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With more companies and organizations looking to hire social media help, and more social-media-savvy young professionals recognizing that opportunity, the same question keeps landing in my inbox again and again: How much should you charge for social media consulting?
Social media consultants charge rates across the board using a variety of fee structures – from $15/hour to thousands per project. How do you know where you fit in?
Here are a few tips for helping you figure out how to charge and what to charge next time an opportunity comes your way:
Social media consultants charge anywhere from $15-$250+ an hour. That's a HUGE spectrum, just like all business services consulting. Take these factors into consideration when figuring out how much YOU should charge per hour:
Work Experience. For most of us (who aren't famous in the digital world), the biggest factor in how much you can charge is your work experience. If you're new to the working world, you might want to stick with $15-$40/hour. If you have five years of professional experience under your belt, transition into the $45-$75 range, and if you have more than five years experience, you can usually get away with charging $80-$100 or more.
As with all consulting work, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the per-hour question, partly because it also depends on the type of client, the type of work and the project scope. But if you stay within these guidelines, you'll likely be considered fair.
This also applies to whether you've worked specifically in the social media field. Maybe you've been working in an unrelated field for five or 10 years, and now you're looking to make some money on the side as a social media strategist. Your going rate will likely be higher than the just-out-of-college crowd, but still lower than experienced strategists.
Type of client. You'll also want to consider the type of client and what they can afford. Because remember, you don't have to charge the same amount for each client.
Charge corporate clients more than non-profits, and thriving companies more than struggling individuals! This might sound shady, but it's smart business. Plus, social media consultants often tailor packages and offerings according to the needs of each client, so it's highly unlikely you'll wind up offering the exact same service (with the same content, frequency and effort) to two clients.
Location. This might affect how much you'd like to make (so you can cover living expenses), but it probably won't affect your actual prices. Why? Because an increasing number of social media consultants work remotely. You'll likely live in a different city or even country than your clients anyhow.
Charging hourly is the easiest way to go, the status quo. You track the hours it takes to work on each project, then bill the client accordingly. The more hours you work, the more money you'll make.
But what if you instead charged per project or a monthly retainer or a combination of the two? Lots of business experts say that's smarter than charging an hourly rate. Why? Because if you don't tie your fees to your (limited) hours, you have the potential to bring in far more income. And if you land recurring work (and put systems into place), you'll become faster over time, and you can use your extra hours to bring in more income. Once you get to the point where you hire people to help you, you can leverage that, too.
So how should you go about charging on a project basis? That's what we'll talk about next.
Charging per project – which works well if the project is, for example, creating a social media strategy – takes some effort up front; you'll want to figure out how much time and effort you'll spend on the project and how much you need to earn to make it worth it. Here are some tips for doing that:
Know what you want to make. Even though you're not charging per hour, having some idea of how much you'd like to earn for each hour of your time will help you determine your fee. Initially, it might be difficult to figure how many hours you'll spend, but this will become easier to estimate with each passing project. (Make sure to account for the time and effort it takes you to prepare for each project, especially if it's a one-time training gig or seminar.)
Don't forget your knowledge is just as valuable as your effort. If you're able to complete a project quickly because you've done similar projects so many times before, base your fee on how much your work is worth – how valuable your knowledge is to the client – not how many hours you'll spend on it. Otherwise you might end up undervaluing your work.
Try a monthly retainer for recurring work. This works well when you're growing an online community for a client. (Think that's bogus? Check out this post on why it sometimes makes sense to outsource social media.) For new clients, I usually charge a one-time set-up fee that covers strategizing and creating social media profiles, then a monthly retainer to maintain the networks and grow quality followings.
Check out what other consultants charge. Want some examples of how much other consultants charge for various social media projects? Mark Collier offers a great post that shows rates for a variety of projects – from creating a social media strategy to updating a blog – based on a survey of consultants who work either independently or as part of an agency. The “Most Charge” category is most helpful, as it shows what most of the people he surveyed charge for each project. For example, most consultants he surveyed charge $1,000-$2,000/month for managing a Facebook page, and $1,000-$3,000/month for writing or editing about two posts/week for a blog.
Remember, you could “build a Twitter following” by simply tweeting once in a while, or you could put quality time and effort into building one strategically, connecting with specific targets and really growing a kick-ass community. Make sure the client knows specifically how you’ll do the latter, so they understand why they’re paying you well.
If you're clueless about how much the client might be willing to pay, try offering tiered packages. The first basic package costs, say, $1,000 a month, the second costs $2,000 and the third comes in at $3,000.
Make sure the cheapest option isn't less than you'll work for though, because plenty of clients will choose Door Number One. And it's in your best interest to also offer a package that's higher than what you think the client will pay, because it makes the other options look more appealing.
This might sound simple, but it's the best piece of consulting advice out there. Especially in a crowded field like social media, where rates fall across the board, you could choose a whole spectrum of rates and still be considered reasonable.
No matter how much you decide to charge, some people will think you're charging too much and others will think you're charging too little. The challenge, then, is figuring out how much you need to earn to make it worth your while, and finding clients who will pay what you decide you're worth.
So pick a price, and own it. Be confident about how much you're worth, do an amazing job, and you might be surprised by how much clients are willing to pay for your abilities.
Got questions? Happy to discuss in the comments!
If you’re looking to make money from your social media skills, check out my guides on this topic:
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