I love my job. I freelance in social media marketing, & this industry suits me perfectly because I’m competitive [not with others, moreso myself!], results-driven [ours is an industry where results are immediate! Post good content? Sit back and bask in the engagement / reach], & I’m incredibly creative [I can’t take a single shower without drowning in creative content marketing ideas], however I have also reached points in my lengthy freelancing career where I’ve wondered why I’m not entirely happy.
In our industry, burn-out is a real thing, & when you’re managing online communities, you need to make sure you have measures in place to avoid complete and utter SM burn-out.
Here are my top 7 tips that I’ve learnt along the way;
Go in at the right freelancing rate
There’s a reason why we’ve put this one first, & it’s because it’s probably our number one tip for brand new freelancers in social media marketing.
No, but seriously. Know your worth. Nothing will burn you out faster than working a job that by its very nature, doesn’t sleep. Social media doesn’t sleep. I’ve managed social accounts with online communities ranging from 250,000 to 500,000 people, & whilst I’ve been sleeping, my phone has been buzzing with never-ending “how much is this?” “what size would I be in this?” “what’s your returns policy?” “I ordered this x2 days ago, when will it arrive?” etc. etc. etc.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Constant notifications. And that’s fine, because that’s my job, but that’s also why you need to set your freelancing rate at an appropriate rate for you to be able to justify just how disruptive that very busy phone of yours can become.
Go in at the wrong rate? You’ll burn out in three – six months. Promise.
We meet so many newbie social media marketers at our workshops, & they are just so keen to get their foot in the door that I genuinely worry they’ll offer their services for free, or at $20 per hour [… before tax!]. And I get it, I really do get how exciting it all is when the promise of a potentially really fantastic work / life balance is so close you can just about taste it, but I also want to explain that when the novelty wears off and you’re left with a phone that never sleeps and roughly $15’ish dollars per hour after tax, … it ain’t worth it, & you’ll burn out.
It’s taken me years to work out what my freelance rate is so that it’s enough to keep me inspired, feeling creative, feeling like I want to keep being creative with my content planning and sourcing, all whilst still feeling like my hourly rate isn’t entirely unaffordable to the small business owners I like to work for / overhaul how their business does SM.
It is a fine line, I get it. Charge too little? You burn out. Charge too much? Your average small business owner simply can’t afford you, as much as they do want you.
Enforce a phone curfew
I turn my phone off at 10pm.
Same time, every night.
It’s enough time to tackle the peak hour in online retail land [an area of social media management that I specialise in], whilst still catching an early’ish night for yourself [I say early’ish, because I am a little bit of a night owl].
After 10pm however, I disable notifications from my phone, & I don’t log into an account I’m managing, because my beloved online tribes can wait.
I figure, people don’t knock on the doors of Myer and expect a customer service assistant to roll out of bed to answer their pricing / sizing / returns questions, so the same needs to start being said for online retail.
From a strategic point of view, I don’t actually think it’s bad to respond to that person the next day, because it might be that friendly reminder of, “hey. You were interested in this yesterday. You still want it?”.
Stipulate your response times to your clients clearly
From the very first meeting, I stipulate that my response times can be between 2-4 hours. In all honesty, it’s usually always much quicker than that [particularly when I factor in just how important a role impulse buying plays in sales conversions when you’re managing SM within the online retail sectors], but by putting in a 2-4 hour response time from the very beginning, it gives me a buffer in the event that something comes up. Like, life; bad kindy drop-offs that require extra cuddles, my daughter putting a sultana up her nose that requires an ED visit [apparently there’s a 0.0000001% chance it can cause a blockage. Who knew?], wedding anniversary dinners, friends dropping in for coffee, taking your kids to the playground and not wanting to be that Mum on her phone 24/7, weekends, breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners out with the girls, … life.
A 2-4 hour response time. Imperative.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a “night off”
Speaking of wedding anniversaries, take my advice; ask for the night off. You might be able to negotiate with your client that you’ll pre-schedule all content and they only have to respond to engagement, or you might even be really reasonable and auto-schedule all content and then offer to take off one night’s worth of social engagement off your weekly freelancing invoice.
A night off from engagement, particularly if you’re managing a very busy account; that’s sanity-saving / burn-out reducing stuff right there.
I’ve done this a couple of times, & I’ve made sure I’ve actually turned my phone off on my scheduled “night off”, & the silence / headspace is golden, … and restorative.
Reduce external SM “noise”
Probably the best thing I have ever done as a freelance social media marketer?
I shut down my personal Facebook.
I’ll be honest, I was nervous about doing it, & worried I’d be “out of the loop” with dinners arranged with friends / who’s marrying who, & having babies with who / how is so-and-so coping with the 7-day headache she’s posted daily about to her 600 Facebook friends [ok, … I definitely wasn’t worried about being out of the loop with that!], but ironically, the very minute I shut down my personal Facebook? My social life got significantly more social!
Less PM’s / more in person catch-ups.
The thing about shutting down my personal Facebook, is that I just decided that given I worked social media for a living, the last thing I needed in my life was more social media in my downtime. These days, it’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves with 300+ friends on our FB friends list, & for whatever reason, my friends are really into PM’ing each other.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
For me, that’s the equivalent of asking your hairdresser friend to squeeze you in for a haircut after she’s just spent 12 hours on her feet cutting hair, ha!
Shutting down Facebook? Best thing I did. I have a “pretend” FB now, which I use to connect to client pages that I manage / keep our private TDP group going / just be friends with industry colleagues [who all dislike a PM as much as the next freelance social media marketer, ha!].
Take annual leave
Seriously. Take annual leave!
The thing about freelancing? Your holidays are unpaid. And when I first started out in this industry, I was on a much lower rate so I used to try & “work” during our family holidays. I’d tell myself that I’d auto-schedule everything and just respond to engagement, but I was managing a big account, & engagement alone was a constant distraction in itself.
I remember standing in the queues at a Gold Coast theme park holding my 8 month old, whilst telling my 3 year old, “yes! Mummy is so excited to go on this ride too!”, whilst also responding to all of the “how much is this? “I can’t find this on the website” “what is your returns policy?” bombardment of questions.
If you can’t afford to take an unpaid working week, auto-schedule all of the content prior to your holiday, & then ask your client to organise the management of engagement [this will be less of a hit, payment-wise].
Lastly, … & this is a big one!
Discuss goals with your clients. For me, it’s “when we get to xyz followers, I need an SM assistant to monitor engagement, so that I can focus on digital strategy”.
It’s taken me a long time to realise that just one person can not be solely responsible for all content planning / scheduling / analytics / reporting / influencer outreach / etc. etc. etc. 7 days per week, 365 days per year.
You’ll burn out.
So, have a goal. When we hit xyz followers, we have a celebratory party, & then we take on a junior SM, who is responsible for engagement exclusively.
I love my industry, & I love my work / life balance, & I want you to love yours too.
I hope these tips help you to navigate freelance SM’ing, whilst feeling valued, inspired, free’d up creatively to give your clients the best value, & most importantly, not burn out.
Cherie, TDP. x
For an essential guide to all things freelance social media marketing, please find our eBook here
To take your SM practices to best practice level, book in for a social media workshop here
If you’re interested in up-skilling completely, head to Digiversity to find out about our upcoming 10-12 week Digital Marketing courses here