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3 Common Obstacles to Starting a Social Media Business and Why You Shouldn’t Let Them Stop You

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use your social media skills to make money

Interested in using your social media skills to make money? Sign up for a free Brazen webinar with social media strategist Alexis Grant, author of How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business.

If you’re social-media-savvy, you’re staring in the face of opportunity; so many brands, both big and small, need help growing their online community.

But even if you know you want to use your social media skills to make money, it’s not always clear where to start.

Since launching my ebook How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business, I’ve talked with lots of young professionals who want to make this move, whether to earn money on the side of their day job or as a stepping stone to working for themselves full time. Those who are held up often feel stymied by the same issues.

So let’s talk about those popular obstacles and how to overcome them:

Obstacle #1: Deciding which services to provide

Social media consultants run the gamut, from coaching clients to creating strategies to actually implementing those strategies. Others run classes or webinars, and others sell products that help clients help themselves. Which type of services do you want to provide? Where on this spectrum do you fit in?

A big part of this is deciding who to target. Saying you’ll “work with anyone who needs it” may keep you from closing any doors, but also deprives you of finding a niche — and that’s usually where the money’s at.

If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one. Target clients by topic — travel, for example, or finance — based off your skills and interests. Or target by type of client, looking to work with non-profits, for example, or individual writers.

Once you’ve got this down, create a page on your blog about your services (here’s an example). Even if you don’t include prices on your site, being clear about what you offer will go a long way.

Obstacle #2: Figuring out what to charge

This is another piece that varies drastically, which is why it can be difficult to pinpoint how to approach it. How much you charge depends on your experience, what you’re offering and what the client can afford. Recent college graduates charge anywhere from $20-$100/hour.

For your first paying client or two, try to find a happy medium between how much you think they can afford and how much you’d like to make. Lean toward affordability at first if landing that client is essential to getting your business off the ground; you can always ask for more with your next client. In fact, transitioning to higher paid clients over time should be one of your long-term goals.

Also consider how many hours you’ll work for the client. If you’re working on an hourly basis, you can charge a fairly high rate for those few hours. If the client is retaining you month after month to implement their social media strategy, your hourly rate can be lower because you’re guaranteed a good number of hours. This second type of client — the recurring monthly client — is the best kind in my mind, because you know you’ll have that paycheck month after month.

Obstacle #3: Getting clients

Landing your first client could be the most difficult part of starting your own business — or, if serendipity is on your side, it could be the easiest.

The key here is to always be on the lookout for opportunities. Who within your network, or perhaps within one or two degrees of separation, could benefit from your skills? Which organizations that you’re involved with have a not-so-impressive online presence? Which businesses would reach their target demographic by making better use of online tools?

Pitch one of those brands, letting them know how you can help them reach their goals. But don’t expect to fill your pockets with cash from your first client. Instead, consider working for that client for free to gain experience, a recommendation and possibly referrals that will help you down the line. Once you’ve done a fabulous job for that client, it will be easier to land more.

If you’re past the point of working for free — and you should only work for free if it’s benefiting you significantly by, for example, helping you build your resume — the client search can be more challenging. In addition to going after possible clients, focus on helping them find you. Use your own online presence to market yourself, showcasing your value in this field so opportunities come to you. One of the best ways to do this is through a blog.

This is what I like to call “making your own luck.” The more value you provide online, the more people you connect with, the more you build your online community — the more likely that community will think of you when an opportunity arises that fits your skill set. If you continue to build that network and make it easy to find you, you’ll rarely be in the position where you have to look for clients.

What other challenges are keeping your from launching a social media business?

Alexis Grant, managing editor of Brazen Life and author of ebook How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business, is offering a free Brazen webinar on making money off your social media skills. Sign up to join us!

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.galvestonapartments.org/ Brian (Galveston Apartments)

    I wrote an e-book once, I thought it was brilliant, heck I even offered it out for free. I think my marketing effort was weak, thus the reason I never had traction. I think if I would have taken the time (like you did) to contribute tidbits of info at a variety of social networking websites I would have done much better. Now I’m working for an apartment locator at http://www.galvestonapartments.org , If I revisit my plan of my free e-book driving business and traffic to my company, I think I shall hire someone like you; someone who already knows how the game is played.

    • http://alexisgrant.com/ Alexis Grant

      Hey Brian — You’re so right that it’s half about great content, half about great marketing. You’ve got to figure out how to get the word out! But the good news is that you’ll be even more prepared to succeed next time :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Alexis. Really good piece and nicely focused. I’m thinking about this side of business and you’re right in relation to finding a niche. People in the similar industries tend to network together so any clients you have in one particular area will be good for word of mouth….. As long as they re not competitors!
    http://Www.workingsirens.blogspot.com

    • http://alexisgrant.com/ Alexis Grant

      Good for you! If you decide to go for it, give me a holler and let me know how it goes :)

  • AnnaBethea

    OMG, this is exactly what I needed right now! Thank you, Alexis, for laying it out so beautifully. I’m transitioning right now – only 5 more days in my 8-5 job, and I will be free to build my web design and social network consulting business from the ground up. I had already considered taking on a few clients for free (already have potential businesses & orgs that I have my eye on to target), but I really appreciated the breakdown on how to focus on pricing and clear packaging. I think this will make a huge difference in communicating clearly what exactly it is that I’m providing. I’ve also been thinking the last few days about creating my own business “persona” on FB and twitter, and I’m already excited about scheduling and slowly releasing bits of good content and traffic drivers. Eeee! :D Thanks for the work you do to inform and inspire!

    • http://alexisgrant.com/ Alexis Grant

      Go you! That is so great. Congrats! Have you checked out my guide on transitioning to work for yourself? Might be helpful: http://alexisgrant.com/self-employment. Keep us posted :)

      • AnnaBethea

        Thanks! I looked at the guide and it looks really good! I’m enrolled in Marie Forleo’s b-school (http://rhhbschool.com/) which will start June 4, and I also have a whole backlog of Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit emails (http://empirebuildingkit.com/) sitting in my gmail to get through. I’m constantly reaching for more learning materials, though, so I will most likely get to yours soon! : ) Part of my goal for becoming profitable in my own biz is just to make enough dough to consume more guides and books to just keep on learning.

    • Agatha

      Your post is exactly where I am in my life right now! I am you 7 months ago. (Hi, by the way, my name is Agatha.) Currently I’m on my second week of unemployment after quitting my secure job to take a stab at self-employment. How is everything going with your social media business? Do you have any pieces of advice to give for people beginning work in this industry? Outside of this article’s advice, that is?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664115186 Mir Loza

    Social media is the way to grow business don´t let this problems to stop you. I´ve been using LINKEDIN and some others tools from google and my business has been growing. I leave you this link so that you see how LINKEDIN works and determine if it can be useful for yours. http://www.linkedinfluence.com/?hop=miriloza86

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003975381162 Charm Thriving

    In setting up a social media business.You must know what you are doing and be optimistic.and if its hard for you to do let others do for you.You can hire a marketing service provider.

    cheers,
    http://charmmarketing.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1084920010 Marcia Tracy

    wow! I graduated with a degree in theatre and minor in communications a year and change ago, and have had little to no luck in the workforce job-wise, so I’ve been seriously considering taking my social media skills and trying this out for myself. While I was in college, I ran a Facebook and twitter site for a local theatre company and was “paid” by getting free tickets to shows & being allowed to do my Senior internship with the company during my winter break. I’ve also done a few other non-profit groups (a local film, and a local film festival)’s Facebook and twitters, but again, that was all pro bono work to get my resume going.

    What you mention in your article are the three biggest things I’ve been fearing about starting out on my own like this.

    Any other tips/articles I should take a look at before making the huge dive? Or any other advice you might have that might help me out in getting started?

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Julie Dawn Harris

    Sometimes you really have to start from scratch and working to your first client for free is just right. Referrals will help you make a name in the industry. Creating visibility in the internet with the use of social media and blogs will also help you build credibility. Great points Alexis. :)