Every now and then, I meet someone and think, “Man, I really like her spunk.”
Michelle Kuan is one of those people.
We met while working for the same client — me, managing their blog, her, their social media. I was immediately drawn to her for three main reasons:
- She clearly knew her stuff.
- She had a positive, upbeat personality.
- Her priority was clearly doing what was best for the client — a trait that’s hard to come by.
Michelle is the type of person who makes social media look so easy. Whereas I spend 45 minutes on a single Instagram video only to find out that I was recording my foot the whole time, her posts look so… effortless (which is the sign of a great social media manager).
Just about all professionals need social media. So, whether you’re a freelance writer, web designer, or SEO pro, you have a thing or two to learn from Michelle. And if you’re trying to grow your business as a social media manager, you should really listen to her.
We caught up over email so that I could pick her brain about her history, career, and advice for mastering social media.
How Michelle Kuan Built Her Social Media Management Business
Michelle’s experience is nothing to scoff at. She began her career working for one of the biggest names in fitness apparel and athleisure.
Megan Grant: How did you get your start?
Michelle Kuan: I originally started at Lululemon where I was the social media lead in our region. During my time there, we partnered with many local fitness boutiques to help promote large events we would co-host. I would be the one to fully curate the marketing plan, do the photoshoots, plan out the content calendar, and share with the brands the exact social media plan/strategy so that all the gym owners had to do was plug and play!
After each event ended, these gym owners all came up to me afterwards sharing how much they loved my work, how much traffic and engagement it helped generate, and they asked if I could help them continue a marketing strategy for them.
Once I kept getting asked that time and time again, I knew there was a market for it, and that’s when my brand, MLKMEDIA , was born.
I’ve talked before about how competitive social media marketing agencies (SMMAs) are these days. Is it too late to start your own? No. But you do need the right strategy. Michelle did something I’m a huge fan of: She niched down.
MG: SMM is incredibly competitive these days. What do you think freelancers need to do to stand out from other professionals?
MK: To be able to stand out from other SMMs (social media managers), you need to really nail down your niche.
Everyone is out there saying they can help elevate brands and create a SM strategy, but it’s all catered to small businesses, entrepreneurs, etc.
To really stand out, I would pick a niche that you actually have a lot of background knowledge in and cater content specific to that industry. The reason why is when you start catering to a niche, those business owners are going to choose you over any other SMMs out there because they know you already understand the industry and the trust factor is already there.
Plus, it helps you really figure out specifically what industry you love creating content for and it will only help you in the long run.
Michelle reminds us of something so important: If you want to accomplish something in life, it has to start in your own mind — with the belief that you can do it.
MG: If you could go back in your career and do one thing differently, would you? What would it be?
MB: If I could go back in time, I would believe in myself more.
I think because I came from a background of “needing security” at all times, it was hard for me to let go of any corporate job that I had. I felt like I needed a steady paycheck coming in and I could just do SMM on the side.
However, doing that really hindered my growth. Mentally, my business was always on the back burner because my mindset was, “Once my SMM business takes off, then I’ll leave.” The issue with that is because there was no real push, no skin in the game, no fire under my booty, my mind never came out of the leisure mode.
If I did it again, I would leave my job a lot sooner, believe in my work, and actively drive leads rather than waiting for leads to pop into my DMs. Ultimately, I think you have to consider, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Most people would answer, “To fail.”
Then ask, “What would have to happen in order for me to fail?” My answer to that would be… it would be pretty damn hard because I know I have the skills, I have the drive, I would literally have to be laying in bed doing nothing watching Netflix all day for me to truly fail.
If your answer is similar to mine, then I say go for it and trust that you can do it. Make sure you’re set up financially first, but give yourself your best shot because no one is going to believe in you more than you believe in yourself.
Starting your career when you have no experience can feel challenging — even impossible. But here’s the thing: We all start with nothing.
MG: What’s the best way for an aspiring SMM freelancer to get that first client without experience?
MK: I would do some free work or do work for cheap just to test that waters, test your skills, and get client experience under your belt. Upwork is also another easy way to get your first client. People on there are already looking for someone to help them. From there, it’s all about sharing what skills you have and how you can help them.
I would start with the low-paying jobs first because those are easier to get. However, once you start feeling comfortable, ask the client for their feedback and ask for their testimonial. From there you can continue to grow and expand and start charging more for your services.
This is just an easier way to help you get experience and to help build confidence as a SMM freelancer.
Social media is a constantly-evolving beast, which means that you will never stop learning.
MG: What’s the best way for people to keep up with this changing industry? It sometimes changes by the day!
MK: Always keep up with the new changes on the social media platforms. Always be learning. I always read up on social media news once a week to brush up on any new updates or changes to these platforms.
Your best testimonial will be your own account. Make sure everything you’re doing on your account is relevant because that’s what people are going to be looking at before they decide to jump on a call with you.
What if you want to start building your career but you’re on a tight budget? Thankfully, you don’t need an expensive career or certification to get the ball rolling.
MG: How can people learn SMM cheap or for free?
MK: I think following other SMMs and seeing what they’re posting about is a good idea. Maybe just ask if you can intern for them so you get the true behind-the-scenes of what they do and you get true hands-on experience from a freelance SMM.
Youtube is also helpful to just see how other SMMs do everything. I think HubSpot has a certification that’s free you can do as well. There really are so many free resources online now. It’s more of just putting in the work, setting time aside, and really learning the craft.
To be the best, it helps to learn from the best.
MG: Who do you love to follow for excellent social media advice?
MK: I love following Brock Johnson, Steve Mellor, and Mahdi Woodard . They are really great at being super informative without the “fluff.”
Social media is becoming an increasingly competitive field, because there is so much demand for it. This means you really need to be on top of your game. It’s about working hard, working smart, and learning from the best.
If you need guidance in building your own social media business, be sure to follow Michelle on Instagram and send her a DM. She offers coaching sessions to teach beginners how to do it all, because she’s so passionate about her career.
Tell her you found her on my blog, and she’ll share a promo code to get you $25 off your coaching call.