How to Be Strategic on Social Media as a Freelancer

21 min read

How much time do you spend on social media every day?

If you’re a freelancer, chances are you’ve created at least one account on Twitter or Facebook with the intention to use it for work purposes.

You’re checking in every day to share a valuable article you stumbled upon or perhaps you’re not that active because you simply have no idea what you’re supposed to share with your followers.

Now, it doesn’t get any easier when everybody and their second best business buddy tell you how you NEED to have an online presence if you want to land clients and become visible online.

What they don’t tell you, however, is how much you need to be online, what you should be sharing and where.

Sure, social media is a fantastic way to interact with fellow designers, photographers, and writers. It’s the easiest and most convenient way to start conversations and become a part of an online community of like-minded people.

Apart from that, though, there’s another great reason you should be on social.


Your next client is on there, too.

In fact, your prospective clients are most likely on there as we speak, searching for that right person they can entrust their projects to.

And you may be missing out. Big time.

So, what can you do to fix that?

How should you approach social media in a way that:

a) benefits your freelance business?

b) helps you get found by clients?

c) eliminates the frustration factor?

d) saves you precious time?

Social media shouldn’t be so complicated that you feel left out. But if you want to see results from all your efforts, you need to be strategic and intentional from the start.

And this is exactly what we’ll be covering in this post, so you can sail away with a strategy that will help you navigate the often stormy waters of social media without getting lost.

Sound good?

Then welcome aboard!

Step 1: Pick Your Platforms

The first step you need to take is to decide which social media platforms you’ll be using.

Depending on how much time available you have per week (and I’m guessing that’s not a whole lot), consider which social networks make the most sense for you to use.

If you’ve recently started freelancing, you may want to start with no more than two social media platforms and expand your reach to other platforms with time.

“But”, I hear you say, “isn’t that too little?”

To be honest, I would even go so far as to tell you to just pick one. But since everyone is on Facebook anyway, having just that as your one and only platform would make very little sense, wouldn’t it?

Now, if you already have a following on one platform (for example, Pinterest) and you’d like to start a Twitter or Instagram account to promote your services, it’s even more crucial to figure out where you’re going to be channeling your energy and marketing yourself online.

The main questions you need to be asking yourself before you make any decision are:

— Which platforms make the most sense for me to be using as a freelancer?

— How much time can I afford to spend on social media every week?

— Do the platforms I’ve chosen align with the kind of work I’m doing?

— Where are my clients most likely to be found online?

— How does my content fit into each platform?

— Am I going to focus more on visual-based content, text, or a mix of both?

— Do I understand how each of my chosen platforms works?

— If not, how much time should I set aside to learn the basics?

To help you figure out where you’re most likely to find your ideal clients on social, take into consideration what their average age may be, what kind of companies they’re likely to be running, and how your services fit into that.

Every social network attracts a different demographic and when you know where your ideal client is likely to be found, you can use that information to your advantage by being already there.

For example, if you’re a writer, LinkedIn and Twitter are two platforms you don’t want to neglect. If you’re a photographer, artist, maker, or graphic designer, the heavy-on-gorgeous-visuals Instagram is where you want to establish your presence and attract your potential clients’ attention.

Knowing where to find your clients can save you from wasting your time and effort on the wrong social network. The last thing you want it to trash a year’s of content updates and hours of creation, curation, and scheduling, just to find out that’s not the ideal place for you to be discovered by your ideal clients.

Not to mention, when it comes to social media, the more prepared you are from the start, the less intimidating it’s going to be. In fact, part of the frustration, if not all, comes from not having a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Because it’s one thing to use social media to connect with your friends and an entirely different thing when you’re using it for business.

However, the sooner you discover your purpose, what you should be focusing on and what your intent is in using a specific social media network, the easier it will be to manage it, grow your presence on that platform and get in touch with the clients you’re looking for.

Step 2: Consider Where You Currently Are

Regardless of whether you’re only getting started with social media or you’ve been using it for a while to market yourself as a freelancer, it’s important to check where you are before you come up with your social media strategy. That way, you’re more likely to be addressing possible problematic areas you need to work on and improve.

This process is also called a Social Media Audit. Its purpose is to show you what you’re doing right on social, what you can further improve, and where your focus lies on social. It’s also particularly useful to use when you want to compare your growth after one, two, or even five years from now.

If you’re just starting out, once you’ve decided which platforms you’re going to be active on, it’s time to fill out your profile on each. Make sure you’ve added all the necessary information and that you’ve customized your profile according to your personal brand as a freelancer.

Even if you don’t have anything fancy, keeping your look consistent is crucial if you want to be taken seriously online. Otherwise, your account will look like something you’re doing as a hobby or, worse, resemble a personal account with no connection whatsoever to running a business.

If you already have an online presence, list all the social networks you have. Depending on which ones you’ve decided to focus on, prioritize those you want to grow your presence on. Once you’ve done that, start thinking about the improvements you can make to each profile.

For example, ask yourself the following questions:

— Have you fully completed all your profiles?

— Is your branding consistent throughout your content?

— Do you post on regular intervals?

— Does each of your accounts seem to have a goal?

— Who are the 5 people you look up to or admire their social media presence?

— What do they seem to be doing well that you’re not doing?

— How many clients found you through each network? (Check your website stats or ask your client.)

Every three or six months go over these questions to check where you stand and record your progress and the growth of your accounts.

Consider whether you should continue engaging on a platform where you haven’t made any considerable connections with clients. Alternatively, think about some problematic issues you may be facing and how you could solve them.

Can you improve your social media posts?

What about posting better, more engaging images?

Or maybe you need to work on your engagement?

Once you’re done with where you currently are, it’s time to move on and
think about the future.

Step 3: Set Goals for Where You Want to Be

Entering the world of social media without having a clear goal is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. Especially when you have so little time left to run your business, keeping up with social media without a goal to guide you is basically on overkill.

You need to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish with your social media presence.

That’s where being on social with intention comes into play. Once you start using social media with a clear end-goal in mind, everything shifts for the better. You know why you’re investing your time in connecting with other freelancers, design studios, or digital marketing agencies. You also know why you’re posting an update about how to combine fonts when you’re putting together a brochure.

When you’re using social media intentionally, you know what you’re doing and why.

So, what is YOUR main goal for using social media?

Is it to showcase your work and attract new clients?

Connect with other freelancers and be a part of a wider community?

Build authority in your niche and be seen as an expert?

Attract your ideal audience to your blog and/or products?

Unless you can answer this question, your efforts on social will not be guided by one, single objective, but will more likely feel scattered, unfocused, and unclear. And that’s certainly not the image you’d want to portray to a prospective client now, is it?

Take a few minutes to consider what your primary goal is on each network. You may want to use LinkedIn as a more formal, professional way to connect with clients, or Instagram to show more of your creative side or behind-the-scenes of your illustration projects.

Twitter could be the place you share interesting and valuable content that relates to your niche, and Facebook could still remain more personal — the platform where you interact with fellow creatives in Facebook Groups and where you help each other out.

Whatever your network-specific goals are, make sure you stick to them and let that guide all your updates, posts, and activity, while still engaging with your audience in an authentic way.

Step 4: Create On-Brand Templates You Can Use Across Different Platforms

As a freelancer, you’ve probably created your brand around your name.

And by brand, I mean everything from the way you close your emails to the documents you share with your clients and your social media posts. That’s not just your logo (the symbol or wordmark you use for the name) but the entire experience of working, interacting, and doing business with you. Your brand is how you want to be seen, how you present yourself and what makes you stand out from everybody else in your niche. It helps you become more memorable.

Going back to those social media posts now, you need to make sure that everything you share online is on-brand. That doesn’t mean you need to stick your logo on everything you ever publish on social media. Staying on-brand can be as simple as using consistent colors and layouts for your images, so people can start recognizing your brand online.

For example, if your logo’s color is teal with a hint of peach and your website is designed with that in mind, it wouldn’t make any sense to post a quote on Instagram with bright, yellow colored text (bordering neon) on a turquoise background.

Not only would that quote be ugly and a big no-no according to Instagram etiquette (unless, of course, you’re rocking neon colors in your sleep and it’s what makes your followers go kray), but it would also be inconsistent with your brand.

When you need to create images for your social media updates you need to keep your brand, your values, your voice and your visual identity in mind before you create anything. After all, any image you put out there for the world to see will be connected with your account and your brand, which in this case is you.

The easiest way to go about this is to create templates for the social media platforms you’ll be using these images on. Instead of creating a new image from scratch each time, by having a template you can use, you’ll be saving yourself a ton of energy and time.

One of the simplest ways you can do that is by using Canva. Just pick the platform you need to create a graphic for and add the elements you know you’ll be using every time. This can be your website’s address or a little separator if you’re creating a template for your quotes. Save, and you’re done!

Now, each time you want to post a quote on Instagram, you can add it and then download the file to your desktop and post away. Just keep in mind that Canva will always save your design with the last modification you’ve made. If for example, you use two different colors to switch it up a little, you can copy or duplicate your design so you have two “canvases” (or pages in Canva) to work with, like so:

Canva interface

Tip: Keep in mind that you can’t turn a Facebook graphic into an Instagram design on their free plan. This is something only Canva for Work offers. So unless you upgrade, the only way to around this is to create all your templates for each social media platform at once and make modifications to each individually after that.

Canva for Work also offers an easy way to store your logos and uploaded fonts and colors, so that’s a great solution if you’d like to stay more organized.

Of course, besides Canva there are many other options depending on your experience with graphic software. There’s PicMonkey, a Canva alternative, and Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign by Adobe, and the more affordable and equally good Affinity Designer by Serif.

Once you have your templates ready, you’re good to go. Next time you need to post something on Twitter, create a Facebook post, or add an image to your LinkedIn pulse post, you won’t be spending hours trying to design something from scratch. Your posts will be consistent with your brand and you’ll have saved yourself precious time and energy.

Step 5: Plan Your Content in Advance

Posting regularly on social is crucial if you want to build your online presence so people can follow you and clients can find you. And deciding on when and how often you’ll be posting is something you’ll need to do early on.

Especially when you haven’t established a solid online presence yet, it’s important to post regularly and to avoid taking long breaks (which is another reason why you need to be smart about your time and not spreading yourself too thin as we already talked about in Step 1).

This is where scheduling your social media posts can help. You can plan in advance the content you want to share and schedule it in such a way that it doesn’t leave any gaps or days of inactivity on a particular platform. Plus, you’ll have at least one or two posts per day per platform, which isn’t going to overwhelm your followers either.

To set up your weekly schedule for social, consider when and how often you’re going to post. Think about the different times you’re going to be posting your updates, especially if you want your posts to be engaging and seen by the people you’re trying to attract. For every platform, there are certain times that work better than others, and knowing which these are can be super helpful when you’re creating your schedule.

Another thing to consider is the type of content you’re going to post. Will you share videos, images, text, or links to useful articles? And if yes, how are you going to rotate them?

You wouldn’t want to be posting similar articles or two quotes the same day, for example. When you start scheduling your content, you should think about that and space each update in a way that adds variety and makes your updates interesting.

This is especially important for Instagram, where having a beautiful feed that looks consistent and well-thought out gives you extra points and will likely also attract more followers.

Even on Twitter, though, with so many new tweets appearing in your timeline by the minute, you still want your posts to vary and be interesting without seeming repetitive, especially if you’re posting 3-5 times per day (or more, given the extremely short lifespan of a tweet).

When you’ve decided when and how often you’re going to be posting on your social media accounts, it’s time to start collecting content for your updates. You can create your any graphics or images you’re going to share and even keep a list of articles you stumble upon, which could make a great tweet to share.

As long as you’re strategic with your updates, you won’t be struggling with finding content or worrying about being consistent on social anymore. Plus, having a list of items to choose from for your weekly updates makes it a lot easier and more manageable to tackle, don’t you think?

Step 6: Connect With Others to Get Noticed

When you’re building your online presence, there are a few things you want to focus on, so you’re more likely to stand out from all the other freelancers out there.

A compelling description and a link to your website included in your profile are of course absolutely necessary. But besides those two elements, how you connect online makes all the difference.

Many think that just because it’s social media, they shouldn’t take some time to genuinely connect with fellow artists, designers, writers or photographers. That hunting down clients and promoting their work 99% of the time is the way to go.

But this couldn’t be more wrong.

You see, no matter how great a designer you may be, if you only promote your services and posts, and never take the time to leave a thoughtful comment to another creative, people are going to stop paying attention to you. And as we both know, that can be done SO easily on social.

Instead, try to adopt a mentality that’s all about building relationships with others. Yes, that other designer may be your “competitor” at first glance, but the niche you specialize in may be totally different from theirs. So what’s stopping you from saying something nice, besides the generic “That’s awesome!” or the usual like, retweet, or share?

In the end, it’s more about the community you build and belong to, rather than the competition. Plus, you never know where your next client might come from.

And if they see that you’re an open, likable and friendly person who’s not afraid to support fellow creatives in the niche you’re in, who participates in discussions about your work and engages with others, who do you think they’d want to contact? You or silent Mary from Self-Promo Land?

How you connect with others online and how much value you bring in with your presence, speaks volumes about you.

It can also make you someone clients would want to work with.

It’s so easy to forget your manners and justify it by saying “Well, it’s social media, who cares?”. When in fact, saying “Thank you” or “Nice to meet you” can go a long way. Being polite doesn’t go unnoticed. It makes people feel good and it brings back the human aspect of socializing online.

Be genuine and bring value wherever you go. And I guarantee you that you will get noticed.

Step 7: Make Social Media Management Easier With the Right Tools

Now, this strategy wouldn’t be complete without a few great tools to help make social media management less daunting, would it?

Besides managing your social media accounts and scheduling your posts, these apps are a great way to keep an eye on your interactions and monitor your progress as you grow.

Most offer a free plan, which will be perfect for you when you’re getting started. But some of the features you get when you upgrade can give you a lot more flexibility and extra features to help you manage your accounts more efficiently.

You probably know that the more your account grows, the more challenging it can be to keep up. Updates, scheduling, and engagement tracking can take you hours every day. Without some help, you can easily turn this into a full-time job and forget about freelancing altogether.

And I’m guessing you wouldn’t be too excited about that scenario, right?

So here are five tools to check out and help you get a more organized workflow when using social media (and save yourself a ton of time, too):

Buffer (Free + Paid)

Buffer helps you schedule all your posts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ on their free plan.

The interface is user-friendly, uncluttered and really easy to navigate. With the browser extension, you can share any quote or image that links to a great article and share with your followers. And if you need a super quick way to put an image together, Pablo is the way to go.

You can specify the exact times you’d like your posts to go live for each network and schedule your content for the upcoming week(s). Buffer automatically saves your posts, so you can always go back in time to see what you’re already posted and how it performed.

If you’d like to see advanced stats on which posts performed best or have the option to schedule pins on Pinterest, you’ll then need to upgrade.

Overall, buffer is the perfect tool to manage your social media activity, so you can focus more on actually engaging and building relationships with your followers.

Hootsuite (Free + Paid)

Hootsuite also supports managing all your different social accounts, but it’s a lot more crowded and bulky. It can be useful to track new followers, check out and follow different hashtags for Instagram, although I’ve found that it gets slow and clunky after a while, especially if you have more than three streams running on your dashboard.

If that’s not a deal-breaker for you, though, you can discover a lot of great features on their free plan. There are different apps you can link to your account, both paid and free, which you can then use directly from your Hootsuite dash. There’s a Tailwind integration for Pinterest, too.

With Hootsuite you get basic analytics and an auto-schedule option you can turn on to post your updates on each network at the best time, according to Hootsuite. And if you’re eager to brush up on your social media skills, there are some free social media training courses you can take.

Tailwind (Free + Paid)

Tailwind is one of the best tools to schedule your pins on Pinterest. (The Tailwind Team is also developing an Instagram Scheduling feature, so stay tuned for that!)

You can start a free trial that allows you to schedule 100 pins without any time limit. You’ll be able to get a weekly summary of your Pinterest account, see how many new followers you got and who’s pinning from your website.

Tailwind also shows you tips in order to complete your profile and add the necessary details to your Pin Boards, ensuring that you profile is optimized for pin-sharing awesomeness. But to track likes, repins and the engagement of your pins, you’ll need to go premium to unlock these helpful features.

If you have a Pinterest for Business account you can check out your analytics directly on Pinterest. But what Tailwind can help you with is knowing exactly when you can reach your target audience and which topics are currently hot on Pinterest. That way, you can be sure to pin at optimal times and that your pincs will resonate with those you’re trying to reach.

Later (Free + Paid)

Later is another neat scheduling tool for your social media accounts. I first stumbled upon it while looking for a way to share on Instagram.

On their free plan, you can create and schedule up to 30 posts per month for all social media accounts. At the same time, their free plan states you can post 50 tweets, which admittedly is a little confusing (as well as the fact that you can connect two Instagram accounts and more than one social media network, both of which are not listed on their free plan breakdown).

From your clean, minimalistic and, admittedly, attractive dashboard, you can connect your Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook account. You also get a media library where you can drag and drop images you want to post or use the Dropbox and Google Drive integration option to add your media files.

You can get a weekly or monthly overview of what you’ve scheduled to post or what you’ve already posted. And especially if you’re big on Instagram, you can upload your images and arrange them before you post them, so you can get a preview of how our feed is going to look like, keeping it consistent and visually appealing.

Viraltag (Free Trial + Paid)

Viraltag is a premium marketing tool for social media management. You can use it to schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

If you’d like to have one tool to access all your social media accounts and schedule posts to each from one place, then Viraltag is for you. All of the paid plans offer a marketing calendar and basic analytics.

However, if you’re looking for something more advanced and you heavily rely on visual marketing for your freelance business, the more advanced plans can provide you with options like advanced tracking, advances Pinterest analytics and even shoppable Instagram, which could be perfect for any client packages or consultation services you may be offering.

You can try Viraltag for 14 days and if you love it so much that you want to write a review about it, you can get 6 months for free and a discounted monthly price after that, as part of their blogger plan.

Wrapping Up

Phew, that was a lot of social media talk and you’ve made it to the end!

I hope you’ve come to realize why having a social media strategy as a freelancer is so important if you want to get in front of more clients.

Now that you know which steps you should take to create yours, it’s time to implement what you’ve learned by taking action.

The sooner you start magnetizing people with your amazing content on social and growing your online presence, the more email inquiries you’ll be getting about your services.

And isn’t that what every freelancer wants?