Ever find yourself helping a neighbor build a Facebook page? Or talking to a friend about how Pinterest could drive potential customers to her website? Or showing a former colleague how to use Twitter to connect with influential people?
I was hiking in the woods with a friend several years ago, helping him brainstorm how to use social media to find clients for his adventure expeditions, when he suggested I start using those smarts to make bank. He suggested I let people hire me to help them the same way I was helping him.
My first reaction was to balk. “I don’t know enough about social media to do that,” I told him.
“Are you kidding?” he responded. “Everything you’ve told me is worth paying for.”
The next month I landed my first client, and my business has snowballed since then.
That friendly chat — and the success that followed — helped me realize something big: that I do have something to offer that’s worth paying for. Sometimes when your knowledge seems familiar and normal, you don’t recognize it as an asset. You think everyone has those same skills.
But if you’re good at something, there’s probably someone out there who’s not good at it, who needs it, and who’s willing to pay for it. Moreover, there are a whole lot of people, organizations, and companies that need help with social media.
If you have social media skills, that’s where your opportunity comes in.
Now, you don’t want to be one of those gurus or ninjas who claim they’re in-the-know about social media and then haven’t the faintest idea how to grow an online community. But if you’re like most people, you likely have the opposite problem; you probably underestimate yourself and your skills.
If you think you’re almost to the point where you could take on social media freelance work but don’t quite feel comfortable yet, here are a few things you can do to take your confidence and savvy to the next level:
Work for free to gain experience
By the time I had that conversation with my friend in the woods, I’d already helped an organization spread the word about their cause on Twitter. I did this because I wanted to help the movement, not because I wanted to gain experience. However, in retrospect, that work helped me gain the knowledge — and recommendations — I needed to land paid work.
So who can you lend a hand to? Who can you help? How can you turn that opportunity into a way to learn?
The best part is no one will ever know you didn’t get paid. Experience is experience, and connections are connections. Whether you got paid for that work is irrelevant, so leave out that detail when you interview for your first paid position.
If you can’t find a company or individual to let you work for them — or maybe you don’t even feel comfortable doing that yet — practice with your own accounts. One friend of mine even has a Facebook account for her cat (apparently there’s an underground culture of cats on Facebook?) that she uses to test new ideas on the platform.
Brush up on your skills through a course
In addition to learning by doing, you can master social media through more formal instruction. You’ll find lots of social media courses online, each with its own focus. I often several on my own site, including a guide on how to create a social media strategy and a five-week course that will help you become a Twitter Power User.
Again, you can learn this stuff for free, so don’t feel like you have to take a course! But some people learn faster and more thoroughly with more structure and guidance.
Mimic the best
One way to teach yourself is to find a handful of Facebook pages or Twitter feeds or Pinterest accounts that are hitting it out of the park, and study their tactics.
Create a Twitter list of companies, non-profits, or individuals who effectively use the platform to grow their following. Alternatively, put together a list of Facebook pages that do a stand-up job of interacting with fans.
By simply watching what successful people do, you’ll learn more than you could imagine.
Push yourself to get started
The timing will never feel right. You’ll always wish you knew more, had more experience, and had more contacts. However, if you wait until every single piece is in place before diving in, you’ll never get started.
Not sure how much to charge? This post on fees for social media freelance work will help you figure that out.)
Once you do get started, you’ll learn as you go along. You’ll hit an obstacle you haven’t hit before, and you’ll figure it out. A client will request something you don’t know how to do, and you’ll teach yourself that skill out of necessity.
Learning as you go along doesn’t mean you’re a scam, it means you’re smart. Being able to do that is essential, especially in a field like social media that morphs regularly.
Because Facebook will make a tweak that requires you to build a page in a totally different way. Twitter will introduce a feature that changes the game completely. And some new social media tool will pop up (monthly, weekly, even daily) that you’ll have to evaluate — and decide whether it’s worth using. You’ll be forced to learn as you go along no matter how much knowledge you start out with.
So what are you waiting for? Get out here and make some moolah from your skills.
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