How to set freelance social media manager rates.

How to Set Freelance Social Media Manager Rates

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Do You Want Freedom to Work with Clients You Love?

If you are done working for a boss, done working in a stuffy office, tired of commuting, sick of being unproductive in team meetings and just plain have had it with your office mates, it might be time to freelance!

In this article, we will discuss 

  • What the definition of a freelancer is
  • How freelance social media managers support business owners

You will learn

  • How to set freelance social media manager rates for working with clients
  • What to charge as a freelancer

If you’ve ever considered going freelance but you weren’t sure what it entailed, how much to charge for social media management, and if it’s the right thing for you and your family, this article is for you! 

What is the Definition of a Freelancer?

A freelancer is… free! 


We got you there, right? 

No, in all seriousness; a freelancer picks up work when s/he wants, decides whom to work with and how much it's worth to them. 

In other words, freelancers are free to decide on their projects, clients, and rates. 

A freelance social media manager's definition can be found here

How does a freelance social media manager support business owners?

Freelance social media managers are extremely valuable to a small business owner, growing business, and startups. 

Freelancers support current marketing efforts by the in-house team, owner or marketing agency by taking on project-based assignments.

Freelancers work from their own office, are their own boss and set their own hours and rates.

become a social media manager

Freelance social media managers have many skills. Each freelancer is most likely a bit unique with their own set of skills, so it pays to know what task needs to get accomplished before looking for someone to help. 

Freelance social media managers are in charge of a multitude of projects and tasks, including but not limited to:

Social Media Freelancer vs Employee vs Working for an Agency

There are vast differences between being a freelancer, an employee and working for an agency. 

A freelancer is a business owner. They set their own hours and work on projects. They often charge a monthly retainer, or for smaller projects, work hourly. Freelancers mostly work from their own office space. Freelancers also take care of their own pensions, insurance and pay for their own computer and software.

Employees are expected to work certain hours. They are responsible for being available certain hours of the day, regardless of the workload. Employees receive a set salary and might receive benefits. Employees can work in an office or remotely. In our industry, social media manager employees can work remotely if the company they work for agrees. Employees are provided the tools they need to perform the job, which might include a computer, phone, and software.

When working with an agency, social media managers can either be a freelancer (independent contractor) or employee. This is something to be worked out with the agency owner, and we’ve seen the status change over time with some of our colleagues. (going from contractor/freelancer to employee) 

The thing to keep in mind is that as a freelancer, you can not be ‘told’ when to work and how to do your ‘job’. You don’t work for the business, you work with the business. 

Check out this handy chart for side-by-side comparison or this IRS site to find how you should be classified. 

Freelance Social Media Management Do’s and Don’ts

Let’s start with the positives.

As a freelance social media manager, do


  • Charge hourly, unless it's small project or a one-time thing.
  • Let a client tell you when to work (specific hours)
  • Forget to build business expenses into your rates
  • Start work on any account without a contract
  • Be intimidated by a client. Get out of the contract if you feel this way.
  • Doubt yourself, your capability or your rates.
  • Do shady things for a client. (don’t buy likes, don’t use Google images)
  • Stop marketing yourself; instead, always keep the leads coming in.

How To Set Freelance Social Media Manager Rates 

So now that we’ve told you what to do and what not to do, let’s talk rates. 

The way to set your rates is to work backward by creating a budget for your business first.

You will need two main numbers to get started. 

The first number you have to come up with is the total expected business expenses for your freelance business for one year. 

Here is how you go about this. List all expected business expenses (including hardware, software, travel, continuing education, conference fees, subscription, licensing, insurance, car, office rent, etc), taxes and marketing for one year. Add a little bit of a buffer for unexpected expenses, in case you might have to replace your phone or computer.

SIDE NOTE: You might want to speak to your attorney or tax expert for a complete list of expenses you can deduct when tax season rolls around. Keeping track of mileage, car maintenance, and detailed travel expenses could help you when it’s time to file your taxes.

The next number should be your preferred take-home number aka your net salary. Ask yourself, “what do I need to live on”? This number varies greatly depending on your living situation, your family life, your location and your years of experience. It’s so hard for anyone to pull a freelance social media manager rate out of their hat because THIS number is the variant! But go ahead, make your best estimate for your situation.

Next, add the first number to the second number. 

The number you now have is what you need to bring in from clients. 

Can you handle 4 clients? Divide your number by 4.

Can you handle 6, divide your number by 6.

Can you handle 10 but need assistance? Adjust your first number to include paying a freelancer to help you manage your clients. Then divide by 10. 

See how this will work? 

If you are just starting out, this might be a daunting task, but remember that anyone starting a business should create a business plan, a budget and a marketing plan! 

Of course, the part we didn’t touch on is the ‘going rate’ for your location. We hear this all the time; “local businesses can’t afford to pay me”.

The best part about being a freelancer? 

You can work remotely with anyone, anywhere! Meaning that you don’t have to live in NYC to charge NYC rates.

Read that line again, and now hike up your rates! 

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