qualifications?

The first step is to treat your personal brand or your business as your main client, by setting up a good social media marketing strategy. This will allow you to not only connect with potential clients and other social media professionals who can share advice, experience or client referrals, but also gives you data which you can choose to share to demonstrate your abilities. Often client work may be subject to privacy and non-disclosure agreements, meaning you can’t publicise the analytics or sales results.

You can also build up experience by volunteering your services to charities and nonprofits. Smaller, local organisations are more likely to appreciate help, and if you can significantly raise their profile, it can be a notable achievement for your portfolio. 

Offering a trial period to small local businesses can also help you get started. But it’s important to recognise when it’s worthwhile to offer free or discounted services, or when it might just mean you’re undervaluing your time and committing to working for a loss. Even when you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to research potential clients, and you should always have a clear contract or statement of work in place.  

If you’re not clear about the exact services and amount of work you offer as a social media manager, you can quickly find clients expecting you to cover an increasing amount of tasks for the original hours and rates agreed.

More resources and support for freelance social media managers

Institute of Data and Marketing

Digital Marketing Institute

Chartered Institute of Marketing


Researching other freelance careers? Why not check out our other guides:

And you can get support and help if you’re starting out with self-employment, or still in the early stages of building your career, with the IPSE Incubator. The 12-month programme is currently free with IPSE membership, and includes advice, events, webinars, networking and more, tailored to anyone just beginning their freelance business.