Let me tell you a story…
When I was 18 years old, I decided to take a year off from school. I had just graduated high school, which had not really been an amazing experience from an academic standpoint, and I thought I would try something new for the next year of my life. My parents were generous enough to let me hunker down at home for the year, and I went to the drawing board.
The following Fall after I graduated, and all my friends had left for the new lives at college, I got a job, and really started to think about how I was going to spend the next year of my life. Before long, I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake…
I was working 30+ hours per week at a restaurant, trying to get a brand new blog I started off the ground, and in my over flowing amount of “free time”, I would see all the amazing times my friends from high school were having away at college. I decided it was time to do something.
My mother had mentioned a few weeks earlier to me that a brand new program had opened up not too far from my house – in San Mateo, CA. It was an entrepreneurship program for students between the ages 18-28, and it was run by a billionaire venture capitalist, in the heart of Silicon Valley. I thought to myself, “Hey, this looks like something that’s right up my alley!”
All that was on my mind was “A chance to move away, and be in a learning environment that actually is around my field of interest – entrepreneurship”. I was in.
My parents agreed to pay for the majority of my tuition if I could get in – not cheap – a hefty $9k for a 2 month program, because I was able to convince them it was what I needed at the time. And after being wait-listed in mid November, I received my acceptance letter to Draper University of Heroes in early December. I was ecstatic!
Fast forward a month and a half, and I was moving in to my brand new dorm style room, to start my new life as an “independent man”.
I won’t bore you with the details of how that program went, but long story short, it changed my life. It surrounded me with 40+ budding young entrepreneurs from around the world, and more importantly, it gave me the “college feel” for a few months, and inspired me to apply for colleges for the following Fall. I came to the realization that your only young once, and college is an experience I simply was not going to miss out on. So in early March of 2014, I started motoring through college applications.
Many schools had already closed their application period, but I was in luck to find a select few institutions who still were accepting applicants through the Spring. I applied to 5 different universities, all out-of-state from my home in California.
I applied to Creighton University (Nebraska), Northern Iowa University, Hartford University (Connecticut), Colorado State University, and Ball State University (Indiana).
And I got a lot of bad news from all of them – accept for that last school I mentioned, Ball State University.
Now the only time I had ever heard of Ball State previous to that Spring day in march was back in middle school when I saw them playing football on ESPN. But they had a good entrepreneurship program which I was looking for, and, well…they were literally the only school that accepted me. My inadequate credentials from high school didn’t exactly get a lot of attention from the other schools.
So Ball State it was. But I had a problem…
I don’t know how many of you went to a university of out of state, or know somebody who went out of state, but let me tell you…it ain’t cheap. It was going to cost upwards of $15,000 per semester to attend!
Now, let me tell you, my parents were not too thrilled about this. Being the loving parents they are, they agreed to be of support to some extent, but I’ll never forget the day my Dad looked me in the eyes and said “Alex, if you want this, you better get to work.”
And that was it. I knew how badly I wanted to go away to school, and I knew I needed to make some serious money if I was going to make this happen.
I started thinking of everything I learned at Draper University over the course of February and March. Heavy student loans were out of the question, as I was well aware the damage that has on a young person’s future. And I couldn’t just go back to making 8 bucks an hour as a host at a steakhouse. I knew that starting a business of some sort was my only hope to earning the type of money that would help fund my college experience.
So I thought. And I thought harder. And I drove my brain crazy until it felt like it was going to explode.
It was sometime in late March that the idea popped into my head. It was like an Angel just flew down and gently placed it in my head and then flew away before I could say thank you.
About a month earlier, I had been speaking with a family friend who owned a small chain of restaurants in my hometown of Pleasanton. I had mentioned to him that I was starting to get into Twitter and had been starting to generate some serious traffic to my blog with it. I wasn’t with him in person, but the way I imagine it based on his voice tone are his eyes lighting up, as he said “I am VERY fascinated with learning how to market our restaurants on social media and specifically Twitter. Could you help us with that?”
I agreed to meet him at his restaurant the following Monday to discuss this a little further. Now I was attending Draper University at the time, so I had to take the train 45 minutes into my hometown to do this meeting. During our meeting, I told him how I was able to build up such an audience on Twitter and he was impressed. He asked me what it would cost him to hire me for the following month to run their Twitter account for them, and I literally had NO IDEA what to tell him. I panicked briefly, before spitting out the first number that came to mind. “Ummm, maybe like $250..?” I could not have sounded less sure of myself.
“Are you asking me or telling me?” he said with a smirk.
I giggled under my breath, trying to keep eye contact so I didn’t seem like such an unconfident little twerp. “Well, I mean, does that sound fair to you?”
He smiled. “Sounds fair Alex, sounds fair.” And boom, just like that I had a little side gig bringing in some extra cash flow while I was away.
Now, back to real time, it was late March and I needed a way to start making some serious cash quickly. And this was the perfect idea. I was going to be a social media marketing consultant.
I realized that if I could get my family friend to pay me $250/month to manage just their Twitter accounts, which took like an hour per week, I could probably get a lot of other businesses to do the same. And just like that, I was in business. The decision was made, and I was running with it.
The chase was on. I needed to start making enough monthly income so that I could help pay for my my ridiculously overpriced tuition and my parents would not be left with the burden (in which case they would probably pull the plug). By this time, I had discovered that I could make installment payments to Ball State, meaning I would not have to come up the full sum right away. We had some time and breathing room.
I know this has been a long post, so I’m going to try to wrap it up here shortly. For over a year, I went full throttle building my social media marketing consulting business up (even while in school) and in less than 10 months, I was making over $1,700/month working only a couple hours per week (if that). It was not the full amount of my tuition, but it certainly helped cut into the deficit and my parents agreed to make up for the rest, since I had really knocked off a lot of the cost with the money I was making.
I don’t share this story with you to brag or boast about the fact that I was able to develop an income of almost $2K per month, with almost no personal work (I’ll talk about how I hired out most of the work in a later post). I share this with you because I know that many of you could benefit from making a little extra income on the side. Whether it’s college tuition, car payments, quitting that low wage job, or just getting some extra spending money, an extra $1,000+ per month could literally change your life. I was able to get to that level after only 6 months of hard work as a social media consultant.
In this article, I’d like to share with you a little bit about my system for doing this. As a young person, you have the advantage and can leverage the fact that you are young, and grew up with this technology, where many “older” business owners did not. Here are 7 steps to starting a side business as a social media marketing consultant:
1. Decide and Define your specialty
When I started helping other businesses with social media, I knew I had to be good. And I also knew that I didn’t have to be good at everything, so long as I was GREAT at that one thing. For me, that thing was Twitter.
Once I mastered Twitter, I started to experiment with other platforms like Facebook and Facebook advertising, Instagram, Pinterest, and now things like Snapchat and Periscope. But I started as the Twitter marketing expert and for my first few clients that’s all I did. This allowed me to brand myself as “The Twitter Guy” and quickly develop some case studies for massively grown Twitter accounts of clients.
Again, once I did this, I had current clients and new clients start to knock on my door to ask me for help with other social media platforms, which I gladly looked into, for additional cashflow, of course 🙂
Start with that one thing, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. I recommend having your specialty be one of those 4 things and then you can expand from there.
Another thing to take note of is that you don’t have to be “the best” at marketing on your chosen specialty. You just have to be educated and know MORE than your potential clients. Come on, most of you understand social media fully. Using it to market a business is really not that different. Read up on my Dominate Social blog and you’ll instantly have the expertise you need to declare expert status.
2. Research best practices for marketing on those sites
Like I said at the end of my last bullet point, research up on best practices for marketing on these platforms. Again, you DO NOT have to be the best in the world at social media marketing. You simply have to have some knowledge on the subject, and quickly learn how to put the stuff you learn into action.
Then it’s simply a matter of putting yourself out there in front of potential clients. Spend a week studying site likes Social Media Examiner, Dominate Social, and DonCrowther.com and you should have the knowledge you need. Then it’s time to move on to step 3.
3. Approach friends of family who own businesses
Most people’s first question when they start trying to do this type of work is, “How do I find people to pay me to manage their social media accounts?” In other words, how do I get clients?
This is a fair question, since the whole idea behind becoming a social media marketing consultant is to MAKE MONEY, right?
So how do you you get that first paying client? Well, I’ll tell you what I did, and then I’ll tell you what I think you should do. I thought of all the people who I knew, my parents knew, and my just about anybody that I was close with knew personally, who owned a business. I had about 3 people come to mind within’ the first 5 minutes of thinking about this. I spent the next 20 minutes digging up those 3 peoples’ contact information, and then emailed all 3 of them. One of them got back to me, and demonstrated interest. I offered to come visit him in his office or restaurant at his easiest time of convenience to talk about it, and that was that. We had a quick 20 minute meeting where I proposed that we do a quick 1 month trial of managing their Twitter account for $250, and he agreed.
That client worked with me for a total of 15 months, and ended upping my pay. In total, I generated over $7,000 in revenue from that client and really did not have to do a whole lot of work. They were happy with the easy work I was providing and the checks kept rolling in month after month.
It’s that easy.
You can’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network. It’s not like you are “selling” them. You are simply offering your help, and asking if they want to learn more. Do this until someone bites.
4. Look for jobs on freelancing sites
Along with prospecting to your personal network and family friends, you can also use websites that are specifically designed for freelancers to get work, and businesses to get work done. The 2 sites that I have used both for finding work and also for hiring people, are Elance and Upwork. Oddly enough, they are owned by the same parent company and perform the exact same function.
These are simply platforms where business owners are posting job opportunities for online professionals. There are people looking for work in literally every aspect of online business: Web design, app development, accounting, copy writing, virtual assistants, article writing, blog maintenance, and of course social media.
Many businesses will post about looking for help with their social media, and this can be a great place to potentially snag a few client gigs.
As a quick note, do not expect to command massively high rates on these platforms. They are extremely competitive and you will probably be competing with a lot of other so-called “social media marketing experts”. The real magic to raising your fees and making more money from less work is in the tactics below…
5. Start a blog about social media marketing
This is a fantastic way to develop your brand as a social media marketing expert. I started the Dominate Social blog shortly after I started my business, and it wasn’t long before I picked up my first $1,000+ per month client. I didn’t have to prospect him, sell him, or do anything of that nature. I simply put out some great content (maybe a total of 15 blog posts) over the course of a few months, and he reached out to me ready to buy.
One day he emailed asking for help, we hopped on the phone for a few minutes to talk about his business and a few days later I had an extra $1,000 in my PayPal account. Pretty powerful am I right? And those payments kept coming for months. (Sadly, this particular client could no longer afford my services, but there are still plenty who can)
This is the power that a simple yet useful blog can do for your business. Seriously, take a look my blog, it’s not complex at all. I update it every 2 weeks, and spread the content through social media. Yet that very blog is responsible for pulling in clients worth more than $1,000 of passive monthly income.
6. Ask for referrals
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get more clients for your social media marketing consulting business is to ask your current clients for referrals. Once you have a couple solid people that you are working with, and you really do good work for them, it’s very reasonable to ask them for referral business. Chances are, they know other business owners that could benefit from your services as well. They may even refer you without you even having to ask.
But don’t count on that. Don’t be afraid to shoot them a quick email or phone call politely mentioning that you are looking for a few more dream clients like them, and ask if they wouldn’t mind endorsing you to their network. This stuff works. I’ve picked up business from this strategy and I recommend you do the same.
7. Hit people up on social media (consistently)
My last and final tip for those of you looking to make extra income and potentially major income from your very own social media consulting business, is to always be hitting people up on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. You HAVE to be active social media. That’s the only way to learn about the ever changing industry.
This can also be a great way to find new business. Business owners are always on social media, so you should be networking with as many of them as possible.
Go on Twitter and find businesses and business people that look like they need help with getting more followers. Click on their URL and then find their contact info. Then reach out to them, and send them a simple message that mentions what you do, and how you think you can help them. Finish each email by suggesting a quick 5-10 minute FREE consultation where you share with them how they can improve their presence on social media. I can’t tell you how many potential clients I’ve nailed by using this tactic.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can develop an extra $1,000+ per month working only a few hours/week on YOUR schedule, enter your information below. We are currently working on a program for a select few individuals who are interested in taking this thing seriously. If you don’t think this is something you’d take seriously, don’t bother. There are plenty of other opportunities out there.