How to Become a Social Media Manager (Step-by-Step)

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As a social media manager, you can either work for one company as an employee or consult with multiple clients as a freelancer. Here's how to create an online portfolio, reach out to companies, and find your first gig.

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If you spend a lot of time on social media, you might be able to turn that into a career as a social media manager.

Social media managers are responsible for managing the social media accounts of businesses, celebrities, and other entrepreneurs.

In most cases, large businesses hire full-time social media managers to work in-house. They might even have an entire department dedicated to social media management.

On the other end of the spectrum are small brands and individuals that rely on contract-based social media managers to help them address their marketing needs.

When a business owner’s time is often tied up in other areas, scheduling content to Facebook and Instagram can become an afterthought. This is where a social media manager comes in.

The owner can offload the management of their social profiles to you, so they can get back to focusing on wherever else their time is best spent.

How Do Social Media Managers Make Money?

A social media manager, sometimes referred to as a social media director, earns money online from the clients and businesses they serve. If they work for a company, they’ll typically earn a salary. If they’re self-employed, they likely charge an hourly, monthly, or per-project rate.

Self-employed social media managers, also known as social media consultants, most commonly offer different levels of monthly service packages. The lowest level might include posting on social media three to four times a week, while the largest package might include daily posting on social media across multiple platforms.

In the photo below, you can see how the social media marketing company, Brandit360, breaks down its pricing:

brandit360 social media management pricing

These packages are typically offered on a monthly basis. Additionally, many social media managers request clients work with them for a minimum of three to six months to allow time for measurable improvement.

How Much Does a Social Media Manager Make?

According to PayScale, the average social media manager’s salary is $49,000 a year. In high cost of living areas like New York City, the average salary is around $57,000 a year.[1]

If you own your own social media management business, your income is only limited by the number of clients you’re able to land. As your company grows, you can hire virtual assistants and outsource tasks, becoming your own agency.

You can always get on the job training as a salaried employee, then branch off to create your own business when you’re ready.

Related: How to Become a Virtual Assistant: A Step by Step Guide to Earning $25+/hr

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

Because the position is still relatively new, the required social media skills vary depending on the job. It’s helpful to have some type of marketing, business, or communications background.

Typical social media marketing manager duties and qualifications include:

  • Planning and scheduling content across various social media platforms
  • Analyzing, tracking, and reporting on campaign performance
  • Looking for breakout opportunities on growing social networks
  • Working with influencers and other brands to drive lead generation and enhance business visibility

Related: How to Become a Paid Influencer and Make Money on Social Media

It’s also helpful to have graphic design knowledge, since you might have to create graphics for social media posts, especially if you work for a small company.

Beyond merely managing social profiles, you’ll be expected to report on your results. Business owners won’t be highly motivated to keep paying for your services unless you can justify your worth. Here’s an example social media manager checklist and tentative reporting schedule:

social media manager responsibilities

Having a strong command of the English language is also important, as you might be in charge of responding to messages and managing a community.

It also helps to have a love of learning, because the social media landscape is constantly changing. Stay up to date on the latest trends, resources, apps, and tools associated with the job.

Getting Started: Get the Right Training

The best way to get started in social media management is to take a course that teaches you the necessary skills.

By understanding a little bit about each area of social media management, you are better positioned to delegate work to virtual assistants if or when you decide that starting an agency is right for you. If you have no plans to scale, you’ll need to know everything regardless.

There are several social media marketing training courses you can take to receive certifications in the area of study. They typically cost between $100 and $500 and teach you everything you need to know to start working with clients.

Social Media Marketing Courses: 

Beyond the training component, expect to master several social media management tools such as Buffer, HootSuite, CoSchedule, Edgar, and more.

Next: Choose Which Platforms to Master

If you want to become a social media manager, you’ll want to become extremely proficient at several social media platforms. Going a step further and mastering a platform can really set you apart from competing management services (i.e. become a Facebook specialist or Instagram guru).

The three hottest areas for social media marketing are:


instagram icon

Instagram is a great social media platform to manage if you enjoy graphic design and photography.

If you’re comfortable with making and editing videos, Instagram stories offer a powerful way to connect with an audience. There are now many different programs that allow you to schedule Instagram posts and stories.


facebook iconIf you want to manage Facebook as a social media platform, it’s important to keep up-to-date with the company’s constantly changing algorithm.

If you’re comfortable with live videos, Facebook Live can be a good way to engage with an audience. You can also learn how to send automatic message responses on Facebook, which will show that your company is responsive and cares about its community.


pinterest iconPinterest is a very powerful, image-based search engine. It helps to have a strong background in graphic design here, so you can create eye-catching images that users will click on.

Like Instagram, you can improve your engagement on Pinterest by following other accounts and using hashtags. Pinterest also has numerous group boards to help you improve your reach.

Related: 16 Online Business Ideas That Anyone Can Start (with Little or No Cost)

How to Become a Full-Time Social Media Manager in 3 Steps

If you prefer the stability of an office job over starting your own business, there are a few ways to increase your chances of getting the job. This is often a good route to take if you’re not sure you want to be self-employed. Plus, you’ll get on the job training that will help you hone your skills.

1. Create a Website

These days, your website is your resume. Use your page to show who you are as a person because a company has to trust you to manage its social media.

The most attractive candidates come across as trustworthy, reliable, and put-together. Make sure you have links to all the social media profiles you manage on your website.

Related: How to Create a Blog and Showcase Your Portfolio

2. Build Your Own Social Media Channels

You’re much more likely to get hired as a social media manager if you have a solid number of followers on your own social media accounts.

Take the time to look at your accounts and ask if each one is a good representation of your abilities as a social media manager. You can also create new accounts to showcase your skills and fill out your portfolio.

3. Apply for Social Media Manager Positions

In the digital age, competition is fierce. You may find it beneficial to cast your net wide and spend time applying to several positions rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.

Because you have your own website and social media channels to show as examples, you should be well prepared for an interview.

If you have trouble getting interviews, attend networking events, connect with people on LinkedIn, and keep trying. Once you start to get interviews, ask for feedback until you land the position you want.

Related: 21 Inexpensive or Free Ways to Market a Small Business

How to Become a Self-Employed Social Media Manager in 4 Steps

There are plenty of benefits to being self-employed, but it’s not always as easy as it seems. If you value your time and flexibility – and you have an excellent work ethic – running a social media business might be perfect for you.

1. Understand Your Target Client

The first step to starting your own social media management business is to understand your target client.

While you can be a social media manager for many different types of companies and people, it’s helpful to hone in on a specific niche. For example, you could focus on travel bloggers, design companies, or medical spas. Whatever you choose, learn everything about your niche demographic, including how old they are and how they spend their time.

2. Learn How to Create a Posting Schedule

Now that you understand your target client, it’s time to learn how to create a posting schedule. There are numerous different software programs you can use to schedule your social media, but a consistent daily schedule is most important. Do your research to find the right software to help you.

3. Build Your Portfolio

Building a strong portfolio is a great way to prove your value. At first, your own social media profiles will serve just fine, and you can build a few different mock portfolios to show clients. As you gain clients, add them to your portfolio. Keep this up to date, just as you would with a resume.

4. Grow Your Client Base

Pitch clients frequently and add them one at a time. Serve them well and ask for feedback. When you get overwhelmed because you have too many clients, hire an assistant to help you. If that isn’t financially viable, you might need to up your rates, cut your expenses, or drop some of the lowest-paying clients.

Related: 18 Legit Online Jobs for College Students

Is Social Media Management Right for You?

Ultimately, social media management is a great online job, whether you’re fresh out of school or a stay-at-home mom looking for a new career.

It’s a career that is constantly evolving and changing. If you like to learn and have a flair for digital design, you might even have some fun doing it. This is a job that pays well if you’re a salaried employee, but you also want to have the skills needed to launch your own business if you so desire.

Cat Alford

Cat is the go-to personal finance expert for educated, aspirational moms who want to recapture their life passions, earn more, reach their goals, and take on a more active financial role in their families. Cat was named the Best Contributor/Freelancer for Personal Finance in 2014, and over the past few years her writing and financial expertise have been featured in dozens of notable publications like The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News and World Report, and many more.

Naomi De Silva
Naomi De Silva

I came across this article whilst contemplating starting my own social media marketing company. It has inspired me to pursue this choice! I am at the research phase but this article has given me the motivation I’ve needed!
Thank you so much! I look forward to reading more of your articles!

Aaron J Bacot
Aaron J Bacot

I found this article to be extremely helpful, I am a freelance social media consultant and am looking for ways to increase my own brand and attract more clients. This article gives several key starting points and a good road map to follow.

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