Dear Lifehacker, I love social media marketing. I've been doing it for my blog for over 12 months and have recently been brought on as a content manager for a small online business. At what point can I call myself an expert and start charging for consultancy work? Thanks, Social Seeker
Consulting picture from Shutterstock
The short and simple answer? As soon as you can persuade somebody to pay you money for your advice and consultancy, you can call yourself a consultant. There's no way of becoming a certified social media consultant; the proof is in what you deliver. If you can provide specific examples of how you have improved social media performance for a specific business or individual — whether that's getting more Twitter followers or making Facebook ads more effective — you can try and persuade someone to pay you to deliver those skills.
That won't necessarily be easy. There's a lot of self-serving rubbish peddled in the social media space. There's also sometimes a distinct unwillingness to discuss whether an enhanced social media presence actually benefits a business. That said, if you are good at gaining followers and attracting attention, you already have the basis for a marketing plan for your consultancy work.
You'll need to figure out what you can charge. We've offered detailed advice on this topic before. As a new consultant, you may find you can't charge the same rates initially as established rivals, but a lower rate may give you an advantage in finding clients.
One other thing to bear in mind: you'll need to be careful to balance your new ambitions with your current job. Your boss isn't going to be thrilled if you seem to be spending more time hunting down consultancy clients than doing your own work, and you won't be able to use the work you do for your boss as an example without explicit permission. That doesn't mean that you can't do both: you just have to be clear what the boundaries are.
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