How to Start a Social Media Consulting Business
Do Business the Right Way
Starting a social media consulting business might be a perfect fit if you have a background in marketing, are always online, and spot new trends as soon as they arrive. Launching your own business will require significant networking, but if you’ve worked in this industry before, you’ve got the knowledge to make it happen. Whether you hope to take on a few clients as supplemental income, or you want to make this your full-time career, the future is at your keyboard-tapping fingertips.
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based social media consulting business today.
Not interested in starting a social media consulting business? Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does a Social Media Consulting Business Do?
A social media consultant is a marketer, communicator, and storyteller. Social media consultants act as a brand’s voice while interacting with customers across social media platforms (including, but not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn), creating regular content, and potentially working with marketing teams to create marketing strategies and campaigns.
As you build up your social media consulting business, you’ll work with companies as a freelancer or contractor. Each company will have a unique brand voice and marketing objectives, and will have different approaches to customer interactions. It will be your job to assume the proper brand persona and maintain it across platforms and situations.
Within social media consulting, there are specific niches and specialties. In the course of your work, you may:
- Analyze and track data. This service requires you to take stock of a brand’s social media engagement and identify what’s working and where there’s room for improvement, using paid subscription services like Sprout Social, Buffer, or Hootsuite. You can also track data on most social media platforms themselves. Since a lot of this data can be accessed for free, this may be a good place to start.
- Create and manage accounts. If a brand doesn’t have social media, or isn’t on all relevant platforms, you can create and run accounts for them. You’ll not only be responsible for gaining followers, but for creating and/or maintaining the brand’s online image and persona.
- Be the voice, eyes, and ears. Monitoring accounts can involve posting content as well as managing customer interactions. By responding to customers and steering conversations, you help keep brands relevant, aware, and engaged.
- Strategize, plan, and implement. You may work solo or with a brand’s marketing team to identify ways to increase customer engagement, find more followers, and increase sales.
Or, you may do it all. As a generalist, you’re prepared to create content, interact with customers (sometimes called community management), manage advertising, and create marketing plans.
Steps to Starting a Social Media Consulting Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Social Media Consulting Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
Who is the target audience?
As you start your social media consulting business, you’ll want to think small in terms of audience. Are there local companies you love that lack a social media presence? Any businesses you frequent that could use an online face lift? Maybe a regional brand is facing controversy that could be navigated more effectively? In all likelihood, your first clients will hire you for a few hours a week to start. By taking on a small but growing workload, you will build your portfolio while having time to network and grow your client list even more.
As you expand your reach, you may want to choose an industry specialty or two. Maybe you know a lot about beauty products or independent bookstores or thrift stores or restaurants. The more you know about an industry, the easier it will be for you to network with the companies in that industry, and provide them a quality service.
You’ll not only need to know who your target audience is, you’ll need to know who your target audience’s target audience is. (How’s that for a tongue twister?) You won’t do your clients any good if you love their brand but have no idea who else loves it.
How do I get clients?
When you’re first starting out, you’ll get clients by networking with local businesses. If you already have a portfolio—featuring campaigns with proven success—you will have a much easier time bringing in clients. Companies want to see that you know what you’re doing, and it will be difficult to prove this without a portfolio of related work. If your portfolio is in need of beefing up, you might consider taking on some clients for free or at a reduced price in the beginning. This will help you learn the ropes of the social media consultant industry while also growing your portfolio and proving your worth.
Another option to increase your reach and credibility is to ensure that your own social media channels are active, engaging, and professional. You may want to start accounts for your business where you post information and resources about social media marketing. In that same vein, you could start publishing helpful resources on your website or blog. If potential clients and industry folks see that you’re publishing relevant content, they may be more inclined to work with you.
Becoming a member of your local chamber of commerce and regional marketing groups is another great way to network and learn. (Meetup.com is a great resource if you’re not sure where to start your networking search.) This will not only help you meet potential clients of your own, but it will give you a chance to talk with others in your field to learn about their trials and successes.
Once you’re fairly well established and can clearly show why you should be hired over another social media consulting business, consider signing up for sites like Freelancer or Upwork, where companies seeking your services can find you directly.
How does a social media consulting business make money?
A social media consultant makes money through contract and freelance work. You will acquire individual clients, who may hire you for an ongoing length of time, a set amount of time, or to complete a specific campaign or project.
- Payment: Some consultants will require full payment upfront; others may ask for 50 percent to start and the rest upon completion. Collect payment however works for you, but be sure to detail those expectations in the terms and conditions page on your website (for smaller projects) or in a contract (for larger workloads).
- Contracts: A contract is a good idea not only to keep payment on track, but also to decrease your liability and set reasonable expectations. Though you’ll definitely want to have the contract reviewed by an attorney (consider creating templates that you can tailor to specific projects), be sure to include information about the parties involved; scope of the work; timeline of deliverables; fees and expenses; confidentiality and ownership of work; early termination and mediation.
How much money will it take to get started?
Start-up costs are potentially low when it comes to social media consulting businesses. You’ll need a laptop and smartphone (not all social apps function properly on a computer), which you probably have since social media is an interest. But, if you don’t currently have this technology or need an upgrade, you should plan on spending at least $1000 for each.
You’ll also want to have a professional website that showcases your experience, portfolio, and services, costing anywhere from $0-$40 a month. If you want a custom domain name (you probably do), that will typically cost $10-$20 a year.
You might also want to sign up for a social media management and analysis platform. These services can assist with everything from post scheduling to content creation to competitor social media analysis to post engagement tracking. Costs for these services vary: you’ll likely spend $15-$199 a month for these services to start.
How much do social media consulting businesses make each year?
The average salary for a social media consultant is around $52,000, according to the Economic Research Institute. The earning potential increases with experience and service offerings.
How much should I charge?
Social media consultants charge anywhere from $15-$120 an hour, on average. This cost variance is determined by experience, location, and service offerings.
Consider offering packages to your clients, rather than relying solely on an hourly rate. Offering a flat rate for certain services—$1000 for a month of content creation and community management across three platforms, for example—may be an attractive option for clients with a larger need.
Select a Name for Your Social Media Consulting Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit.
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Your company’s legal business name is YOUR name—so you’ll need a DBA to operate under any other name. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Social Media Consulting Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have any liability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document, especially if you’re starting your business with others. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Next Steps for Your Video Production Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance.
How Do I Know if Social Media Consulting Is for Me?
What’s it really like to work in a social media consulting business?
As a social media consultant, you will spend the majority of your time online. Even if you go out into the world to take a photo of your client’s business or products, you’ll quickly have to convert that into likes and content. So, you need to be enthusiastic about ample screen time.
Finding clients will take time. Many would-be clients may already have someone doing their social media, or they may not have the budget to pay for a consultant. When you’re first starting out, you’ll need to be comfortable taking small jobs, as ultimately this will lead to a bigger portfolio and broader client access down the line.
What does it take to succeed in the world of social media consulting?
To run a successful social media consultant business, you must be an excellent communicator. You’ll need to understand your clients’ social media history and goals for the future. You’ll potentially work with marketing teams to come up with campaign strategies and engagement tactics. You’ll need to clearly and effectively communicate with customers to resolve problems and generate interactions. You’ll need to understand what makes an effective post on each platform and always maintain the brand’s voice.
But, you also need to be extremely online savvy. You need to be hyper aware of online trends, slang, and humor. You need to know what kinds of users tend to use what platforms, and what they tend to use those platforms for. It won’t do any good to create a TikTok account unless you’re trying to target a primarily Gen Z audience. Likewise, Instagram will only go so far if most of a client’s customer-base is middle aged. Knowing who your clients’ customers currently are, what customers they seek, and what social media platforms they frequent is essential for success.
Your clients will be seeking the communication and planning skills that they don’t have time for. By looking forward and creating clear strategies, you will find success alongside the clients you serve.
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.