Social Media Marketing Guide

for College Freelancers
11 Minute Read • Updated 11.1.2021
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The definitive guide to freelancing as a Social Media Manager while in college, based on hundreds of successful engagements on
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Intro to Social Media Marketing

To be a successful Social Media Marketer, you should live and breathe community. It is your responsibility to harness your client’s social media platforms to communicate with, market to, and educate their target demo on the company’s unique story and brand. As an SMM, your goal is to plan, produce, and release content that aligns with your client’s marketing efforts, engages their current customer base, and grows their audience week by week.

Working alongside writers, video editors, and graphic designers, SMMs ensure all content is visually appealing, on brand, and on time. Continuity is a cornerstone of Social Media Marketing, as consistently releasing cohesive content at specific times will increase your number of views and have your audience ready and waiting at the same time each week. Finally, to know what is working and what isn’t, it is important to track monthly analytics and data to measure your progress and report these numbers to your Marketing Director.

How do I know if a job is for me?

When you’re first starting to look for a job, it can be difficult to tell which listings are a good fit for you. The good news is that every post on is oriented towards college students! Instead of arbitrary requirements, most employers are looking for students with a familiarity with social media, a good eye for aesthetics, and availability that matches the time commitment listed.

Your main focus for finding a social media marketing client is connecting with their brand. You should genuinely be interested in the companies you choose to work with, since you’ll have to uphold their brand image and promote their offerings with every post you make. A good sign of finding the right fit is if you can already envision the Instagram, LinkedIn, or TikTok content you’d make for the brand while reading the detailed post.

Sending Proposals
Sending Proposals

Writing a Proposal

When applying to positions on, you’ll be instructed to write your prospective employer a proposal. This should be a brief, 5-6 sentence paragraph introducing yourself and detailing how you plan to help their company moving forward. Please note that not every company requires you to send a proposal, but you will always have the option to… so do it anyway! This will go a long way towards securing those roles you’re most interested in.

Here are a few examples of Pangean proposals.

Setting your Price

Setting your price as a freelancer can be tricky. Asking for too much can price out potential clients and asking for too little won’t be worth your while. It is important to research the going rates for the roles you’re applying to and compare this to your level of experience to find a balanced rate that makes sense for you and your client. When factoring in your level of experience it’s helpful to consider the old adage, “Time is Money”. If a project is paying a fixed rate ask yourself ” self, how long will this actually take me to do?“. By doing this exercise you can back track your time into the fixed rate to see if the work is worth your time at that rate. If not, you can use that analysis as support when negotiating for a higher pay. It is also important to keep taxes and any other applicable fees top of mind in order to calculate exactly what you’ll net/take home. Make sure to organize your personal finances so you know exactly how much income you’ll need to meet your personal financial goals.

Knowing your Time Commitment

As semesters change and exams loom, estimating the time you can commit to a long-term commitment is challenging for many first-time freelancers. While most clients on know what it’s like from their own college experiences, it’s important to be realistic about how much time you can—and want to—devote to freelancing. It’s best to underestimate your free time and focus on lower-commitment jobs at first to see how your schedule adapts to your new responsibilities. 

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of your time as a social media manager will be devoted to posting according to a schedule. Since the best time to post might conflict with a test or campus event, you may consider using a post scheduling tool like Later or HootSuite. Drafting up a week’s worth of posts in advance will free up valuable time in the middle of the day, giving you extra time between classes & allowing you to double check your spelling and grammar.


Preparing for an Interview

Interviews can be stressful, but if you do your research and prepare beforehand, you’ll nail it. You should walk (or zoom) into each interview already knowing some facts and figures about the company you’re offering your services to. Be prepared for common questions such as, “Tell us about your experience in this field”, and “Why are you the right person for this project?”. Be sure also to come prepared with some questions of your own. If they ask if you have any questions and the answer is a simple, “No”, it’s not a good look.

Presenting your Vision

Beyond your professionalism and personality, clients are evaluating the way you think about their brand during your interview. While you shouldn’t give them work for free, it’s important to show your understanding of their offerings and market positioning. Also leverage your skills in content creation by creating a mood board that visually communicates your vision for their social feeds, honing in on an aesthetic that extends their brand identity. Be prepared to back up these ideas with references to other accounts or with insights into the target audience; proving that you’re thinking strategically will build trust in a potential client that you’ll take their social media in the right direction. 

Taking a close look at how the company has approached social media marketing in the past is a great way to find inspiration for your future work. If the brand has already found success on a platform, don’t discount the work the last social media manager put into it. Be sure to highlight previous content that performed well in your plan to grow the page. Likewise, if the client’s accounts have faltered, explain how your vision for the brand will avoid past pitfalls.


Choosing your Target Audience

When choosing your target audience as a Social Media Marketer, consider your own strengths and interests. Just about every business could use assistance in these areas, but if you research businesses that operate in industries that interest you, odds are you’ll already be in tune with their audience. This will go a long way towards landing those roles you’re interested in and ensuring you’re as successful as possible.

Auditing a Social Media Account

Auditing a social media account can be easy as a simple SWOT analysis. Honing in on the Strengths and Weaknesses of the current strategy will give you a good idea of why some content performs better than others. Opportunities shine light on avenues to grow the posts’ reach, from hashtag strategies to interactive content. Threats give you a good idea of who you’re up against; you’ll build a list of direct competitors to keep an eye. It’s also key to look at who you’re fighting for attention with, not just market share: seemingly unrelated accounts that are targeting the same audience will give you a good view of well-performing approaches other social media managers are taking. 

Once you have access to the accounts, checking the analytics will give you a good view of what’s working and what isn’t. This will give you two key pieces of information: your follower demographics and trends of engagement. Demographics look different on every platform, but will give you an overall picture of who your followers are; on LinkedIn, you’ll even be able to see their titles, industries, and seniority. Looking at trends gives you insight into how the page has performed over time, and what rate of growth you need to uphold.


Setting Goals for Growth

As a Social Media Marketer, it’s important to be realistic when setting goals for growth. Ambition is important but aiming too high can diminish your success and make it look like you don’t know what you’re doing. By underselling your goals, or aiming just below a number you’re confident you will reach, it will appear as though you’re over performing when you exceed your initial target.

Creating your First Content Calendar

Looking at a blank calendar is just as paralyzing as opening a new document for a 5000 word essay, but once you get started the content starts to flow. Start by marking out important dates: these might be holidays, new product releases, or company milestones that should be promoted. Then mark out different types of content, like brand posts, motivation, quotes, polls, or spotlights. When your calendar is a mosaic of color-coded categories, you can start to build lists of content ideas for each header. Treat this as your to-do list, a resource to pull from before creating each week’s posts. Finish by thinking about how the content will be viewed; if you’re planning for Instagram, you can envision how each post will add to the 3-column grid on the account’s profile and plan which colors to highlight in each square. 

Your content calendar is a great place to keep track of what’s working and what’s falling short. At the end of every week, come back to your calendar to mark the engagement each post went live and how well it performed. After you’ve had a few weeks of posting under your belt, look toward the next month with those insights in mind. Replacing posts that underperformed with ones that resonated with your audience will ensure that your account continues to grow week after week. 


Choosing your Aesthetic

Many social media platforms focus on the image you post more than what you write below it. Stopping the scroll is your number one priority, so building a look and feel that reflects your brand is one of the most important things you can do as a social media manager. Large accounts have this down to a science, with headlines that jump out and aesthetic posts that translate the brand to a feeling. While this will take a bit of graphic design know-how, Canva can replace tools like Figma or Adobe Illustrator for most social media managers; your job is to grow a social media presence and not to create art after all. 

A great place to find inspiration is Pinterest; looking at other’s boards, searching through hashtags, and creating your own boards from found images will all help you develop an aesthetic for the account. Sites like Unsplash or Pexels host free stock images and allow you to filter by color — great for finding your next post or building mood boards. Don’t overlook following popular accounts, as either influencers or trendy companies will put a lot of effort into their aesthetic.

At the end of the day, ask yourself two questions: does the style reflect the company, and can I pull it off? A conceptually designed feed might check a lot of boxes, but if it feels off for the brand or will take you far more time than you have, it probably shouldn’t be your pick. After all, staying consistent is key to making the account memorable.