Articles - 12th June 2020

What are the best tools for new freelance social media managers?

Words by Tal Imagor
Illustration by Jon McCormack

For those who spend most of their time on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok and also wish to be their own bosses, deciding to become a freelance Social Media Manager is a no-brainer. After years of framing the best shot of your plate, posting five times a day and getting hundreds of likes for every update, why not get paid for it?

Your personal experience in social media can provide a great jumping-off point to this career, as many business owners (especially SMEs and start-ups), don’t know the first thing about creating social media engagement. However, before you start presenting yourself as an expert, you should take into account that there’s much more to this line of work.


The life of a Social Media Manager

With this role, you’re most likely to run more than just one account — and sometimes even as many as ten! You’ll have to make sure all channels are updated on a regular basis, without any hitches. Even if you’re already used to scheduling posts, this takes it to a whole new level. You’ll also have to ensure every message and comment is getting a timely response, as this may be a potential client, and that your posts acknowledge and take advantage of major events and holidays.

All of this should be done while considering your client at every turn. That client may wish to approve every post, to make sure you use the correct tone of voice and branding. Or, they may provide more general guidelines and only check in every once in a while. Either way, you need to have an open line of communication.

This may sound like a lot, but like every new venture, it just requires a period of researching and educating yourself. To ease the transition, I’ve asked seasoned Social Media Managers what tools they wished they’d known when they were starting out.


Scheduling like a champion

The market offers a variety of social media scheduling tools, each has its benefits and downfalls. However, one thing is certain — you cannot do this work without using at least one. By scheduling a variety of posts for the weeks and months ahead, you can free up your time to deal with any urgent matter that comes up, and maybe even take a day off.

Choosing the right tool usually comes down to personal preference, and the social media channel you use the most. Amy Lainchbury has been a social marketer at Tasty Comms for four years and uses Hootsuite on a regular basis. This is one of our favourites as well, as it’s easy to use, and the free version provides you with 30 free posts and three channels per user.

For a higher-level tool, Amy suggests Planoly: “it’s handy as you can draft the grid as a whole and see it in advance,” she says. “I have a client who likes to see posts in advance, so it helps with approval.” For regular Instagram users, Wendy Tuxworth, who owns her own marketing business suggests using Later. “It lets you look at your whole Instagram grid rather than just individual posts,” she explains. “This makes it a lot easier to see if your images flow well together.”

Other options are SmarterQueue for running multiple Facebook groups, and Buffer, which is unique by allowing for alternative text to be entered for Twitter images. Sally Todd offers a ContentCal for more advanced professionals. “It’s a game-changer for drafting, scheduling and getting client approvals,” she says. You may want to try out a few schedulers before settling on one, or maybe pay for one and combine it with a free version of another — whatever makes your life the easiest.


Nailing the visuals

Usually, the posts that generate the most attention are those with great visuals — no matter what channel you use. Canva is one of the greatest options out there to help those who are not graphic designers by trade. With its free version, you can create posts of every size — from Instagram stories to a Facebook cover. It has a library of free images, templates for you to play with and you can even use the brand’s colours throughout.

Nicole Johnston, a social media professional of three years, also recommends Adobe Spark, which offers similar options to Canva. “It has a free version and I pay for premium, which lets me add my logo and branding,” she explains. “I find it really easy and inexpensive and I can do slideshow videos.”

It’s important to remember that all of the images you use for your work have to be approved for commercial use. Both Canva and Spark have a database of free images, and you can find additional ones on Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels — which also offer stock videos.


The magical powers of a social media planner

We mentioned special events and holidays, as some of your clients may want to promote a sale over Christmas, for example, while others would prefer to take note of the first day of school. Every company may also have its own quarterly promotions or seasons for new lines of products. The easiest way for you to stay on top of preparation is to use a social media planner. You can create a planner yourself with an excel sheet, or you can use one of the free ones floating around the web, like this, or this.

If you’re willing to spend a few pounds, our specialists specifically recommend the Heart & Soul Digital. “It saves me so much time because I can open up and get started on planning out my content straight away,” says Emma Ward, who is a coach for freelancers herself. “It provides planning and goal setting pages, all the national awareness days and weeks, spaces for every social network including the images and text needed.” You’d also receive a weekly newsletter with this planner, about upcoming notable days.

These are the main tools we found most relevant for Social Media Managers, especially at the beginning of the road. As you get going, you’ll find that you discover many more — from video editing to appointment scheduling — and maybe one day write a list of your own.

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