“I own a social media agency,” says everyone. This became the hot new business venture in 2018/2019, and we shouldn’t expect it to slow down in 2020. I’m sure you’ve seen those Facebook ads where agency owners are recording from their hotel suite in the Caribbean or they’re standing in front of a private jet or, my personal favorite, showing off their collection of sports cars.
That’s cute and everything, but the reality is that most social media agency owners never come close to this.
It’s not because you can’t but rather because they simply don’t know how.
I’m not going to tell you how to become an Instagram-famous social media billionaire. What I will tell you is seven things you’ll want to do if you want to build a social media agency and actually turn a serious profit.
1. Become Your Own Guinea Pig
You can’t offer quality social media services and deliver real results to other companies if you can’t even do it for yourself. This is why the first person you offer your services to should be… yourself.
This is also an excellent opportunity to test out new things and get to understand the platforms better. We learn by doing, so go do it.
This is something you’ll want to continue doing throughout your career. Before I try something new for a client, I test it out on my own accounts first. Why? Simple. If something horrible went wrong, I’d want it to happen to me, not them. Plus, it just gives me an opportunity to hone my skills.
Write this down. If your own social media channels look like crap, you’re not in the best position to start a social media agency.
2. Pick a Profitable Niche
Are you getting tired of me talking about this yet?
In the past, I’ve written about picking a freelance writing niche , and I’ve got a YouTube video on it, too:
But picking a niche isn’t just for writers. If you want to start a social media agency, having a niche can seriously work in your favor.
When I first started my business, I went after everyone and anyone, regardless of their industry. That’s why I ended up working for the most random businesses — not to mention businesses I was incredibly unfamiliar with and not even remotely passionate about.
So, I shifted gears slightly and focused on brands within the fitness and nutrition industries specifically. I’m passionate about those two things and know a lot about them, so it made perfect sense.
By changing my approach and tweaking my cold emailing process , I was able to land new clients faster than ever. And I was enjoying the work I was doing more.
(Psst! If you want to learn a little bit more about cold emailing, I’ve got a video for that.)
Decide what kind of social media expert you want to be, and go after those types of clients specifically.
3. Get Crystal Clear on the Services You Offer
Don’t be too loosey-goosey about this. I was, and I got myself in a hole that I’m still trying to get out of.
You have to be careful not to fall into the trap of offering whatever your clients ask for. This might feel reasonable to manage in the beginning, when your workload is light. But as your business grows, you’re going to lose focus.
For example, email marketing fell into my lap because a few clients randomly requested it. I enjoy it and was interested in improving my skills here, so I took this work on.
While I really do enjoy the work, it caused my attention to be scattered and spread thin.
Plus (and we’ll get to this more in a minute), when you make a habit of catering to clients’ every whim, it makes it nearly impossible to create processes that you can later pass along to your staff.
Sit down and really think about what you want to offer, and stick to it.
Setting your rates can be a real pain in the can. Don’t worry about getting them perfect from the start, because they’re going to evolve over time anyway. What you should make sure of, though, is that you’re 100% clear on how you break down your pricing, what costs what, what you’re willing to negotiate on, and by how much.
For example, you might decide that for daily social media management, you won’t charge any less than $1,000 a month.
If a client wants to add paid Facebook ads to that, you might decide that the additional cost for this starts at $500 a month, not including the cost of ads.
Like everything else you do, you should have a process for how you charge clients. Don’t be loosey-goosey with the services you offer and don’t do it with your rates, either.
One easy solution is to offer three to five packages that come with set services and pricing. Many people do this with success. It didn’t work for me personally, because every client wanted something personalized. So I came up with another process that allowed me to easily price their work without cornering them into packages.
Find a system that makes the most sense for you and your business!
I used to do everything manually — from sending out email blasts to posting on social media. And I wondered why I was drowning in the most repetitive tasks.
If you’re feeling the same way, I have good news for you: There are many cheap and even free tools out there that help you streamline and automate some of your daily responsibilities.
Instead of posting one thing on social media at a time — a painfully time-consuming task — use a social media management tool like Buffer.
Oh, and for email marketing? I’m absolutely obsessed with ConvertKit. If you want to learn more about it, check out my blog on ConvertKit vs. MailChimp. I’ve also got a video of it.
“Why pay a tool to do it when I can do it for free?” you might be asking. That’s a valid question, but I ask you this. If you pay $10 a month for something that shaves 16 hours of manual work off your schedule… isn’t that worth it? I say yes.
6. Track and Measure Your Results
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you don’t track and measure it, you can’t know if it’s working or not.
Tracking your results is crucial for both your own social media as well as the services you provide to your clients. They’re not just paying you. They’re investing in you, and they expect results.
Anyone can post on Facebook. Fewer people can post on Facebook and drive results — like sending more traffic to a client’s website or growing their email list or selling more of a specific product.
Clients aren’t just paying you to be a warm body in a chair. They want to see some action. So, every step of the way, you should be carefully tracking and measuring the progress you make for them.
Did you grow their Instagram account? By how many followers? Did you sell a product via Facebook ads? What was the ROI? Did you use a rich pin on Pinterest to grow their email list? By how many subscribers here?
Get into the nitty-gritty with their metrics, analytics, and insights. Give them specific numbers. This is how you’ll prove that you’re worth the investment of their money.
It’s also helpful data for you because it tells you if what you’re doing is actually working.
And if you can’t deliver real results, you’ll know that something needs to change.
Full disclosure: This very likely won’t be something you do right away, and that’s totally okay. In fact, my personal recommendation is that you get things up and running yourself and then hire.
But it’s still something to at least keep in mind from the beginning, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
To be clear, you don’t have to hire. But here’s the thing. I know I’m not the only one who built their own business so that they could work like a dog 24/7. If you want to enjoy the freedom and the money that a social media agency can bring, you might very well find yourself needing at least one person to help you with your workload eventually.
Take my word for it. For most of my adult life, I’ve worked like a complete asshole — meaning way too much. I finally got it through my thick head that if I wanted to actually, you know, enjoy my life, I was going to need help.
So I hired.
And the bonus here is that as I hire, I can continue to grow my business and make even more money. Hooray!
Why You Should Care About This From the Get-Go
“This isn’t on my radar,” you’re saying. Stop. Listen.
Earlier, I mentioned needing to come up with clear processes for the work you provide for your clients, and how if you don’t, it makes it harder to pass along to someone else later on down the line.
Let me give you an example of what happens when you screw this up.
For a long time, I had no team and was a one-woman show. I had ZERO processes, and the work I did looked completely different from one client to the next. There was no consistency, no clarity. There didn’t need to be. I was doing everything, and I knew every unique detail of every client by memory.
The problem became abundantly clear when I hired my first team member. I started training her on how to manage certain client work, except I couldn’t give her a single process to follow.
Conversations went like this:
Me: “Okay, for this client, we do it this way, except instead of this, do this, this, and this.”
Her: “Okay, so for the next client, we also do it this way?”
Me: “No, everything is the same, except instead of doing this, this, and this, do that, that, and that.”
Her: “Okay… and what about this third client”
Me: “They’re entirely different.”
Cue mass chaos.
Yes, you’ll have clients who will have little special things you need to do for them and them only. For instance, I have one client who specifically requested that I optimize all of their photos using a specific tool he loves. It was very easy to accommodate this, so I did.
However, outside of this, the process of putting photos in blogs for our clients is the same across the board. This made it easy for me to write down a process (processes should always be in writing!) and give it to a team member to follow, literally step by step.
Is your brain melting yet?
I know this might feel overwhelming. It’s a lot. Your best bet is to think about the seven points above and then take it one step at a time.
Social media is a lucrative industry. There’s money to be made. Plan your next steps in advance, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and put one foot in front of the other. You got this.